Posted by: rattlethefence | April 12, 2010

Endangered Species

I took a bike ride this evening on my trusty mountain bike.  My path was the Cherry Creek Trail in Douglas County.  It always provides a nice ride – up-hill and against the wind – both directions.  So, it makes for a good workout.  Besides, other bike riders, joggers (they are actually runners, I think? – I’m a jogger.), and walkers, I often get a glimpse of a myriad of wildlife along the way. 

It must be too early in the season to see the herons that nest in the Cherry Creek Open Space. And, I did not see any of the coyotes that maraud the bordering neighborhoods.  But I did see a young mule deer, a garter snake on the path, ducks, geese and those rattling redwing blackbirds in the C-470 constructed wetland. 

It was the wildlife that I saw on my return trip, about a mile from home, that made me stop to ponder deeper thoughts.  Or maybe it was just that I was pretty much exhausted from my 80-minute bike ride that makes my mind wander and wonder about the things I see.

What I saw was not really wild.  But it was life!  Perhaps closer to what life is supposed to be about than the things that captivate most of our time, money and energy. 

I came upon two sets of couples walking along the trail.  The two pairs were separated by about 50 yards.  The first pair was in their late 20’s, maybe early 30’s.  They were strolling along the path hand-in- hand, conversing as they walked.  Reacting as most people do, they were a bit irritated that a biker was using the path.  I do have a bell that I use 30 to 40 feet in advance to warn of my approach.  I think most of their irritation is that it’s just my bike bell and not the ice cream truck.  I do think my bell is a much more polite and safe system than the one used by bikers who come up behind you and yell, “on your left” when they are but 10 feet behind you. I digress! 

The second couple was also walking hand-in-hand.  They were much older – at least in their 60’s or 70’s.  They both had grey hair, walked much slower, and the lady had to pull her husband closer to her and to the right side of the path when I rang my bell (he did not seem to hear it – it is a loud bell). 

As I finished my ride, I could not help to wonder, if the first couple would be walking hand-in-hand in 25 to 30 years from now.  That kind of love and commitment seems to be rare these days and on the endangered list.

Posted by: rattlethefence | December 3, 2009

Elin Nordegrin Woods: Stand by Your Man!

Why should Elin Nordegrin Woods stand by her man, Tiger Woods?

I am so fed up with the psycho-babble, social pundits analyzing why the wives of movie stars, professional athletes or politicians stay with their adulterous husbands.  “Oh, if it was not for the money and the prestige these women would not lower themselves to the shame of being cheated on.” on and on and on.

Well, let me tell you!  World, are you listening? 

They should stay with their husbands* because it is the right thing to do, the God thing to do.

Yeah, I’m from the Religious Right.  And, I have just as much right to tell these ladies what they ought to do as the feminist whiners of the liberal mass media.  Isn’t that what they are doing – telling them what they should do?

Specifically, Elin should stay committed to her marriage (and working on full-restoration) with Tiger Woods for the following reasons:

1.  The definition of love has everything to do with sacrifice and nothing to do with selfishness.  Love is patient, love is kind (and occasionally swings the husbands golf clubs – I couldn’t resist). It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered (but anger can arise sometimes at 2:30 am), it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  I Corinthians 13:4-8a.  

2. In  his statement on Wednesday Tiger wrote, “Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect.”  Everyone of us on planet earth has received more mercy and grace from God our Creator, Lord, Sustainer, and Savior than we could ever hope to give to another.  I believe that it is that same type of mercy and grace that each of us are called to extend to others, especially those that we have committed to love (family).  Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Ephesians 5:1-2  Mercy:  God did not dole out the punishment each of us deserves for the things we have done.  Instead he sent his Son to take our punishment.  Grace:  God gives me the gifts and blessings that I could never earn, no matter how hard I try. God treats me as though I were his favorite son or daughter.

3. God hates divorce.  “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel,”  Malachi 2:16a  And the exception clause “except for marital unfaithfulness (fornication in some modern versions)”, is a modern-day mis-interpretation of God’s Holy Word.   While the other scriptures (Mar 10:11, 12; Luke 16:8; Romans 7:2,3; I Corinthian 7: 10, 39) are very clear on divorce and remarriage, many people find that Matthew 19:9 leaves them puzzled and uncertain as to what the Word of God teaches concerning divorce and remarriage.   Even though one would be hard pressed to find a modern English version of the Bible without it, the holy scripture never contained this exception clause until Desiderius Erasmus, a Renaissance humanist and a Catholic theologian created a Greek-Latin New Testament and added it.  Below is the before and after (English translations) of the Erasmus Latin translation:

  • Latin Vulgate (English Translation): And I say to you that whosoever shall put away his wife, such as for fornication,and shall marry another, committeth adultery.
  • Erasmus Latin NT in English: And I say to you that whosoever shall repudiate his wife, unless it be for disgrace, and shall marry another, committeth adultery.

So basically, he changed “such as for” to “unless it be for”  – a minor word change but a major change of interpretation.

Now let it be said, “God does NOT hate those who get divorced.  But, He does hate divorce and instructs strongly against it in his Word.

4. Hey people!  It’s time to make a stand and turn things around.  We can not expect to turn our countries social, economic, or political ills around if we cannot even do it in our families.  Suck it up – work for something worth keeping.  Set a standard for you kids, and grandkids.  In his statement, Tiger voiced this very sentiment, “I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves.”   He has voiced before how important his children are to him and that he wishes to be the same kind of father to his kids as his father was for him.  Yes, he blew it here – blew it big time.  But why add a broken family to the mix?

5.  Let’s see what Jesus says when actually asked “flat-out” whether it is okay for a man to divorce his wife. As Jesus was teaching the crowds in the region of Judea…

Some Pharisees came and tested him [Jesus] by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” “What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together let man not separate.”  Mark 10:2-9 (underlined words are my personal emphasis) 

The most convincing portion of this Scripture set for me is Jesus’ reply regarding Moses’ permission to divorce. He said, “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses’ wrote this law.” The notes for this Scripture from my study Bible explain the phrase“…because your hearts were hard,” this way:  Divorce was an accommodation to human weakness and was used to bring order in a society that had disregarded God’s will, but it was not the standard God had originally intended as vv.6-9 clearly indicate.  The purpose of Deuteronomy 24:1 [Moses’ divorce permission law] was not to make divorce acceptable, but to reduce the hardship of its consequences. 

If this was true in Moses’ day, and Jesus’ day, it sure seems like it is an accurate description of today’s society as well. 

We could do a complex study on the causes and effects of a hard heart, which would fill a book of its own. Just from the sound of it and from the context of how Jesus uses it in these Scriptures, I believe we can deduce that a hard heart is not what God wants us to have.  I do find it interesting that it was not a hard heart toward their wives that Jesus was referring to, but a hardened heart to the things and ways of God.

Elin Nordgren Woods, I do not know how your relationship is with Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.  But, do not harden your heart to God.  Choose God, choose love.

*Husbands, you also should stay with your wives if you find yourself in the same but opposite situation as Ms. Woods. 

For more information on divorce and remarriage, I recommend the following readings:

http://morechristlike.com/except-for-fornication-clause-of-matthew-19-9/

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1986/1488_Divorce_and_Remarriage_A_Position_Paper/

Steele, Paul E. and Ryrie, Charles C., Meant to Last, 1986, Victor Books.

Merrick, Robert A., Why Stand? A Resolve to Stand for Marriage Restoration, 2008, Xulon Press http://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/bookdetail.php?PB_ISBN=9781606473009

Posted by: rattlethefence | February 16, 2009

Touching Job – With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies

Before you criticize the teaching below – know that I am preaching to myself as much as the rest of the world – know that I am generally at the other end of the spectrum from being a bleeding heart, messy mercy, greasy grace preacher – know that I am a guy, a trained engineer, that wants to fix everything (from a failing wastewater system, to a poorly managed government office, from the lives of the indigent to the economy of the United States and beyond). 

I know what you are about to read is good counsel, is God counsel, because I have been there (both sides).

Out here in Colorado, our greetings to our family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, generally goes something like, “Hey, How is it going?” or “Hi, How are you?” or the one I like, “Howdy?”  (the West’s one-word contraction for “How you doing?”).  For all these greetings, if one sticks around long enough to hear the response, the asker is anticipating a positive answer such as, “I’m doing alright. “ or “Much better, thank you.” (by chance do you know what they are much better about?) or the mono-syllabic , “Fine.”  Reception of one of these affirmative claims may allow for further communication.  However, most of us are caught speechless when the responder is honest enough (or hurting enough) to share their despair (or their pain or frustrations), “I am having a horrible week,” “My kids are driving me crazy, I can’t  pay rent and the car needs tires,” or “I have been sick all week and can’t afford to see the doctor.” What do you say to that?  What is your response?  Are their troubles their problem? Their own fault?  If only…

Perhaps if we look at Job’s friends we might learn how to minister to the Job’s we may encounter in our lives.  Let’s examine both the good, as well as, the bad counsel of his three friends. 

Good Counsel:

·         Even though it is difficult at times, we can assume that all three had good intentions and really did desire to help Job and see him reach full recovery.  A non-biblical saying comes to mind here:  “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” 

·         Eliphaz gives Job a complimentary word in Chapter 4, verse 3 thru 4.

Think how you (Job) have instructed many,

how you have strengthened feeble hands. 

Your words have supported those who have stumbled;

you have strengthened faltering knees.

Even though it appears that Eliphaz was just softening Job up with these flattering words, so that he could pass judgment on him, the words of praise are a good thing, especially if he would have stopped and shut-up right there.

·         Eliphaz encourages Job to seek God in his afflictions and reminds him of God’s Omnipotence and loving care for his people.

Bad Counsel:

·         In 4:5-11, Eliphaz tells Job to be confident in his own piety (fear of, reverence for, and devotion to God) and that it will count to God, and that even though God is chastening (correcting or disciplining) him for some sin, it will come to some good, and he can be assured that God will not destroy him along with the wicked. Note:  Eliphaz’s discourse is as rambling as the run-on sentence above.

·         Eliphaz makes light of Job’s afflictions and passes judgment upon Job, calling his religious beliefs hypocritical.  Ironically this is the same accusation that Satan made of Job to God.  The great theologian, Matthew Henry noted :

Those that pass rash and uncharitable censures upon their brethren, and condemn them as hypocrites, do Satan’s work, and serve his interest, more than they are aware.

·         Bildad is more brief, albeit blunt and to-the-point in condemning his “friend” Job, pointing out that Job’s evilness is what has brought about these afflictions upon Job. 

·         Zophar not only accuses Job of being sinful, but that Job does not even know God, because if he did, he surely would be penitent and asking God for mercy and restoration to God.

Job’s overall response to his friends can be found in the following Scripture:

My eyes have seen all this, my ears have heard and understood it.

What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you.

But I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God.

You, however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you!

If only you would be altogether silent!

For you, that would be wisdom.

Your maxims are proverbs of ashes; Your defenses are defenses of clay.

Keep silent and let me speak; then let come to me what may. [Job 13:1-5, 12, 13]

 

And,

 

I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all!

Will your long winded speeches never end?

What ails you that you keep on arguing?

I also could speak like you, if you were in my place;

 I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head against you.

But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief. [Job 15:2-5]

 

With friends like Job’s who needs enemies?

Now we all have been taught that we reap what we sow  We know (or find out soon enough) that if we live the wild life we (or our friends and family) will likely have to face the negative consequences of such a life.  However, not all suffering is a result of personal sin. And even if it is, the person in pain and grief, is not necessarily in need of the advice that Job’s friends prevailed upon him.  Libraries and bookstores are shelf-full of self-help solutions to our sufferings, that are assumed to be self-created by our thoughts and habits. 

Job’s friends spew forth much truth and perhaps wisdom.  But, truth misapplied and mal-appropriated can be dangerous, destructive and downright annoying.

What did Job need?  What does your suffering friend or family member need?  What does last weeks lonely man in the pew need?

A friend!

ü  Someone who will just sit with them, in silence with a listening ear.  God gave us two ears and only one mouth.  Maybe because he thought listening was twice as important as speaking. Some argue, “It is difficult for me to be around the suffering,  I don’t ever know what to say.”  My response to that argument, “Then, say nothing.”

ü  Someone who will see and meet a need.  Shovel  the sidewalk, cook a meal, vacuum or do the dishes, wash the car, watch the kids. Those that are hurting, often find it difficult to do even the simplest things and when they don’t get done, they slip even further into the abyss of despair. Don’t ask them if they need anything – just do whatever God leads you to do.  The suffering do not know what to tell you to do or where to start.

ü  Someone who needs them.  Let them know you care – words, cards, cash.  A Hallmark moment could last for weeks.  Let them know, as Eliphaz did, how they have helped others, but stop with the praise – go no further.  Ask them to help you with something within their expertise or gifting (like how to write bylaws for a non-profit).  Keep it simple.  Don’t expect perfection.  Be appreciative.

ü  Someone who will agree with them in prayer. Don’t tell them you will be praying for them. Pray for them then and there.  Call them to pray with them.  DO NOT PREACH while you pray.  Such prayers equivocate you with Job’s friends.

ü  Someone to notice.  Eye contact, a smile, a pat on the shoulder, a “glad to see you.” The man in the pew may appear to want to be invisible, but he would not be there, at all, if that is what he wanted.

See the hurting soul, in the pew, at the mall, in Starbucks, in the car next to you. 

Be their friend.

Be Jesus!

 

Posted by: rattlethefence | February 9, 2009

Unsolicited Pain

Unsolicited Pain!  A lesson from the Book of Job

Once upon a time, in a faraway land…    No, No, No!

Today, in a suburban American church, there sits a man -a very lonely man (although there are nearly 400 other church members seated around him).  He was not always lonely.  In fact, he used to be very successful man – a leader in the community. He held a good job, paid his bills (generally on time). He provided a good home, ample food, stylish clothing and all that jazz for his family.  He was very active in his church, as well as, several para-church ministries, helped out at school and even did a little coaching on the side.  He tried to live his life according to the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you.”  He was an educated man of wisdom and right living.  He was…

Then it happened, nearly all that was taken away.  No, his house was not hit by a hurricane, killing his family and destroying all that he had worked for.  No.  It was just plain taken away.  Stolen, vanished, gone!  His name was slandered, his ministries stolen away, his wife even disappeared, and his finances were a shambles. 

Why?  That is a very good question.  At first he was known to lie on his bed and weep that very question into his pillow and shout it at God at the same time.  I guess he still had his pillow.  What did he do to deserve this?

Perhaps, in the near future for America, this could be a much more common story than we can hope to think about.  Be careful.  It could happen to you!

Have you ever struggled with innocent suffering or unsolicited pain? Yours?  A family member’s?  A friend’s?

The Bible has many stories of those who seemed to face undeserved suffering.  Many sermons are taught regarding the likes of Joseph and Daniel’s ordeals.  But not many preach about Job, or even reference the book of Job.

                In his undeserved suffering, Job represents the experience of many of our people [today] who suffer emotionally and physically for illness and loss.[1]

At the heart of the conversation between Satan and God (Chapters 1 & 2), when Satan asks God for permission to test Job, is this:  Does Job (Christian believer’s) simply worship, serve, and preach Christ, because he (they) is (are) rewarded by prosperity (health, wealth, relationships, success, and reputation, etc.)?  Is Job’s (our) devotion a desire to help himself (ourselves) or a desire to have a relationship with God?

I have listened to many messages and read books from health and wealth preachers, as well as searched the Scripture, but I find nowhere in God’s Word that our lives will be “entirely free” from pain and suffering.  In America, we have adopted the expectation that prosperity (in its many forms) is a God-given right.  Try preaching that to believer’s living in the third world countries where their next meal is in question, or to believers of the underground church in China where just the ownership of a Scripture book could mean death, or to the millions of martyred Christians who gave their lives for Christ. 

The first thing God is trying to get us to understand in the book of Job is this:  He (God) wants us to give to Him, the things that he cannot coerce or buy from us.  He wants our devotion, our obedience, and our love without regard to how these things will benefit us.

Our own “stinking thinking,” attitudes, pretensions, and beliefs can get in the way of our relationship with Christ, especially when life seems like hell on earth.  Job played out some of this thinking for us along his journey.

·         Job’s pride – he held a whole discourse with God, telling Him how things down here on earth are really messed up, with the righteous being unjustly punished and the ungodly, evil people prospering.  Like God didn’t know.  Hey, Job! Stuff happens.

·         Job’s feeling of abandonment – It’s the whiney, “why me” attitude.  He probably got his from hanging around his wife and “friends”.  (We’ll talk more about them in part 2 of this message). The last thing we want when we are in the pit, is to be around God or His people.

 

One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 37:3-6

3Trust in the LORD and do good;
       dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

4Delight yourself in the LORD
       and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5Commit your way to the LORD;
       trust in him and he will do this:

 6He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
       the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

I believe that we misinterpret verse 4 drastically.  Here is my interpretation of how it should be interpreted.  Make the Lord your delight, first thing over all things, and he will guide your heart and mind and soul and strength into what your desires should be.  Then when His desires are our desires, how can they fail.  It is NOT that we get what we want when we put God first.  But we will understand what God wants us to want when we delight in Him.

So what about that lonely, down on his luck guy in the pew?  Why is he even in church?  Maybe because he realizes like Job, that his relationship with God, is the only thing that he has that is for sure and can’t be taken away in his time of despair.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:39

No matter what don’t lose faith in God.  He may be all you got.

(Next week)  – What should you do for that lonely guy (or gal) in the pew.


[1] McKenzie, Alyce, Preaching Biblical Wisdom in a Self-Help Society, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2002.

Posted by: rattlethefence | January 26, 2009

Don’t Spend More – Reduce Debt!


Somebody in Washington D.C. – Wake-up!

It’s not about getting people to SPEND more.  It is about Reducing Debt! 

President Obama, Congress, anyone – have you all lost your brains?  I’ve been inside the beltway.  I know they ask you to leave all wisdom, understanding and knowledge on the baggage turnstile at Reagan National Airport before boarding the Metro in DC. 

But hey, the answer to the financial crisis is not to repeat the same patterns that got us there – irresponsible spending. 

  • Individuals should not spend more than they make.
  • Companies should not spend more than they make or their investors invest.
  • Governments (local, state or federal) should not spend more money than they can “fairly and responsibly” collect.

To get us out of this crisis we need to:

  1. Reduce individual debt.
  2. Encourage investment in companies.
  3. Reduce government waste and debt.
  4. Stop encouraging irresponsible lending.

Even though some of the infrastructure stimulus ideas seem to make a little bit of sense (because they spread the wealth a bit more than the other ideas), they are a bad idea. They are a bad idea because you are spending money (I believe the government calls it OBLIGATING FUNDS) than they already have. 

Since you are bent on spending money to fix this mess, I challenge you to take a look at my idea of a financial bailout plan.  Try it you might like it.  The details of the plan are located on my American Citizen page of my blog (see the tabs at the bottom of the baseball mural).

Posted by: rattlethefence | January 26, 2009

Book Review – Tell My People

Find a new book review of the book, Tell My People, The Unalterable, Inconvenient Truths, on my book review page.  This book is written by Mary L. Johnson-Gordon.  She is a prophet and has had some interesting visions.  You might find her vision on the cause of global warming interesting, or if you are prophet, visionary or intercessor, you might be encouraged by her messages. As a tickler I might high light that she uses another famous person’s book title (Inconvenient Truth) as part of the title to her book.  See my book review under book review page tab.

Posted by: rattlethefence | January 10, 2009

Why Can’t I Hear God?

Why can’t I hear God?  How do I know I am hearing God and that it isn’t just my own fleshly desires, my own reasoning, or possibly the enemy?  Haven’t we all wondered these questions?

During a Bible study the other day, a dear brother in Christ asked those questions.  He is amidst making some school and career decisions. He so wants some direction. And what I heard is that he really wants, desires and aches (you could hear it in his words) to do what God wants him to do.  Amongst the group there was a lot of good counsel thrown around.  So much his head must have been swirling and his ears sore.  The verse that the study leader had used to incite such a question from my friend can be found in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John.

The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  John 10:2-4

In this Scripture, the sheep are you and me, those who believe that Christ is the Son of God.  What a grand metaphor!  There are 38 references to “sheep”, in the New Testament. Almost all of these 38 verses employ the word “sheep” metaphorically, referring to God’s people.  And of course, the Shepherd represents our Lord and Savior.  When speaking of Shepherd and sheep we cannot ignore the Shepherd’s Psalm, Psalm 23.  It should be noted that the Shepherd, God is the doer (directing, leading, restoring, protecting, delivering, supplying, encouraging, comforting, etc.)  in this Psalm and the sheep are basically the receivers. 

In the same way, God speaks (do) and we, the sheep, listen (receives).  Maybe we have a difficult time hearing God because we are not really listening.  I think many of us expect the Lord to speak to us loudly, plainly and directly, answering our myriad of questions and requests.  In a pinch, we want Him to tell us, “do this, do that, turn here” or “turn there.”  I do not deny or argue against the belief that God can and does speak to us this way, through ”the still small voice” of the Lord (I Kings19:11-12).  However, I will stand strong on the belief that God’s great desire is that he wants to speak to each of us personally and daily through his written Word, the Holy Bible.  Pastor John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota shares a fantastic message about “Hearing God, June 2007. 

To hear the audio or read the text of this message by Dr. Piper, click here Dr. Piper 

To answer the second question – How do I know I am hearing God and not someone or something else? – consider first the question of how do we know the voice of our children or spouse, or parent, or co-worker? 

  • We know it because we have spent time with that person. 
  • We know it because we have answered to that voice so many times before. 

It always amazes me how a mother can be in the hallway down from the nursery, and not respond at all to the screams and shrieks of the children in that nursery, until it is the scream of their own child.  To us men they all sound the same (I know – a gross over-generalization!).  How did the mother know it was her child?  Because she has heard that voice so many times before, she can distinguish it from all the others. 

In the same way, we cannot know the voice of the Lord unless we spend time with Him.  His written Word is His voice.  The personal messages which He will whisper to us will be the same voice found in his written Word.  He will not contradict what he says in the scripture when he tells you something specific to do or somewhere particular to go. 

 

The point of what I am saying here is:  God’s Word is alive, it is 21st century and ready for you today.  Can you hear God?  Are you listening?  Do you know his voice?

“He who is of God hears God’s words;” (John 8:47)

 LISTEN!

 

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