Saturday, March 18, 2006

AS FOR MY HOUSE

A couple of years ago I opened a Bible translation I seldom used for reference, enclosed it in plastic wrap to protect the pages from dust, and propped it on the mantel in my living room. A handwritten note is prominently attached to one page by a paperclip: But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

After the Israelites had rested for a time in the land God gave them, Joshua led the Israelites in a review of how God had kept His promises to them, and he reminded them of the promise the Israelites had made to God to keep His laws and worship Him only.

“Choose you this day whom ye will serve,” Joshua challenged them, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

The Israelites renewed their covenant. “We will serve the LORD our God and obey Him.”

This is my desire also. It does not matter that this house has more four-footed occupants than human residents. A single human inhabitant can still serve the Lord.

Anyone who has read the Bible knows how long the resolve of the Israelites lasted and how succeeding generations seesawed in their worship between the LORD God and the gods of other cultures. A strong and faithful king would lead them in destroying foreign altars and turning back to God. A faithless king would lead them back into idolatry.

Before conversion, human hearts are corrupt and follow after other gods – money, power, temporal success, youth, “lusts of the flesh,” worldly fun and entertainment – to name a few. When the Holy Spirit begins to work in a heart, the gilt begins to wear off the other gods, their rust starts to show, and a desire to serve the true God grows and matures.

This house is small, the paint is peeling, the floor is sagging, the bedroom carpet gets damp every time it rains, and the landlord is lax in fixing things, but those things are not as important in serving God as the condition and furnishings of my heart.

Although I can not do anything about the size of the house, more room can be made in my heart as obsolete anger, toxic relationships, fears, idols and false religious teachings are identified and discarded. Gradually, priorities change, creativity is given room to breathe, and God’s light illuminates every nook and cranny.

I am looking forward to the day when my spiritual heart is functioning at full capacity. Meanwhile, the Bible sits on my mantel as a continual reminder that “me and my house” serve the LORD.

What about you and your house?

www.mercyandpercy.com



Saturday, March 11, 2006

IS GOD THERE?

It should come as no surprise, but there is another movie, this one an independent film for sale on DVD, “proving” that Jesus did not exist. I found the link in a news article on a Christian site.

I seriously considered not naming the movie or providing a link in this story, but it would not only be hard but dishonest to write about it and not allow others to check it out if they so desire. The movie is The God Who Wasn’t There and the official website is here.

The first advertising comment to strike me was: “Hold on to your faith. It's in for a bumpy ride.” Wow! Such assurance in a premise. He must have recently revealed revelation to expound. I turned the page and read more, then watched the trailers. But – yawn – I didn’t find anything new or bumpy.

Most of us are already aware of the “Jesus is a myth” claim, as well as the supposition that he was just a savior-come-lately – another figure of other cultures’ pool of dying gods and copycat saviors that existed centuries before Jesus was supposedly born.

I investigated a bit farther and read some of the controversial arguments for and against this movie. I did not learn anything new there either. The comments I found only reinforced my belief that Christians and non-Christians alike are poor communicators. Christians are “stupid” (one of the nicer terms used) and non-Christians are “going to hell.” Great dialogue! Comments like those are really guaranteed to change the other person’s mind, aren’t they?

Spiritual faith is not something you can acquire on your own or impart to others. Spiritual things must be spiritually discerned and no amount of confrontation or preaching is going to win the argument. There is no need to be defensive because you believe Jesus is your Savior. And no need to be aggressive because another person holds a different belief. A sincere affirmation of your personal faith in Jesus might be sufficient for the moment and lead to a deeper discussion later.

Do you believe without a doubt that Jesus is who he claimed to be? Is your faith built on the Rock and strong enough to withstand these attacks on Jesus’ – and thus your Christian – credibility?

I sincerely hope so. If your foundation is not Rock-solid, sooner or later your faith will be in for a bumpy ride.

www.mercyandpercy.com

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LET GO

She was one of many who worked to reunite Hurricane Katrina pets with their owners. For four and a half months, she fostered a black lab she rescued from the middle of an intersection. He was integrated into a household with one child, one dog and several cats. All attempts to locate the owner failed. She decided to place one last ad and make one last attempt before having the dog (now her dog) neutered, even though it was highly unlikely the owner would ever be located.

One man called, at his wife’s insistence. It could not possibly be their dog, but it was.

They lived twenty miles away, on the other side of a heavily-traveled bridge. Not only could they identify the dog through details, the dog recognized the couple and their excited young son when the family arrived to check out the dog.

The woman had grown to love this dog she called “the most gentle giant.” Returning him to his loving family was the hardest thing she has ever done, but she did the right thing.

As I read her letter, with tears running down my face, I thought of the negative stories from Katrina. Some pet rescuers refused to return the animals to their grieving owners.

You can read her letter in its entirety here - http://noanimalleftbehind.blogspot.com/2006/03/beautiful-and-sad-letter-from-foster.html

Life is full of tough choices. Sometimes you make the right choice, and sometimes you swing the bat and send a hardball through the window of a passing police car. It is especially hard to make right choices when a Christian has friends and relatives, particularly children, who are living their lives on the edge, without God.

Many people do not like to be preached at by friends or relatives (or by strangers knocking on the door), but that is so often what folks do to try to save their loved ones. Frequently, that fuels the desire of the one being preached at to avoid anything remotely spiritual and to pronounce the preaching acquaintance a “religious fanatic.”

The actions of men often plainly state, Mom, Dad, Junior, my mail carrier on the third Wednesday of alternate months, or - fill in the blank - will not make it if I do not move heaven and earth to convert them to my religion.

If God were human, He would undoubtedly be tearing out His hair at some of the ways men try to convince, convict and conduct each other (sometimes kicking and screaming) into heaven. Oh, how men, in their enthusiasm, can portray God as small and powerless to those who do not know Him.

It was God who created the heavens and the earth, created man from the dust of the earth, saved Daniel in the lions’ den, led the Israelites out of Egypt, raised Jesus from the dead, and so much more – all without the help of mortal men. God has the option to call whom he wishes at whatever time pleases Him. He is not accountable to His creation. And when He is ready, He is more than capable to finish what He begins.

We are called to be lights on a hill, a beacon in the darkness, helping to light the path, not to dig a tunnel through the masses. Christians can be very pushy and abrasive in their zeal to convert their families and everyone they run across. There is a time to speak out and a time to be silent. Let us learn to distinguish the leading of the Holy Spirit, as to which we should be doing at any given time.

God leads with love and patience, and so should we. Sometimes the hardest thing we ever have to do for a family member or friend is to “return them” to their loving Creator and trust Him to work in each individual.

Yes, sometimes we have to let go, move out of God’s way, and let God do His work in others.

www.mercyandpercy.com

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A LOADED GUN


The Sheriff’s Deputy lined his class up across from each other and told them to practice loading, aiming and shooting their weapons at each other. When the police recruits did not want to comply, aiming at the wall instead, the instructor “verbally and physically” moved them into the directed position. He did the same, emptying one of his own magazines and then starting another. He shot and killed a young female recruit.

This 23-year veteran of the sheriff’s office had ten years of teaching experience. In 2000, he was warned in writing to stop using live weapons in his class, yet he continued to violate the first basic rule of gun safety: never, never, never point a firearm at anyone or anything you do not want to shoot!

As a Deputy, he saw the tragic results of those who violated the rule to treat every firearm as if it were loaded. There are so many tragic deaths each year because someone is careless with a weapon. A parent might drop a handgun and accidentally kill a family member, or a person cleaning a gun might believe it to be unloaded, or a child finds a gun, thinks it is a toy, aims it at another child in fun and pulls the trigger.

What was he thinking? (And why was/is he still teaching?)

My dad instilled gun safety in me, even though he gave up after one lesson at a shooting range. The only way I might possibly hit a target is if it is painted on the side of a low-flying elephant.

In Proverbs 6, you can read a list of things God detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among the brethren.

Have you done any of these things lately? What were you thinking? (And why are you still doing them?)

Christians know what pleases God, but too often do the opposite. It is so easy to slip into a sin, and once committed, it is impossible to take back the word or the action, just as it was impossible for the instructor to go back to the moment before he aimed and fired his weapon at a recruit.

The Sheriff’s Deputy was warned in writing, disregarded the command to change what he was doing, and eventually a tragedy ensued. You and I have been warned in writing. God is merciful and patient, but He is also holy. As human beings, you will make mistakes, but if you disregard the rules of godly living and assume you can flout God’s rules, eventually you will face the ultimate “loaded gun.”

Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:20.

The rules of gun safety can be found on this University of Oregon site. http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~joe/firearms-safety.html .

The Holy Bible and Bible study aids can be downloaded free at e-Sword. http://www.e-sword.net/ Online Bible study tools can be found on sites such as http://www.heartlight.com/ .

www.mercyandpercy.com



Thursday, March 02, 2006

I SEEN THIS ON TV

No, the title is not a misprint, and although I am capable of butchering English on occasion, it is not my idea of proper grammar. It is a quote from a man who admitted to trying to kill his wife in four separate incidents. (He was such a bumbler his second attempt backfired and nearly killed him instead.)

When he asked his son to help him on his next attempt, the son went to the police. The police taped a microphone and transmitter on him and the father’s murder plan was recorded. Ironically, the man evidently did not have anything against his wife. He merely wanted to collect the insurance on her so he could continue his high-spending lifestyle.

As he described his final plan to his son, he explained what he intended to do to keep her blood from spattering. “I seen this on TV,” he said.

It seems that no matter what demented crime a person wants to commit today it can be found on TV, in all its grisly detail. I can not help but wonder what kind of twisted minds write some of these shows. These minds are obviously not centered on God or grounded in His Word, but then God is rarely included in the world’s entertainment.

It is not all the writers’ fault either. Too many of today’s TV viewers are not satisfied with wholesome family entertainment. Murder and mayhem – the gorier the better – rule much of American television fare.

How far are producers going to go with this trend for the goriest, most inane, nightmare-inducing programming available for anyone of any age with the ability to push a button? They will take it just as far as they can get away with pushing it. Some request it. Some learn to enjoy it. And some are easily manipulated into accepting whatever is put on their plate.

If you fill up on a diet of junk food, which is full of empty calories and unable to supply your nutritional needs, sooner or later your body will show the effects of your poor food choices. If you are what you eat, as the saying goes, can a steady “diet” of negativity, including visions of violent and gruesome death scenes, be healthy for your mind?

It is no wonder there is little peace of mind in the world, even among Christianity. There is nothing in the Bible that specifically mentions making wise TV choices, but there are principles that can be applied. One of them is Philippians 4:8. Fill your mind with positive ideas, uplifting thoughts, and praise. There is nothing positive, uplifting or praiseworthy in gore and violence, so why are so many Christians watching it?

Every generation has taken another step toward lowering the standards for morality and entertainment. Our TV fare has hit an all-time low. I dread to see what unseemly drivel will be introduced next.

As a Christian TV viewer, I need to be aware of what I am ingesting and what kind of an effect it can have on my spiritual life.

Please, Lord, if I ever say, “I seen this on TV,” may it be because I learned something I can use to enrich my life and the life of others.

www.mercyandpercy.com