I was cleaning the kitchen tonight and as usually happens I started having just random thoughts. Eventually, I rolled around to thinking a bit about what we studied on Wednesday at church. Pastor was talking about God's grace and how we'll spend a lot/most/all of eternity making sense of God's mercy and grace. So then I started thinking about this phone call I heard on Pastor's Perspective radio program. A kid called in and asked why God put the "decision tree" in the garden of eden. I love that he called it the decision tree. I don't remember what their answer was. I know I've answered this question myself a bunch of times. Usually the answer is something like "God gave us choice because then we would be free to choose to love Him" or "He could have made us robots, but that's not love" or something similar. Here's where my mind took that...
It was more than that. He put that tree there so that He could send Jesus for us. Consider that God is outside time. He knows the end from the beginning. The Bible tells us that the plan of salvation was set in motion from the beginning of time. Is. 46:9-10 for example. And Isaiah 48. And Acts 15:18. And especially Eph. 3:9-12. There are many more.
So, He knew Lucifer would rebel. He knew Adam would sin if given the chance. He knew that we'd need redemption. God gave us the Law, knowing we couldn't keep it. There are the sacrificial laws and the scapegoat. Couldn't that have been enough? If God had said so, it could have been. We can't/don't keep the Law, but the sacrifices covered our sins. But God chose instead to send His Son to die once for all. Why was this done? I think not just to fulfill the Law, but to show us how much He loves His creation. It's difficult enough to really comprehend what it means that Jesus came and died for our sins...though watching the Passion of the Christ is a start. I still haven't gotten through that movie. We'll spend eternity coming to grips with the magnitude of Jesus's sacrifice for us. Without the Cross, would you even be able to see God as loving? No, we needed to have a choice in the garden in order to get a glimpse God's love for us even in the limited way in which we probably do.
Maybe that's how we should think of all the choices we have to make every day. God is putting us in a situation where we need to make a choice so He can show us how He loves us. Both the blessings He pours out and the way He sustains us in difficulty.
We choose to do what pleases God because we love Him. And He gives us choices so that He can show us what Love really is....from the foundation of the world.
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This morning I read today's devotion from InTouch.org on the recommendation of a friend. It references Heb 2:14-18. The theme of it surrounds Christmas and keeping our focus on Christ and His great gift of salvation to us. And it is sooo important to keep that in mind over the next month. I read a lot of posts yesterday and the day before about folks going shopping for all the Black Friday sales. I don't go because I hate crowds like that and it brings out the crazies who really do care more about the loot and the pursuit than they do about the birth of the Savior of the world. Their Savior. And they're missing Him. I don't deal well with people pushing and shoving and cursing, etc over "stuff". And I don't think my true Christian friends are going out shopping so they can replace Christ with their gadgets. Some people like the crowds. Others just want to get the most for their money...the sales really are good. I really don't think they are losing their grip on the meaning of Christmas.
The devotion also reminded us all to keep that gift in mind...and to open it if we never have. But what I liked best was Heb 2:15 "and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." I like this part on a couple of levels. First and most obvious, is before we were saved, we had this deep fear of death. What would happen after I die? Is there a Hell, and do I have to go? How bad is it? Some tell themselves there's nothing. I don't get that. I don't understand how you could convince yourself of that. I've never met a real anarchist. Someone who doesn't think anyone should rule over anyone else. Seems to me that ultimately someone ends up making the rules...God. If God's not real, why do we have any sense of right and wrong? Why be offended by anything? Survival of the fittest, right? You can't be mad at me for beating you down...it's just what we do.
No, we all have a built in sense of right and wrong. Good and evil, if you will. That comes from somewhere. Eccl. 3:11 says, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men's hears and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end." (Amplified) That's where it comes from. God has planted in us a sense that there's more, but we don't fully understand it. That's why you hear people after they are saved tell you that they are complete. The hole is whole again. What was dead is now alive. What was lost, was wandering, is found, has purpose.
The second level I like this passage on is something I've been hearing at church for the last month or so. The verse says that we are freed from the slavery caused by fear of death. I think it's just as reasonable to interpret that as freedom from a works-based salvation. There are whole religions built on this concept. Or do you say that religion is that...works-based salvation? I mean, you go through your whole life keeping a scorecard of rights and wrongs and hope you come out with more rights so you can make your argument to God. A simple step back should tell you how stupid that is. It's all based on what you think is right or wrong. If you read the Bible and compare yourself to Jesus, as you should if you think working will get you into Heaven...He's the standard, you would give up right away. So, you don't. You compare yourself to the "real scumbag down the road" or in the news. No way you're that bad. So now you're good? Hmmm.
My mother is a good example of the damage that thinking does. Her guilt complex is unmatched by anyone else I know. That's religion. "I've never done anything right. I'm a bad person. God can't forgive all the bad I've done. Even if He figures out how, I can't." There's a fair amount of fishing going on in those thoughts too. "Please, someone tell me I'm not bad." We all do that. We want affirmation. But we look for it in people. I suspect it's because they are near, physically. We can see them. And if we aren't walking in the Spirit, we lose sight of the fact that Jesus is always with us, always near. And He sees us as infinitely valuable. Valuable enough to leave His throne in Heaven and come to Earth and live 33 years as a man only to die a horrible death, rejected by those He came to save. And this was the plan from the beginning of time. You're valuable...just make sure you're asking the right person.
You and I can be free from the slavery of trying to be good. Free from saying, "Tomorrow I wake up and get going on my Christianity. I'm gonna pray more, read more and be a better Christian." Praying and reading God's Word are critical things for staying in God's will for you and understanding who Jesus is. But they aren't items you check off on your daily quest to be a better Christian. As Pastor Nick was saying all through his study of Galatians, it's never Jesus and... There's nothing to be added. It's just Jesus. Want freedom? Jesus. Examine His life. He was free to bless whom He would. Free to choose death over His life. Jesus was free because He was in communion with the Father and knew what the Father wanted. Not hindered by what others thought of Him. Not trying to work on being sinless. Not reminding Himself to say the right thing or perform the right ritual at the right moment.
Realize that through Jesus, you are free. You don't have to fulfill the law. Jesus did that for you. Be free from the fear of death.
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Wah, Wah, Wah. Boo hoo. Woe is me.
In the post I just published, I mentioned Kelli's surgery was postponed, the dog bit my kid, I want to quit my job...what else?
Oh yeah, Josh and Elijah are sick. This is a parade of pain and sadness.
Got to fight with my neighbor again. Not the way I'd like. He runs in the house when I just stand there and accept his inevitable challenge. I'm not walking away anymore. If he wants to fight, so be it. I'm in. I'm done listening to him. And it's kinda funny to watch him walk as fast as he can into the house all the while telling me how he's going to come down and beat me up. I just wait a short time for him to come back out. He doesn't.
Today's fun was over a stake I put in the ground at the corner of the property. I should call it the hot corner. He's obsessed with that little part of my yard. He thinks its his or at least part of the right-of-way. He's wrong, of course. That corner actually marks the beginning of the right-of-way. So anyway, he piles his bagged leaves and piles of sticks right on the line. He has a small boulder that he rolled there. During the winter, he leaves that stuff there. So, I need a tall stake that I can use as a reference when snow-blowing. I don't want to hit that rock. It'll damage my snow blower. So I put the stake there. He went nuts the second I was out there. I don't think I hit it twice with the hammer before he came out. Naturally he told me I'd have to move it when he got his dumpster this weekend. Been hearing about the dumpster for maybe two years now. I don't have to move it because the dumpster can't go where the stake is...it's my property and no dumpster is going there. The funniest part of the whole thing is he says I'm blocking the right-of-way. The stake I put in is about 4 inches from the boulder he put there last summer. So even if I did remove the stake, his boulder is still there. What's interesting is I hardly care anymore. Used to be I'd be all stressed out for a couple days. Not now. I figure he might do something to my car or maybe pull the stake out like he did before. Whatever. I took a picture of the stake in the ground so I have a reference. That was funny too. He went ballistic when I took the picture.
So we have that nonsense and then the boys come home. Kelli and I are planning child care for tomorrow. The she calls the Dr to see if she can take her pain meds through the night. The topic of thrush comes up and he tells her she can't have surgery while she has thrush. She couldn't be more disappointed.
Then Josh says he is tired. Take his temp, yup...fever. AWESOME! Elijah too. Why not?
Lily...what to do? I want to get rid of her. She stresses me out under the best circumstances. Now she's bit one of my kids. She's always been stubborn. Now she's becoming possessive. I don't like it. We have a family that is interested in her. But Kelli doesn't want to give her up just yet. We need to talk.
But, we're still here. God is still God. And I'm not giving up. I have in the past. I'd tell God he sucks because He isn't doing what I want. He can't be real if my life is going this wrong. Or He just doesn't care about me. I'm trying to learn what I can now. I know I will learn later.
I am too tired to think. Goodnight.
Thanks for visiting.
This is a pretty rough time for me and mine. Spring was a pretty good time for us. The Lord worked a miracle and we were able to get our home updated...roof, siding, windows, fence, the shower wall fixed. I got a decent raise at work so we got rid of my car, which I was learning to hate, and got Kelli a mini-van. Wow, that thing is amazing. Totally love it. As the summer wore on, things got more stressful. Of course, the neighbor could only hold out so long. Flipping us off, cursing at Kelli. I reported him to the police. We were going to go to a lawyer, but never did. At this point, I'm not going to bother. He can curse all he wants. I've called him out twice and he won't come. So, he's just gonna spew his garbage and nothing more.
Kelli and I have fought a lot. Don't really have a good reason. I guess I'm more stressed than normal. Work is horrible. I have 2 full time jobs. One of them, Reticle Engineer, I started in March. It's supposed to be a part time job if you ask management. Though they admit it can't actually be done part time. But that's what it is on the books. Even still, I own one of the most difficult processes in Lithography. So how could I add even a part time job to that? But that's how it is. For me and for many of my co-workers. I really like the Reticle job. I don't really care any more. I LOVE my job. More than any I've ever had. And I love my manager. So, I'll feel bad if I leave, but I want a job that I don't bring home. One that doesn't ask me to make million dollar decisions for a salary that's barely adequate for the Hudson Valley.
So while all that's going on, our dog has developed some sort of allergy. She can't stop chewing/licking herself..mostly paws. So, she's been wearing a cone and taking meds since mid-August. And she hasn't learned a thing since we got her in June. I don't like this dog. She stresses me out. We'll keep her because Kelli and the kids like her. I have no patience for a dog. So, of course, we're dog sitting this weekend. A 9-week-old lab. She's peed and pooped in the house several times. You can imagine how that works in my head.
UPDATE: Oct 19. So, Lily bit Elijah in the face last night. It might have been her claw, can't really tell. He's fine. Small cut under his eye. One on his lip. The rest looks like a scrape. Now I want to hit the dog with a shovel...but I won't. There is one family that is interested in her, but Kelli isn't sure she wants to get rid of the dog.
My 5-year-old is still insane. Jumping, spinning, falling all day, every day. Now he's got something going on where he's wetting his pants and bed. He doesn't even seem to care. He'll sit in his wet pants til we notice.
The 2-year-old is in a big-boy bed, which is exciting. He still isn't sleeping through the night. That's why we put him in the big-boy bed. See, Kelli is sick.
Kelli has been battling back pain for a few weeks. I thought it might be from sitting on the couch and turning her body 90-degrees to use the computer. Not great for your spine. Then she started having abdominal pain. Finally she couldn't take it any more and we went to the emergency room (she wouldn't make a Dr appt). After much testing and two or three Dr appts, she found out her gall bladder isn't working any more. So, she'll have to have surgery next week.
UPDATE: Oct. 19. Kelli's surgery has been postponed due to the thrush she got for taking an antibiotic last week. Another week like this for her.
In the middle of that, I backed Kelli's shiny, black van into a pole at the mall. So, had to take that in for repairs. $600 by the time we're done with the rental. Funny thing is, I probably could have gotten away without the rental. I've been working from home for the past week to take care of the kids and chauffeur Kelli around. I think I've done 15 loads of laundry in the past week. I'm down to 2 or 3 loads. I'd really like to finish them today. Declare victory in one thing. Of course I haven't put my or Kelli's clothes away. But they are folded neatly-ish. It's an improvement.
I'm basically losing my mind. My body is wrecked. I haven't been to church in 2 weeks.
Not to be selfish, but do you ever wonder if the trials someone close to you might be as much or more for your benefit? I was talking to a good friend the other day about this. I wonder if my family isn't going through this just to teach me to give up. I give up all the time. I tell God, "I can't do this. I can't take any more. I can't carry any more weight." "I know," He says. "You know this stuff...
Mat 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Mat 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
I do know that. I just don't know how to apply it. I'm used to carrying the weight of my world. Giving it up feels like quitting or shirking. Not my style. But, you know, rest sounds pretty good.
Thanks for visiting.
I'm not sure if I've written about this before. But those who know me know the story. I have a difficult neighbor. He flat out hates everything. Ever met anyone like that? Not just unhappy. Driven to make others miserable. Usually we say his life didn't turn out the way he planned and he's taking it out on everyone. That could be. If I say it that way, I feel a little more justified disliking him...makes it his fault. However, if you consider the demon possessed boy in Mark 9, perhaps it's something more. I don't want to suggest necessarily that my neighbor is demon possessed though he could be, but he's at least oppressed.
He reminds me of my step-father. A life-long drinker and drug addict who was given to fits of rage. The only time he was calm was when he smoked his pot. At any other time, he was mad because he wasn't high and had to think about how his life was going or he was drunk and unpredictable and sometimes violent. That might have a lot to do with my reaction to my neighbor...they are very similar personalities. I grew up watching my back, tiptoeing around wondering what was next. On a side note, I don't feel bad about my childhood. God has used it to help me connect with troubled teens. It's eye-opening for someone with a tough home to say to me, "You don't know what it's like" (I'm an average, nerd kinda guy) and be able to say that you really do and share a bit of your experience with them. Helps them to know they aren't alone. They aren't worthless. They don't have to stay broken. They are loved and understood. I hope He uses it again. One soul saved is worth it.
Look at Mark 9:14-30. The spirit caused the boy to be totally out of his own control. Wallowing on the ground, gnashing his teeth. Mk 9:18 says "wheresoever it taketh him, it dasheth him down;" How hopeless sounding. No matter where the boy looked or went, he was going down. It also says the spirit caused him to pine away. Webster's defines pining this way, "1. To languish; to lose flesh or wear away under any distress of anxiety of mind; 2. To languish with desire; to waste away with longing for something." I've heard my neighbor screaming at his dogs from inside the house. Screaming at (or about) us. He talks to his dead mother. Another neighbor heard him carry on a 30 minute conversation with his mother the other day. A couple days ago, his hose burst. Our other neighbor went over to tell him that water was going everywhere and he came out, saw the hose and started screaming and ranting. Then he gets on the phone and yells at whoever, I think it was his wife, that he's sick of us wrecking his stuff, coming on his property, and on and on...none of which is true of course. I've never seen him happy.
In Mark 9:19, Jesus says of the boy, "bring him to me." In Mark 9:29, Jesus says of the tormenting spirit, "this kind can come out by nothing, save by prayer." I notice He didn't say that only He, Jesus, could deliver this man. That we mere humans could do nothing. He didn't pat the disciples on the head and say, "That's okay. You could never have done this." We can pray. All the things Jesus did, He did through prayer and the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit who indwells us. The same power is accessible to us. Phil 4:13, " I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
My wife and I have been collecting evidence to see if we can get a restraining order or order of protection against him. My wife gets pretty frightened sometimes when she's here without me. We've got police reports from the calls we've made. Videos of him making threatening and obscene gestures. We could probably get character witnesses too...it's not just us that he doesn't like. It's the whole neighborhood. I often feel trapped between the need to protect my family from what he might do and my questions about how to show him God's love. He's completely unreasonable so I can't talk to him directly. Jesus went on being Jesus and loving people right in front of the pharisees who were always after Him. He was never dissuaded or distracted by them.
My neighbor's obviously tormented and not under his own control much of the time. Whether by choice from drinking or because he's being demonically oppressed, he's a troubled man. Jesus prayed for the troubled and tormented.
That's where I find myself tonight. I have this evidence. I could take it to a lawyer and bring my neighbor to the judge. Or I could pray...I mean really pray like I've never done before and bring him to Jesus.
Thanks for visiting.
Thanks for visiting.
Everyone's writing about it...why shouldn't I? Harold Camping has predicted May 21, 2011 as the rapture. Doubtful. Though, it could be tomorrow. I see no reason why it can't be. Most people are saying it can't be because Mr. Camping said it is. I don't think that disqualifies the day as if the Father is in heaven going, "Oh, great. Now I have to change the day. Good thing I was the only one who knew. At least I don't have to un-tell anyone." If he were right, doesn't change a thing. Harold Camping won't be standing at heaven's gate saying, "I told you so." It would amount to a lucky guess. But then, maybe God won't allow anyone to publicly guess the date and make a mockery of His Word to those who are left. Those who are left are pretty likely to make a mockery anyway.
Isn't it fun to see what goes on in my head all day?
Anyway, despite not believing Mr. Camping, I find myself asking if I'm actually ready. And then Bible study on Wednesday...same thing (and WOW, I'm so grateful that Nick is with us.).
Does God use people like Mr. Camping to remind us to look up? I get really busy with everyday life. I study the Bible. I go to church. I serve. But am I looking for Jesus through all that? I'm really not...not like I should. I ABSOLUTELY want Him to rescue me. Especially lately at work. I'm in a "I hate my job" cycle right now. There is way too much to do and the company knows it and flat out does not care. When I ask for help setting priorities and expectations I get almost no answer. So, I want Jesus to call me home. But not because I want to be with Him. Or not just because. That's where I want my heart to be. Wanting just Jesus. Just because He's the savior of my soul. Not because He can rescue me from my current troubles.
I've never been one to sit and ponder Heaven. I'm not sure why. I tend to be a pragmatist. It's how my mind works. But that gets in the way of what could be an amazing time of fellowship with the Lord. Contemplating and meditating on eternity with God. In His presence. Worshiping Him. Surrounded by His love. I mean...is there anything "practical" about that? No. But is it amazing? Encouraging? Worth thinking about? Uh, YES!
So, thanks (sorta) Mr. Camping. While you are totally wrong about so many things with respect to your prediction, perhaps you made some people think more seriously about the Rapture and how we are indeed approaching the end of the world.
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My wife and I recently refinanced our home to get away from an evil bank and have our mortgage at the bank we use. So I had to call the insurance company for some paperwork. I met the nicest lady on the phone. Her name is Pat. We were lamenting technology while we waited for her computer to catch up with her request and I mentioned that I still write with paper and pencil when I study the Bible. When she heard me say that, she asked if I was a believer, to which I replied, "Yes." So we talked about how the Lord brings people into our lives every day and how that can be so encouraging sometimes. When I mentioned that I teach a Bible Study at work, we started talking about witnessing at work. Apparently some of her friends get kinda militant and tell her she should be standing in the aisles shouting, "Repent!" She disagrees. Me too. My Bible sits on my desk and I read it during lunch, when I get a lunch. I don't tend to hit people with it. I'd rather be an example. Be the best employee I can be. Be compassionate to coworkers. Handle the stress without a meltdown.
That's what Pat is like. She was completely polite, helpful and cheerful while we were on the phone...and that was before she knew I was a Christian. And she left me with what she calls a Pat-ism. While her friends were telling her that she should be shouting from the rooftops, she reminded them that...
"I've never known a light bulb to make a sound."
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