Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

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“Book of Elkanah – What Not to Say to Your Wife” – Nov. 9

November 9, 2015

“Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep?  And why do you not eat?  And why is your heart sad?  Am I not more to you than ten sons?””  1 Samuel 1:8

I suspect that there was a “Book of Elkanah” that never made it into the Cannon of Scripture.  We only have one passage from the “Book of Elkanah”, which was recorded in 1 Samuel 1:8.   However, I am confident that this could not have been the only passage espoused from the oracle, Elkanah.

In fairness to Elkanah, I believe that every husband pens their own collection of romance-killing proclamations.  These collections are the thoughtless, misguided, and blatantly stupid sayings that periodically have come out of every husband’s mouth.  There are just some husbands whose epistle of stupid sayings have more stanzas than average.  I bet that the Elkanah’s book was a thick book; it probably included multiple volumes since he had two wives.

The story of Hannah reminded me of the typical failure of most husbands in marriage.

Most husbands, myself included, have failed in the same manner as Elkanah.  His knuckled-headed attempt to comfort his wife Hannah has to have made it into  the book.  I chuckled a little as I read the story of Hannah, but it reminded me of my theory as to the common source of these common novels.

Consider what could possibly have motivated Elkanah to say to a woman who probably had just received evidence, once again, of her infertility:

“Hey Babe, be happy; you’ve got me. I’m better than ten sons.”

I don’t think that Elkanah was really thinking about Hannah when he spoke those words.  His attempt at comfort reveals the person who was really paramount upon his mind.  Elkanah was thinking more about himself than Hannah and he had a pretty high opinion of himself.

This motivation troubles most husbands and marriages.  Marriage reveals the heart condition of every man and it is why I say with confidence that every husband has penned his own “Book of What Not to Say to Your Wife”.

I have now been married longer than I was single.  I know that my selfishness has been revealed by saying some pretty stupid things to my wife.  However, I hope that the frequency of those entries have gone down over the years.   In fact, the frequency of entries should decline with years for every Christian husband but not necessarily due to an understanding of how to live together.  The entries should become scarce because of an increasing personal sanctification that is supposed to be happening in a follower of Christ.

A husband’s words to his wife are an accurate reflection of his sanctification.

It is why we see men in all stages of married life playing the role of husband poorly. One does not have to look very far to see a myriad of lackluster attempts.  I have seen incompetent husbands newly married, packing small children, at kid’s graduations, and in retirement.

Time and experience does not necessarily make us better husbands.

We must consider the standard for the Christian husband; it is daunting:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.”  Eph. 5:25,28

One cannot be truly competent as a husband without the help of the Spirit.  Husbands have to die to the terrible idol of self in order for them to be what God intended them to be in marriage.  Every man should desire to be a God glorifying, selfless husband.  We should not be satisfied in marital incompetence.  We should not deluge ourselves into thinking that we are good husbands if our spouse’s sanctification exceeds our own and she’ll just forgive us for the selfish things we do.

Every Christian husband should be embarrassed by their personal authorship of a “Book of What Not to Say to Your Wife”.  We should all strive to make that horrible book as thin as possible.

May Jesus Christ be the husband that we characterize in our marriage and not Elkanah.

“The Puritan ethic of marriage was first to look not for a partner whom you do love passionately at this moment but rather for one whom you can love steadily as your best friend for life, then to proceed with God’s help to do just that.”
~ J.I. Packer

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my wife.   Thank you for enabling her to forgive me for all the selfish words that I have spoken.  Lord, bind us together despite our sinful natures.  Father, help me to love her as you love her.  Help me to see her as you see her.  Help be to die to myself in order to be the husband that you have called me to be.  Lord, grant her patience as you continue to refine me.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“Say Ah” – Nov. 3

November 3, 2015

“Ah, Lord God!  It is you who has made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm!  Nothing is too hard for you.”  Jeremiah 32:17

IMG_20151026_155920Upon September’s conclusion, I knew October’s difficulties.  The nature of my employment had conspired against me by scheduling five business trips in the span of four weeks.  I realize that, for some, this may have been business as usual.  However, six business trips constituted my annual total in years past.  I am not accustomed to this level of business travel.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should reveal the locations of my business travel before you commiserate too much with me.  I was working in the following National Parks:

Mount Rainer National Park
Death Valley National Park
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Muir Woods National Monument
Olympic National Park
Yosemite National Park

IMG_20151017_092150I can just feel the sympathy evaporating as this list is read.  It was rough duty but someone has to do it.  My only appeal for sympathy is that while I was traveling to beautiful locations it was for work.  My typical trip was a three day affair; flying to the Park on day one, conducting the project meeting on the following, and then returning on the third day.  These trips contained a lot of time in airports, planes, rental cars and hotels, albeit, in the context of a spectacular National Park.

IMG_20151017_092445I have found that it takes purposefulness to truly combat the busyness of business.  I endeavor to purposefully carve out time in each business trip to appreciate the particular locale of my trip, especially on trips to national parks, otherwise I will miss the spectacular.  It is easy to fly in, do the work, and fly out without ever looking up.  We can miss a lot of wonder in our diligent toil.

Therefore, I try to find a moment or two on each business trip to set aside my labor, look around me and say, “Ah, this is spectacular!”

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I have realized my need to be purposeful in looking past myself so that I can appreciate the wonder of the world I live in, otherwise it doesn’t happen.  Beholding the glorious is one of the unique characteristics of being human.  There is no other creature who has this unique ability to appreciate the spectacular.  It is what we were made to do.

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However, I often fail to regularly do what I was uniquely created for.  I get so consumed by my daily toils that I fail to look up and appreciate the world around me.

If I am failing to appreciate the world in which I am placed,
how can I truly appreciate the Creator of that world?

If I am failing to appreciate my Creator,
how can I truly trust him?

If I don’t truly trust Him,
how can I say that I have faith in Him?

Consider how Jeremiah may have come to his declaration of faith, “nothing is too hard for God”.

He beheld the heavens and the earth;
He praises the Creator, “Ah, Lord”;
He reasons that creation must have required great power through the outstretched arm of God;
He concludes in faith that if God can create the world around him then there is nothing too hard for him.

I don’t know if this is exactly how Jeremiah thought.  Although, this is how my faith often works.

My soul is most refreshed when I lay aside my preoccupations and simply behold His glory.
My faith is renewed through each exclamation of “Ah, Lord”.
My resolve is strengthened when reminded of my God who can do anything.

I believe that we all can grow in our trust that “nothing is too hard for God”, which means that we all can use more “Ah, Lord” moments.  Maybe, rather than trying to do more, we simply need to carve out 15 minutes a day to merely relax and enjoy the spectacular nature of our Creator.IMG_20151028_155019

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the spectacular world that we live in.   Thank you for putting on display your glory.  Thank you for creating me with the ability to praise you.  Forgive me for often failing to do what I have been uniquely created to do.  Lord, remind me, today, to look up.  Remind me to behold your glory, today.  Father, inform my theology through the appreciation of your creation.  Build my faith through all the “Ah” moments that you grant me.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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1+1 = GOD – Dec. 8th

December 7, 2012

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1

What if we lived in a world where 1 + 1 did not equal 2? What if you could never be confident in the sum really being equal to two. What if we could not rely upon the observations of the world around us?

We could not know anything with confidence.

Einstein’s theory of relativity states that everything is relative to the observer. The consequence of this theory is that the sum of 1 + 1 for one person might not be the same as for another person. The sum depends upon what is going on with each person. If you’re in a car speeding along at 60 mph and pass another car going 40 mph, then that car will look like it is going 20 mph to you.  However, that car will look like it is going 40 mph to a person alongside the road.  The appearance of the speed of the car is relative to the observer.general-theory-relativity

The theory of relativity can be ignored in our daily lives because we are all hurling through space at the same speed, on the same planet. This very special case allows us to look at the world around us and with confidence know that 1 + 1 does actually equal 2.

Consider what a blessing God has given us in just this one aspect of creation. God could have created a world where Newton’s elegant law, F=ma, did not apply.  Our world could have been dominated by the uncertainty of the general theory of relativity.  I am not really sure what that would have looked like, since this world is all I have ever known.  However, we are told that God is outside of time. That means that God is outside the realm of Newton’s laws and the general theory of relativity, for that matter. So, there is a reality that we cannot even comprehend; physics laws that are beyond us. It is a place where our math does not work.

Therefore, God made this world different than His realm. Why? Why would God create this world in a manner that we can rely upon 1+1  actually and consistently equalling 2?

To declare his glory; to proclaim his handiwork.  It is necessary for us created beings to be placed in a world where math works.  It is necessary for math to work for us to even begin to make sense of what the heavens are telling.  A world in which 1 + 1 always equals 2 is a world within which we can look at the sky and see his handiwork.  That is an incredible blessing that we daily overlook. Just consider all the aspects of this creation that may exist, which we may never even know about that allows us to know God. It is staggering to consider.

God’s glory and handiwork is all around us if we just take the time to look. It is even in the fact that 1 + 1 = 2.

PRAYER: Lord – I am astonded by the works of your hand.  I know that I get so preoccupied with my daily life that I miss so much of what you have displayed around me. You are great and greatly to be praised.  Thank you for making me and making a world in which I can see and know your handiwork and glory.    Amen

Image from http://www.alberteinsteinsite.com/physics/relativity/generaltheory.html

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IT IS COLD OUTSIDE; COME ON IN – Nov. 29th

November 29, 2012

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” Psalm 61:2b-4

We had a strong storm blow through not that long ago. It was a cold driving wind that turned rain drops into stinging projectiles. In a pasture along the road home, I saw several horses out in the storm because they had no shelter. They had pointed their backsides into the wind, hunched their backs, and dropped their heads. Since there was no escape, they were miserably enduring the storm. I was thinking about those poor beasts as our garage door automatically opened and we silently slipped into the refuge of our home; fully protected from the ravages of the storm. I was very appreciative of my house.

It would have been silly of me to park outside our garage. It would have been even sillier to seek refuge under one of our leave-less shade trees. I would have quickly been as miserable as those horses.  I would have been a fool since I had an escape to refuge only feet away.

You can have a refuge but you have to go in. A strong tower is only of value if you are inside of it. However, we are told in Luke 14:28-29 that there is a cost to strong towers. There is an issue with entering the strong tower of the Bible.  It is like getting through security at the airport. You are not going to get through with prohibited items.

We cannot enter the strong tower of our Lord with the prohibited passions of this world. “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33 We have to lay aside all of those things that we value more than the Rock of our salvation. Sadly, many are miserably bewildered as they are caught in a raging storm of our enemy, just outside the refuge of our Lord, clutching their trinkets.

Come inside, where the enemy cannot reach you.  It is so much better than miserably enduring. There is no trinket of this world that can match the treasures that await you inside the strong tower of our Lord.

PRAYER: Lord, Forgive me for clucthing onto valueless trinkets, thinking they are great treasures. You are the greatest treasure in all the universe.  It it through You that I can find value in all that you have created.  Thank you for being my strong tower. Thank you for protecting me from the stinging storms of this world. I will praise your name as the storms of this world pelt the outside of my faithful refuge. Amen

Image from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/72280416

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WHAT DO YOUR STONES MEAN? – Nov. 28th

November 28, 2012

“When your children ask in time to come, “What do those stones mean to you?”” Joshua 4:7

It is our hope in the next couple years to take a family vacation to Washington, DC.  There is just something about standing in the same place that history was made or walking through memorials that makes history come to life. My kids are studying a lot of US History. I want that history to be more than just stories in a book.  We want it to mean something to them. I want it to be a reality to them.

My wife and I visited that USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor. One grasps a much deeper meaning to the word sacrifice and appreciation for what prior generations have given us, when you stand over the watery tomb of those who have given it all in the service of their country.  After having been there, Pearl Harbor means more to me.  It is more than just a historical event by having stood there.  It is a reality to me.

That is the importance of memorials. They are important because we have short memories. They are important because what was real and relevant for one generation is usually less relevant to the next. This fact is even more important when we consider our faith. I don’t want my kids to live through my faith. I want them to come to their own passionate love of God.

There is a process that should concern every parent.  There is about a three generation cycle: one generation will be passionate about the faith that they have experienced directly; the next generation is luke-warm and follows the faith of their parents; the third generation falls away.  This cycle makes me concerned about my kids and especially about my future grand-kids. However, this cycle is not written in stone but it takes effort to break. It can be broken with memorials.

I need to be making specific efforts to create memorials in my life and the life of my family to ground us all in the reality of God’s faithfulness. I need to be active in pointing out to my kids that God is more than the abstract faith of their father. When God gets us through something tough, we need to make a memorial so that we will remember. When God blesses us, we need to make a memorial so that we will remember. These little reminders (a photograph, a nick-nack, a journal, etc.) are teaching opportunities for our kids. They are stones that will get our kids to asks, “What does that mean to you?”  Stones that will make the faith of one generation more of a reality to the next.

Our kids are watching our lives.  We are creating stones of memorials all the time to that which is important in our lives.  Ask any adult child, “what was important to your Dad; what was important to your Mom” and they will be able to tell you.  That is because every parent leaves stones of memorials to their priorities. The manner in which we live our faith is our kids normal. They will pattern their lives based on what we demonstrate as important. I want my kids to see a faith that is real so that they will seek a relationship with God that is real, deep, passionate…alive.  I want my kids to live a life full of stones of memorials that get their kids, my grandkids, to ask, “what does that mean to you?”.  That is a true legacy but legacies start in the present. It is time to gather some stones today.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray for the salvation of my kids; draw them to yourself; make their faith real and show yourself to them. Lord – prepare them to live a life that is glorifying to you.  Father – help me to be a father to them that points them to you; may my faith be a memorial to them of your faithfulness. Help me to live in such a way that they will want more of you. Amen

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BREAKING NEWS: “Spiritually Obese Man Can’t Fit Through Narrow Gate” – Nov. 27th

November 27, 2012

“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Luke 13:24

I know that many people struggle with their weight. There can be many factors that lead to obesity but the equation remains maddeningly simple. When we consume more calories than we burn, we get fat. The problem for me is that I often don’t even realize how many calories I consume. Usually, the only consequence is tighter pants.

Recently, there were dire consequences for a woman in Hungary. According to the NY Post, an obese woman, on vacation in Hungary, was not able to physically fit into an airplane and return to the US for kidney treatment. Tragically, she died in Hungary.  I wonder if she had known that her weight would prevent her from being able to enter that airplane if she would have gotten that weight off.  We will never know. She waited too long to get prepared for the trip.

There are consequences to being over-weight.  However, most folks never anticipate dire consequences due to their weight. That is why current polling shows that people are happily fat. We get content with being over-weight because it is harder to be fit.

I lost 35 lbs this last year.  It wasn’t because I started exercising. I had completed P90X and Insanity but had gained 3 lbs. It wasn’t until I started tracking my diet that I began losing weight. It is simply amazing how a handful of nuts here, a little sliver of dessert there, and a bit of extra serving on top can add up. I started to log everything that I consumed. That resulted in me being aware and limiting what I was shoving into my mouth. It was then that all of my exercising began to have the effect that I had been hoping for. The weight just came off.

This got me to wonder how many folks are spiritually over-weight. All you have to do is take a quick look through today’s churches to see a lot of spiritually out-of-shape Christians. I wonder how many of them are not even aware of the volume of worldly desires that they are daily consuming. We can follow very rigorous spiritual disciplines but we also have to limit the corrupting delicacies of this world that we consume.  There is a balance between spiritual exercise (doing) and diet (delighting) that every believer must find in order for them to experience spiritual fitness.

To be in shape, you have to strive for it. You have to be earnest for it. That is what Jesus is telling us here in Luke. We need to strive, to be earnest, about salvation. How much earnestness do you see out there? How much earnestness do you see in yourself?  I see a lot of luke-warmness (Rev. 3:15-17) and that scares me.

Many people believe that they have a ticket that allows them passage to heaven. We are warned that many of these people are going to show up at the narrow gate and find that they don’t fit. Just like the majority of Americans who are happily fat, there a many Christians who are happily fat spiritually. They don’t think that there are any consequences. They said a magic incantation and gone on consuming the sweet desires of this world. That is why we are told to examine ourselves. It is when we truly respond to the gospel that we are changed. The result of that new life will be a change in our palette.  We will desire the things of God. We will gain assurance in our own salvation by seeing the Spirit work in our lives; by seeing the fruit of the Spirit growing in us and making us something that we weren’t.  What scares me is that many will wait too long to get prepared (Matt. 25:1-12). The world is full of people who are on the wide and easy escalator that leads to destruction (Matt 7:13-14).  Many of those people think that they are holding a ticket to heaven.

It is time to get in spiritual shape.  Examine yourself (2 Cor. 13:5)– maybe it would be good to start by tracking just how much of this world that you are routinely consuming. What do you desire the most?  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:21).

PRAYER: Lord, You are the highest treaures there is. Forgive me for desiring lesser things of this world.  Lord, give me eyes to see clearly. Help me to examine myself to discover what in this world I am desiring more than you. Lord – fill me with your Spirit; make me fit in the fruit of your Spirit so that I am  prepared for your return.  Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen

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SUCK IT UP AND JUMP, ALREADY – Nov. 26th

November 26, 2012

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous…(7) only be strong and courageous…(9) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever
you go.” Josh. 1:5-9

I have thought that it must have been much easier to live by faith back in the day when they just heard God’s audible voice. If I just audibly heard God speak to me, then I am sure that I would have so much more confidence to step out in faith. They had it so much better.

If that were the case, then why did God have to encourage Joshua to be strong and courageous? Joshua was no coward. He was a soldier, a warrior, who had been fighting for over forty years. God needed to encourage Joshua because he knew that Joshua was going to have to take the promise land based on faith, the same kind of faith that we interact with God on today.

Faith requires a leap and it always has.  We so often think of faith as a noun; “If you have faith…”. That is a noun. However, we cannot see what we have until it becomes an action.

Joshua was going to come up against powerful people in walled cities. It was going to be faith – faith in God’s promise – that would allow the word, “Charge”, to escape his mouth.  The action of moving forward was a demonstration of Joshua’s faith and that takes strength and courage. Strength and courage is always needed when we decide to leap based on faith.

We have a chance to experience faith every day.  James tells us in James 2:18, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Leaping (faith) is shown in our works, which shows our faith.  It is wonderfully circular. When we leap, we move from observer to participant.  Do not be fooled. That requires courage. The Bible takes that for granted; just look at all of the passage in the Bible telling us not to fear. Faith takes strength and courage.

There are many folks who live their every days lives without much need of courage…could it be that they are mere observers?  When was the last time that you needed courage? So often, we seek the safe, we want guarantees; the result is that we never see true faith.  It is no wonder that we can feel distant from God.

Faith is just theory when it is not in action.  The reality is that you will never truly experience God on a personal level until you participate.  There are a lot of God observers but God has a relationship only with those who are willing to participate and that takes courage to leap. Therefore, be strong and courageous, do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go…now, jump!

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PRAYER: Lord, I need the strength and courage that only can come from you.  I know that I am a man of little faith.  That is not what I want to remain as. Father, thank you for the gift of my faith.  I am ready to participate; I am ready to leap.  I am ready to experience all that you have for me and have prepared for me to do.    Amen

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