Imitation

When I was a child, I had the coolest toy!  Sitting in our yard was a fire truck.  My Dad was chief of the volunteer fire department and with that came the truck.  I spent hours on that truck pretending to be a firefighter.  I was imitating my Dad and all of the other firefighters I had seen.  When I was older, I was allowed to ride on the truck to a grass fire with them.  I will never forget the moment I got to fight fire for the first time.  We had reached a fence the fire had just crossed.  Because I was small enough to do it, I was able to take a wet toe sack and cross the fence to put out the small fire that had crossed.  I was probably 10 or so years old, but felt grown up.

It is often said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  It is also true, that imitation is a great way to learn.  Children watch and imitate the actions of others around them and thus learn many of the social skills needed in life.  The same holds true in our spiritual lives.  The Apostle Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV  Paul modeled the Christian life for the believers in Corinth.  He lived a life imitating Christ.  He tried to let the character of Christ be visible in his life.  He did this so consistently, he could tell the church at Corinth, that they could imitate him and thus would be closer to living as  Christ lived.

The challenge to us is to follow Christ, so others will see Him in us as well.  Each day, we should ask ourselves if we are living for Jesus.  Are we walking as He walked?  Are we loving as He loved?  Are we preaching repentance as He did? Only when we answer yes, can we say as Paul did, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

Love and Serve

serving

In my quiet time the other day, I was reading Our Daily Bread, and read an interesting observation on John 21:15-22. In that passage, Jesus forgives and restores Peter.  Peter had denied Jesus three times on the night of His arrest. Here, Jesus asked Peter three times to declare his love for Jesus.  The point often missed in this text is that with each profession of love came a command to serve.   Every time Peter says that he loves Jesus, and Jesus asks Peter to feed His sheep. With love came service.

Jesus wants us to both love and serve Him. Perhaps that is why He said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15 It is easy to gather every week and sing, “I love You Lord” and “My Jesus I love Thee”.  It is another thing to serve Him in our daily lives.  The Holy Spirit has given each of us gifts designed to be put to use in serving Him, His people, and His world.  When we serve motivated by love it takes our discipleship to a whole new level.  We start putting the needs of others ahead of our own needs.  We see opportunities around us every day to express our love for God and for people by serving them.

Storms

raincloud-47580_640It is often said that April showers bring May flowers.  If that is true, we are in for a bumper flower crop this year!  We have seen many days of rain and several storms this spring.  The quote is often used to remind us that the storms of today can bring future blessings.   Paul said essentially the same thing in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

It is important to pay attention to what is said.  It does not say “all things are good”.  Neither does it say, “all things will be pleasant”.  God through Paul says that “all things work together for good”.  The storms and showers of today, can bring a greater good in the future.

God is building our character.  He works to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus.  In that process, He must remove some things about us which interfere with that goal.  He must also build within us new attitudes and skills.  That process is not always pleasant.

I always struggled with visiting hospitals as a pastor.  It was not that hospitals frightened me or anything.  You see, as a teen, I wanted to become a doctor.  When I was called to preach, that dream changed.  However, there was still within me a desire to be “of tangible benefit” to people.  I felt I was doing less just visiting someone.  I felt awkward.  As a bivocaitonal pastor, I also worked as an Emergency Medical Technician.  That gave some skills which were medical related.  There was always a desire to look at the chart and “do something”.

Then, eight years ago, I became the patient.  I developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome.  GBS is a disorder which left me paralyzed in the hospital.  I received a week of treatments and then spent a month in therapy.  During that time of helplessness the calls, visits, cards, etc. were a lifeline to me.  I experienced firsthand the value of a visit.  Guess what?   Being there for me was “doing something”.  I will never again feel awkward when visiting, calling, or checking up on Facebook.

I would not volunteer to go through that again.  However, I am grateful for that storm and the growth it brought to me.

Correction

JNESS-POLICE-CARHave you ever had to confess something?  I am talking about walking up to someone, admitting you are at fault, and waiting for them to pass judgment.  I have faced those circumstances a few times in my life.  One time I particular that comes to mind happened late one night as I was coming home from college.  It was after a basketball game.  I was part of an unofficial cheering section called front row lunatics at Jacksonville College. We painted logos in our faces and yelled our lungs out cheering on our Jaguars.     As I drove through the city of Kemp, TX, I noticed red lights in my mirror.  I moved to the right lane and kept driving thinking it was and ambulance or fire truck in the distance, but they stayed behind me.  I finally realized they were waiting for me to pull over before passing.  I was stunned when they parked behind me and I discovered it was a police car.  I received my one and only ticket that night. He probably did not know what to think of me sitting there in a muscle shirt with the remnants of face paint still visible.   I don’t think he liked it when I said I assumed he was in a fire truck since his lights were all red.  In my hometown we had blue lights with the red on police cars to distinguish such things.   He gave me a ticket for the ten miles an hour too fast I was going.  That was nothing compared to when I had to tell my Dad about it.  I had to confess and throw myself on the mercy of the parental court and hope for the best.  Now that I have children I realize something I could not back then.  My Dad’s love for me and concern for my welfare tempered his discipline as he dispensed justice.

I came across these verses which jogged my memory about those times of approaching judgment. “I know, Lord, that a man’s way of life is not his own; no one who walks determines his own steps. Discipline me, Lord, but with justice — not in Your anger, or You will reduce me to nothing.” (Jeremiah 10:23-24 HCSB).

It takes faith and courage to seek out correction.  Knowing that we have a loving Father as our judge, should help us when we have sinned.  I am not saying His love causes Him to ignore our sinful choices.  I am pointing out, that in dispensing discipline, His love for us has our best interest at heart.  Principles and commands from God’s word are not there to harm or deprive us.  They are there to protect us.  When God disciplines us He seeks to correct us.  The point is never to zap us, but instead it is to get us back on the right path living the best possible life.  Jeremiah understood that and sought out God’s gentle discipline.

When we have sinned, go to God like Jeremiah and seek His gentle correction.

Let His Light Shine

Every school day around 6:20 am, I get my two children corralled into the truck and we leave for the thirteen mike trek to school. We get to do this because my daughter has choir and recorder practice early every morning. She also likes to read. Being dark in the truck at that hour, she has devised a scheme to get light by which she can read. She turns on a flashlight, and gets under her jacket or a blanket with her book.  This usually works well, but the other morning, the blanket slipped and the truck was flooded with light. I couldn’t see the road or anything but the light. It was shocking!

The impact of that light reminded me of the story of Moses spending time with God. After making the second set of stone tablets, he returned to Mount Sinai. “Moses was there with the Lord 40 days and 40 nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. He wrote the Ten Commandments, the words of the covenant, on the tablets. As Moses descended from Mount Sinai — with the two tablets of the testimony in his hands as he descended the mountain — he did not realize that the skin of his face shone as a result of his speaking with the Lord.” (Exodus 34:28-29 HCSB)

Moses had spent time with God and it showed. His face shown with God’s glory. I wonder if we reflect the glory of God like that? Perhaps our lives don’t shine with holy glory because we aren’t putting the time in with God.  There is no shortcut that I have found in this.  It takes time.  Spending time with the Lord in prayer and in His word is an investment we must make if we want to reflect His glory to the world around us.  We should want the world to see God when they look at us.  That doesn’t happen just by saying it.  We must invest the time with God.

A Tale of Two Animals

Featured image

When I was in High School, I showed animals in FFA.  One year, I had a pig named Pork Chop.  Pork Chop was the best animal I showed.  From day 1, it did exactly what I wanted.  I would touch its ear, and it would turn.  Showing Pork Chop was a dream.  Then there was Bari.  Bari was a steer.  I was so proud when I picked him out at our auction our Ag teacher had arranged.  I took Daddy to see him afterwards, and was stunned to see this massive steer trying to jump out over the top of the pen.  As the months went by, I would drag him away from the pen, and he would drag me back.  We pulled him behind vehicles, and spent hours trying to train him.  He never would break.  He never would do as I wanted.  On the day of the show, it was all I could do to hold him in place and pray he didn’t escape and kill half of Ferris.

As I remembered Pork Chop and Bari this morning in my quiet time, I thought of my walk with God.  Looking back on life, I know there were times I was as stubborn and bull-headed as Bari.  God would pull me in a direction, and I would pull the opposite way.  Other times, I have yielded to His leadership and complied without hesitation.  The times I remain submissive to His will have been far better than the other times.  Unlike my fiasco with Bari, God is able to break my stubborn will.  Ask Jonah how well running from God turns out.

If only we would be compliant to God’s will, we would save ourselves a lot of trouble.  Like Pork Chop, let us do what God wants when He wants.    Let us pray with Jesus in the model prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Infection

malwareIt happens frequently. You try to get on your computer to pay bills, and it won’t work. It won’t connect to the right website, it keeps opening popups, the problems just compound. Most likely you have a virus or malware. Time to do some cleanup work. The bulk of the tech requests I answer are related to malware.

All of that got me to thinking about why we get infestations in the first place. On the computer, it happens because we go to places we should not on the internet or open unsafe attachments. Sometimes it comes to us through deceitful links. You are trying to download something legitimate and it is surrounded by fake download ads.
That is also true of infestations of sin in our lives. We let our guard down and start moving in directions we should not. Sometimes it may start innocently, and then it proceeds from gray areas into questionable ones. Finally we end up enslaved to our sins.

James addressed this very issue in James 1:13-15 ”13 No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. 14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.” HCSB

Just as we need to be careful when online to avoid malicious programs, we need to be careful in life to avoid temptations. Sin lurks within in us just looking for a chance to lead us astray. Sometimes all it takes is song or glimpse of a television show, and our desires latch onto it and we start the “what if” game. If we are not careful to shield ourselves from them, those desires will lead to sinful thoughts and actions.

So what software is out there to protect us from the malware of sin? David wrote in Psalm 119:9-11 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. 10 I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands. 11 I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.“ HCSB God’s word is the protection for our lives. Keeping the word and treasuring it in our hearts gives us God’s perspective on situations.

Being exposed to malware and sin are inevitable. Having protection is required. Keep your spirit protected through frequent and extensive application of God’s word.