Merit Maturity

I have come to believe that we can measure our maturity by how we value people, things and ideas. Consider with me:

Self. When young we tend to value ourselves by what we do. This is not surprising since strength, beauty, brains, energy and a life time to do, all belong to the young. We think we have capacity, opportunity and time to succeed and measure ourselves accordingly. It’s only after years of fighting, failures, and unfairness, that we begin to realize that our value can’t be in what we do, since what we do is so much less than what we dreamed. The realization that our worth is in who we are is slow to come and difficult to keep up. If we have had the blessing of coming to know Christ, we learn that it’s not about what we have done, but what He did. Our worth is in being His and being loved by Him. What we do is as filthy rags; what He does through us is the stuff of  miracles. If we fail to reach this level of maturity, we die in failure and hopelessness. If we learn to live in Him, we live in eternal joy and glory despite temporary suffering and short-term struggle.

Others.  In youth we also tend to value others by what they do and/or by what they have. We measure worth in accomplishments, dollars or fame. We believe the best people are the best known and admired. We are dazzled by the resume’. We are inspired by accomplishment and motivated by fame. Bigger homes and flashier cars are sure signs of worth. It takes years to realize that there is more value in who others are and not in what they do. Character, integrity, honesty and the ability to love rise in value as sin, double mindedness, lies and hate become more visible and more potent. If we reach mature valuation of others we feel hope instead of despair. We live with purpose instead of aimlessness.

Things. To the young, newness and glitter attract.  It takes years to recognize the power of rot and rust. Recognizing value in longevity is a character trait of age. The youth marvel that the aged still have this or that thing, aren’t dazzled by new stuff, and talk about how good things used to be. The aged shake their heads at the shallowness of youth in its valuation of what will not last and what has no eternal significance. How we view, use and understand things, is a measure of our maturity.

Ideas. It’s perhaps in the valuation of ideas that maturity is most significant. While intolerant of the lack of accomplishment of people or measured worth of things, the young tend to be extremely tolerant of ideas. They believe that all ideas have worth, often equal worth. This is rooted in an immaturity about the nature of truth. Truth is by definition exclusive. If one idea is true, other inconsistent ideas are false. Youth tend to believe that all religions have merit. That it is possible for my truth and your truth, though contradictory, to be equally true. The ridiculousness of this on its face doesn’t seem to penetrate the immature mind.

If what Jesus said is true; then the only truth is that He is THE only way and that no one comes to the Father except through HIm. It seems loving and “”tolerant” to respect and honor all ideas, even though only one of them can be true.

The real problem of immaturity is the failure to recognize that all persons, but not all ideas, have equal worth.

God loves all, but not everything they do is right, nor is everything they believe true. The mature person finally comes to the place at which all persons are worthy of love and respect, all material things are recognized as temporary, and all ideas are worthy only to the extent that they are true.

And so this is true: We are valuable because we are loved by God.  We are relevant because we understand and accept His truth. We are useful because we do His will, All else is temporary and passing.

Modern Slavery

Sometimes I amaze myself at just how clueless I am. When listening to my grandchildren I only understand about 10 percent of what they say. When I drive off the paths I take most days, I see things that I forget about. I see poverty and shacks in which I am sure hunger stalks. I walk in crowds and see empty eyes and blank faces that show a complete absence of the love Creator God has for them.

Occasionally I hear things that shock me to the core.  There are employees working in private homes who are forced into serving and/or fraudulently convinced that they have no option to leave. Women, men or children are forced into the commercial sex industry and held against their will by force, fraud or coercion. Human beings are forced to work under the threat of violence and for no pay. These slaves are treated as property and exploited to create a product for commercial sale. Individuals are compelled to work in order to repay a debt and unable to leave until the debt is repaid. It is the most common form of enslavement in the world.Women and children are forced to marry another without their consent or against their will. Slavery is alive and well in many forms.

You might think these evils exist in the third world, in places far away. Not so. Here in Lafayette we live between two of the largest centers of enslavement: New Orleans and Houston. Human trafficking is a real, enormous and very near evil. Estimates of the number of slaves today range from around 21 million to 46 million. Obviously statistics are difficult to compile on such dark underground activity. People, especially the young, turn up missing every day. It is generally assumed their absence is voluntary, that they are runaways. In fact, some such absences may begin that way, but as the absentees run out of money and hope they become easy targets for predators.

What can we do about slavery? We can learn as much as possible about the problem and how to identify potential victims. We can push the issue to the forefront by promulgating what we learn. Perhaps most importantly we can pray alone and in groups.

There is a misunderstanding that the bible condones slavery. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the days scripture was written, slavery was much more visible and a reality for many. The gospel is about freedom, about breaking chains and living bound to our God and to no man. Shouldn’t we as Christians lead the fight against every form of bondage, spiritual, mental and physical?

 

 

Fathers

To all those fathers who do their best to be all they can be to their children, “Thank you.”  Society doesn’t appreciate your effort or understand the value of your calling. You are the butt of jokes and the easy one to blame.  You are making a difference. Don’t give up.

To all those who try to fill the shoes of absent fathers, “Thank You.” Your efforts are often not recognized, sometimes spurned or misunderstood. Carry on. You are desperately needed.

To all those whose father is absent, physically, spiritually, or emotionally.  Know that you are loved by the Lord and Father of all. Turn to Him. Be especially blessed this Father’s Day when you feel you have no one to thank or to honor.

To my own special father, now gone too many years. I am so sorry I never recognized the great job you did while alive. Who today could raise nine children on almost no money and not end up with any in jail or on drugs?

To my descendants, here and gone and yet to be. I am so sorry for the times I have been absent, or too distracted or too busy. I am sorry for not listening more. I am sorry for not guiding more clearly or providing a better example. I love each of you individually and specially and am grateful for the privilege of being in your lives. Thanks and kisses to each of you.

To My God and Father of all. Thank you for teaching us to love and to father. Thank you for filling in when we are absent or slow or just plain dumb. Thank you for Jesus. Have a great Father’s Day. You really are the only Father we need and thanks for that.

This is i wrote for the June Issue of Covenant Spotlight. Pick up a copy.

I’ve Been Robbed

Have you ever come to the sudden realization that you’ve been robbed? Years ago we walked into our home to the realization that someone had been inside, ransacked and taken some things. It created a huge sense of violation. I have often since come to the belief that I’ve been robbed, that something I had or think I should have is not mine.

Perhaps you’ve had this sensation. Particularly as we grow older we can be overcome with a sense of loss, or a sense of a failure to gain. Perhaps it occurs when we discover that our life didn’t turn out as expected. It can happen when we realize that our spouse and kids and even ourselves aren’t perfect, far from it. Maybe it’s when we realize that the dream of arising to the pinnacle of our profession is never coming to fruition. Perhaps we realize that the financial security we thought we would have isn’t there.

When these realizations, we have to consider two possibilities: Perhaps our expectations were unreal. Should we really have expected that our spouse would always be twenty-one? Was it realistic to believe we would be the wisest, richest or most beloved person we know? Of course not. Or perhaps we had realistic expectations and dreams, but we got tired or discouraged. Maybe we gave up or just settled for less than we could have had.

As Christians or followers of Christ gathered together, sometimes called the church, we should have that “We’ve been robbed” realization. If we read the Book of Acts, we quickly see that the church is not what it was then. We can argue that it’s a different time or that the Holy Spirit was more active then, but deep inside we know that’s not right. We know that we have been robbed, that we have settled for less than what God intended.

It’s important that we review what God intended and promised. He never promised that we would never be ill, or die or be poor or cold or naked or feel alone. Sometimes in church we get the idea that if we aren’t rich, or at least comfortable, and healthy, that we are lacking in faith. We sometimes believe that these things are the rewards of following Jesus.

We need to review. Followers are promised persecution and rejection. We aren’t promised full churches filled with devoted listeners and enthusiastic doers. In fact, as the end draws near we are promised cold hearts and false teachings. What we are promised is the presence of Holy Spirit until the end of the Age. That promise is conditioned on our commitment to discipleship, our own and the making of others. If we feel the absence of the presence we were  promised, it is that we have failed on our part. We aren’t called to entertain, to get glory for our “holiness” or to get others to the point of emotional recitation of a prayer. We are called to discipleship. That requires practicing the presence of God in community. It means putting all our trust and God and be living proof that such is not only possible but gloriously joyful if not always comfortable and fun.

When we feel we’ve been robbed we need to consider that we never understood what we were promised. When we come to a proper understanding of the promise, we can realize that we gave our heritage away or allowed it to be stolen. The response is to march into the camp of the enemy and take it back. It’s ours and it’s much more that we ever imagined.

Mind Control

Mind control. It’s not just the stuff of grade B sci-fi movies. It’s a very real thing. Just spend some time on Facebook, Twitter or television news. Folks seem to be wandering around like mindless zombies. Repeating what they have heard and having no thoughts of their own. On Facebook folks keep posting pics and stories from four years ago as if they happened this morning. I wish Facebook had a “no politics” mode that would automatically hide anything about Hillary, Donald or Bernie. Talk about mind control.

Satan is very definitely in this mind control business. He wants us regretting yesterday and fearing tomorrow so we won’t be good for anything today. He wants us thinking about politics, bills, terrorism, taxes, flesh-eating bacteria and the antiChrist so we will give no thought to God. I suppose he’s pretty good at it, but we really make it pretty easy for him.

We Christians, who claim to be eternally secure, worry constantly about death and think every cough and tummy ache is cancer. We claim to be heavenly minded but can’t remember the last time we told someone about Jesus for fear of offense. We store up stuff where rust and rot reign and have empty heavenly accounts. We live in a world where, if advertisements mean anything, we all owe more than $10,000 in credit card debts, student loans or to the IRS, and we think one phone call will fix it all.

We think there is a pill to fix anything. I have planned to patent a board game in which the object is to match the name of a drug with the disease it’s suppose to cure or the side effects it may cause. Regrets, worries, and instant cures are the patterns of the world. Paul warns us not to fall into those patterns. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2.

The antidote for worldly mind control is knowing the mind of God There is only one way to know that, spend some time with HIm. In the Grade B sci-fi movies, tin foil helmets would prevent alien mind control. In life, we need to find ways to block out the worldly thought waves and hear from God. Silence and peace are precious commodities They are the roads to God control; the only way to battle mind control.

So when you find yourself thinking that  a crude fool with a bad hair cut can make America Great Again or that having a woman in charge, no matter what woman, is the answer, or that Government can give us everything we want. It’s time to shake off mind control and spend some quiet time with God. When we find ourselves slipping into the patterns of this world, it’s time to give up mind control and get to mind renewal.

Today

Today is June 2, 2016. I guess there really isn’t anything special about today. I’m in south Louisiana so it’s going to be hot. It’s a Thursday which is one of my favorite days of the week because the whole weekend stretches out before me. I already know I haven’t done everything I had hoped to do this week.  It looks like a rainy weekend so I should probably get my yard work done. It’s a pretty ordinary day.

It’s also incredibly special. It’s a gift from God. I need to make sure I don’t waste it regretting yesterdays or worrying about tomorrows. It will be full of opportunities that I can refuse to see, let slip by or take full advantage of. In just a few hours it will be gone. There will be nothing I can do to get it back. God preceded it with a few hours of quiet darkness so I could rest up for it, spend some quiet time with HIm,  and face it fresh. I will get the same break in a few hours when dark will settle in again and I can reflect on opportunities missed, ignored or taken. I will have the opportunity to thank God for it and all the special people who filled it.

God’s planned this day for all eternity. He knew I would be in it. He knew the mistakes and the grace that got me here. He provided or allowed all the trials and blessings that got me to this place. He strategically placed folks in the path that would ensure that by this day I would have heard his good news and had a chance  to respond. He will have plotted out all the alternatives to the best plan He had for me that I didn’t happen because I made wrong turns and missed chances. He has adjusted the paths of others to give me second chances, blessings and character building trials. He has done this nearly 25,000 times since my very first day. I don’t know how many more times He will do that, give me a new day, but He knows.

How can I sometimes think that He isn’t there or that He doesn’t care. We love to say He has a plan for us. What we don’t recognize is how complex, flexible, forgiving, and loving that plan is. Today is really just another day and that is truly miraculous and deserving of my very best response.