Saturday, September 27, 2014

On Growing Up

They seem a bit young to be driving, but they certainly look happy to be behind the wheels of their own silver trucks.   Declan and Roman had fun chugging slowly along on the vast green carpet of grass at Roman's granddad's farm.  If they'd been out on the highway, however, it would have been a whole other story.

Children aren't expected to be able to handle the same things adults handle.  Nor should they be expected to behave like an adult.  Childhood is suppose to be that carefree time of life with giggles and silliness and pretending and faces that are lit with joy like these two adorable little boys.  It's a once in a lifetime experience that is, hopefully, magical and happy.  But, eventually, we all have to grow up.

Paul spoke about childhood and growing up in his letter to the Corinthians:  "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things" 13:11.

It would look strange indeed if the two dads of Roman and Declan tried to drive these two mini-trucks instead of their own full-size vehicles.  It's downright laughable to imagine them trying.  Let's face it, there's no way either dad would be able to squeeze even a portion of his six-foot frame into those little cabs.  These trucks are just right for a three and four-year old, but completely inappropriate for grown men.

That's what Paul was talking about -- only on a higher level.  Paul was talking about our views of God, our behavior, and our goals in life.  These things are suppose to change drastically when you grow up.  Therein I think lies part of the problem -- many people just aren't ready to grow up.  Some thirty-year olds still have that "college dorm" mentality, perhaps hoping to catch the eye of Peter Pan and join the Lost Boys in Neverland (you remember, the land where you never grow up).

I don't mean to sound harsh, but it does seem to be a problem in this age we live in.  Apparently it was also a problem in the early church when Paul wrote to the Corinthians and then in another letter to the Hebrews when he wrote:  "For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" Hebrews 5:13-14.

Growing up doesn't have to mean losing that happy smile or the joy of fun and games.  It does mean that we need to put our lives into the right perspective -- having fun when it's appropriate to do so, but being serious and deliberate in the important aspects of life -- making sure there is good purpose, God's purpose, in our thoughts and our actions.

A diet of milk doesn't sound like something any of us want as our only form of nourishment.  Simply being a Sunday morning church-goer and never stepping up to serve, or worse, failing to ever open your Bible or darken the door of the church -- these things will keep you on that liquid diet reserved for babies. 

"Solid food belongs to those who are of full age" -- those who grow in the Lord and the power of His Word, those who seek and find and rejoice in the presence of the Lord in their lives.  These are the grown-up men and women who "put away childish things" and join in the real adventure of life following after a God who -- after all, created us in the first place!

My question to you is, would you rather sink your teeth into a juicy cheeseburger and fries, or do you want to sit there and nurse your glass of milk?  It's your choice -- choose wisely.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" Matthew 5:6.

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!" Psalm 34:8.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Yellow Stuff

Such a pretty shade of yellow -- sort of buttery and bright.  We were in Vancouver, Canada, and these huge piles of yellow stuff sat across the river from us glowing in the sunlight, beckoning a closer inspection.  We didn't venture any closer, however, because these were piles of stinky sulfur waiting to be shipped to other countries to be used for such things as fertilizer, matches, insecticide and gunpowder.

As with the Lionfish in the previous post, looks can be deceiving and what appears beautiful and appealing can really be dangerous and deadly.  Unlike the Lionfish, however, sulfur can actually be good for you -- in small quantities.  While sulfur is an essential element for all life, if I'd decided to go across the river and play in that big, soft sulfur pile "sandbox," it would have been very harmful to my health and well-being.

Many things in life are beneficial and even essential if used in the right balance.  For instance, exercise.  We need exercise for optimum health, but the Bible warns us that we can overdo, "For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things" 1 Timothy 4:8.  The same goes for eating -- an obvious necessity that Proverbs warns should be kept in balance.  The first verse certainly tells it like it is:  "Have you found honey?  Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit" 25:16.  Proverbs 23:21 further warns:  "Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty."  They will also probably be overweight!

Then there are our belongings.  We need food, clothing and a comfortable place to live.  That's about all most people have in the majority of the world.  Not so in the land of plenty -- our beloved USA. Most of us have so much more than we need it's .... well, let's see what Jesus says about it in Luke 12:

"Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.  Then He spoke a parable to them, 'The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?'  So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, 'Soul you have many goods laid up for many years, take your ease; eat, drink and be merry.'"  But God said to him, 'Fool!  This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'  So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

So - what can we learn from these admonitions against excess?  We need a healthy balance in all things and as Paul said, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" 1 Corinthians 10:31.

If we live by that verse, we won't lose our balance in life -- and we'll have just the right amount of the yellow stuff in our bodies too.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Lionfish


Isn't this a beautiful fish?  Would you like to have one of these handsome marine creatures swimming around in your aquarium?  This ornate striped beauty with elegant-looking spines is floating along in a tank at the Living Museum -- alone.

Why is this fancy fish alone?  He just happens to be one of the most venomous fish in the world, so, no, you really don't want him in your fish tank no matter how pretty he might be.

There are a couple things about this fish sparked a bit of spiritual analogy.  Most obvious is his beauty which is appealing to the eye coupled with the poison he shoots out from his spines if he is touched. Isn't that so like sin?  Let's be honest -- many sins are beautiful to the eye and the senses; they are so appealing, we just want to reach out and touch and even taste what they have to offer. Does that sentence ring any bells?  It's exactly what Eve and then hubby Adam did in the garden. Their failure to avoid the "poison fruit" has caused pain and death ever since.

I read that the Lionfish has "warning colors meaning - stay away."  Adam and Eve were warned to stay away from fruit that would poison the entire world, but they touched it and tasted it anyway. They did not heed and they gave in to temptation.  How often does the Bible warn us about sin after sin and yet we far too frequently still partake.  God is so loving and He does provide a way for us to just say, no.

"...let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" 1 Corinthians 10:12.

Another interesting -- and scary -- aspect of the Lionfish is the fact that their population is increasing rapidly.  This fish is originally from the Pacific, but was accidentally introduced into Florida in the 1990s.  As a result, this invasive species is all over the Caribbean and up and down the east coast of America as far as North Carolina -- as if the ocean wasn't dangerous enough with sharks, undertows and rip tides!

Does it sometimes seem to you like sin is increasing rapidly in our world today?  Just as it is a scary thing that poisonous Lionfish are filling our waters, it's a scary thing that poisonous sin is filling our world.  Jesus warned, "Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold" Matthew 24:12 NIV.

The moral of this fish story is this:  we don't need to be afraid -- either to step into the ocean for a swim or to wade through this big, sinful world.  Our Father goes before us and He has placed us in this time and this place for His purpose.  He offers so many promises in His word, here is just one of them:  "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" Isaiah 41:10.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Bottle Tree

This colorful bottle tree and background crape myrtle blossoms are on display at the local Zoo.  The sign beneath the tree reads:  "The bottle tree has evolved into a unique Southern garden tradition.  Its roots trace back to the African custom of trapping evil spirits in sparkling glass bottles suspended in trees.  Today, the bottle tree brings new purpose and appreciation to empty glass bottles as inexpensive yard art.  Any spirit entrapment is simply a bonus!"

Using pretty bottles as yard art is a cool idea.  Their various colors and shiny exteriors sparkle in the sunlight and offer texture and maybe even a place for birds to alight (if they aren't spooked by the shimmer and slippery surface of the glass). 

The African custom of trapping evil spirits is what intrigues me most about this bottle tree.  Wouldn't it be great if we could trap the evil spirits that circle around us like carrion birds waiting to feed? Perhaps if they were trapped, they could be destroyed in some way -- or at least, their powers might be neutralized.  If only it were that easy...

Scripture tells us, "...Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" 1 Peter 5:8.  There's no way you can hope to trap a lion in a bottle anymore than you could hope to capture an evil spirit in a bottle tree.  In fact, it would be easier to trap a lion in a bottle than to trap an evil spirit.  In other words -- it ain't gonna happen.

Whether we like it or not, Satan has been given temporary freedom to be "the prince of the power of the air," and his hoard of demon spirits are out there flying right beside him -- all of them attempting to wreck havoc on this ole earth.  That could be a pretty scary thought if it were not for One who is Greater than all...

"Greater is He that is within us [the Holy Spirit], than he [Satan and his demons] that is within the world" 1 John 4:4.  Evil spirits may be in the air around us, but God has promised that "...the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer..." 1 Peter 3:12.  We don't need bottles or any other thing than the power of the Holy Spirit of the living God to protect us from the dark forces that would seek to harm us.

If we are filled with the Spirit and standing on the promises of God, any spirit entrapment is more than a bonus -- it's a gift from our loving Father.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Silvery Dragonfly

One afternoon this dragonfly sat for about ten minutes along the top of our bird feeder.  Sunshine glinted off the black metal turning it into a glowing silver rod.  The same sunlight glittered off the translucent wings of this elegant creature painting them with iridescent silver.  It looked like a shimmering work of art hung on a gallery wall.  The Great Artist, God Almighty, had done it again.  He'd blended simple items into a one of a kind masterpiece and given me the privilege of witnessing the brief moment in time that it existed.

How many times in our lives do we witness a masterpiece of God that exists for a brief moment in time?  Think sunsets and roses and fanciful clouds and a newborn baby's first hours in this world -- just to mention a few.  If we stop and think about it, we are privileged to witness many beautiful, brief moments -- but, how many times do we stop and savor that moment?  How often are we aware of how fleeting and special this thing is that God is giving us a glimpse of?

God tells us in His Word that we need to "have eyes to see and ears to hear."  The world is full of God's beauty and purpose -- it's all around us every day.  Too often, eyes develop a skim of worldly weariness and ears become dull to subtle sounds of heavenly music.  Guess we could say it's an occupational hazard of living on planet earth.  It doesn't have to be that way.

Let's open our eyes and our ears to what God offers us today.  And yes, I believe He offers us something of beauty each and every day.  We just too often miss it.  I read a story of a man who said he didn't believe in God.  He'd called out to God and ended with this: "If you're there, touch me."  A butterfly fluttered onto his shoulder and he flicked it away, saying, "I knew it - he's not there!"  The man did not have eyes to see and he missed a beautiful moment sent by the Almighty God of all creation.

Even though I'm speaking primarily of physical eyes and ears here, they must be driven by spiritual eyes and ears that see beyond what is in front of our faces and deeper into the heart of God.  He wants us to see Him moving in the world around us.  When we do that, we will develop a heart of joy and praise that will glorify our Father -- and that's what it's really all about!