Wear It With Love

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When I was in the military, the uniform of the day specified what I wore on a given day.  I usually wore drab olive fatigues and combat boots, but on occasion I was required to wear my dress blues and spit-shined shoes.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians, he described their uniform of the day, and he instructed them to:

Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.  ~Colossians 3:12-14: The Message

Regardless of whether you’re wearing blue jeans, a black tie and suit, or a stylish dress, don’t forget to put on the love of Christ—it’s your “all-purpose garment” and uniform of the day.

Hessston, Kansas: Tragedy Strikes Rural America

Tigger-Eeyore-Winnie-the-Pooh-WallpaperOn February 23 at 11:27 AM, Cedric Ford made a post to his Facebook page: “Woke up this morning vibing God is good.”  Last night, channel 12 news identified Ford as the shooter at the Excel Plant in Hesston, Kansas. I’m not sure how a person can post those words on a Tuesday and then take a weapon on Thursday, and kill 3 people and shoot a total of 18.

Strange as it may seem, this incident reminds me of a critical moment in the life of Tigger in a Winnie the Pooh story.  Because his stripes washed off while bathing, Tigger was facing an identity crisis.

The usually boisterous and exuberant Tigger grew solemn and sullen as he mulled over his dilemma.  Because tigers are recognized by their stripes, Tigger isn’t sure who he is without his. In an effort to discover his identity, he tries being a rabbit, a bear, and a Christmas tree.

His problem is resolved when Eeyore tells Tigger, “You’re always the same person on the inside.”  The wisdom of Eeyore may have been comforting to Tigger, but it also presents a discomforting truth.

When you contrast Ford’s actions with his “God is good” words, you see the constant battle that rages between the stripes of your flesh and your spirit.  Paul spoke of this turmoil in Romans 7:

Here’s an important principle I’ve discovered: regardless of my desire to do the right thing, it is clear that evil is never far away. For deep down I am in happy agreement with God’s law; but the rest of me does not concur. I see a very different principle at work in my bodily members, and it is at war with my mind; I have become a prisoner in this war to the rule of sin in my body.  I am absolutely miserable! Is there anyone who can free me from this body where sin and death reign so supremely? I am thankful to God for the freedom that comes through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! So on the one hand, I devotedly serve God’s law with my mind; but on the other hand, with my flesh, I serve the principle of sin.

The tragic shooting of last night brings a harsh reality to light; the potential of committing horrendous and evil acts lies deep within each of us.

A fog of horror and disbelief hangs low over the city of Hesston as her stunned residents wonder: “What happened to the stripes of Cedric Ford?” Did he suffer a psychotic break?  Was it a violent outburst of anger? Was this a sudden emotional explosion or has his fuse been smoldering for weeks?

It’s too early to have the answers to all of these questions, but it’s never too late to pray.  I hope you will join me in praying for the employees of Excel, the citizens of Hesston, the first responders, and everyone who has been touched by this tragic event.

Choice Choices and Daunting Decisions

decisionEach day of your life, you are presented with the opportunity to choose to do or not to do. Many of these choices are minor, but there are times when major decisions must be made.  Some of your choices can be as simple as:

  • What clothes will I wear?
  • What should I eat for breakfast?
  • Which brand of toothpaste should I use?

Major decisions can be more taxing and involve questions like:

  • Should I be cremated or have a traditional funeral?
  • Should my money be invested in an IRA or a ROTH?
  • Should I use a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon for back surgery?

On occasion, people will call me when they are facing a perplexing situation that requires a major decision.  They will consult with me and ask for my opinion concerning where they should work, live, or who they should marry.  Their question is often:  How do I know the will of God?

Discovering the will of God is more of a mystery than what it needs to be.  Let me suggest five questions to help guide you.

  1. Is the action you are considering consistent with the principles of the Bible? God will never lead you to do something that is contrary to Scripture.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  2. Have you prayed and asked for guidance? For I know the plans I have for you; plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
  3. Have you discussed your situation with your friends? A nation will fall when there is no direction, but with many advisers there is victory (Proverbs 11:14).
  4. What will the results of your decision look like? If your mother reads about it on the front page of the newspaper, will she be proud of your actions or will she be embarrassed?
  5. Are you depressed, angry, or stressed out? If so, you need to clear your mind and calm your emotions before you try to make a wise decision.

I encourage you take some time to reflect on Psalm 37, and how it relates to your situation.

Trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him

Cockpit Savvy

Cessna-172-Instrument-Panel-300x225It rarely happened, but on the few occasions when I received an early morning phone call asking for Sargent Seymour, I knew something big had transpired.  So when the phone rang very early that morning,  I knew it was going to be an interesting day.

When I confirmed that I was Sargent Seymour, the voice barked out an order: “Make sure you report at 0600 hours. You’re on the search and recovery team, and we have a pilot down.”

I was one of the first to arrive at my duty station, and I watched as the other team members began to file in.  After we were briefed, we were loaded on a bus and driven to the foot of a mountain where jeeps took us far as they could go. We then hiked to the crash site where the wreckage of the aircraft was scattered across a meadow.

I later learned that the cause of the crash was either instrument failure or the pilot had become disoriented.  There are times when a pilot will suffer spatial disorientation and he can’t tell up from down.  He may think he’s pulling the plane out of a dive, but he’s actually flying it into the ground.

Experienced pilots know they must trust their instruments and not just their senses.  The primary flight instruments found in many cockpits include:

  • Airspeed Indicator: Indicates the speed at which the air is flowing over the airplane
  • Attitude Indicator: Shows the position of the airplane in relation to the horizon.
  • Altimeter: Measures the altitude of the aircraft above sea level.
  • Vertical Speed Indicator: Indicates the Rate of Climb and Rate of Descent
  • Heading Indicator: The principal direction instrument used in flight.
  • Turn Coordinator: Gives information about the direction and rate of a turn.

Like an experienced pilot, a person needs to rely on more than just his senses—You also need the principles of God’s Word:

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he highlighted the value and benefit of Scripture:

 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Instead of thinking in terms of the primary flight instruments in a cockpit, think of Scripture as your primary faith instrument.  The Psalmist did, and he said God’s Word can:

  • Show you how to live.
  • Give you understanding
  • Guide your walk.
  • Point you in the correct direction.

O Lord, show me how to live according to Your statutes, and I will keep them always. Grant me understanding so that I can keep Your law and keep it wholeheartedly.

Guide me to walk in the way You commanded because I take joy in it. Turn my head and my heart to Your decrees and not to sinful gain (Psalm 119:33-36).

The Beauty of Spring

bartram_trail_pic1My two favorite seasons of the year are Spring and Fall.  In the cycle of life, I think these are the two most refreshing seasons of the year.

Even though Spring doesn’t official begin until March 20th, God blessed us with Spring-like weather this past weekend.  As I was enjoying the day, I thought about the many blessings that God gives His children, and two words from John 3:16 came to mind:  He gave.

As I was tilling the soil in my garden, I thought about several things God has given:

  • He has given the warmth of the sunshine.
  • He infused flowers with their delicate fragrance.
  • He designed your taste buds, so they would be tickled by the flavor of food.
  • He engineered your eyes so they can see the beautiful landscapes of His magnificent creation.
  • He gave you ears, so you can hear the three greatest word that have ever been spoken:  I love you.

The I love you verse of the Bible is John 3:16, and when you read it you discover the greatest gift that God has given: “He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life.”

Take a moment sometime today to give yourself a gift.  The next breath you take, make it a deep one, and then pause to thank God for the beauty and fragrance of life. Then take about 4 more minutes, and listen to this brief and beautiful song.

Flags, Banners, and the Cross

Banner_smYou’ve probably heard it said many times, and I agree: “If you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.”  This simple phrase means there needs to be some consistency between what you say and what you do.

Since I attempt to practice what I preach, I try to read my Bible every day.  When I find a particular verse that speaks to me, I will read it in several different versions, and I’ve found that Biblegateway is a great resource to do this.

During my Bible time this morning, I was reading from I Corinthians, and the 18th verse of the first chapter caught my attention.  Notice how it’s rendered in the J.B. Phillips version:

For people who are stumbling toward ruin, the message of the cross is nothing but a tall tale for fools by a fool. But for those of us who are already  experiencing the reality of being rescued and made right, it is                        nothing short of God’s power.

One of the realities of being rescued, is the person who needs help has to ask for it. Safety and protection is usually a concern in times of danger and distress. The same was true for David, and he spoke of this in Psalm 60:4-5:

You have raised a banner for those who fear you—a rallying point in the face of attack. Interlude. Now rescue your beloved people. Answer and save us by your power.

Whether it’s a flag or a banner in the Psalms or the Cross in the New Testament, both give strength to persevere during the ups and downs of life.  Paul said:

We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

I recommend that you bookmark Psalm 71:2-4, so it can be a prayer the next time you’re fearful or need some encouragement; and, it might be helpful to go to Biblegateway and read it in several different versions.

Psalm 71:2-4

Save me and rescue me, for you do what is right. Turn your ear to listen to me, and set me free. Be my rock of safety where I can always hide. Give the order to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked, from the clutches of cruel oppressors

I hope you will have a good week as you discover the power of the Cross and find comfort in God as your rock and fortress.

 

Lincoln Logs and Legos

legosTwo engineering behemoths engaged in some tit for tat this week.  The two heavyweights were the Pope and the Pompous. In a rare exchange with an American politician, the Pope expressed his displeasure with Saint Pompous—Donald Trump.

Pope Francis said: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” I think the Pope meant Trump was not acting in a “Christian” way.

Donald, however, is never one to duck an issue, and he made one out of this when he complained the Pope said he was not “a Christian.”

While I’m not a Catholic, I do know that every Pope has been a priest, but only a handful of priests have ever been the Pope. When the Pope spoke of “building bridges” he defined the meaning of the word priest. In Latin “priest” means “bridge builder,”  and  several places in the New Testament focus on the work of priests:

  • Hebrews 4 speaks of the bridge building work of Jesus, and describes Him as a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tempted like we are; yet He remained pure.
  • I Peter 2:9 speaks of Christians as a “chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, God’s own; so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light.”

When I was a kid, I would use either my  Lincoln Logs, or erector set to build something. Today, a child is more likely to dump his Legos on the floor and begin piecing them together.

Paul didn’t have Lincoln Logs or Legos, but he did know how to build bridges; and he spoke of this when he wrote to Christians at Corinth:

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Ambassadors for Christ share the story of salvation, and they build bridges of grace for God’s glory.  Which story are you telling and what bridge are you building?

Putting Your Right Foot Forward

Converse-Chuck-Taylor-All-Star-II_fy9As I mentioned earlier this week, today is my birthday.  I, like others born in 1953, think it was a year of great significance.

To give you a sampling of life in 1953, here are 12 events that happened in the first three months:

  • January 1: Country singer Hank Williams Sr. died while on the way to a concert in Canton, Ohio.
  • January 7: President Truman announced in his State of the Union address that the United States had developed a hydrogen bomb.
  • January 17: GM introduced the first American sports car, the two-seater Corvette at the annual NYC Motorama Show at the Waldorf-Astoria.
  • January 20: Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as president, and coverage of the event was viewed on 21 million televisions.
  • February 5: Peter Pan, by Walt Disney opened at Roxy Theater in NYC.
  • February 9: The Adventures of Superman TV series premiered in syndication.
  • February 17: Baseball star and pilot Ted Williams was uninjured when his plane was shot down in Korea.
  • February 27: F-84 Thunderjets raided North Korean base on Yalu River.
  • March 5: Russian Premier Joseph Stalin died at age 73.
  • March 10: North Korean gunners at Wonsan fired on the USS Missouri, the ship responds by firing 998 rounds at the enemy position. On March 25, the USS Missouri fired on targets at Kojo, North Korea, and this was the last time her guns would be fired until the Persian Gulf War of 1992.
  • March 26: President Eisenhower offers monetary assistance to France to support their involvement in Vietnam.
  • March 26: Dr. Jonas Salk of the University of Pittsburgh announced that a vaccine against polio had been successfully tested.

As I was roaming through the annals of 1953 I found several other historic events, but the one that took place on the Ray Anthony show is interesting: The Bunny Hop was introduced to the American public.

If you’re going to put your right foot forward, and you plan to stick your left foot out, let me suggest you do it within the context of Psalm 119:

I have kept my feet from every evil path to follow Your word. I have not turned from Your judgments, for You Yourself have instructed me. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path. I have solemnly sworn to keep Your righteous judgments.             ~Psalm 119:101-106 (HCSB)

The Journey From 36 to 63

b86b37a33a5544e8d823e5af1984dbbeIf 36 is old, how much older is 63?   A dyslexic would find this to be a challenging question, and it was one that has set my mind to thinking.

On the 18th day of this month, I’ll be 63.  It dawned on me a couple of weeks ago that 63 is the dyslexic version of 36—my dad’s age when he was fatally injured while working in the oil patch.

That was 1965 and this is 2016.  In 1965, I thought 36 was old.  Now that I’m 63, I realize how young Dad was when his life was snuffed out by an explosion. I began to reminisce about this while I was meditating on the first verse of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not want.”

To be honest, for the first third of my life, I wanted nothing to do with the Shepherd.  I was a black sheep who lived in a perimeter outside of the Shepherd’s fold.  I thought I didn’t need Him and was just fine without Him, but that all changed in 1972—I got real close to seeing Dad again.

As the ambulance rushed me to the ER, the scream of the sirens was muffled by the power of  the dark shadows of Death  as they began to close in on me.  I guess the Shepherd was just getting my attention.  He had to overwhelm with the darkness before I could be over-joyed by the light of His presence, and it was a life-changing experience.

Several years ago my Dad’s older brother was succumbing to the ravages of cancer, and I visited him almost daily.  Kenneth would drift in and out from being very lucid to a state that was both mysterious and delirious.

As Kenneth was crossing back and forth between the boundaries of heaven and earth, he’d see his loved ones, and say: “Well there’s Mom and Dad.”  When he drifted back into the reality of his room for a few minutes, we’d discuss what he’d just seen.

One time Kenneth drifted away and as he walked the streets of gold, his face lit up with a smile, and he said: “Look at that!  There’s Eddie.”

Since Kenneth had just seen my dad, I asked him for a favor: “Kenneth, when you cross over and get to heaven, tell Dad ‘Hello,’ for me.  I haven’t seen him for a long time, and I still miss him.”

Kenneth barely had time to honor my request before he began to drift away again.  This time was different; he became calmer than I’d seen him for weeks, and he said, “Well there’s Clara Mae,” and he was ready to die.

Clara Mae was his wife who had died a few years earlier.  Along with her, Kenneth had also found his parents, his brother, and his wife, but most importantly the Shepherd had found him.

Jesus has been a good Shepherd to me.  He once said that He came to “seek and to save the lost.”  I’m glad He kept pursuing me and that I finally heard the Shepherd’s invitation to join Him.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 ~The Message

From McGuffey to Scalia

gettyimages-72815109_wide-17ba1bcd0f4b1bf198c998306097f36a161abf37-s900-c85Justice Scalia died Saturday, and he will be mourned by many. I had a great appreciation for the judge, and the manner in which he interpreted the Constitution.

Tony Perkins paid tribute to Justice Scalia when he said Scalia “believed the Constitution had an objective meaning that could be understood and applied, and that as a nation we need to abide by it carefully for the sake of liberty, order, and justice.”

Scalia was consistent in his argument that the United States is fundamentally religious at its core, and he recognized the relationship between the Ten Commandments and our legal system: “The principle of laws being ordained by God is the foundation of the laws of this state and the foundation of our legal system.”

While the opinions of Justice Scalia seemed dated to some, they were timely statements that harmonized with some of our historic figures:

  • President James Madison:  We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments of God.
  • Patrick Henry: It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • John Jay, the first Supreme Court Justice: Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.
  • John Adams: The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion.

There was a point in our Nation’s history when it was influenced by William Holmes McGuffey, and his McGuffey’s Reader that was first published in 1836. The foreword of McGuffey’s Reader contained these comments by the author:

The Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus are not only basic but plenary. The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.

In lesson 37 of McGuffey’s First Reader the author said:

At the close of the day, before you go to sleep, you should not fail to pray to God to keep you from sin and from harm . . . You should ask him for life, and health, and strength, and you should pray to him to keep your feet from the ways of sin and shame. You should thank him for all his good gifts; and learn while young, to put your trust in him; and the kind care of God will be with you, both in your youth and in your old age.

Sadly, McGuffey’s reader lost a little of its Christian emphasis each time it was revised.  The same is happening with the interpretation of the Constitution, the revisionists keep watering it down—much to the dismay of purists like Scalia.

I’ll close with the words of the Great Lawgiver who influenced both McGuffey and Scalia:

The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  ~Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4-6