… But Wait!! There’s More!!!!

We’ve all heard the line, “But wait, there’s more.”  If not from those “infomercials” where the line is used in this fashion, “Our incredible Sham-wow is only $19.95  plus shipping and handling.  But wait, there’s more.  If you order now we’ll double your order.  Just pay separate shipping and handling.”  Then, there’s just about any Apple product announcement.  Get through an amazing list of new things, and you’re greeted with “But wait, there’s more.”  Our shiny new device comes in a rainbow of colors.  Or, if you thought what we’ve already announced was impossible… this is even more stunning.

This enhanced stunning quality about the more that’s coming is what I want to talk about now.  This comes as a practical result of one of Steve DeWitt’s sermons.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  1 John 3:2 (ESV)

Here’s my paraphrase of this verse.  “Christians are God’s children now, but wait, there’s more.  When he appears, we will be like Him.  We’ll be able to see Him as He is!”  This is the moment all Christians are looking forward to, and everyone else will dread.  Why will you dread this moment if you are not a Christian, you ask?  Well, as Steve DeWitt said in his sermon, God gives everyone what they want in the life to come.  If you didn’t want God, you get an eternity without him.  It’s called hell.  If you’ve been responding to God’s call on your life, and you can’t wait to meet Him, you’ll get what you want, an eternity with Him.  It’s called heaven.

When you get to the end of your life is the wrong time to realize that the phrase “but wait, there’s more” is true then too.  This advent season, my prayer is that you respond to your creator, and seek Him, and then discover that He’s been drawing you to Himself all along.  Knowing how things will be in the end may take the surprise and wonder out of the future, but we’re just skeptical enough to wonder if it all is true.  That’s the mastery of the deceiver at work. Isn’t it about time you found truth for a change?  If you’re in Northwest Indiana and you want more answers, visit www.bethelweb.org.  Otherwise call 1-888-NEED-HIM.

Never Despise Meager Beginnings

mustard-seeds

The physical seeds are smaller than what they produce.

mustardTree

A mustard tree… much bigger than the seed.

At first blush I thought this was a quote from the television series based on Janette Oke’s “Love Comes Softly”, and it is.  However, Zechariah 4:10 asks, “Who despises the day of small things?”  What this illustrates is the challenge I’m going to have in properly attributing my ideas when I write them down.  Where did they come from?  Are they original ideas with me?  Or did I get them from reading?  or watching TV?  Then, you might ask, where did they get the idea that they’ve expressed.  Is it original with them?  So, here’s my philosophy.  I will do my best to identify the origin of my ideas giving credit where credit is due.  But as you might have gathered by now, I give all of the credit to the one who made each one of us.  Namely, God.  And God doesn’t despise meager beginnings, or small things.  After all, Jesus talks about the small grain of a seed from the mustard tree producing much bigger results.  While the same can be said of many seeds, what I’m talking about here is the seed of an idea.

I come from meager beginnings, even if my friends growing up thought I had it made because our family had a small business.  In the years that followed, I experienced many hardships that at the time seemed insurmountable.  The truth was, that everything without God was impossible, and I’m ashamed of how many years it took me to get to the end of myself and my desire to be in control, and turn my trust over to him.  Ultimately, I’m convinced that’s what has been holding me back.  God knew that unless he put me through the crucible of the impossible and insurmountable, I would never get to the end of myself.

Am I truly at the end of myself?  Like many of us, once things seem to be back on track, I want to take the reigns again.  At the very least I want to take credit for something.  What is it that God seems to be shouting at me?  Better yet, what is He whispering?  And am I quiet enough to hear it?  Ultimately, what has God gifted me with?  And, what areas need His work?

See if you agree with my self assessment.

I’m really good at imagining what could be, and planning how to get there. I’m good at solving problems that involve computers, electronics, electricity, and many mechanical things.  Finally, I’m pretty good with a keyboard and expressing thoughts on “paper”, even if that takes on electronic form today.

I am easily distracted by things I find interesting.  Unfortunately, I find lots of things interesting, and the rabbit trails… Web browsing and hyperlinks didn’t help me with this challenge.  I get bored quickly with most repetitive things.  I like to work really hard, and then relax.  I live with too much clutter, which feeds into the distractions.  So the conclusion I come to is that I need to work harder to eliminate clutter, and concentrate on one thing at a time.

Do any of you find yourselves in similar circumstances?  If you do, let me suggest making a meager beginning.  Then, let God continue to do His work in His time.  It isn’t easy, but most things worthwhile come with hard work and perseverance.  God has the best track record of finishing the work He starts, including the work He does on each one of us.  So here’s my simple question, “what’s next?”

The Wonder Of It All

To say I have a few favorite Christmas hymns would be an understatement!  While we have much to rejoice about, these hymns don’t sugar coat reality.  Here are some that came to mind, followed by why they did.

It came upon the midnight clear
That glorious song of old
From angels bending near the Earth
To touch their harps of gold
Peace on the Earth, goodwill to men
From heaven’s all gracious king
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing

Still through the cloven skies
They come
With peaceful wings unfurl
And still
Their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing

O ye
Beneath life’s crushing load
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow
Look now
For glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing

For lo the days are hastening on
By prophets seen of old
When with the ever circling years
Shall come the time foretold
When the new heaven and earth
Shall own the prince of peace
Their King
And the whole world
Send back the song
Which now the angels sing

————————————————————

While shepherds kept their watching
Over silent flocks by night,
Behold throughout the heavens,
There shone a holy light:

Refrain:
Go, Tell It On The Mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go, Tell It On The Mountain
That Jesus Christ is born.

The shepherds feared and trembled
When lo! above the earth
Rang out the angel chorus
That hailed our Savior’s birth:

Refrain

Down in a lowly manger
Our humble Christ was born
And God send us salvation,
That blessed Christmas morn:

Refrain

When I am a seeker,
I seek both night and day;
I seek the Lord to help me,
And He shows me the way:

Refrain

He made me a watchman
Upon the city wall,
And if I am a Christian,
I am the least of all.

Refrain

————————————————————

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Refrain:
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

Refrain

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

Refrain

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Refrain

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies

Refrain

————————————————————

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Refrain:
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Refrain

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Refrain

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Refrain

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

Refrain

————————————————————

There’s the wonder of sunset at evening,
The wonder as sunrise I see;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is the wonder that God loves me.

O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

There’s the wonder of springtime and harvest,
The sky, the stars, the sun;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is a wonder that’s only begun.

O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

————————————————————

As I sat to write this, I clearly had “The Wonder of it All” on my mind.  But I also had the tragedy our nation faced when evil made it evident why Jesus needed to be born.  The lines of the first Christmas hymn I quoted are evidence that this display of evil is not new.

O ye Beneath life’s crushing load
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow
Look now
For glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing

That life is a crushing load of toil and pain is as old as time.  But neither the song nor the story stop there!  There is hope.  That hope is that God loved me and you enough to send His son Jesus to be born of a virgin, live a sinless perfect life, and ultimately to die though undeserved, so that we no longer have to.

Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Why do we need this “Second Birth”?  Our first birth was marred by a curse and sin.  And as a result we need to be reconciled to God.  That’s what God provided for when He sent Jesus, who saves from sin, and allows God to justly forgive us, because Jesus took the punishment that he didn’t deserve instead of us.  And did I ever deserve death!

With all of this evil, from mall shootings, and school shootings, and arson, we are asking questions.  When we experience the little pain it causes each of us, and when we think about the anguish the families and communities directly impacted felt, how can we not long for the day when this “heaven sent Prince of Peace” will reign?  Unfortunately, we are looking for him in all of the wrong places.  Our government will not save us.  More laws will not save us.  Keeping guns away from unstable people will not save us.  Shoot, we can’t even save ourselves.  We are outraged by these events because we know good and evil.  But we are powerless to do the good, at least if we are honest.  We each have the ability to do the things we know we should not do.  And as a society, we have explained away the fear of God.  So what is left?  Why, evil of course.  God says Christians are the only thing restraining evil in this world, and we are not doing a very good job.  God calls Christians to be salt and light, and we’re too afraid of what you may think of us, to speak out about what this world, and our country really need.

Salt in a wound hurts, but brings about healing.  Shedding light on evil exposes it for what it is, and also serves to disinfect.  What Christians starting with me need to do is repent.  I have not been nearly the witness, nor as forceful and loving as I should have been.  I’m the worst sinner there is trying to pass myself off as a humble flawed follower of Jesus.  But don’t let that stop you from having the only relationship that matters.  A saving relationship with the One who died to set you free, and restore your relationship with the God who made you.

If you accept this gift, you will have accepted the biggest gift of all.  If that doesn’t inspire “The Wonder of it All”, then nothing will.  This Christmas, my prayer is that God will use the tragedy our country faced to bring you, and many others to the Savior who is Christ the Lord.

The Ten Commandments

I’m never sure exactly who reads what I post.  Much of what I write is for the cathartic process of getting things off of my mind.  Other pieces are things that I’ve discovered about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–the political element.  Then, there are the discoveries I make as I pursue relationship with God though Jesus Christ.  This post is in that category.  And while I would encourage everyone to accept Jesus’ sacrifice and join me in following him, I am not naive.  Not everyone will share my my convictions.  So, this is a warning!  This piece is primarily for those who are following Jesus, and as you will see if you keep on reading, there are some decided advantages.   Yet still we seem to desire the pleasures of sin for a season, not the pleasure of heaven with Jesus forever.

You no doubt have heard the phrase, “familiarity breeds contempt”.  I have a corollary.  Familiarity breeds presumptive understanding.  Let me explain.

There is a concept called generational sin.  In simple terms, if your grandfather was a crook, and your father was a crook, chances are you are a crook as well.  This is spelled out in the Ten Commandments, “I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation” and that’s where many typically stop.  However, it goes on to say, “of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands (or to the thousandth generation) of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  (Italics and emphasis mine.)

The distinction I’ve often missed in my rush to the blessing is that the curse of generational “iniquity” or sin is limited.  Specifically, it is limited to those who hate God.  That means the chain can be broken by one generation who love God and keep his commandments.

I think the problem is that we hardly believe it, and continue living in bondage to sins in the past.  We allow them to take root, and run our lives as if this rule applied to us.  We give up hope of the victory already won, and think the battle is lost.  We allow little sins to slip by with excuses, until they become huge.  Then, we think we cannot overcome them because they are too deeply entrenched.

Do not be deceived!  While it is true that we reap what we sow, we have the power through the Holy Spirit to battle the enemy.  We have the power to realize the awfulness of sin.  And with the Spirit’s help, we can eliminate it.

Where do you start?  Might I suggest with the little ones?  Here’s an analogy.  In our backyard, we often have squirrels bury seeds, and then forget where they buried them.  Eventually those seeds become trees.  Trees we don’t want, usually!  We call them volunteers.  If I get those trees before they’re a foot tall, they come out without much effort at all.  On the other hand, if I give them a year or two to grow, I have to take a saw to them.  It is much more work.  If this analogy sounds realistic, that’s because I spent yesterday sawing down over 20 branches from these volunteers.  I hope they are sufficiently stunted so they don’t continue to grow.  But, like sin, they are stubborn things.  I’ll need to stay on top of them to keep them in control.  So it is with sin in our lives.  Give sin an inch, and it takes a mile.  So don’t give sin an inch.

Hope Misplaced…

Children enter the world completely and utterly dependent upon their parents for everything.  They are born with an unwavering trust in those parents.  But then something happens.  Eventually we learn that parents sometimes fail us.  We discover that they do not know everything.  If our parents were smart enough to realize that they don’t know everything, but that their faith in One who does was lived out, then chances are good that they passed that faith along.  It doesn’t always work that way, they are not perfect after all.  The natural progression has two possible outcomes.  You come to the conclusion that, God exists and can be trusted, and echo the words of this song:

This speaks for itself.

This speaks for itself.

Mysteries unknown
Are known to you
All wisdom is yours to reveal

You hold in your hand
The days of all men
All life and breath is yours to give.

Or, you conclude that your parents, people with faith, and people of faith are hypocrites.  That path leads you to believe that there is no God.  You become an atheist.

That’s what happens when hope is misplaced.

That’s why my hope is not in the Government solving this fiscal crisis.  It isn’t really even in Capitalism solving the crisis.  My hope is that God will so move to avert this crisis, yet I realize this crisis is part of His plan.  Perhaps it will ultimately cause people to turn to Him like nothing else could.  9/11 had that impact until we figured out what hit us, and within a year the documentary that PBS produced was asking where God was on that day, and quoting people as saying “Religion brought those two buildings down.”

Not even close.  Evil and sin brought those buildings down.

I will not turn my back on 9/11/2001.  It was evil men, and sin, not religion that brought the towers down.

I will not turn my back on 9/11/2001. It was evil men, and sin, not religion that brought the towers down.

So it is my prayer that instead of believing the Liar, and putting hope in hopeless things, that the people of these United States will rediscover what has brought about the blessing of our nation.  That we will return to our godly heritage.  That we will confess our wicked ways.  That we will repent, and change course.  Then, and only then will we have true hope.

Do you honestly think that either party of late is going in the right direction?  Seriously.  Obama is trying to blame the problem on Bush, yet have you really noticed any change?  Rhetoric does not change reality.  And no President, regardless of party, can defy God’s laws, and expect to prosper.  Congress can make no law that suspends God’s law either.

One of the most notable attempts by people to overstep boundaries, was in building the tower of Babel.  The intent was to build a tower with its top in the heavens, and to make a name for themselves.  God stepped in and confused their language so they could no longer understand each other.

Could it be that God moves in the affairs of men?  That He caused these events to occur to prevent us from doing something?

Since my hope and trust is in God, and not just printed on our money, I am looking for the good reasons He has for putting us through this economic crisis.

From that perspective, this time might not be so bad after all.

You Do What You Know!


Panera Bread with United States Flags in the Background

Ken at Panera Bread With United States
Flags in the Background

Good evening!  I wanted to get today’s post done early.  I’ve started the previous two days but by the time I was done playing with the dogs, or dealing with one interruption or another it wasn’t until the following day that the post was done.  Why is it that we put off the things we know we should be doing?  Or, even the things we want to be doing?  How is it that the urgent crowds out the necessary?  Are we really free? or are we slaves to the urgent?  You do what you know!

Now for the turn you aren’t expecting.  Why is it that so many have the 23rd Psalm printed up and distributed when they’re dead?  So many live their life as if they lacked everything.  Their lives were anything but green pastures and quiet waters.  The Lord did not refresh their soul, nor where they guided along the right paths.  They looked to government in their darkest valley, and feared all sorts of things.  And then they die, and this is what they want?  Or is that what we want for them?

I submit that we need to live Psalm 23 now!  Then, when we are dead, our lives will speak Psalm 23 into those we leave behind in ways that these words could not do by themselves.  There is, after all, power in a life lived following the LORD my shepherd.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

When things look like the darkest valley, if the LORD is your shepherd, you need not fear evil.  May goodness and love flow out of my overflowing cup.  If that’s what I know, I need to prove it by what I do.  It is time to bring the way I live my life into congruence with how God says life should be lived.  I’ve been saying that for some time.  Now the challenge of living it!  If I can, it will be proof that with God, all things are possible!

What’s Next?

 

Ken's Haircut Day Two

Ken's Haircut Day Two

I’m enjoying my short hair.  If only the government would cut the budget.  Little did I know that the budget President Obama would introduce is somewhere north of 1.7 trillion dollars higher than the revenue that comes in.  That means we are taking on more debt.  

There’s a part of me that wants to get into the details of how this is the wrong direction to be taking on a national level.

However, I want to talk about my personal history by way of reminder.  When I was younger my parents made me save up for purchases I wanted to make.  Instead of learning that lesson, I learned something else since then.  Along with most everyone else I became addicted to debt as a means to get things now.  If you think that sounds like an excuse, you get the prize!

I would like to think this happened much like the frog boiling to death.  I also want to think that I am smart enough to manage debt effectively, and use the leverage to my advantage.  The reality is that it became intoxicating, and put my priorities in the wrong place.  And it should have been more like the frog jumping out of the boiling water.  I got there swiftly, and did not realize the problem was with me.  While I said that Christ was first in my life, deep down my heart was not focused fully on Christ.  I was not willing to deny myself anything so long as I could borrow what was needed to fund a business, or buy techology items, or a new car, or whatever.  Now, I realize that I need to align what I say I believe with my actions.  

Sadly, just like the government, it is going to take me some time to be completely debt free.  It has been a goal of mine for some time, but I’ve been following the same model that our leaders in government are trying to use to fix the current economic crisis.  I’ve been using borrowed money to try and make money to pay back the money I’ve borrowed.  Do you see the parallels?  I’ve made progress toward less debt, and with God’s help it will take less than 10 years to be completely debt free.

I suspect, based on what I’m seeing with this current economic recession, having less debt would put me in a much better position to reach out and help those in need.  I want to be ready the next time a recession comes along.  And, I would normally not want to share my failings with the world.  However, in this case, I’d like to take as many people as possible with me on this journey.

The ultimate reason why that is important is that I want people to follow and have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  If I do not come clean about how I was off course in my relationship with him, you could call me a hypocrite, and use that as an excuse not to have a relationship with Christ.  

If you wonder why you need to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, visit the Way of the Master website.