As the sun kisses the mountains this morning,
Your love kisses me.
But Your unfailing love
What can I say but
And thank You.
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.
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 –
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.
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.
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 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.
“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
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?”)