A Man of Your Word

This weekend was the county fair.  My children have been participating in 4-H for the last several years (as their ages have permitted them to join).  As a child I don’t ever really remember hearing about 4-H.  However, as a parent I have really come to enjoy this organization.  As a home school parent, I think that 4-H has many benefits for my children.  It permits them to have social interaction with other kids their age.  It gives us as parents many teaching opportunities that are not necessarily afforded in the public school system.  Our science projects can revolve around raising rabbits.  I can do shop with the boys as I teach them how to build birdhouses, bird feeders, and other larger projects as they get older. We use the resources available to us to teach them how to sew.  But perhaps best of all we can teach them about the importance of the 4-Hs; heart, health, head and hands.

The 4-H pledge is as follows:  “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.”

The 4-H creed is as follows: I believe in 4-H Club work for the opportunity it will give me to become a useful citizen.  I believe in the training of my HEAD for the power it will give me to think, plan and to reason.  I believe in the training of my HEART for the nobleness it will give me to be kind, sympathetic and true.  I believe in the training of my HANDS for the ability it will give me to be helpful, skillful, and useful.  I believe in the training of my HEALTH for the strength it will give me to enjoy life, to resist disease, and to work efficiently.  I believe in my country, my state, and my community and in my responsibility for their development. In all these things I believe, and am willing to dedicate my efforts to their fulfillment.

This year however has not been a great year for our 4-H experience.  Yes, my kids enjoyed fair.  However, my wife and I have become discouraged by our 4-H group.  It seems odd to me that these kids can come in and say a pledge about what they are willing to do, what they are willing to dedicate their energy towards and then see such minimal effort in doing so.  While I learned our 4-H group did well at fair, the pledge was not just for self-improvement bur for the betterment of my club, my community, my country and my world.  In the past year we have seen nothing from our group that suggests that they are interested in the betterment of our community, country and world.

I am reminded of Num. 30:1-2  “This is what the Lord has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”  The reality is, we all have made vows and promises that we fail to keep.  We promise to make a phone call, take the trash out, do the dishes, etc and it slips our minds.  We pass these off as no big deal.  But this can leads us down a darker path.

What happens if we say we will be faithful until death.  Will we one day not consider this vow as important?  Will we love in sickness and health?  We will love for better or worse?  When we are twitterpated it is easy to say.  But when sickness comes, when worse comes many run to the arms of another.

What happens when we tell God that we are ready to take up our cross and follow His Son, are we truly ready?  Do we start and then fail to follow through?  For many that is the case.

Words are fine and dandy, but the mean nothing if you are unwilling to follow through.  Let us be men and women of our word.  Men and women of action.

 

 

There is a Better Way

copboyhugI can hardly believe just days after five police officers were gunned down in Dallas that as I was worshiping my God Sunday morning three more police officers were gunned down in Baton Rouge.  This hatred that is brewing on our country is frightening.  I didn’t grow up watching the violence of the sixties.  I didn’t get to see what happened in Selma.  And I was thankful for that.  But, my children are not going to have that same luxury.  War is upon us.  It is a war that our nation hasn’t seen.  There will no be clearly divided lines like we had in our Civil War.  We won’t see a state secede from the union.  But we will see brother against brother.  We already are.

This war could have been avoided.  Sadly, our nation has forgotten the principles that should have kept this war from happening.  While I am certain that many out there will blame Christianity for the tragedies that have happened, it is not God’s fault,  If Christianity is to blame it is because Christians failed.  We have failed to uphold true genuine Christianity.

We have failed to cast racism to the curb.  I hate the word racism.  I hate it because even the word implies something that I don’t believe in.  It implies that there is more than one race.  But, the bible teaches that we are all one flesh.  “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one flesh of men (I Cor. 15:39)”.  Do you see what Paul is saying?  There is only one flesh of men.  The desire to classify men into different races is anti-God.  God forbid any Christian would see in another person anything but another human being.  We should be teaching our children to see the inward character of a man and not his outward appearance.  “But Jehovah said unto Samuel, look not on hips countenance, or the height of his stature… for Jehovah sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart (I Sam. 16:7).”

We have failed to stand up for the oppressed.  This is the cry of the black lives matter movement.  While I do not agree with their entire message I do understand why they feel the way they do.  For too many in our county  if they walk not a 711 they are being watched because of the color of their skin.  For too many, they have been unfairly judged.  When Rodney King was unfairly beaten in 1992 it started the LA riots.  I saw then what I again am seeing today.  Too many so-called Christians are assuming because there is one rotten apple, all the apples must be rotten.  I have seen Facebook post after Facebook post of Christians failing to stand up for the oppressed.  This was one of many reasons God’s wrath was visited upon the nation of Israel.  “Learn to do good; seek justice; correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless; plead for the widow (Isa. 1:17).”  Have we turned a blind eye to justice?  Have we stood up for all the oppressed, or just the ones that look like us in the mirror?  To stand up for the oppressed doesn’t mean that we have to say that cops are evil.  It doesn’t not mean we have to give free handouts to anyone.  It does however mean that if a person, regardless of skin color, is being treated poorly we need to stand up for them.  We need to speak out when no one else will.

We have failed to seek peace.  In the greatest sermon ever preached Jesus said that peacemakers will be called the sons of God.  A peacemaker is not just someone who is peaceful.  He is a person that spreads peace.  Many of the comments I have been reading and hearing are not going to bring peace.  They incite frustration, anger, and hostility.  Both sides of this “war” are being bull-headed and unwilling to bend.  They aren’t looking for peace, they are looking for their way.  We need to be sowing the seeds of peace.

 

 

 

Our Nation Needs God’s Love

I have been living in Iowa for six years.  In the process I have no gone through two nomination cycles for the presidency.  And if I can say one thing I don’t really like about Iowa it is the election season.  I know for most of you come November the election season will be over for roughly 2-3 years.  For those of us in Iowa, election season begins anew in December.  It is not being first in the nation that really bothers me.  It isn’t the opportunities to meet the next president that bothers me.  (In fact, I think it is rather neat to know that the little town I live in was visited by multiple presidential candidates.  What bothers me about election season is politics.  It doesn’t really matter who it is.  Every politician is trying to win your votes.  Anymore, it seems like they view getting your vote as their primary job.  They do this with a variety of platforms that they stand on.  And without fail, every other candidate that is running against them has either failed to maintain that platform or is standing on the wrong one.  And I tragedy strikes it just gives them another opportunity to explain how their platform is right or how if they were in office these types of things wouldn’t happen.

What happened last week was tragic.  It was tragedy for all involved. For the 12 officers who were shot, for the five who died as a result.  For the 12 families that were forever impacted by one man’s actions.  For the blacklives movement that now has a really, really dark event of violence associated with it.  Despite what Clinton and Trump and other political activist might say, there is only one answer for how to fix our nation… the answer is God.

Christians did not create the mess.  God did not create this mess.  It is a nation that turned its back on God, morality, and love that has enabled this nation to wax worse and worse.  Never, in the history of mankind has it blossomed because it failed to recognize God.  Why does this matter?  Why should the recognition of God help to change our broken nation?  Because the God of the bible is a loving God.  John defines him as love in I John 4:7.  In fact, John uses this to explain the quintessential character of every Christian.

1 John 4:7-11  (KJV)

[7] Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. [8] He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. [9] In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. [10] Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. [11] Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

Because God loved us we are supposed to love each other in the same capacity.  Love is not seeing skin color.  Love is not seeing rich or poor.  Love is not seeing man or woman.  Man is treating everyone equally.  Love is showing compassion, mercy, understanding.  Love is giving of oneself.  Love is making that personal sacrifice of what I want, what I need, and letting someone else receive.  In the midst of these trials I am not seeing that.  I am seeing that we need gun control.  We need sensitivity training.  We need to stop being disrespectful and so on.  I actually watched one video that broke my heart.  I listened to a man that stated that the reason he was taught to respect police officers is that they might shoot you.  I was heart broken. Is this really the world we live in?  Is the only reason we should respect another regardless of badge, color of skin, etc. fear?  Why can’t I respect the officer because I love him?  Because I appreciate his sacrifice?  And vice versa.  What happened to our police force that some of them have carried themselves in such a way that racism is a motive?   (and let us not kid ourselves it is for some.).  What is so hard about treating everyone with the same dignity?  Love and respect?  What is so hard about viewing a man for who he is and not walk he looks like?  God help us all.

Don’t Read Into Everything

skyIf you ask my parents they will tell you I over analyzed everything as a kid.  I was so bad they nicknamed me Spock.  I was talking to my brother the other day about it and joked that my childhood idol was probably Jeff Goldbloom because I sounded more like him when I felt the need to evaluate or explain something that someone else had done or said incorrectly.  This trait comes in nicely at times because I will study passages of scripture intently.  I refuse to come to class unprepared.  My sermons are likely over prepared more than underprepared.  (This is not to say that I am a great preacher or great orator for that matter).  It just means that I feel the need to look at everything from every angle and often times share that with everyone.

This need to analyze everything sometimes backfires.  For instance, on the 4th of July this year I decided to take my family out for breakfast.  I really don’t remember the last time. I had done this.  We hit a local restaurant, which I won’t mention on here, and my reward was food poisoning.  I have never had food poisoning before and if you never have had it, be thankful.  It is awful.  It is also the reason this post is coming out today and not yesterday.  I was too sick to even think about writing.  Now, my over analytical mind was hard at work.  I recently started training for my bigger race yet, a 25K which is roughly 2.5 miles longer than a half marathon.  Was this food poisoning a warning to not eat out until after my race is run?  When my wife called the manager of this restaurant, he didn’t immediately return our call.  Was this proof that he didn’t care?  Was this proof that he was okay with poisoning his patrons?  Or worse yet, he never got the message because the waitress refused to give the owner the message.  What if she was sabotaging the owner?  This is what happens when you over analyze everything.  You end up end doom’s day scenarios.  The reality is, I just got sick.  It was not a message from God.  It was not the owner being neglectful.  (He called back twice after we missed the first phone call and offered to pay the hospital bill)

My friends, it is easy to over analyze what people say and do to you. I have seen too often people getting worked up about some doom’s day scenario that was cooked up in their own minds.  What if she didn’t say hi to me because deep down she really hates me and wants to see my fired?  What if she is lying to my boss and that is why she only smiled at me.  I know it I am going to be fired tonight.  And so on.  Sometimes the smile is just a smile.  Sometimes people have things on their minds.  Sometimes we just read into way too much.  So, when you get to bible class tonight, or to worship Sunday morning, or to work in the morning, just remember no one really is out to get you.  Take a deep breath and know that something less sinister is afoot.