Category Archives: Faith

By “faith” we mean faith in God, which we view as a reasoned response to the Creator who manifests His attributes through His creation and who seeks personal, loving relationships with people.

With God in the Wilderness

I hate leashing my dog. However, there are places where Sophie must be leashed to be legal. At such times I’m compelled to obey the leash laws, but I don’t have to like it. Sophie and me like it best when we can retreat to the wilderness and run free, Sophie chasing squirrels and never catching them while I chase the grin on my face.

Road to Somewhere

I think dogs were meant to run free, but you can’t just turn ’em loose and expect them to behave. It takes a lot of training before a dog can be trusted to heel, sit, stay, come, and all that. In the beginning, all that training requires leash time. It has taken a long time, but Sophie now knows her commands by voice, hand, and whistle. Only as the pup matures, can she be trusted.

I think it’s the same way with Christian men. In the beginning of our relationship with God, like a pup, God has to keep us on a leash. We have to show that we can be trusted with our freedom before God turns us loose.

In the beginning of my relationship with Sophie we spent a lot of  time together. As a consequence, she learned to trust me and I learned to trust her. It’s the same way between God and people: it takes a lot of time spent with God in order for the relationship to bloom.

I believe the best place to spend time with God is the wilderness.

Now, a wilderness can be a literal wilderness complete with bears, bugs, lions, wolves and such. But “wilderness” can also be a metaphor for very hard places such as loneliness, depression, divorce or the death of a loved one. Or it could be the wilderness of incarceration, rejection by friends or family or tribe.

What about you? Do you find yourself in the wilderness? Take heart, the wilderness is a good place to be. Not necessarily because it’s a fun place to be. A bump in the night is still a bump in the night. But God is there. And spending time with God in the wilderness seems like His main method for developing maturity. Consider these examples –

  • Jacob: His name means, “supplanter,” a fitting name for a man who tricked his older brother Esau out of his birthright. As you can imagine, when Esau discovered his bother’s treachery, he wanted to slit Jacob’s throat. Jacob fled his homeland and lived for many years in the land of Haran, hundreds of miles to the north. It was in the land of Haran that God matured Jacob, and finally Jacob returned home and made peace with his brother Esau.
  • Moses: Moses killed a man and fled for his life to a wilderness region the  Bible calls, “the backside of the desert.” (KJV). After spending about 40 years in the wilderness, God had matured him to the point where He could use him to lead his people out of Egyptian slavery.
  • David: As a mere teen David received God’s anointing as Israel’s next king, but he wasn’t ready to take the throne. He spend many years far from his homeland in the wilderness before God was ready to take him off the leash.
  • Paul the Apostle: Once an avowed enemy of the Christians of the first century A.D., Paul was converted to Christianity while traveling to Damascus, where he intended to have the Christians living there arrested for heresy. Paul was destined to be the greatest church planter ever known.  But before God turned Paul loose, He prepared him for a number of years in the wilderness of Arabia.
  • And finally, there’s the example of Jesus: Right after His baptism, the Bible says in Matthew 4:1 that “…Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [tested] by the devil.” (NASU). Jesus spend 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, being tempered by the temptations of the devil in order to prepare Him for the greatest task this world has ever known.

Do you find yourself in a wilderness at the moment? Tell us about it. You can never tell who might be help by hearing your story.

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, 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 –  

 

 

Got Hope?

So we had this election… And ever since, I’ve been struggling to understand the actions and attitudes of my progressive friends. The light finally went on as I listened to Michelle Obama being interviewed by Oprah earlier this month.

"'The Scream" by Edward Munch, 1893. Courtesy Creative Commons.
“‘The Scream” by Edward Munch, 1893. Courtesy Creative Commons.

Oprah asked Ms. Obama how she was feeling about the Trump election. Michelle responded, “…see, now, we are feeling what not having hope feels like.”

And there it is. Despair is in the air. Some of my progressive friends, especially those those who are dependent on the government fear that their entitlements will go away, particularly such things as Social Security and Medicare. Other progressives are afraid that their pet agendas will be a negatively impacted.

Some have said, “C’mon, it was only an election !” But to those on the left, it was much more than an election. It was an assault on their hope. As Michelle said later in the same interview, “Hope is a necessary concept.” True dat. And when people lose hope, they’re flooded by despair.

As the Bible says in the first half of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision [hope], the people perish…” (KJV). Or as Peterson’s paraphrase has it, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves…”*

I don’t know if Trump will be a good president or not. But I’m not too concerned about this as I don’t place my hope in government; my hope is in Jesus Christ. I know God is at work, and that He’s got this.

This isn’t the time to gloat, especially if we’re Christians. This is the time to reach out to those who are in despair and seek to understand the situation from their perspective. To do this, we must first be willing to listen. As David Bohm observed, “…communication can lead to the creation of something new only if people are able freely to listen to each other, without prejudice, and without trying to influence each other. Each has to be interested primarily in truth and coherence, so that he is ready to drop his old ideas and intentions, and be ready to go on to something different, when this is called for.”

Once others see that you’re sincerely interested in what interests them, you may find that others are interested in what interests you. And they might even give you an opportunity to tell them of the great hope that is in you: Jesus Christ the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, 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 –  

Election Muck and Mud

As of today, the election of the next president of United States is 11 days away. But you knew that, didn’t you? Don’t you wish it was over? What a choice we have for president!

I’m so tired of the hatred coming not only from the mouths of the

Courtesy Creative Commons/Flikr, by KAZVorpal
Courtesy Creative Commons/Flikr, by KAZVorpal

candidates, but from the people who have chosen one candidate over the other. I saw a Facebook post a few days ago from a left-leaning person who said something about getting rid of the “F-tards” and working towards removing hate from the word. I couldn’t resist. I posted back, “Isn’t it hateful to call people names? Maybe getting rid of the hatred should start with you. He who is not guilty should get to throw the first stone.”

I’m tired of the spin coming from the left-leaning media. I’m also tired of the spin coming from the right-leaning media. Our country is so divided: “I’m a progressive” or, “I’m a conservative” or, “I’m a Democrat” or, “I’m a Republican.” I understand people are different and they have differing opinions. I get that. But if my opinion differs from your opinion, if my choice for president differs from your choice, can’t we just accept each other’s differences, even if we disagree? Why not?

I have an answer for this. It’s because something within us wants to feel superior to others. I call that something “pride.” For example, pride whispers that I’m better than you because my political opinions are, of course, right, and yours are wrong, or because I caught more fish than you, or shot a bigger buck than you. Or as Mick Jagger sung so many years ago, “He can’t be a man because he doesn’t smoke the same kind of cigarettes as me” (from the Rolling Stones song, “I Can’t No Satisfaction”).

Here in Montana some have looked down on me or even thought there’s something wrong with me because instead of owning a horse and a Labrador retriever, I own a pack goat and a poodle (which, by the way, I was once told sounded like a country western song: “A Pack Goat and a Poodle.” But of course, I hate country western and I feel superior because of it. Who listens to such tripe?).

The solution is to imitate God, who is “kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” ( Luke 6:35 in part, Holy Bible, New Living Translation).

“Love is patient, love is kind and  is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, New American Updated Standard Bible translation).

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 –  

What I Learned from a Dandelion Seed

Courtesy Didier Descouens - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25711166
Courtesy Didier Descouens – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25711166

A dandelion seed floated past my window today, riding happily on random puffs of air. I started thinking (always hard for me, and usually dangerous):

The drifting dandelion seed had no idea where it was going or how long it would take to get there. Would it land on a bit of bare earth here in Montana or would it be wafted halfway around the world?  But it didn’t seem to matter to the dandelion seed. It was committed to the journey, however near  or far.

I was reminded of my journey through life. I’ve made plans about going here or there, but in the end, like that dandelion seed, all I’ve ever really done is react. The winds of life take me where they will, and I can only ride the wind.

Oh, but I forget: I can do more than just react. I can trust God. He knows the end of my journey and He will plant me just where He wants me, in His time and in His way.

I can trust God because I’ve come to know Him through His Son Jesus. Through Jesus Christ, I’ve come to know God as trustworthy. I’ve come to know Him as loving. I’ve come to know Him as kind,  that He is “…compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6-7, NASU). And I’ve come to know Him as my Great Friend.

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 –  

The Perfect Storm

Springtime in the Rockies.

Last Thursday evening started with the first BBQ of the season: grilled teriyaki chicken, paired with Jasmine rice and kale salad on the side, followed by the first thunderstorm of the year.

Photo Courtesy of Wilerson S Andrade, https://www.flickr.com/photos/will_spark/8602965815
Photo Courtesy of Wilerson S Andrade, https://www.flickr.com/photos/will_spark/8602965815

Blasting wind, horizontal rain, lightening streaking across the sky almost right overhead, and closely accompanied by house-shaking thunder. Awesome! I love a good storm. After supper my Standard Poodle and I sat out on my deck and enjoyed the show together.

Did I get wet? You bet! Did I enjoy the storm? You bet! After getting thoroughly soaked, I retreated to the house.

It was The Perfect Storm. However, perfection has its limits. A diamond can be cut perfectly, but it cannot exceed that perfection. But the perfections of God are unlimited.

How about you? Do you like a good storm? Tell me about it. Or maybe you’d just like to muse with me on the perfections of God. I’d like to hear about that, too.

Your turn –

One Mediator

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Copyright Mike Raether 2016

This morning I awoke too early. Wide awake. A single word entered my mind: Come. I tried to go back to sleep as the time on the clock was only O-Dark-Stupid-Thirty, but the word wouldn’t go away. And then another word: Obey.

Come. Obey.

And so I finally obeyed, I came, and I wrote this poem –

Here I am,

I come to Thee,

I have only but one plea,

That the Mediator died for me.

1 Timothy 2:5.

Numbed Down

Aaron Alexis of Texas was a whack job. That’s all I can conclude, although as of today law enforcement officials still have no inkling as to why Alexis sprayed bullets into a crowd of innocent people at the Washington Navy Yard in our nation’s capitol yesterday. Before police took him out, Alexis had killed 12 people and wounded three.

When I read the article yesterday in my local newspaper I thought, Yet another mass shooting. Ho-hum. But then I caught myself. Ho-hum? HO-HUM??? Where was my outrage? Where was my indignation? Where was my fury? Have I now heard of so many mass shootings that I have become heartless? Insensitive? Even numb?

And where was God? Could He not have prevented this? Could He not have prevented Newtown? And if He could have prevented these things, why didn’t He?

It’s these last four questions indie film maker Albert Salaz Jr. of Diego Productions considers in his latest film short Moretti, which competed last week at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. I was privileged to screen a prerelease version of Moretti just a few days ago.

Moretti is powerful. Moretti is thought-provoking. Moretti is outrageous. And if you’re sensitive to the F-bomb being dropped a couple of times, you’ll want to plug your ears when the bombs fall from the sky. But to me, the assault on my sensitivities was worth it. The trailer is available online (minus the F-bombs).

A fifth question occurred me as the full film concluded. If you decide to view the full version of Moretti when it’s pubically available, this question may also occur to you –

How far does the grace of God extend?

The Bear Story

The following story was written by my friend, Craig Sheppard. It is a good story to share with children, but adults will enjoy it too.  

There was once a family of bears who lived in a cave high on the side of a mountain. There was a momma bear, a papa bear and a baby bear. The mama and papa bear had one rule they taught the baby bear. The rule was never cross the big creek outside the cave, for beyond the creek lay a deep, dark forest. They reminded baby bear of the rule often. But baby bear really wanted to cross the big creek.

One day baby bear couldn’t stand it any longer. He waited until momma bear and papa bear were very busy. Then he went outside and quickly crossed the creek!

At first, baby bear thought it was exciting to be on the other side of the creek. He ran along the bank, always staying within eye distance of the cave. Then he became bolder and followed a trail he found heading into the forest. Soon it became very dark all around him. When he saw it becoming darker he became frightened. He tried to follow the trail back to the creek, but somehow he’d lost the trail. It was getting late and he finally realized he was lost. This made him more frightened and he began to cry.

As he sat and wondered what to do, he heard a noise in the woods drawing near him. This frightened baby bear even more. He was about to run away from the noise, when suddenly a big moose broke through the trees. It was just the moose that had made all the noise. The moose saw the baby bear and greeted him.

“Hi baby bear, it is nice to meet you. But what are you doing in the deep, dark forest? I thought all the papa and momma bears taught their babies not to walk in the forest.”

Baby bear said, “I’m lost, big moose, and I’m very scared. Can you tell me how to get to the big creek?”

The moose recognized baby bear as belonging to the momma and papa bear that lived in the cave on the side of the mountain. The moose told baby bear to follow him.

After a little walking baby bear heard the creek and recognized where he was. They finally came out of the dark woods and crossed the creek to his cave. Mama and Papa were worried and jumped for joy because the moose brought baby bear home. They thanked the moose greatly, and baby bear gave the moose a big hug!

To us, the world is like the forest. When we are given boundaries like the creek, we have a natural desire to go where we should not go. When we do something we shouldn’t do it feels good at first. But then we often get lost – and frightened. The moose is like Jesus Christ. He knows where we are, and if we ask Him he’ll bring us to safely back to God.

Luke 15:11-24.

God and the Great Outdoors

“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.

 

Dipper Falls
Dipper Falls

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 –