Monday, March 20, 2017

Standing Stones

IT’S EASY TO GET LOST in your thoughts, especially when you’re walking along West Cliff Drive. It was a week ago I found myself in just that spot. A gorgeous sun-drenched day found me strolling along the foot path lost in my thoughts.


At first I walked right by it, but something caught my eye and turning I saw this amazing stack of stones, one place precariously upon the other.


My first thought was, “Wow!”, followed by, “How did they do that?”, which led to, “Why did they do that?”  That’s the way it is with standing stones, they’re there to catch your attention. Ultimately they are there to remind you of something special. They might be placed there on a whim, or they may mark some event, but whatever reason they are there to say something, even if it’s simply, “Hey look at this!”


The peoples of the Ancient Near East, including the Hebrews, were good at erecting standing stones. For the Jews these pillars were to be reminders of God’s unique acts, like the crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 4) or Jacob’s encounter with the LORD at Bethel where the Abrahamic Covenant is restated (Genesis 35.) The standing stones were important to the one building and more important for the generations to come.


We too can build standing stones, not unlike those of the Old Testament. Some outward physical reminder of an inward spiritual work. It might be highlighting a passage from Scripture wherein God spoke to you. It may be a picture hanging on your wall that captures a place where you had a unique encounter with the Lord. it might even be a small stone setting on a shelf reminding you of a time and place where God met with you. I have numerous such items throughout my office and looking at them brings to my memory lessons learned and grace encountered.

What standing stones do you have? Why not take time this week to revisit some of them. Take time to ponder those Biblical passages where God spoke to you. You might even have a spot close-by where you had a special time with God, go there and remember. Take time this week to give thanks to God for those times He reached out to you. And know this, He desires to meet with you again and to give you time to create more memorials to His presence.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

BUYING-OFF THE RESURRECTION

IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE, but you can be a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and be bought-off with the promise of wealth and worldly protection. Boy, the lives of the Evil One are pretty strong.

Take a look at the resurrection account recorded by Saint Matthew. In chapter twenty-eight we are given the account of the two Marys coming to the tomb. What they find is an empty tomb, a powerful proclaiming angel and a bunch of dumb-founded soldiers.

According to the flow of the text the soldiers are there the whole time, witnessing the resurrection. They by all accounts hear the same message, and when they leave they retell the same story that the women will share with disciples. It's so difficult to believe that the soldiers were so easily bought-off after seeing what they saw. But such is the power of riches.  I guess there is something to be said about the admonition that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Given the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, how would you respond?

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

THE JOURNEY HOME

MY FEET HURT! ALL FOUR OF THEM! When did you say we were going to reach our destination? Tomorrow? You said that YESTERDAY! Do you really know where you’re taking us? Did I mention my FEET HURT?!

I was fine in our river-side home. And the river was just perfect, not too cold, not too warm and the food was plentiful. We hippos were meant for rivers, not dry grasslands. Are you SURE it was God you heard and not your stomach growling?  I mean, how can you be sure?  Yes, yes I realize we met a lot of other nice couples along the way, though those two crocodiles are disconcerting, and yes, all the husbands heard the same message, but husbands have been known to be wrong ya know!  Did I mention my feet are KILLING me?


I was happy where we were. No big changes expect during high river time, or when the kid came over.  That’s ANOTHER thing, why just us? Why couldn’t the whole herd come along? Oh yeah, right, God said only two. The fact is, I just don’t like this journey at all. I was comfortable at home. By the way . . . my feet have stopped hurting . . . I just can’t feel them anymore.


Are you sure you know the way? You keep looking around like you’re expecting something. Oh right, water is supposed to start falling from the heavens. Now look, honey, we all know, even the wildebeest know, that water comes up from the ground. Rivers, lakes, streams, and the mist that feeds them all, water comes from below, not above. Why am I following you anyway? Oh I forgot YOU'RE the leader of the herd!  The herd we LEFT BEHIND! OUCH! Blasted rock! Hey, I can feel my aching feet again! Thank the Lord for small blessings!


So, let me get this straight, this whole journey, an adventure YOU call it, is because we are to trust God, even when we don’t know the way or the destination? That’s a whole lot of trust, dear. Trust and follow. Follow and trust. Seems like a lot to ask of a hippo. We’re not really created for this type of journey. I’ll be honest, I’m more than a little scared. But I’ll trust you as the leader to trust the Lord, and I’ll follow you to our new home, a home you promised would be better, right? Of course, right. But my feet still hurt!


Hey now, who’s dropping water on my head! Well, I’ll be a hippo’s mother! Guess it’s time to pick up the pace, our destination looms ahead.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

STAYING IN THE MIDDLE

IN THE BIBILCAL BOOK OF JOSHUA, chapter three, we read that the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant into the Jordan River and as they their feet touched the edge of the river the river rolled back and the Children of Israel walked across into the Promised Land on dry ground!

Pretty miraculous, but what grabbed my attention as I was reading once again about this event is that the priests stood there in the middle of the Jordan River holding the Ark while the nation of Israel walked through on dry ground. Now, we're talking about 2 million people, that's a long time standing there!

Should they had moved, not only would they have disobeyed the word of God, but I suppose the river would also would have returned to its previous flood-stage.

These guys were amazing! Talk about sticking at your post and carrying out your assigned task, these guys rocked!

Here's the lesson that convicted me: how often do I desire to leave my post? Be it as a father, husband, or pastor? Do I realize that people's lives are depending upon my faithfulness in order for them to pass through this life in relative safety? My obedience to the Word of God is vital to the safe arrival of people into God's Promised Land.

Is it tough? Sure! Does the load get heavy? You bet! Do my legs feel weak and shaky? Without a doubt! But it seems imperative that I remain at my post until all cross-over safely, or until the LORD, by His power, relieves of my call.

Sure, we all want to give up, especially those who have been standing in the dry river bed wondering when this will all be over, but stand we must. 

Today, I read a challenging post by Pastor John Piper entitled, "Hillary, Bernie, Donald and Me." I encourage you to read it, especially if you find yourself to be one of those aging Baby-Boomers, like me.

So, until the LORD calls you out of your riverbed, I encourage you to stand firm, be immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for your labor for Him is never in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

JUMPING ON THE BED!!!

ONE OF THE JOYFUL EXPERIENCES in life is jumping on the bed, even if it frowned upon by most authority figures. 

The place of rest becomes a place of joy.

I was reading in Leviticus where the writer records God's command about keeping the festival, writes,

On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. Lev. 23:41-40
There you have it, without the end-boards rest the bed of rejoicing soon falls apart.  If you want to rejoice well you need to rest well.  The LORD, in His graciousness calls us to rest, so that we can rejoice in His goodness.

Sadly, we too often refuse to rest, and in doing so lose the strength to rejoice before the LORD with the vigor of a preschooler jumping on a bed.

Therefore, let us rest well and rejoice with wild-abandon over the goodness of our God! 

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

LIGO and the Ol' 19th

 I LOVE LOOKING AT THE HEAVENS. I would, in know way, call myself an amateur astronomer, but I do enjoy reading books and articles and of course, gazing at pictures of the heavens.  Many of the explanations of the universe and our recent discoveries are way over my head, yet I am caught by the wonder they create in me.

This past February I discovered, as I suppose some others of you did, about an instrument that detects gravitational waves. These waves are so small, well let's just say it's beyond my comprehension, that it takes a quite amazing instrument call LIGO, (astronomers love acronyms!) which stands for: Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory and now you know why they like acronyms. Rather than for me to explain it, if you're interested, I encourage you to check out the link above.

Now, here's the news, on September 14, 2015 this instrument "wiggled," well wiggled is a bigger word than what it did, remember these waves are small.  They were able to determine from these waves something that took place billions of years ago. Check out the new release here.

Whether you believe, or understand, what they say they were able to discover, it is all pretty amazing. Recently, I was drawn to the last sentence in an article I read in the April 2016 edition of the Smithsonian Magazine.  The author, Brian Green, writes, "There's nothing more inspiring than our capacity, in the midst of our ever-present terrestrial struggles, to look up, to wonder, and to have the ingenuity and dedication to see a little farther."   (The Detection of Gravitational-Waves was a Scientific Breakthrough, But What's Next?) Upon reading that sentence my mind and heart went directly to the thought that the Psalmist David was once again right on the money when he penned in Psalm 19,

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
 So, whether it is peering into the deep darkness of the night sky, or measuring the infinitesimal waves of gravity, one must say, "How great is our God!"

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

WHERE HAS CHRISTMAS GONE?

A LONG, LONG TIME AGO, in a galaxy we call our own, there used to be a season called Christmas, whose title I understand came from the Mass that was celebrated on Christmas morning. A Mass that celebrated the advent (the arrival) of the Son of God, Jesus, the Christ.

Somehow this celebration morphed from a gathering at the local cathedral to an event that covered the week prior, then the month prior, then two months prior, oh well, you get the picture. Now, we begin our celebration, in the form of holiday sleep-outs in front of Best Buy, or acquiring gifts from the Day-After-Christmas-Sale to be placed in our crowded closets until next year (that is if we remember them) all in the name of saving a few bucks on gifts for friends or ourselves.

Yes, most of us know, and maybe even believe, that the reason we give gifts is because God gave us His greatest gift in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. (John 3:16-17; Luke 2:1-21) He came to set us free from the slavery to, and the effects of, sin. (Romans 6:22-23)  Not to mention that one of those sins is covetous materialism, but that's material for another blog.

The truth is, none of us could ever give a gift that would match or could even try to explain God's gift of love in and through His Son and His sacrificial death on the cross and His glorious Resurrection (John 19:1-42; John 20:1-31). Therefore, let's stop using excuse of God's giving for the purpose of our give extravagant and often unimportant gifts.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't give gifts, I like gifts as much as the next guy, what I am saying is that we should give gifts that truly honor, show love, bless, or serve person (Rather fulfilling our desire to get thank-yous, or to look better. On yeah, right! None of us would ever do that!)

May I make a humble suggestion?  

Let's move from calling it Christmas, even Jews, Muslims, Hindus, unbelievers and atheists, call it Christmas and even celebrate it.  I suggest that we call it Advent (Not a new idea, I'll admit,) so that the focus will be upon the first arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ and that looks forward to His second arrival. (Acts 1:7-11)

Next, I suggest we give gifts that truly show love, compassion, thoughtfulness. These gifts can be simple or elaborate. They can grace a home, bring the joy of an activity or event, or even bless by being a blessing.  What I mean is that we give to others in the name of the person we seek to bless. Take for existence donating the gift money to places like, Living Water, Operation Christmas Child, Gideons International, Compassion International, World Vision, or World Relief. I am sure you can think of others.

So, there you have it!  We can work to bring back the reality of the first Advent as we endeavor to live in the reality of the coming One.

Have a blessed Advent season, and oh, by the way, did you notice the trinitarian Advent statement on the 1904 Sunset Magazine cover above.  If you did, way to go!!!