I was standing in line at Costco today and the strangest thing happened. My right foot went numb. I thought maybe I was standing on it funny or something. I shifted my weight to the other leg and the numbness went away. I didn’t give it much thought after that.
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.” (Ps 19:1-2, NASU)
Have you ever been awed by a sunrise, wonderstruck by a starry sky, astonished as you gazed from a mountain peak, or marveled at the ways of a river? If so, then you have heard from God. Each day’s sunrise speaks of God’s faithfulness, the night sky and the mountains remind us of His great power, and the flow of a stream in its channel testifies to God’s promised guidance of the Christian’s life.
Much can be learned about God by examining the world around us. Theologians call this, “General Revelation,” or the revealing evidence of God’s existence and what He is like through the things He has made. I call it pretty cool.
If you’re a Christian sportsman, then you know what I’m talking about. You can’t spend much time outdoors hunting, fishing, camping, or hiking before you start making the connection between what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible with what you experience in the great outdoors.
For example, a few years ago I was hunting elk. It was early morning, and I was hoping to catch elk passing by as I sat near a trail they used as they traveled from their night time feeding area to their daytime bedding site. The first animal that happened by wasn’t an elk, but that animal brought me a word from God.
It was a very nice whitetail buck, four points to each antler. I had a deer permit, but I hesitated to harvest the buck as I was afraid that the shot would spook any nearby elk. As I wondered what to do, the buck stopped and stood broadside, not thirty yards away. Easy shot. To shoot or not to shoot?
Finally I decided to take the buck, but at that very moment he flipped his tail and was gone. I’d waited too long. The opportunity was lost, gone as quickly as a popped balloon.
I began thinking of all the other opportunities I’d missed in life by waiting too long. And I thought of the story of Moses in Exodus 4:10-16. Because Moses hesitated, he lost a special opportunity.
At that point in my life I was struggling with an opportunity I thought God might be offering to me. But it required a huge step of faith, and I was hesitating. In all of this God was saying, “Stop hesitating. Move forward now or you’ll regret it, just like you just lost the opportunity to take that buck. The time to ‘tag’ My will is now.” I decided to move forward by faith, and it turned out to be the right decision.
If you’re a Christian sportsman you can probably relate. The Lord often speaks to us through outdoor experiences. If you love the Lord and love the great outdoors, I’d like to recommend something to you. For daily devotions centered around God and the outdoors, check out http://www.sportsmensdevotional.com/.
But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –
By Mike Raether
If the title of this little piece caught your attention, it’s most likely because you’ve been asking yourself this question lately. I’m with you. Just when I think I’ve got a handle on things, God makes a left turn when I expect Him to turn right.
To be honest, I often wonder what God is up to in my life. Where is He leading? What does He want me to be and do on this broken planet?
Because God has planted eternity within our hearts,* it’s only natural to ask such questions. We want to see the big picture. We want to see things from God’s perspective. Although we know that God works all things together for good for those who love Him,** just knowing this isn’t enough for us. We want to know how all things work together.
However, one of the sad consequences of the tragic fall of our original parents, Adam and Eve, is that our spiritual vision is blurred. Because the first two humans chose autonomy over their own destinies rather than follow God, they were no longer privileged with insider information. They no longer walked in the full light of God’s plan. They’d doomed themselves to living day by uncertain day. And because this curse has been passed down to us, we’re forced to live in a tension between wanting to know, needing to know, but having to trust that God knows what He’s up to even if our vision is cloudy. And in this, we’re forced to trust that God knows best.
But not only does God know best; He’s promised His best to those who follow Him.
He’s promised never to leave us or forsake us. Isaiah 49:15-16a says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…”
He’s promised to guide us. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”
He’s promised to provide for us. Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his descendants begging bread.”
Perhaps you’ve recently encountered some rough waters on the sea of life. Perhaps you’d recently expected an “attaboy” for a good deed, but instead you’ve harvested indifference. Or perhaps you’ve recently stepped out in faith in response to something you thought God wanted you to do, only to come up against a hard dead end.
Hang in there. God will eventually let us know what He’s up to. In the meantime, let’s remember all the times He’s faithfully led us and provided for us in the past, and know that He will continue to do so as we walk with Him into the future. Or as Emerson once noted, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
*Ecclesiastes 3:11.**Romans 8:28. All Scriptures quoted are from the NASU Bible, ©1995 The Lockman Foundation
By Mike Raether
It was a fair question to ask of someone entering their sixth decade of life.
“At your age, why do you still backpack in to your hunting areas and pack the meat out on your back?”
A fair question deserves a fair answer.
“Because I still can.”
Backpack hunting offers many rewards. The solitude, the greater abundance of game, and the increased chance of bagging a real trophy. But for me, one of the greatest rewards is the satisfaction of harvesting game in the back country and packing out the meat. To test myself against myself, and then sit down to a meal centered on wild game I packed out of the wilderness always makes me smile. But packing out big game from the outback can be hard work. To make it easier I quarter the critter, drop the pieces into game bags, side the bags into my backpack and walk out of the woods triumphant.
If this thought appeals to you, then you’ll want to learn how to quarter your prize. That’s what this article is all about. Step by step, here we go:
Step 1. You’ll be butchering your prize one side at a time. Starting at the base of the head, make a slit down the center of the back to the base of the tail and then skin the animal from the backbone down.
Step 2. Remove the legs from the “knee.” After you’re done, the first finished side will look like this.
Step 3. Standing or kneeling over the animal and
at the animal’s backbone (with its head to your left) remove the front shoulder by grasping the shank and bending it back toward you, progressively cutting the shoulder free by making slices toward the backbone, staying close to the rib cage (be careful!). Keep making slices towards the backbone and the shoulder will come free.
Step 4. Now it’s time for the rear quarter. Again standing or kneeling over the animal at the animal’s backbone (with the rump to your right) grasp the shank, pull it toward you, and carefully slice between the body and the inside of the hindquarter.
Step 5. Progressively cut deeper until you encounter the socket that attaches the hindquarter to the body. Work the tip of your knife into the socket to cut the cartilage that holds everything together to free the ball from the socket. Keep cutting to free the hindquarter from the carcass.
Step 6. The prized back strap comes next. Starting about where the neck joins the body, slide your knife along the backbone (as if filleting a fish) to the point where you removed the hindquarter.
Step 7. Returning to your first cut near the neck, now work the knife back towards the hindquarter by sliding it along the top of the rib cage with the point of the knife following the backbone. Lift the back strap free.
Step 8. Now comes the tricky part: removing the tenderloin. It lies on the inside of the body cavity up against the backbone, beginning just about where the rib cage ends and continuing back about 9” (on an average size deer) towards the rump. To remove it, make a careful slice just under the backbone and just at the end of the rib cage (if you’re not extra cautious here you’ll cut the paunch – yuk). Reach in with your hand, feel along the underside of the backbone and you’ll find the precious tenderloin. Holding down the paunch with one hand, use the fingers of your other hand to work the tenderloin free from the backbone (it lives up to its name – it’s very tender and will come loose with a little encouragement).
Step 9. Now flip the animal over and do the other side. Note the finished product: one animal, quartered and ready to slip into game bags and then into your pack! At this point you can slit the belly open and easily remove the heart and liver without going through the whole gutting process.
By Mike Raether
Busyness is thief, a villain that saps our strength and robs us of life.
Although it’s true that a busy life is a purposeful life, we can get so busy with life that we forget to live. Especially if our lives include serving others in some way.
A few years ago, this got my attention like a flashing blue light in the rear view mirror. I was leading a small country church at the time. You’d think that shepherding a rural church would yield a relaxed lifestyle, but forget it. In a small church you wear a lot of hats. I was so busy running here and there that I rarely took time to slow down, rest up and simply live. I was flaming out fast, until the morning that I got up, looked at my schedule, and just about threw up. At that moment I seemed to hear the voice of God, “Come away to a lonely place by yourself and rest awhile.”
That did it. Although I felt a little guilty with so many places to be and so many people to see, I cleared my calendar, fired up my old pickup, let the dog jump in beside me and headed for the hills. We hiked up into two mountain lakes that day and I returned home physically exhausted, but mentally refreshed and spiritually rejuvenated. Ever since, I’ve made it a priority to set aside one day each week for personal renewal. Although this blots a valuable day off my schedule, I find I’m able to accomplish more and better work for others in the time that remains. And just as important, the quality of my own life has catapulted.
How about you? When was the last time you took some time for yourself? You might think it’s selfish. But I don’t care if you’re a busy mom, a dad, an executive, a teacher, a writer, a pastor, or a little league coach: if you don’t take time to fill the glass, you won’t have anything to pour out to refresh the lives of others.
The “to do” list will always have more on it than you can do. Dirty dishes will always pile up in the sink, work will always be there, and the lawn will always need mowing again. Forget about it for a while. Give yourself permission to slow down, rest up, and live.
So what is it that fills your tank? Go do it. Take a hike, read a book, watch a movie, take a nap, go to a ball game, whatever. How about a day off? As Dr. Laura Schlessinger would say, “Go do the right thing.” It’s the right thing for others, and it’s the right thing for you. Slow down, rest up, and LIVE.
But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –
By Mike Raether
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has long championed the fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) as Priority Number 1. An admirable goal indeed – the only problem is that fulfillment of the Great Commission isn’t top priority according to Jesus. The SBC is putting the harvest ahead of preparing the field. And unless the field is properly prepared, there’ll be no harvest.
I admire the people of the SBC. Under the umbrella of the SBC and with the help of SBC people, I’ve planted and pastored two successful SBC church plants. But like many associated with the SBC, I’m distressed by the decline of the Convention. Although I’ve seen some pretty fancy dancing around the issues, most don’t deny that the SBC has been declining in membership and baptisms for around eight years. Some even say that the SBC is losing ground as a force for the gospel.
I’m not the only one concerned, of course. At the annual meeting of SBC this year, a task force was organized to “study how Southern Baptists can work ‘more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.’”(1) The task force was charged to research “key issues and bring their report, along with any recommendations, to the 2010 SBC annual meeting, June 15-16 in Orlando, Florida.”(2)
It is my hope and prayer that the task force will conclude that promotion and fulfillment of the Great Commission is missing the target. I hope and pray that the SBC will conclude that they’ve lost their first love – literally – and change directions, therefore making the main thing the main thing according to Jesus, and thereby usher in fulfillment of the Great Commission.
And what is the “main thing”? What is it that will prepare the fields for a harvest? What is it that will lead to the actual fulfillment of the Great Commission?
It is the Great Commandment, given by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-38.
In response to a question as to His opinion regarding the greatest commandment Jesus answered, “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”(3) If we come to love God as Jesus stated, we’ll also come to love people and fulfill the second Great Commandment according to Jesus – Matthew 22:39, “…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Once we reach the point where we love God and love others, the field (our hearts) will be prepared for the harvest, and fulfilling the Great Commission will be the natural outflow of our lives. Fulfilling the Great Commission will be as natural as stretching in the morning.
To be fair, this is clearly stated in Point III. of the Great Commission Declaration: “Every Christian is called first and foremost to love God and secondly to love others. Greater love for God will always lead to greater love for people created in His image. The Great Commission flows from the Great Commandments.”(4) The problem is that this profound truth is buried in a section of a document few will ever bother to read. And it’s not even Point I, although it’s clearly point 1 according to Jesus.
And so, with a very small and puny voice I’m calling for a Great Commandment Resurgence. Let it begin with the leadership of the SBC, but let it not end there. Let it begin with every church. Let it begin with every pastor. Let it begin with every Christian. Let it begin with me. And let it begin with you.
If you and I truly loved God, sin would be as rare in our lives as mud in a desert.
If you and I truly loved God, hate and racism wouldn’t be any more common in our hearts than germs on a surgeon’s hands.
If you and I truly loved God, Christ’s love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness would shine from our lives like a flashing beacon set on a mountain.
If you and I truly loved God, good works would flow from us as naturally as water flows from a spring.
If you and I truly loved God, we wouldn’t be known as a bunch of hypocrites.
If you and I truly loved God, the truth would set us free.
We’d hit the target.
And we’d fulfill the Great Commission.
Footnotes – (1) “A Great Commission Resurgence”, SBC LIfe journal, August/September 2009 issue (2) ibed (3) Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (4) www.pray4gcr.com/ (click “What is the GCR?”)
By Mike Raether
Do you like to daydream? I caught myself daydreaming at my desk
recently, or rather, reminiscing on some past pleasures of my life. I smiled as I remembered when I had a boat, a 24’ cabin cruiser aboard which I spent many lovely days plying the protected bays and harbors of the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Ah! Those were the days! I thought to myself, missing the sea something awful now that I live hundreds of miles away in the mountains of Montana.
About that time an alarm went off in my head.
“Self,” I said to myself, “What are you doing living in the past?”
There is danger hidden in some memories. A memory can be an insidious enemy that drifts lightly into our minds, enchanting us like a feather floating on the wind, all the while robbing us of the present and the future. We can get so caught up in memories that we forget to live in the present, and sometimes even pass on the future. We can become like old men feeding pigeons in a park, mindlessly passing time until death draws a curtain over life.
I do cherish my memories, especially as I’m now in my sixth decade of life. I’ve been a lot of places, seen a lot of things, and done a lot of
stuff. I think I’ve lived well, and would have few regrets should I receive a bad report from my doctor. But I’ve come to realize that there’s a whole lot of livin’ left to be done. And life may have saved the best for last.
I write mostly to my older readers today, who like me are standing in the shadow of mortality. Far gone are the days of youth when I thought I was bullet-proof. My body howls at the things I demand of it. If I take a six-mile hike, I’ll pay for three days (although I’ll do it anyway). I used to survive on five or six hours of sleep a night and brag about it, but now eight hours of solid sleep is one of life’s great treasures. And so it’s tempting to fold my hands in rest, leave the mountains of life to the young bucks, and toss a few crumbs to the pigeons. Until the challenge of what yet may be serves up a better plate than that of stale, past pursuits. Until I think of what can be, what should be, what must be.
I’m reminded of those who accomplished great things in the Indian summer of life.
At 60, playwright and essayist George Bernard Shaw completed the play, Heartbreak House, thought of by many as his masterpiece.
At 70, Benjamin Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence.
At 80, British-American actress Jessica Tandy became the oldest person to receive an Oscar for her performance in Driving Miss Daisy.
In his 80s, the Biblical patriarch Caleb sought permission to make his home in the hill country of the Promised Land, where the enemy still held strongholds. “Perhaps God will be with me,” he said, “And I’ll drive them out.”
“Perhaps…” Perhaps is a good word. The 16th century French Renaissance writer Francois Rabelais once said, “I go to seek a great perhaps.”
What is your “great perhaps”? What would you attempt if “perhaps”? What would you try? Why not find out? Beats feeding pigeons in the park.
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life,
For which the first was made.
But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –
By Mike Raether
Words. They can be spoken, written, signed, whispered, sung, and shouted. They can communicate love, comfort, and truth. They can inspire, challenge, and correct. And although words are sometimes misused, the truth remains unblemished that words were originally designed by God to be used for the good of mankind.
In His wisdom, God created words to reveal truth to man. They are His chosen conduits of communication. When Jesus walked the earth, He used words to tell people about God’s love, to heal, and to save. When Jesus returned home, He continued to work in such a way that within a few hundred years the book we call the Holy Bible was completed, a book filled with words to tell us of God’s purposes and plans for man.
Why do you write? To help people become all they can be? That’s admirable. Do you write to make money? That’s OK, too, for Jesus said in Matthew 10:10, “…the worker is worthy of his support.” (NASU). I write for both reasons, and more. The convictions that fuel our writing are many and varied. And our convictions sometimes change with the seasons of our lives. But I believe that the important thing is not so much what we write and why we write, but how we approach our writing that counts.
You and I have a gift. We have the ability to communicate truth with words, the talent to sway men’s opinions and thoughts, to even change the courses of their lives. It is a God-given talent, a special ability not entrusted to many.
We have been given much – and much is required. Writing is a gift that is oft admired, but you and I know that writing is not as glamorous as it seems. It’s often a whole lot of hard work. And with the gift comes responsibility; responsibility to develop the gift of writing to its fullest potential, responsibility to be professionals, and responsibility to put our best efforts into everything we write.
From the beginning, God used words to reveal Himself and His ways to the world. And God made us partners with Him, using the medium of words. Our gift may find expression in many ways, but it is the gift of God nonetheless. As the apostle Paul once told the Corinthians, “…What do you have that you did not receive…” (1 Corinthians 4:7, NASU).
God has created us all different. No two humans have ever been created the same. We are, as Scripture says, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And yet, we humans share many of the same likes and dislikes, and our preferences spill out into our relationship with God and the way we relate to Him. Take worship, for example. Some of us prefer traditional hymns; others like contemporary praise choruses. For some of us worship must be deeply personal, quite, and reflective. At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who celebrate God corporately with clapping, swaying, and uplifted hands.
And then there are writers. As writers, can we not approach writing as an act of worship, a special pathway of connection to God?
The next time you sit down to write, make writing an act of worship. Pause and reflect on the gift that has been giving to you. Take a deep breath and breathe out a prayer of thanks. Pick up the pen or rest your fingers on the keyboard with reverent awe. “For in the beginning was the word…”