Relationship with God

Reminder of God

April 29, 2005

You know, I think back on some fond memories, and what I think back on are often times mountain top experiences. Mountain top experiences. We all do want them, crave them. Yet here is a truth that none of us want to think on: There is no mountain without a corresponding valley. In a literal sense, I've climbed mountains; technical climbing, with Swiss seat and belay, free climbed, and the walk up. Let me tell you this--the mountain top is not where the danger lie, it is in the journey, in the climb up. Now add to that climb driving a heard of sheep. David knew the dangers that stood before the sheep as they needed to climb to mountain to the meadows, following the receding snow of winter. Let's look at verse 4 today of Psalm 23:

Psalm 23

1. The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2. He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3. He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

In my life right now I resonate with verse four: this is not a mountain top time in my life, I realize this time to be a long and arduous climb. Yet I am not afraid, for I know who my shepherd is, and I see his tools at work. The rod of a Shepherd is a specific tool with two purposes: that as a club, to fend off the attacks of predators in order to protect the sheep, and that used on the sheep themselves, not as a club, but instead to part the wool of the sheep during "down" times, so that the shepherd can then inspect the body of the sheep, the skin, to make sure that there are now wounds covered by the wool, to discern if there are sores that need tending. The staff? That is the comic strip rendering of what the shepherd carries. It is used by the shepherd to direct the sheep. Yet each shepherd always has their "pet" sheep, their favorite. That is the lead sheep. And with the lead sheep, while walking to lead the heard, the shepherd will lay his staff gently across the back, giving a gentle nudge to the left or to the right, to give the lead sheep direction. And so, climbing the dangerous valley to gain the mountain top experience, the "sheep" need fear no evil, for the Shepherd has his rod, with which harmful predators may be fended off, and with which also the shepherd can lovingly inspect the sheep to see where wounds must be tended. As well there is the staff--giving gentle lead, and an ever present reminder of the presence of the Shepherd. Life feel like an uphill climb today? Mountain top experiences do await. In the mean time, Enjoy the presence of the Shepherd in your life. Take comfort in His rod and staff.


April 28, 2005

As a Newly Wed some twenty plus years ago, I thought I'd be helpful in doing a load of laundry. Included in that load of laundry was one of my wife's cashmere sweaters. After washing it and throwing it in the drier, when I pulled the laundry out, to my horror I saw that the sweater had shrunk to a size that would make even Barbie blush if she tried to wear it. Since then I have often wondered: When sheep get caught in the rain, then come into a warm barn to dry, why don't they shrink? (You'll think on that later today) Still, it really is a fact that sheep are enormously absorbent, a fact which I am not making up--in fact, one of the greatest dangers for a sheep is to get caught in a rainstorm and become what is called "down cast". A down cast sheep is a sheep where the wool has absorbed so much water that the weight of the wet wool tips the sheep over on its back. The sheep is then unable to rise, and unless rescued by its shepherd, can actually suffocate under the weight of the wet wool compressing its chest. As well, a down cast sheep is easy prey for any carnivore that happens along. The sheep knows that it is vulnerable, and so it does not call out. The shepherd must search diligently then in order to find the down cast sheep without any help from the sheep itself. The act of a shepherd righting a down cast sheep is called "restoring" the sheep. Today we're going to look at verse 3 of Psalm 23:

Psalm 23

1. The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2. He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3. He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

If you've never noticed, one of the realities of life is that often we become weighted down with the burden of our own screw ups. The churchy word is sin. We become so weighted down that we fall, and are unable to right ourselves. That is where God intervenes. To often when we make blunders, small or monumental, we feel that God will be angry with us, disgusted with us. The fact is, that the opposite of the truth. Being the Good Shepherd, God seeks us out, knowing we cannot remove from ourselves the burden which is killing us. He restores our soul, rights us, and sets us back on the right path, the righteous path. Feeling downcast today? The Good Shepherd will restore your soul, will right you.


April 27, 2005

You know, when I think of sheep, the first place that comes to my mind is Scotland. Did you know that there are over six million sheep in Scotland? That's a lot of Argyle Socks! (how do they grow sheep in those colors and patterns...). Still, Scotland doesn't even hold a candle to Australia. In Australia there are well over one hundred million (I'm not making this up) sheep. That is five sheep for every human in Australia! Interestingly enough, the majority of the worlds sheep are raised in arid environs like Australia (1/3 of the worlds sheep population is there alone) and not in wet climates like that of Scotland. The reason is this: there are fewer parasites hazardous to sheep in dry climates than in wet. Still, that makes for some problems. Sheep require green pasture. They will not thrive on dry hay. So, in order for sheep to thrive in arid climates, the shepherd must work diligently to plant and irrigate the fields to be used for forage in advance of the arrival of the sheep. Green pastures for sheep do not happen then by accident, they are the product of the work of the shepherd. Palestine, where David wrote psalm 23, is just such an arid place. Let's look at verse 2 of Psalm 23:

Psalm 23:2

He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.

In other words, God as our Shepherd has prepared in advance what we need for nourishment. He has made it in advance in order to take care of us, to nurture us, even in anticipation of us. Think on that! Oh, "quiet waters"? Here's another interesting fact about sheep--Have you ever noticed their unusual noses? The shape of a sheep's nose makes it impossible for them to be able to drink from turbulent waters. In order for a sheep to drink, they must be provided with quiet, or still waters. Like the shepherd taking care of minute details like that for his sheep, so too does God take care of the minute details in our lives, providing for us nourishing pastures prepared in advance, leading us to still waters to drink. I, however, am a rebel sheep, rarely content to follow. Fortunately He does pursue me. Anyone else guilty of that?


April 26, 2005

Isn't it funny the things we take our identity from? Identity taken properly can be a great asset, as Erik Erikson noted "This sense of identity provides the ability to experience one's self as something that has continuity...and to act accordingly." When we take our identities solely from the wrong things, the temporal, such as our careers, or even our familial roles, when those things are removed, we are in turn shattered. If we are our careers, retirement, something difficult enough to handle on its own, is devastating. If we are only our familial role, the empty nest becomes an empty life. Psalm 23 has a lot to say about identity, and so for the rest of this week, I plan to focus on that.

Psalm 23

1. The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2. He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3. He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
5. Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
Thou hast anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

In my younger years, I used to introduce myself by telling people what I did, and who I did it for--identity by career choice and company. Funny, but here in the first verse, David is basically doing the same thing. Except his "employer" is God, and David's identity is that of sheep, one that is cared for. May sound self deprecating at first, but seriously, how much more stable of an identity can one have than one based in God? And so sure is David in this identity that he continues on by saying that by virtue of this, by virtue of God, and his identity with God, he, David, will not want. The word picture in the Hebrew is one of utter contentedness. David's identity was in God, and with that, he was utterly satisfied, content. Friend, from what do you derive your identity? Are you content in that identity, or is it easily shaken? God. Now that is a firm foundation upon which to build one's sense of self.


April 22, 2005

Sorry this is late! It's Friday, and you've made it through the week. My week was interesting--began with two piercing wounds, one literal (dog bite) the other figurative. One day at a nursery with friends, the mid point of the week rescuing a baby bunny and spending hours in prayer for some hurting individuals, and yesterday evening some great fellowship with some buddies. Through it all, God sustained in the rough times, brought joy in the good. It reminded me of a piece written by St. Francis de Sales: "Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations, and say continually: 'The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart has trusted in Him and I am helped. He is not only with me...but in me...and I in Him'." Yes, God has gotten you through another week, joys and pains alike. So put aside your worries, becuase I have this feeling He'll get you through tomorrow as well. Have a great weekend, let your cares fall at God's feet, and enjoy the time He has given you.

Psalm 28:6-7

Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplication.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart exults,
And with my song I shall thank Him.


April 21, 2005

Ok, this was really cool. Today, very early morning, Glenda and I were checking out the backyard. Suddenly, a horrifying scream came from the ground in front of us. It was a baby bunny--Kid you not, he was not more than 3.5 inches long. It was tangled in some netting, desperately trying to flee Glenda and I, the more it struggled, the more it's leg was tangled. The dogs heard, and all three bolted for us. The bunny who had been so desperate to escape us, when seeing the carnivores bared fangs, whipped around as fast as it's tangled paws would allow, and, I kid you not, ran to Glenda and hopped willingly into her hands. It took us about fifteen minutes to disentangle "Thumper", and the little guy never spooked. When the netting was finally all cut away, Thumper climbed up Glenda's shirt, nuzzled at her neck, and fell asleep. He's in rehab downstairs for the night, as tame with Glenda and I as if he'd been raised here. Tomorrow we're releasing him at a nice, safe place, Sugarloaf Country Club (Just kidding Jenny!). Got me thinking about a passage Glenda shared with me from her studies today:

Psalm 23:5-6

Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
Thou hast anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Here's some valuable language info. Using the two words "goodness" and "lovingkindness" is a linguistic device to intensify the meaning of God's loyal love. The verb translated as "follow" has a word picture very literally in Hebrew of an animal in pursuit. In other words, with God as our shepherd, we are pursued by Him in His desire to love us, bless us, instead of being pursued by the carnivores of this world. The little bunny this morning, Thumper, fled us originally, even though wounded and entangled. When faced with the greater danger of snarling carnivores, he ran to us for help, which had been our intention all along. Friend, in what way are you running from God? Why must He pursue you? What kind of carnivore will it take, teeth bared in front of you, for you to turn from you flight, and put yourself in God's hands? He can disentangle you, bring you healing, and set you free. True story. Cool, huh?


April 20, 2005

The author G. K. Chesterton wrote the novel The Man Who Was Thursday in the late 1800's. The novel was about a police attempt to foil a group of revolutionary anarchists. In one of the more subtle bits of humor in the novel was the fact that the anarchists were significantly more well organized than the police. Chesterton had a way of making a point. He wrote the preface to Dickens's Pickwick Papers, and in that preface he made a complex issue suddenly very clear: "The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists." In this life, it is easy to feel lonely, to wonder if we are really loved. Friend, you are loved, for you are God's creation. Loved by Him before time began. Think on this, let it sink in. The God of the universe choose to create you. As you are. To love you. As you are. He accepts you. As you are. What, my friend, does that knowledge, if properly internalized, do for your self esteem? And while building you up, it points you back to that originator of transforming love, God.

Psalm 139:13-16

For Thou didst form my inward parts;
Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Thy works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from Thee,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.
Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Thy book they were all written,
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

1st John 5:19

We love, because He first loved us.

He loved you before you were born, ordained your days before there was even time. He thinks your worth having a relationship with, no matter the cost, which He already paid. Seriously, doesn't that knowledge give you courage to face your day?


April 19, 2005

Thinking on yesterdays devotional. Yes, there are some individuals who are difficult that God allows in our lives to help us grow, that is true. However, let it never be said that we are difficult individuals in the lives of others! Consider this:

Col. 3:8-11
But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him —a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

We are recipients of Grace; should we not then behave with Grace towards each other? Contentiousness is quick to speak, Love quick to listen. Argumentativeness is quick to assume, prudence takes the time to gather the facts, to understand events in question from differing perspectives. Sarcasm may shut down an argument, but it also closes a heart. A thoughtful question promotes dialogue. Yes, there will be those in your life whom you can never please: wipe the dust off your feet and move on. However you, you should never be one who can never be pleased. Treat your brother and adversary both with love and respect. Do what you can to keep the pathways of communication open. It is all to easy to win an argument, and loose a brother in the process. How is God glorified in that?

Romans 12:17-21

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. ..."But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We will be known as Christ's disciples by our love for each other. What else really matters in that light?


April 18, 2005

Today is Monday, a good day to ask this question: Have you noticed that in life there is often much pain? Why is that? Truth be told in my life, if I am honest, most pain I experience comes from the self inflicted wound. Yet there are many other times when life...just...hurts. Circumstances beyond our control interject in a manner not pleasant. Between my freshman and sophomore year of High School I grew six inches over the summer vacation. Six inches in less than three months. My joints hurt. I ached. I was a klutz who would trip over his own shadow, in that physical tolerances were changing daily, and coordination could not adapt rapidly enough. I hated the process, but yes, I loved the result. Kinda the same thing with puberty--non of us enjoyed the process, but we're all glad it happened! The point? Simply this: the process of growing, in and of itself, often times causes pain. It makes us uncomfortable. Any kind of growth. You want to grow in your love for your lover? There will be hurts. Those hurts will stretch you, and make you better. Why should we expect differently in our relationship with God?

Ephesians 4:14-16
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Growing up in all aspects...You know, one of the most precious gems, a pearl, is created when a grain of sand enters an oysters shell and causes an irritation. Over years, the oyster coats that grain of sand, makes it smooth, actually makes that irritant a thing of great beauty, great value. Have you ever wondered why Christianity cannot function as a "Lone Ranger" religion? Well, in part, because God has chosen to use how other humans, those sitting in the same Church building we are, in order to grow us up. Some by their kind ministrations, and yes some by their irritation. In other words, to grow, we need each other...even the irritants! Give God time. He can turn an irritant, human or circumstantial, into something of great value. Yes, growth can be painful, can be awkward. Yet trust me here--You will enjoy the result!


April 14, 2005

Spent a chunk of time on the phone today, much of it trying to get through to a friend. The line was busy at first, and the phone company gave me the message that for ninety cents, they could call me back when the line was clear--I'm cheap--instead I tried each ten minutes for the next hour myself. Then, there was no answer. Finally, I sent an e-mail. You know, getting to a sympathetic ear can feel very daunting sometimes. It doesn't need to though:

Psalm 86:5-10

For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
And give heed to the voice of my supplications!
In the day of my trouble I shall call upon Thee,
For Thou wilt answer me.

No, there is never an extra charge, 'cuz the line is never busy. You never catch God "out", or too busy with other "important" things to answer, because YOU are what is important to Him! Call upon His name! You will never get a busy signal!


April 13, 2005

As I was reading through of book of poetry by William Blake last night, I came across this and was reminded of lambing season in Wisconsin. The lambs were pure white, soft as could be, and utterly defenseless. To see them made you want to embrace them:

The Lamb

Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life and bid thee feed
By the stream and O'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, wooly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek & He is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee.
Little Lamb, God bless thee.

Starting your day today, you understand well how this world can be a scary place. Yet God choose to reveal Himself to us, make Himself understandable to us, not in a mighty conqueror, but in the person of Christ, the Lamb of God. So take your burdens and concerns to Him, for He will listen. In His presence is peace, not terror.

John 16:33
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

Behold, the Lamb of God. He invites you into His presence.


April 12, 2005

Of all of the careers there are in this world, one that I have always thought would be exciting is that of serving in the diplomatic corps, being an ambassador. Webster's Unabridged dictionary defines ambassadorship in this way: "A diplomatic official of highest rank, sent by one sovereign or state to another to be its resident representative." To be an ambassador in a foreign country, to interact with different cultures...of course in my minds eye it is always someplace like England or France. The reality is, though, that countries much less glamorous require ambassadors as well. Still, what a job description! Scripture mentions the role of the ambassador as well. Look at this:

2nd Corinthians 5:18-20a
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

You are, then, an ambassador for God. The highest ranking diplomat, sent as His representative. So, what will you do with that truth in your life? Will you interact with the culture around us as a diplomat, or instead condemn it, when the One who sent you choose to love it? Will you huddle together only with like minded diplomats, or will you open the door, and walk out of the embassy gates to deliver the message of reconciliation. God has reconciled the world to Himself in Christ. You are His ambassador. Isn't it time to deliver that message?


April 11, 2005

...She walks in and sits in front of the bathroom mirror. Although fully grown, she still feels very much, if asked to tell the truth, like a little girl. She looks into the mirror, and wonders..."am I pretty?" She wonders too, if her husband still loves her, if he ever did; and if the balance in the checking account would cover this months bills... He wakes up in the middle of the night, heart racing like a rabbit, bathed in sweat. He hears the rhythm of his wife breathing next to him in the dark, and wonders to the silence, "What if they see me for who I really am? Would she still love me? Would my children still.... respect me?". The fears of life hit him like the bullies of Junior High.....what if... And we all face those fears: fears that come down to this simple, yet so deep an issue, namely, sufficiency. Do I have what it takes, am I sufficient to meet the day ahead? In a time of grave weakness, the Apostle Paul wondered as to the strength to endure the day. He entreated the Lord. Let's take a look:

2nd Corinthians 12:7b-9
...for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Friends, we all wonder as to our own sufficiency, we all have those fears, those thorns in the flesh. Yet true sufficiency is available for the asking; it is found in Christ. And with Christ found in you, God's sustaining strength is brought glory through your life. Press on. Sufficiency, that is in Christ. Have you availed yourself of that Sufficiency?


April 6, 2005

In the mid 1800's Arthur Schopenhauer wisely observed "Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world." Yes, we do have that tendency, don't we? Yet even brief thought tells us that the world is not limited to our field of vision. Though a blind man lacks the receptors to see light, that does not mean that light ceases to exist, just because a blind man enters the room. The fact is, be they huge or miniscule, we all have our blind spots. I do. In part, that is why we need each other, that is why we need fellowship; fellowship not simply with those who are clones of ourselves, but with those who are different. Different in lifestyle, different in dreams, different even in how they think. True fellowship with those who are true enough friends to be honest with us, well that helps us see our blind spots through their perspective, through loving eyes. Think about this:

Proverbs 27:17-19

Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another...
...As in water face reflects face,
So the heart of man reflects man.

In giving blows, iron will blunt iron. So will man blunt man. When honed against each other with care, that is when iron is sharpened, and when the rough edges are taken off of a man. So what kind of fellowship do you enjoy? Do you choose to be with only those like you, or instead will you fellowship with those of good character and faith, who happen to see this world a bit differently than you do? Or do you go to blows with those who differ? One will leave you to rust, one will leave you dull. The other, that will take away the rough edges, and sharpen you for what God has in store.


April 5, 2005

Intimacy. That intangible universally desired, yet universally feared by all of us. We all want to be not just known, but understood; yet that fear exists that if we are truly known, understood, then can we still be loved? Of intimacy, Jane Austen wrote this in her grand novel, Sense and Sensibility: "It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others." The question that comes then is this: What is our disposition? Are we willing to be real with ourselves, with others, with God? Oh to be sure we can put up our walls, but in the end they serve more as blinders for ourselves to our own weaknesses, in that many a discerning mind around us can see through those imaginary walls; God surely can. If though we have the courage to face ourselves as we really are, to acknowledge the warts and pimples in our own lives, then the most amazing thing happens: Somehow, we find that we are much more able, willing, to accept other people as they truly are. That kind of honesty changes lives--yours first, then others around you. Sound attractive? Then join with David as he prayed this:

Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

The key to intimacy with others is first developing intimacy with God. He can penetrate those imaginary walls we have built, show us our hurtful ways, understand our anxious thoughts, and bring needed healing. He will lead us in the everlasting way.


April 4, 2005

Apologia = a speech of defense, giving of a reason for belief. One of the greatest dialogues of apologetics was given by Paul, on Mars Hill, in Athens. Let's look:

Acts 17:18-34
And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. And some were saying, "What would this idle babbler wish to say?" Others, "He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,"—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; we want to know therefore what these things mean." (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.) And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring.’ Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this." So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Seem like a bold speech? Absolutely, but let's look deeper. Paul was a Jew educated in the fine points of Greek culture. He knew well the Greek philosophers and histories. He knew for example that Socrates was executed by being forced to drink poison about 75 yards from Mars Hill. The charge against Socrates? This: Introducing Foreign Deities. And so, with the Acropolis behind him, the Pantheon way to his right, and the Agora in front of him, Paul gave his Mars Hill address. Seems a lot bolder now, huh? And as we look at this defense of the faith, let us look at what is not included--Not included was a criticism of the Athens culture. Not included was a denouncing of the pantheism of the city. Not denounced were issues of lifestyle in Athens, including the common practice of prostitution, even temple prostitutes being the norm. No, Paul instead used the address to build bridges, not walls. To point to God, instead of the faults of his fellow man. When people see us, as Christians today, what do they see--a bridge, or a wall?


April 1, 2005

In the late '80's, Glenda and I were watching a Shwarzennegar movie on TV together--either "Commando" or "Predator", I really can't remember, what I can remember though is this: Arnold Shwarzennegar, shirtless of course, bursting up from under the water, a machine gun in each hand, blazing fire. Why I remember this is that at that moment Glenda turned to me and said "Oh my Gosh I love how his muscles jiggle when he fires on full auto!." At that moment, I vowed to get into shape. No thick accented Austrian was going to turn my wife's head! I jumped into exercise full of hope and zeal. A year later...Well I was just ready to go buy Glenda a poster of Shwarzennagar. There was no way I was going to look like that! My hope had been dashed, because the object of my hope wasn't real, it was just a fantasy. Plus of course I could never get a musical background score to follow me wherever I went or a slow motion camera always ready to film those opportune moments.

1st Timothy 4:10-12
For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

There is a proper object to our hope that will not disappoint, namely God. With your hope in Him, no, you may not be an ultra buff Shwarzennagar look alike, but better: You can change the world. One heart at a time.


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