Masterpiece

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

I am God’s masterpiece. He planned good things for me to do long ago, before I was born. That means since I am still alive there are still things that He planned for me to do.  I haven’t completed all that He planned for me to do and there is still opportunity to do those things.

I notice that this verse is written in the plural. I suppose that means I am not intended to do these good things alone. There are others that I must work and serve with to get these things accomplished.

So what are these good things that God created me to do? I guess I could look at my natural talents and abilities for clues; but I was created “anew” so that I can do those things. Whatever I am to do is only possible since I am a new creature in Christ. I believe, therefore, that the tasks I am called to are things I am unlikely to be able to do on my own. Success in them is possible only in Christ Jesus.

There are lots of things I can’t do on my own. So there’s no direction there. God would not put all this work into his masterpiece and not give his direction. Time to listen for guidance, alone and in group.

 

Yield

There is a traffic sign in our neighborhood that I’ve learned to ignore. It suggests I yield to a street that has almost no traffic. At best I slow a bit to make sure no one is coming. I certainly don’t stop. I guess one day I will get caught, but it hasn’t happened in nearly thirty years. I’m feeling pretty confident in my civil disobedience.

We daily face a spiritual “yield” sign as well. I often blow by it with as much indifference as I ignore the sign in my neighborhood. I often take God’s instruction to yield as a “suggestion” not a command. Sometimes I ignore it because it’s not specific enough. “Yield what?” I ask. I know the answer is “everything.” I don’t know why I even ask. I know I could at least start by yielding something.

Our failures to yield, I believe, are the reasons we have floods, economic downturns, personal tragedies,  and political chaos. They are God’s attempt to get us to pay attention to the”yield” sign. It’s like posting a motorcycle cop on the corner where the “yield” sign has sat all these years.

Why don’t I understand that the command to “yield” isn’t arbitrary. It’s to keep me from the danger I get in when I try to run things myself. It’s to alert me as to just how unimportant are the gifts I’ve been given and how essential the Giver is.

Yielding is not the doorway to slavery; it’s the gateway to freedom. True freedom lives where we yield control of all to the only one who can see the road ahead, manage any roadblocks and arrange any necessary detours.

Maybe now when I see that neighborhood traffic sign, it will remind me of the importance of spiritual yielding. I sure hope so.

A Season of Discouragement

I can’t help but think that we are moving into a Season of Discouragement.

We had some significant rain Wednesday night so the water is back up a bit. It’s like a plug in the bayou is preventing any more draining. Still no threat to the house, just more delay before I can get out there and start to clean things up. Still so much better off than many others. I took a ride to check out friends in Crowley and Kaplan then back to Broussard. There are miles of streets with piles of personal belongings and damp carpet at the roadside. Actually putting out the ruined items is the quick and easy part.

I decided to file an insurance claim on my Honda truck yesterday. The air conditioning isn’t working and the electronics are acting wacky since it sat in flood waters for a couple of days. I really didn’t think the water had gotten deep enough to hurt anything. It started right up, but hasn’t been acting right since. We have moved the truck and our car out of the water and onto the dry end of our driveway to prevent any further damage.

We found out this morning that our church preschool will be delayed in reopening due to water in the walls. Another inconvenience and the removal of a big help and a needed break for many.

I believe there are discouraging days ahead. In the first few days after a disaster like this there is a feeling of shock and community as friends and neighbors ban together to help each other. As time passes, everyone gets back into dealing with their own problems, reality sinks in,  and those with big damage issues are left pretty much alone to take care of themselves.

It is then that we need a closer walk with Jesus. We need daily reminders of what’s really important and where our real strength and refuge lie. Yes, I see a season of discouragement ahead. We will need more than ever the sense of purpose and togetherness that binds a Jesus community. We will need to keep loving each other when the first excitement wears off and the drudgery of day-to-day dealing with the mess looms large.

When discouragement starts, do what I did, take a ride around and see how much we really have to be thankful for. The good thing about a season of discouragement is that it puts us just where we need to be: leaning on the everlasting arms and giving thanks.

The Great Flood of 2016

My plans for last weekend were to spend some time with my grandson working in our yard and catching up on the weed eating. That didn’t happen. Instead I now am eligible to wear a tee-shirt which reads, “I survived the Great Flood of 2016.”

It is somewhat miraculous that I survived the Great Flood of 2016. Our home is the lowest in our neighborhood. It is 15 to 20 feet below the level of most of our neighbors. The lot floods for every “rain event” although water has never gotten into the home, which is on piers. Once again, although the water got higher than we have ever experienced, the house remained dry inside. I hope I have learned some lessons from the survival of the Great Flood of 2016.

If I have to be marooned with anyone, I just as soon that it be Rosemary, my wife of 46 years. We are used to quietly enjoying each other’s presence even in silence while winds blow, waters rise and sometimes power ceases. Love you babe.

Tragic circumstances illuminate character. I have seen very impressive responses to the flood from many people: relatives and strangers I watched on TV. Many set aside their own problems to assist neighbors, family, friends and even folks they didn’t know. That was great.

There was also a group that sat around whining and demanding that somebody come help them. This is the group that is always looking for government or society to take care of them. I saw way too many of them. Proportionally I believe that this group was still a minority, but larger than I have seen in past events. That was very sad.

I saw many folks lose nice property or have it severely damaged. I think most of them realize that property is not the most important things in their lives even if it’s their most valuable asset and sucks away the biggest part of their income. I know that even if I had “lost everything” it wouldn’t be everything that really matters.

In the days ahead we will be cleaning up and helping others do the same. Let’s try to stay in the heroic group and not join the whining chorus. Let’s try to be more focused than ever on what and who is really important. Maybe we can be salt and light to those who are whining.

In For Them

God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles… Galatians 1:15-16

There is an entire wing of the Christian Library of Theology devoted to being “in Christ” or “Christ in me.” I wonder sometimes if we forget the purpose of indwelling Christ. As Paul said, the Son is revealed in us so that we might preach him. If Christ lives in us we should begin in some small way to reflect His character and His heart.

“36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”” Matthew 9

Consider this, when Jesus looked at the unsaved people of his day he saw their sin and their lost state, but he was not moved to disgust nor did his turn his eyes away, he instead was moved to compassion “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Someone in the  sinful state is indeed harassed and helpless.” Jesus is concerned not that the lost would not come to God, but that the workers would not go to them.

Growing up it seemed that most people I knew were Christians and, if not, at least believed that following Jesus was the proper course, even if not followed. The lost, in those days, were mostly far away in places like darkest Africa. Instead of piercing the darkness, it seems we have allowed the darkness to spread so that now it is at our doorsteps and in some cases in our homes.

We know that scripture tells us that the end will be dark, but that’s no excuse to hide our lights or bury our salt. In these days, like no other in my lifetime, it’s easy to go into the harvest field. We don’t need a passport or air fare. Sometimes we just need to walk our neighborhood. The purpose of Christ in side is to have his compassion for the lost and not just disdain for their sin. If we aren’t “going” maybe we are fooling ourselves about His presence in us.

Call Me Caleb

I want to be Caleb. You remember him. When the children of Israel approached the promised land, Moses sent twelve spies in to check things out. All saw the same thing, a land filled with promise but with challenges. Ten counseled caution. We can’t do it. Aaron and Caleb said with God’s help, we can do it. For all, God’s redemption of them from Egypt and the destruction of Pharos army, were fresh memories. You would have thought that more than 2 of 12 would still have been pumped about the power of God.

Forty-five years later the generation of the unfaithful were all dead, except for Caleb and Aaron. Caleb was 85 years old and still ready to take on the challenge of invading the promised land. I want to be Caleb.

I haven’t posted a blog in a while. I haven’t known what to say in light of terrorists, cop killers and cop killings. I have read lots of opinions and haven’t completely agreed with any of them. I’m not a police officer nor am I black so I’m haven’t had subjective experience to challenge or confirm all that I’m hearing. I have friends on both sides of every issue. I feel the anger, fear and frustration on all sides. I don’t know the “right” answers but do know the divisions are “giants” in the land.

There are giants of racism and fear. There are giants of distrust and secularism. There are giants of untruth claiming that even if there is a God; all ways to Him are the same. There are too many guns in the hands of bad people and not enough in the hands of good and no way to fix one problem without worsening the other.  The giants are ravaging the Promised Land and scaring off the salt and light that can change things.

I want to be Caleb. I don’t want to be fearful because I’m looking at the giants and the inability of men to slay them. I don’t want to forget that God has redeemed and sustained me all these 67 years. I want to remember that God is powerful enough to destroy evil and to protect His children. Our response is to be his children and thus safe salt and a strong light in the shadow of His wings. We need to be Davids and trusting in slingshots and the Lord in the face of armor clad giants.

I want to be Caleb at 85, even if all the unfaithful are gone, even if I alone remain. I want to still believe I am as strong in the Lord as ever and just as eager to take the promised land from the illicit occupiers. Until then I want to be fearless, patient and secure in the Lord. I want to be Caleb.

Please Lord, just call me Caleb.

Alive

If you are reading this you are one of the lucky and blessed ones. I’m not saying that this post is all that great. What I am saying is that if you are reading this, you are alive. You have made it to another day. There are many who have not. You and I are blessed, so what are we going to do about it?

Pass the Test.  We all face death. We have a limited amount of time to justify our existence. This life is a test. It’s an opportunity to choose to follow Jesus, not just in a one time decision, but in a continuing life. We follow by placing our trust in Him and being in obedience to His commands for our lives. We live to know Him and to make Him known to others, to make disciples. If we haven’t made that decision, we may be technically alive, but are, in fact, Walking Dead. The first obligation of those of us blessed to still be alive is to pass the test of life.

Enjoy the rest.  Did you know that “Eden” means “delight?” God created man and placed us  in an environment which is meant to be delightful and joyous. It’s amazing that so many of us believe that our choice is to live a happy life or to follow Jesus. Following the Lord is certainly not all fun and games, but it is true joy and satisfaction. God has placed us in a world full of reflections of His glory that can bring joy and blessing. As long as are alive, we should enjoy the benefits of life. It’s really an obligation, because it helps us stay connected and in relationship to the one who is behind it all.

Do our best.  God placed us in an environment that mirrors His glory but doesn’t rob us of the free will choice to follow His son or not. He gave us His best, including the Son who died for us. Should we return any less. Every new day presents opportunities to put to best use the gifts God has given us. Shouldn’t we return with our best effort? It isn’t what saves us or establishes a relationship with our creator, but flows from that relationship.

Pass the test. Enjoy the rest. Do our best. Thank you Jesus for another day. Help me make the best of it.

Independence Day

Today we celebrate Independence Day. It’s a good time to do some thinking. This country is very different from the one I grew up in. We spent the weekend in Houston. We didn’t see many folks who could speak English. I am not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s just one piece of evidence that the country is changing. The people who make up America are changing. We have always been a melting pot; it just seems that lots of the new folks aren’t melting in. I’m not sure that’s good. The new folks don’t seem to be aware of or grateful for how we got to be independent. Even the young folks who were born here seem to have that problem.

We have always been free; but I wonder how free we are. I feel more controlled and watched and limited by government than ever before in my life. I have never known a time when the IRS and the justice department and the Congress in general was so corrupt. it’s not a question of “might be” corrupt. There isn’t much issue about it.

I think we are less free than ever.  What worries me more is that we seem to be doing less than ever with our freedom. Christians complain about being marginalized and maybe even a bit persecuted. It’s not like we are doing that much to call for such attention. We are making fewer disciples than ever before. We are known more for complaining about sin than for introducing sinners to a savior. We seem more separated in our mega churches and denominations than ever before. We seem more racially segregated than ever. We are certainly more economically separated, there’s an obvious divide between the have too much and the have-nots. No wonder a socialist like Bernie can make such a splash.

I think there are lots of reasons for this. Young people seem completely ignorant of our history and the workings of government. This generation hasn’t faced a draft or the need to go off to war. A few have done so bravely, but it doesn’t seem to have changed the entire generation. What you don’t have to fight for or don’t remember your parents fighting for can easily become very unimportant. The young seem to yearn for socialism with no understanding of what it is. I wonder what they would think of JFK’s speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country.” That was 50 years ago. How much has changed.

As bad as things are, I think we are still the most free. We just need to start acting like it. We need to exercise our freedom of speech and religion and not be intimidated by political correctness. We need to be willing to serve the country and to honor those who do instead of thinking of our military as those who just couldn’t get real jobs and were silly enough to think you need to have a job. If we are going to have better politicians we need to have better people willing to serve. You can’t tell me that Hillary and Donald are the best this nation could come up with.

Finally we need to celebrate the real freedom that comes with a life of following Jesus. We need to pass on to the next generation that the greatest blessing is in following Him, serving a cause greater than ourselves, and in loving and honoring those who inspire us to do that.

Happy Independence Day. Why not celebrate it by being independent, fighting to stay independent, teaching those who have forgotten how we became independent, and by living lives of true independence and not politically correct, silent, marching in step citizenship that seems the norm today. Sounds radical, even revolutionary? Good that’s exactly what I intended.