A Higher Point of View

 

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We should never take for granted or assume the “Providence” of God. James 4:13 -15 says “Come now you who say ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’”

This would more than suggest that moving forward with any decision or venture without God’s guidance may lead to peril. What possible outcomes could there be? We never reach the city? Life itself runs out? Being no guarantee of profits, none are realized? The truth of the matter is that God has left us in the dark as to the certainties of our future in this life. How then are we to arrive at any decisions at all? Does scripture tell us how to proceed in our decision making endeavors?

Our first clue is found in verse 15 above. All of our plans must be subject to God’s will. In biblical times people prospered when they moved forward upon God’s blessing. Anything that God blesses is a sure thing. Our next question might be, “How do we know when God blesses our plans?” To be sure, they must be submitted in prayer, they must not be contrary to anything we know of God’s will in scripture and we must receive His peace about the decision to proceed. (A lack of peace is a sure sign to remain still. Whether the answer is no or wait, the immediate answer is not now.)

Do we need to make a plan? Plans can be beneficial and provide the specifics we need for diligent prayer. Actually, the lack of a concrete plan may be a hinderance to receiving God’s answer. Proverbs 16:9 says “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” If we take the time to offer to God the desires of our heart and our plans for the means and ends of reaching our desires then God may either bless, change or reject our plans. However there has to be a safeguard in the process. If He blesses, then we have every reason to expect the plans to prosper. If He changes our plans, it is because He wants His best for us and our plan would have fallen short of it. If He rejects our plan then He probably wants to do something completely different than we can imagine but again His best for us will be the outcome. In directing our steps, He also has the power to change our desires. Moving forward with our plans at any turn in our lives without submission to Him greatly increases our chance of failure or disappointment. Only He is high enough, to see far enough down the road to know what lies ahead.

 

A Christmas Blessing

For some, Christmas is a time for more than usual busyness, marked by exhaustion and a sigh of relief when it has passed. Evidenced by crowded shops, crowded parking lots, traffic jams and unfortunate behavior it is easy to miss some of the more precious aspects. If I have learned anything at this stage of life, it’s truly the things that cannot be bought that have the most value. Time spent with family is what does it for me. We begin with the family tradition of attending Christmas Eve service together, two full rows spanning four generations, now that’s truly a rare sight to behold in the time that we live in. From 82 to 8 years of age, that’s legacy. Each year as we come together at our former church, I have been graciously invited to participate in the service. I feel honored by the outpouring of love received by us from our former church family. This year was a particular blessing as my daughter went forward to read scripture with me and as always our oldest son lead the church in Christmas worship. It’s the one time of the year when we can come together as an entire family and share the blessing of the true meaning of Christmas. The best part of this is that it is free. Jesus already paid for my Christmas. Unfortunately, there was still room to park, no one was busting through the door to get in or standing in line for hours for that special gift available inside. Christmas at the mall costs hundreds and thousands of dollars. Christmas at the church was pricelss.

 

What Scares You?

The woes of the stock market, the concerns over political unrest in the world, the anticipation of the next election and the whereabouts of Casey Anthony seemed to take a major backseat in the media and our minds this week as we dealt with more immediate and pressing concerns. Mother Nature refusing to be upstaged gained the center place of attention as she tossed up a 5.6 earthquake, a monstrous 600 mile wide hurricane and a few tornadoes for icing on the cake. Suddenly the normal dismal news fare didn’t seem quite as important as worries shifted from the economy, politics and terrorism to personal survival. It would seem that man-made calamity has nothing on natural catastrophic occurrences.

Where then is God in all of this? Why would a loving God allow such frightening things to assail us? These are the ever popular questions of the day offered up by those who want to question the actual existence of God or by those who have yet to grown close enough to Him to understand His ways. Our nature cries for answers and we are prone to find them on our own without any help from the One we dare to question. How about the truth? If you are tempted to ask where God is, you may be interested to know that He is right there in the middle of it all. He’s never far and always close by. If you could travel to the farthest planet you would be no further away from Him and yet no closer. His ways are not our ways (Is.55:8). Do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Be anxious for nothing (Phil.4:6). These are just a few verses that begin to reveal His nature and character. Wise men still seek Him. To truly find the answer to such questions we must seek Him, this is His desire. He can be found through His Word and in prayer. He is faithful. (1Cor.1:9).

The natural mind always wants God to change the circumstances. As we gain more knowledge of His person we will discover that He is more likely to change our perspective about things which will often lead us to change our circumstances or live above them. Many times the scripture tells us to “fear not”. The natural mind cannot cast off fear but through the supernatural power of His presence we can substitute faith for fear. Scripture speaks of the “peace that passes all understanding” (Phil.4:7). We can only get there by means that we do not truly understand, that’s why it is supernatural. The natural mind cannot understand things that are spiritual (1Cor.2:14).

The question therefore is not where is God? The question is where are we? The follow-up question is what can we control? If our worry and concern could truly impact any one particular circumstance, let’s say a hurricane, we still would not begin to posses the capacity to worry about all of life’s other concerns. Only God is “all-knowing” and able to deal with every circumstance known to mankind simultaneously. The secret to a joyful and healthy life on this earth is simply to place your trust in the one true God. He has provided the only way and that is faith in Jesus Christ. Only He can save us from ourselves and from the power of a fallen world. Neither man-made calamity nor the phenomenon of nature can separate us from His love for us. Just maybe He has allowed some of these circumstances to enter our world that He may gain our attention. Has he gained yours?

 

A Father’s Day Reflection

Who was Dad? That’s the question many men will be reflecting
upon this week as we celebrate and approach the day we have set aside to honor
our fathers. For some the reflection will be reassuring as the figure is
remembered for his character, strength, wisdom and tenacity. For some the
reflection will be painful as the brokenness and failures of the past are
remembered along side the regret of what might have been. Yet for others the
day will be empty as there are no good or bad memories, only a vacuum that was
left where no man stood.

One of God’s greatest creations was to create a man of character; a man who keeps his
promises and stays the course no matter what. He realizes the power of keeping
his word and knows the meaning of a covenant. His word is his bond and he isn’t
easily thrown by the circumstances that surround him. Such a man has vision and
forward thinking. He provides for his family and marries till death decides
differently and his children can depend on him always. The legacy left behind
him is a kind reflection to be emulated by those who knew him. He loves his
neighbor as himself, serves others selflessly, pays what is expected of him and
goes beyond, rights his wrongs and forgives those who err against him. He does
all of this not because he is super-human but rather because he is aware of his
humanness. Faith in God moves him and empowers him to persevere.

“Today, fully one-third of American children live apart from their natural fathers.
Over fifteen million kids are growing up in homes without any father. Seventy
percent of men in prison grew up without a father.”* This statistic written in 2002
may be more dramatic today. Some of those children are now adults, many having
been damaged for life. Their reflections this week will be painful and empty.
The power of a promise kept is like the eye of calm in the middle of the storm.
When all else is in chaos it offers certainty and hope for those it’s intended.
Its reflection ripples on the waters of life for all eternity.

Character is the essence of real manhood. It is not inborn but developed. It is passed on
from generation to generation. Its absence is unsightly and destructive.
Destroy the character of the nation’s men and you will destroy the nation. We
need only to watch the daily news to see the blight of this disease manifested
in the leadership of our country. Shameful men who lack honesty, integrity and
character yet cling to their self-centered desire for power and glory. Please
tell me that the American man of character is not an endangered species.  Our God is a God of character, a promise
keeper. Jesus set his path steadfast on the cross and did not waiver. He
modeled character for us and has come to give us the power to live the same
way. Our hope for the future of our nation rests squarely upon the men of
character who will be willing to stand in the gap and fill the voids created by
those who are clueless about such things. Praise God this Fathers Day for Godly
men of character.

*Stu Weber, “The Heart of a Tender Warrior”; Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2002. p.29

Where’s The Good News?

          If you are anything like me you must be tired of watching the network news. Bad news seems to be pouring in at an unprecedented pace, to the point that we are almost numb to its impact. We have flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, wars, financial chaos, political corruption, and Charlie Sheen. Charlie is all about winning, I’m just trying to get my mind around the prize. He’s now decided to take his act on the road and is booked to sold-out crowds around the country. As the highest paid TV personality he seems to have a following, even the network executives want him back on the show. He’s hot, he’s selling and he’s in demand. WHY? What’s the attraction, what’s the prize? Maybe it’s the hearts and minds of a lost generation.

          People are hungry and desperate for something to feel good about. Human beings are born with the need to believe in something. God created us that way. He did so for His purpose and has presented us with the opportunity to live this life with an overflowing abundance of all that we need to fulfill our needs and He stands ready to enable us to live above the moral degradation of society. When any person chooses to live outside this provision they are left to fill the void inside with anything and everything that comes along, even the likes and philosophies of Charlie Sheen. His TV persona as a womanizing, party hardy, self-indulged character seems to emulate his off screen lifestyle. His indiscretions are not occasional but rampant. We’ve come an unfortunate distance from “Leave It to Beaver”. As a society the impact is obvious. Divorce is a major business, over half of our families are broken, our education system is failing and our children encouraged toward the heretofore unthinkable. Tell me they are not influenced by the immoral behavior portrayed as normal on TV and in the movies. The legislature continually tries to overcome these issues by enacting more laws to govern behavior. They are currently considering ways to prevent teen “sexting” via smart phones, a problem reportedly involving 22% of our young people. As a result of all of this brokenness teen suicide has reached an epidemic level.

         The networks themselves seem to be addicted to “bad news”. When a slow news day comes the filler pieces are most likely something scrounged off “You Tube” and almost always the content is negative (not to mention unworthy of prime time news).  So I ask, where’s the “good news”? Has society sunk so low that there exist no interesting and uplifting human interest stories? In a world that is desperate and needy for something to feel good about it seems the networks are not really all that interested.

          In the midst of all the chaos and turmoil, trials and tribulations, really “Good News” does exist. There is hope, there is a future, and there is truth, a way and a life. These things can only be found in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Perhaps the only thing worse than the lack of good news on TV is the deafening silence of the American church in proclaiming the only real “Good News” available to everyone who is willing to listen, if only given the chance to hear, even Charlie Sheen. Each of us must take personal responsibility for finding and living in God’s truth. If you are skeptical let me ask just one question. Given the fact that our society was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, yet in the wisdom of the courts we removed prayer from our schools and largely abandoned the beliefs of our founding fathers, is it really working for you?

“To the Moon Alice”

         The final mission for the shuttle spacecraft “Discovery”  landed this week. It returned from outer space after performing the latest maintenance items on the “International Space Station”. How routine this has become. Many are unaware that we had people in space or may be oblivious to the fact that a space station exists.  I had the privilege of going to the Kennedy Space Center this week and I must say that it was a bit surreal. It was hard to grasp the history and the ongoing reality of our space program. We actually place people in capsules and shuttles strapped to rockets with the explosive power of a nuclear bomb and launch them out of the earth’s atmosphere. How can we possibly not be amazed at such accomplishments?

          As a child in elementary school I still remember listening to the radio broadcast of Alan Shepherd, the first American in space, orbiting the earth and then returning. The world was fixated on the event with total wonderment. The Russians had beaten us with the first man in space followed by several failed attempts by NASA to accomplish the same feat. But then it happened. Astronaut Alan Shepherd orbited the earth. The race was on as the world’s two super powers ventured where no man had ever gone. What came next may well be the most exciting and courageous event in American history. Presdent Kennedy declared that we were going to the moon! We intentionally decided to do the impossible. What’s even more incredible, we did it. Since then a total of twelve Americans have walked on the surface of the moon. No other country has even come close to the accomplishments of our space program. With all of this in mind, I can’t help but wonder why God scattered the people of Babel for building a tower estimated to be approximately 300 ft. in height yet He allowed us to walk on the moon.

          Could intentions be more important to God than actions? The people of Babel were united in their efforts to solidify their security through building a tower that would reach into the heavens. They wanted to be in control of their own destiny. After seeing pictures from the Hubble telescope reaching millions of light years through space the 300 foot tower now looks a bit absurd. So one must conclude that God didn’t care for their purpose. Their intentions for mankind were not aligned with His plan. Therefore the next logical question must be to consider  the intentions of our own space program. Why did we and why do we pursue adventures in space? President Kennedy likened the question to “why climb the tallest mountain”. There is something in the human spirit that strives to accomplish great achievements and desires to discover the meaning of life itself. We want to know the reason and purpose for the world around us and beyond. Perhaps this is the result of our inborn nature to know God. I believe the fall of man that caused the separation between mankind and God left us with a deep rooted need to find meaning and relevance which drives us toward the inevitable truth that God does exist and life without Him is meaningless.

          Recently, I watched a video entitled “Journey Toward Creation”. This documentary depicts our journey of discovery and findings from the efforts of our space program. In an effort to see what lies beyond we have discovered some amazing facts regarding our own existence. Because we are a tiny dot in the giant cosmos it is easy to think that there must be life on other planets, otherwise the vastness of the universe seems to be a complete waste. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A study of numerous solar systems have resulted in finding no ability to sustain life on any other planet. Instead scientists have discovered how dependant our solar system and planet is upon all of the universe even the number of stars that exist. The entire cosmos is designed to support life on the planet Earth. What happens light years in space has a direct impact on our planets ability to survive and to sustain life as we know it. Many noted scientists and astronomers have now reached the conclusion that there is an undeniable grand design to the uiniverse and it is the unmistakable work of a supreme higher being. Imagime that. Our efforts to discover what lies beyond this world have served to prove that God does exist and the cosmos was created out of His magnifcent grace to support life for mankind on a tiny planet we call home. Ralph Cramden may have thought the answer to all his problems was sending Alice to the Moon; all he really needed to know was who hung it.

Ralph Cramden was a character from the TV series “The Honeymooners”.

There Are Rotten Apples in the Pie…

          Whatever happened to the “American Dream”? Before you can answer the question you may have to define the term. While on a generational basis it may mean different things to different people, much depends on your point of reference. Most “boomers” remember the fifties when the dream was based upon the idea of a puritan work ethic which basically said, if you work hard enough and are thrifty you can achieve financial security and success. In those days most people had a savings account for the accumulation of sums of money and were required to make a substantial down payment before being allowed to purchase any item on credit. In short you had to work a while first in order to achieve your goal. For example you may have been required to place thirty percent down before you could obtain a mortgage. All things being relative you may have had to save five thousand dollars to buy a fifteen thousand dollar home. The same philosophy today would require a savings of fifty thousand dollars to purchase a home priced at one hundred fifty. Oddly enough, it seems that it is harder for most people today to save five thousand than it was in the fifties although people make far higher salaries not to mention the fact that there was generally only one wage earner in the home back in the fifties. So what happened to baseball, mom and apple pie?

          In short someone decided that baseball players were worth millions, mom needed to get a job and the serpent began convincing us that there was an easier path to the “American Dream”; all we needed was to shortcut the pie by using a few rotten apples. Toss out the whole idea of a work ethic, craftsmanship, doing a good job and the concept given us in the book of Genesis that we will eat by the “sweat of our face.” (Gen.3:19). Replace these ingredients with get rich quick schemes, easy credit and instant gratification. Now there’s a pie that will sell! Unfortunately, as we now see, it can have bitter results. It’s a story as old as creation itself. Adam and Eve were created in paradise and given everything they needed to sustain life. There were plenty of trees to eat from in the garden and all they needed to do to maintain the perfect environment was to obey one rule. Don’t eat from one tree in particular. But even that provided too great a temptation, I guess you could say they had too much of a good thing and that is exactly the problem facing us today. As the wealthiest culture ever known to the world we failed to be obedient to the ideals that made us great to begin with. Like a kid in a candy store we consumed until it made us ill. We had at our fingertips the largest opportunity of wealth ever known to mankind yet as a nation we have no savings, home equity is gone, financial freedom for many is lost, fifty percent of our marriages are destroyed, many of our children our emotionally scarred for life, and our nation is in financial bondage to our former and current enemies at the expense of future generations.

          The “good news” in all of this is that God is still on the throne, He knows what we need and His plans never fail for those who call upon His name. “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2Chron.7:13-14). This is the character of God who desires to heal our land. Our hope rests not in the government but rather in the people who are called by Hs name. The apple of self-gratification may look good but it will always have a bitter aftertaste.

What’s Next?

          Recently I was having a phone conversation with a business acquaintance only to find out that he had spent his holidays unexpectedly caring for his terminally ill father, a situation that is lingering on. We talked at some length about how his dad had developed mesothelioma from his time spent on a submarine back in the fifties. It was quite moving to hear this man reminisce about his dad’s life as I could sense the anguish in his heart as he considered the status of his father’s life. Mesthelioma is a slow developing disease and apparently it catches it’s victims by surprise and then it is too late to do anything about it.

          At times such as this reality sets in and we come to see that life is short. We come face to face with our own mortality. Then what? These two words strike at the essence of our being. What’s next, what’s it all about, is this all there is? These are sobering considerations that none can escape. They can be shoved aside and rejected or we can make an uninformed decision based upon what we would like to believe or how we think things really are. Decisions such as these are often made without much consideration or depth of understanding. Truthfully, far too many Christians have spent too little effort studying the basis for what they believe. We live in a time and culture that tends to easily accept or reject things with little basis to depend on. Doesn’t it make sense that we would reasonably pursue the truth about eternity with greater zeal than we would apply to anything else in this world? After all, eternity is a long time. It’s particularly a long time for anyone who might get it wrong.

          The problem arises when we try to affix quick answers or decide such matters from the logical perspective. Actually, I can present compelling logistics for the accuracy of the Bible as well as for the biblical historical record it presents. The trouble is that logic will not and cannot get the job done. What logic can do is arouse your sense of the possibilities. It can get your attention. It can make you wonder but facts alone cannot lead you to believe in the existence of God or eternal life. This can only be accomplished by divine revelation, which is an act of the supernatural. Think how foolish it is to judge matters of supernatural proportion by the limitations of the natural mind. Those who know can attest to actual knowledge of the transformation that takes place when a person receives and accepts the call of God. From the outside looking in it appears as foolishness but to the one who truly possesses the experience there’s no desire to ever turn back.

          We can easily miss the truth of God by false understandings of who He is. We can claim to be “good” as a justification for our life or we can dismiss God altogether because He doesn’t make sense. We can chose to believe anything we want about Him but there can be only one truth. The truth is, He is willing to reveal Himself to anyone who earnestly seeks Him. He will not always change your circumstances but He is always willing to change your perception of them. It is truly amazing when God gives you a new perspective and your whole world changes when physically nothing has changed at all. Knowing the one true God through the life offered by His Son is the only way to resolve the question of life that ultimately asks, what’s next?

I Got Nothing for Christmas

          I got nothing for Christmas and it was great! In our continued quest for simplification Pat and I managed to escape the “hustle and bustle” of the Christmas season and it was a great experience. Our time was more centered on family, enjoying each others company and most of all the true meaning of Christmas. We had our traditional family Christmas Eve gathering at our old church with two rows of Weese’s seated in the sanctuary spanning four generations. It was truly special. You see I actually did get something for Christmas, the blessing of family and friends. Nothing wrapped and placed under a tree could come anywhere close.

         As I still try to adjust to this new season of our life (the empty nest, grandparent thing) I must admit that I miss those Christmas mornings when we would prepare the family room with music, Christmas lights and hot chocolate before allowing the kids to come down and open their presents. Now they each have their own families and memory making traditions as time continues to blaze forward. We’re still a part of it but it’s different. We’re at that interesting point in life where we can view the past and the future all at once; the blessing of having parents with us to share the holiday as well as children and grandchildren with a couple of grand dogs thrown in. It’s all about legacy. While the legacy includes memories of Christmas past, family traditions and all the trimmings of the modern day yuletide season it goes far beyond all of that. It’s the intangible things that span the movement of time; love for God and love for each other. These are truly the only gifts that last.

          As I watch the holiday madness unfold on the news reports with visions of people pushing, shoving and trampling each other as the security guard opens the doors to the store I wonder how things came to be this way. According to the media, Christmas success is based upon retail spending and the consumers’ ability to purchase the latest Christmas craze item. Stores stay open all night, people rush to the stores to participate in “black Friday” and finances are exhausted on purchases that otherwise would not have been made. An exhausted populace begins the New Year trying to figure out how to pay off the credit card bills as they begin to roll in after the holiday frenzy. I’m reminded of how Jesus wept over Jerusalem as they missed the time of their visitation (Luke 19:41). How many are lost in the busyness of the season and missing Jesus all together. It’s been two thousand years since He walked among us. For all but the last sixty Christmas wasn’t like this. Maybe it’s time to reflect on what Christmas meant in the past, before easy credit, rampant materialism and the neurotic pace of life “we now enjoy”. Maybe it’s time to get nothing for Christmas and get everything at the same time.

He May Be Closer Than You Think!

          “He was one of the very few persons I have ever met for whom God was real and always near…”. These words were spoken by an English officer who spent time with Dietrich Bonhoeffer the last days of his life while imprisoned together in Flossenburg, by the Nazi regime. Why is this a rare characteristic among Christians? Is God real and always near to you? If so, do others see this as a description of our lives?

          In all probability we see ourselves as falling short of this standard. Is such a relationship reserved for only a privileged few or does God desire that all of us have such an experience? Simply put, I believe that God does desire an intimate relationship with every believer; however it can be quite a struggle to find it. If we look at Phil.4:7, we are given some insight that will prove helpful. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NASB) This result follows an admonition against worry (vs. 6). We are told to “be anxious for nothing”. Again, this is a truth that we can easily accept but find quite hard to live. Why is this so difficult? Perhaps it is due mostly to our lack of perspective. If we break down verse seven into components we will see some perspective needed for our success.

          First of all whose peace is it? “…the peace of God…” is what the scripture tells us. It is His gift to us after we comply with the instructions given in verse 6, approaching Him in submission with thanksgiving. This is a supernatural manifestation of His Holy Spirit at work within us. He changes our perspective about things even if He doesn’t change our circumstance. We are given a different viewpoint, one that removes fear and doubt, one that we cannot otherwise see on our own. We are further told in verse 7 that His peace (His answer) is beyond our comprehension. We cannot implore logic to get the same result. This isn’t so much seeing as it is accepting. Now God is being real and near to us. Others now can see what God has done in us and we can truly be a witness.

          The last part of the verse shows us the maintenance of our relationship with Him. When we surrender our will to Jesus and accept His peace unconditionally our hearts will be guarded against worry and kept “in Christ Jesus”. His perspective will be ours. Unfortunately, we can tend to think of this as an infrequent occurrence or struggle with trying to live there. Struggling with this process is part of our spiritual growth. God desires for us to learn and grow in our relationship with Him as He brings us face to face with our self will and the things He desires for us to place under His control. We come to learn how strong and deep rooted our will can be.

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit (NASB)

          As we begin to learn God’s process we also will develop an understanding about sin. Simply put, un-confessed sin will always prohibit you from having an intimate relationship with God and distance you from His favor. Repentance is a gift from God as is faith. Verse 6 directs us to seek Him in prayer with thanksgiving. We need Him to show us those things that we must drastically deal with in our flesh in order to honor Him and to come into a right relationship with Him. It all depends upon His process and remains a supernatural transaction. Christianity can be a harsh and at times challenging belief until we realize that it’s not about us at all. His peace can be gained only by accepting His will for us and our relationship begins at the point of discovering our true need for Him.