Easy to hate, hard to love

A British General once said, “We must teach our men to hate, for what men hate they will fight.” It is easy to mobilize men to fight based on hate. Make the enemy bad enough, harmful enough, threatening enough and build the hate the disgust in them enough and you can have men attack, fight and wipe out the slightest or meekest of things in this world. It’s hard to build men up in love. To move them through love. To reach out in love, to walk or even crawl over shards of glass across the land to reach one soul to save. To hate means you get to keep yourself as you want but to love means you must lose yourself, die to self and give of yourself. It’s hard to mobilize men to move out of love. We have to do just that, though, to win this world. We must, from love, and as hard as it is, move men to love and all that goes with that.

Hate kills – Love dies
Hate destroys – Love builds
Hate keeps – Love gives
Hate is easy – Love is hard
Hate brings down – Love lifts up
Hate demands – Love offers
Hate needs fed – Love feeds

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Special Moments

My typical morning starts out before anyone else in the house wakes up. After a snooze button push or two, I head out to the living room to spend time with the Lord in prayer and His word. Usually, and especially when I hit the snooze button more times, our almost 3 year old daughter comes out to join me part way through my bible reading. (I never thought I would have an early riser, but she is definitely one.) She will come over and after asking for her gummy vitamins, she climbs up in my lap and asks what I am reading and to read it to her. I will tell her what book and chapter we are reading and then read to her as she sits there, sometimes, paying attention.

A morning this past week was different because she slept in longer than normal. I was done with my bible reading and on to another book by the time she came out. She asked for her vitamins and then came over to sit on my lap. When I picked up my book, she said that I hadn’t read my bible and then asked me to read it to her like normal. Since I was already done with my daily reading, I asked her what she wanted me to read. She said, “Psalms.” So I decided to see how far I could go with it and asked which chapter. “Five Thirty-two,” was the answer. Since there isn’t a Psalms 5:32, I read Psalms 5 and Psalms 32 to her.

Now, she is almost three and may not fully understand what or why we read the bible. All she really was wanting to do is to spend that special time with her daddy. She knows that this time is important to me and wants to be a part of it. It is our special moment that we both get to start out the day with and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Living by example is the best way to show our kids how to live. They will see what is important to us by what we choose to spend our time doing. And when we invite them to spend it with us, they get that connection with us that continues to grow each time.

So our daughter may not understand what we are reading or why, but after reading the Psalms she then asked to read Proverbs and John. She is so smart!!!

Spend time with your kids. Read to them. Include them in the activities that you want them to do on their own as they grow up.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

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Full heart

While we were on a mission trip at Gleanings for the Hungry, the summer staff surprised us with their rendition of a haka. The haka is a type of ancient Māori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield, as well as when groups came together in peace. Haka are a fierce display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity. Actions include violent foot-stamping, tongue protrusions and rhythmic body slapping to accompany a loud chant. The words of a haka often poetically describe ancestors and events in the tribe’s history. (From www.newzealand.com <— click here to see what it looks like.) It was described to us that people from that culture who had come to know the Lord wanted to preserve part of their culture and redeem the haka as a form of spiritual warfare.
My wife had never heard of the haka, so I showed her on YouTube how the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team performed it before games. These big rugby players were hitting their arms and legs, and hitting them hard. Jenna copied them after it was over, hitting her own arm somewhat hard. Her arm turned red and it hurt. The rugby players have been hit over and over and over harder and harder probably barely felt their hits even though it was much harder than what Jenna did.

Sometimes life is like this.

We experience something over and over enough, we get less sensitive to it. Usually this applies to negative things like language or images that movies show us or worse. But sometimes, it happens in positive and spiritual situations too. Let me demonstrate. Think about your first kiss with your spouse. There was so much build up to it and then it happened and WOW!!! But then after days, weeks, months or years of kissing your spouse, the build up isn’t there, the excitement isn’t at the same level. It still is nice and enjoyable, but where are the butterflies in the stomach? Where are the endless smiles? More than likely, you love your spouse so much more than that day of the first kiss, yet the same responsive feelings aren’t quite there. Or, as another example, we experience a spiritual high at a camp one year and the next. And then again but after a few years, we come to a place where we almost get immune to that high. We attend, but we don’t experience the same “aha” moments. This also happens week to week at church. We get in the habit of attending, but not being there.

What if we were able to go into each day with new eyes to see the work that God is doing and see it as children do? Earlier today, we were running errands and the last stop was Trader Joe’s. Upon entering the parking lot, the little voice of our two year old exclaimed from the back seat, “Trader Joe’s” with such excitement that it made my wife and I excited to be there too. We have been to Trader Joe’s many times before, it wasn’t anything new.

What if we went in to each daily task with a new mind? What if we gave our spouse a kiss as if it were the first time? What if we looked for a word from the Lord each day in our reading or prayer time and responded to it as if it was the first time we had seen His works? Can we possible attend church week in and week out and come out as if we have just been made new? We can…

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
And uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:10,12

Allow God to create a clean slate, or right spirit, every day in you so that you respond to Him with a willing spirit and that restored joy. When you allow Him to clean out your heart, then you will be able to see things in a different light. You will see His hand in everything. God is all and in all. You will enjoy those special moments more and more. You will be able to endure the bumps and bruises more as you will see the hope that only He can give you.

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No Specific Training Required

[11] Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? [12] Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
(Exodus 4:11-12 ESV)

Whenever the Lord leads you, trust in Him to give you the tools, resources and knowledge to accomplish the task that He has set for you. We are so accustomed to going through a “training” that is focused specifically on what we are to learn. Police go to the academy, there are numerous “trade” schools around, even the curriculum for different college majors are geared to train us in a certain way to prepare us for whats to come. Sometimes, when the Lord directs us to go in a certain direction, our first reaction is along the lines of, “I don’t know how to do that,” or, “I’m not equipped to do that.” We feel we need to go to a training, a camp or get an education in that area prior to accomplishing the task requested. But what we need to realize is that God has already put us through the “training” required, He has given us the tools needed and He will provide the skills, the words, the strength and endurance to accomplish what He has asked us to do. The Lord is able to accomplish all, even through you.

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Elder by Example

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
– (ESV) 1 Peter 5:1-4

Peter, speaking to elders, tells all leaders to voluntarily, eagerly lead God’s flock among them by example for the purpose of glorifying God. In other words, elders, do what is right by God’s will, providing an example for others to follow so that those that are in your care will live in God’s will giving glory to Him. Notice that he doesn’t say the elder’s flock, he says the “flock of God that is among you.”

Have you ever been in a crowd when someone just stops and looks up and stares in a specific direction. Let’s say he is looking at a beautiful sunset. Without a word, others stop, look and also begin to stare at the wonder of the skies. If any remarks are made, they are about the colors of the sky, the beauty of the event or the handy work of God. No one comments on the original person who started looking at the sunset. No one lifts up that guy that stopped everything and gazed at the wonder. All focus is on the setting sun and the colorful sky. This is how it should be with elders. Their lives should be lived in order to point others among them to the beauty of Christ.

The prophet, Ezekiel, shared a word from the Lord that describes what shepherds should not do.

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.
-(ESV) Ezekiel 34:1-5

Later in Peter’s letter, he states “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

If we, as leaders, don’t nourish those among us with the Word of God, or use them as means to exalt ourselves, we are leaving them to “become food for all the wild beasts” who are prowling “like a roaring lion” to gather in and devour the weak.

Live your life by God’s will, as an example to point others in Christ’s direction, feed those around you with the Word to strengthen them, keep the weaker ones closer to you to help protect them and remember the Lord is the Good Shepherd, the leader of the flock and the Protector of His sheep. We are just His help-mates.

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His Masterpiece or His Tool

It is so cool to me to see how God calls different people to different callings and uses. However, I always focused on the people that God called for good. I never even thought or considered how God could call someone for something that seemed not good. For instance, King Saul who was used to mold and shape David into the king God wanted him to be.

In 1 Peter we read in verses 7 and 8: “So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”

As they were destined to do… Wow. God knew that they would stumble… Over Christ!

In the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians we read this: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” (chapter 2 verses 14-17)

Here, Paul is saying that God spreads the “fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” and to some it is of death leading to death. Wow! This great message of salvation, redemption, cleansing and coming close to the Creator is, to some, death leading to death? How can this be?

We find that answer in Romans 9:18-23 “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory– even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”

God works all things for His glory. In carving out a masterpiece in clay or wood or whatever, you need a sharp tool to do so, something that cuts into the “flesh” of the piece that is being carved. Sometimes, big chunks are needed to be removed and a chisel with harsh blows is used to remove these unnecessary pieces. So God, the Creator, creates these instruments, big or small, to remove from us things that are not needed in order for us to have a better relationship or show a better picture or final “master piece” of a child of God.

Praise God for these vessels that He has created to help mold us as His works.

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Full Circle or Completed in His Grace

(ESV) Romans 3:23-25 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

If I had to choose a verse or verses that describe Jenna’s and my life, I would probably be able to make a good argument for the above verses in Paul’s letter to the Romans. For we both, trying to control our own lives, fell way short of the glory of God. Out of our selfish actions and attempt to move our own lives forward, a lot of strife, arguments, struggles, disappointments and poor choices were made. And by the grace of God, a great son came out of the chaos that we created.

But God, having greater plans for us than we could imagine and much different plans than what we could ever think, put into motion events that would eventually lead to the breaking down of each of us so that we turned to His son Jesus Christ. Once we started to heed to His will, things started to happen, both big and little but all leading to greater faith in Him.

I call it the “Are You Kidding Me!” factor. This factor increased as we kept following the will of God. The first “Are You Kidding Me!” was me moving to California. For me it was because I had always said I would never move to California on many occasions. For Jenna, it was because it was an answered prayer for me to be close to our son. The second was when we started “noticing” each other, then the time we were actually dating, then engaged and then, naturally, when we were married. Just when I thought I was getting used to one level of the “Are You Kidding Me!” factor, it would change and I would find myself in that surreal feeling again.

Looking back at each of these levels, I know I did nothing by myself. I have never had the same feeling that I had in these moments when I did do it on my own. I know that these factors were a gift.

“And (we) are justified by His grace as a gift,” Romans 3:24

In the last two years, God has done amazing works in both Jenna and myself. We have been made anew even more so. With each struggle and triumph, with each let down and uplifting moment, with each trial and victory we continue to get closer to God and rely on Him more and more. Our first response to events are more and more looking to Christ and praising Him. We have our moments, but thanks to His grace, one of us will re-focus us both back onto the Cross.

So, telling God’s story through the use of two fallen sinners who received His gift of grace by faith, continues with the proof of His righteousness. By His redeeming our relationship with Him first and then with each other, along with two boys as our family, second, the proof is through His blessing our family with the gift of another child of God.

Yes, this is my way of announcing that Jenna is pregnant and that we are expecting a child in late March, 2012.

Here’s the cool part… We were married on August 28th, which could be written 8/28. One of our favorite verses is Romans 8:28 (And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.) So naturally, (at least for me, I’m weird with numbers like that) I decided that I would look up Romans 3:24 & 25 as March 24 & 25 are the dates, depending on where we looked, as to when we are expecting. I was blown away at verse 24 and excited to see God’s love and redemption culminate in such a wonderful manner.

I pray that this story of God’s love and redeeming grace motivates you to put faith in Him and Him alone.

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