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Category Archives: Real Life

Step By Step

But at last he came to a part where it was more level and the valley opened out. And there, on the other side of the river, quite close to him, in the middle of a little plain between two hills, he saw what must be the White Witch’s House.  -C. S. Lewis The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe

Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.  -2 Samuel 11:2

For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice, And I saw among the naive, And discerned among the youths A young man lacking sense, Passing through the street near her corner; And he takes the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, In the middle of the night and in the darkness.  -Proverbs 7:6-9

And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. -Luke 15:13

Sometimes the journey can seem like progress, going up as it were, for a while. It’s just steps. Sometimes they are few and sometimes many, but they can be steps… not up, but away.

Edmund’s steps were uphill, climbing to the castle. Urged on by appetite, he was enchanted by the taste of turkish delight and the promise of his own importance. Only the witch new how to appeal to the evil within him.

David’s steps were few and easy, as he was enticed by the desires of his eyes and the lust of his own sexual desire. Sometimes it only takes a few steps, or one wrong turn, to invite disaster.

The steps of “the young” man were “lacking sense”, they were careless and carefree, and he wandered into a snare. It might have been different had his steps been purposeful. If you don’t know where you are going, you are sure to get there.

The prodigal’s steps were rebellious and manyBlinded by his own desire for independence from his father, he took a road that led to the pigsty. Independence is immaturity, maturity is interdependence.

The Christian adventure is always that -an adventure! We walk by faith, nevertheless it should always be a careful walk. There are many signs that say “come this way” each appealing to some weakness of the flesh. They promise adventure, comfort, or riches, but they may be steps away rather than steps up.

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. -Ephesians 5:15-17 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2016 in Meditation, Real Life

 

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2014 Retrospective

I watched the movie “Live, Die, Repeat” recently, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It’s kind a like a military, sci-fi version of “Groundhogs Day” but with a lot fewer laughs and a lot more action.
It got me thinking… in light of the New Year, about all the events of the last year. Many great things happened in 2014, but there were also some missteps along the way. Probably a lot like you, I said things I wished I hadn’t, and held back things I should’ve said. I was blessed to be involved in many good works, yet I’m nagged by the good things I failed to do. I’m not living with regret, I trust the Lord and his ability to make good out of even the worst of circumstances. Nevertheless, it’s important for all of us to learn from our mistakes, and to apply those lessons as we grow and move forward in our lives.

I would suggest the following retrospective questions as you consider the new year…

1. What things did I say, that didn’t need to be said?

2. Where was I dishonest, either lying, or withholding accuracy in my statements?

3. What things that I engage in that were a waste of time and energy?

4. What things did I fail to do, that would’ve been a blessing to others?

5. In what ways did my life honor the Lord, and in what ways did I dishonor Him or his name?

6. Could it be said that I loved too much, or too little?

7. Does my checkbook register accurately reflect what I believe about the Kingdom of God and His work on earth?

8. If my coworkers, or neighbors, were tasked with writing a summary of what they see in me, what would that look like?

9. Did I spend too much time in 2014 praying?

10. Do I plan on applying new lessons in 2015, or simply repeating the same old patterns?

May God bless you with His own richness in the coming year. May you know His grace, love, and peace.
– Jim

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2015 in Meditation, Real Life

 

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Running The Race, Forgetting Why.

People are running. Running for this, running for that, busy, busy, running. We are engaged in all variety of activities, be it sports, entertainment, self improvement, working, etc.

Our days are full, but for many, our hearts are empty. It’s like we are running a race with no goal in mind -a race with no finish line, and no trophy. These days everyone gets a trophy, just for running, without regard for who wins. Winning is out of fashion.

Christians ought to take caution with this mentality. Life is not just about living. We are engaged in a battle, and it’s a battle with purpose. Not everyone wins. Many die. We can be so consumed with the enjoyment of running and the few dividends along the way that we settle for the lesser purpose -the run.

One time (long ago) someone paid me an unusual compliment. They said: “you have good form when you run.” It’s a true story! Now, I’ve never been a tremendous athlete, but I’ve been proud of that compliment from that day to this. We can be so tricked into pride, so content with accomplishment, that the self-satisfaction of form begins to be the goal.

There is a great story hidden in the pages of the Old Testament, one that I learned and have taught many times. On the occasion of the death of David’s son Absalom, someone needed to run and tell the king, the terrible news. This man Ahimaaz insisted on running, he wanted to be the bearer of the news. As the story goes, in 2 Samuel 18, he evidently had a lot of skill in running. His “form” was good, recognizable from a distance. But when he got to the end of his race, he failed with the purpose of his effort.

The king said, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” And Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king’s servant, and your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was.” 2 Samuel 18:29

He ran for the glory of the run. He accomplished nothing.

“Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” -Ecclesiastes 2:11

Friend, be careful that you are not running without the goal of victory.
Now, when it comes to life and death, we know that Jesus is our victory, our only hope, and we rest in that. However, salvation is not intended to produce in us a laziness. Spiritual laziness is foreign to our faith.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” -Hebrews 12:1

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” -1 Corinthians 9:24-27

At the end of our race, there will be winners and losers, and only one laurel will be awarded -to those who ran the race well, with the purpose of the Master. There will be no rewards for good intentions, or worldly accomplishments -none.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ -Matthew 25:21

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Meditation, Real Life, Teaching

 

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New Years

Wednesday marks 28 years of living without drugs and alcohol in my life.
They have been good years. This Spring will be my 27th year of life with Christ –something even better.
I like to look back, remembering pretty vividly what the occasions of change looked like.
Both were at my own bedside, in my room, alone.
The first found me loaded, empty, and ready to end my life. (thankful every day that I didn’t pull the trigger)
Rehab was good, after all, I didn’t really want to die.

I found, however, that the alcohol, the drugs,… the sex… none of that was the real cause of the pain that I felt.
It was there, even after the fog of those things were gone. They were just symptoms of the greater disease of sin.
That was what I had to face on that Spring day,… there was still something missing.
In the morning I gave my life to Jesus. It was the best decision of my life.
It’s a moment forever burned into my heart.

It’s good to look back. What I see is a good God, who loved me, and gave His life for mine.
His death, that I might live.

Like George Bailey, who got to see a vision of what life would have been like if he hadn’t lived, I look back and consider what might not have been. I look at my lovely wife, my glorious daughters, my friends, the church, -and I’m so thankful.
Like the line from the Talking Heads song “Once In A Lifetime,” I ask myself, “well, how did I get here?”
Yeah, I know how I got here. And I know that the Lord is going to continue to lead me and bless my life.

I hope you find yourself in the care of the Lord this year. If not, pray the prayer and ask Him to forgive you of your sin. Ask Him to come in and rearrange your life. He will do it.
If you find yourself in the grip of addiction, like I was, ask for help.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Alcohol & Drug Abuse, Real Life

 

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“Why God, Why?”

The tragic murders at Sandy Hook Elementary have spawned a lot of questions. Reading through tweets and Facebook posts, you see a variety of responses. I’ve answered some questions privately, and tried to make some comments on friends posts, but I wanted to give what I think is a biblical perspective, answering as best I can, the “why” question.

The real answer to these things will either make sense to you or not, but it likely depends on your faith, and the philosophy you hold to regarding the nature of man. Most likely, your beliefs about the nature of man will, in turn, be dependent upon your beliefs about the nature of God.

The bible makes both the nature of man, and the nature of God clear. Man, in his fallen state is utterly sinful.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote: “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? –Jer 17:9 Of course, the bible is filled with verses that say this same thing, over and over.
Yet, most people, even people of christian background, believe that most people are basically good.
The scripture knows nothing of that reasoning, quite the contrary, we are all sinners.

Correspondingly, the bible declares God good. Well, not just good, but the very essence of love, truth, and goodness. Thousands of years ago, God spoke to Moses and declared Himself the following way:  “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” –Ex 34:6-7

It’s the sin of man that we see rear it’s head in naked full force with events like Sandy Hook, or the Clackamas, Oregon shooting. It’s a sickness of heart that caused a young man to arm himself and open fire on movie goers in Colorado. It’s the same sickness that we see in the images of terror attacks like 911, or the holocaust.
We can either ignore this fact and treat symptoms, or we can put our man pants on and address it like men.
Whatever you philosophy, bear with me.

It was not guns, video games, bullying, or any other symptom that caused any of these tragedies.
Men use their hands, knives, guns, poison, and even airplanes to accomplish evil.
…it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. –Gen 4:8
Cain likely accomplished his murder with a club or stone, and he needed no motive other than jealousy.
It’s been that way since the beginning of time. What Cain needed, and what all men need, is a remedy for sin, something to actually address the wickedness of our hearts.

I remember the day that I realized that I was a sinner, not just a “bad boy” but I was the devil that I feared.
With a motive of stealing some drugs, a buddy and I were in the process of breaking into an apartment of a known drug dealer. We pried open a bedroom window, and he lifted me up to crawl in… I’ll never forget the instant I locked eyes on the toddler who’s bed I was suspended above. It broke my heart, realizing that I was the bad guy that as a little kid I often imagined was at my bedroom window.

Later, I came to realize that there is a vast gulf fixed between sinful man and righteous God. He is willing to forgive the sin of man, but He has given us a prescribed way that that sin needs to be dealt with. The problem is, if you reject the idea of your own sinfulness, or the biblical nature of man, you will never submit yourself to the purpose of God. And, you will never arrive at the answer to the question, “why?”

In His sovereignty God allows sinful man to choose his own path, and his own future, including his final destination. When men choose to reject God to the degree and finality that some do, the consequences are tragic. Sin, left unchecked, always brings about death.

Friend, I hope that you understand these things. I hope that you have put your faith in Christ and asked Him to forgive you for your sins. This is the plan of God, to redeem man, by the sacrifice of His Son Jesus.
Through this act of turning to God in faith, you can have your nature changed from within. The scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit comes to reside within the believer. This is truly the only hope of mankind, –a spiritual transformation from within. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  –Romans 8:13-14

Unfortunately, as we live in a world that is spiritually at war with God, we will continue to see tragic events like what has happened recently in our country, until the Prince Of Peace comes to rule on earth.
Until then, it’s our job as believers, to help transform the world, bringing the good news of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ to every human on the planet. But, it has to start with you.

I welcome your comments and questions.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Culture, Evangelism, Real Life

 

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What “Amish Mafia” Teaches Us

John, Alvin, Levi, & Jolin -the Amish Mafia

John, Alvin, Levi, & Jolin -the Amish Mafia

I know, it’s a crazy title isn’t it, “Amish Mafia,” really? It’s the one that the Discovery Channel folks gave to their new shocking reality series about the inner workings of a gang of thugs who protect the interests of a group of Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It was promoted well enough, that I had to watch!

I’ve watched two episodes of the show, and I have to admit, the title that Discovery gave it, fits well.
Every episode chronicles this gang, led by “Lebanon Levi” as they investigate accusations of wrongdoing, dole out vigilante justice, and profit handsomely for the protections they provide to their Pennsylvania-Dutch community.

Like a lot of the Discovery Channel and History Channel “reality shows” this one is based upon real people and the real things that they do. One of the compelling aspects of these shows, is that the viewer (or rubbernecker), learns about people and cultures of which they might otherwise be unaware. Just as shows like “Deadliest Catch” have given us a deeper appreciation for king crab, and an understanding of why it’s costlier than gold, Amish Mafia shows us a world heretofore unimagined.

When I think Amish, perhaps like you, I think of a quiet, reserved, people living out a faith in a cloistered yet idyllic environment belonging to a bygone era. I think of hardworking people, who typify the Pauline exhortation to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands –1 Thess 4:11 (NASB)

Man, was I ever wrong.

What Amish Mafia shows us, is the ugly underbelly of a religious community trapped in a cultural heritage that has an appearance of propriety but practices that are no different than what they refer to as the “English” world.
In the two episodes that I watched, I saw gun-toting, redneck cussing, and greedy gang members behaving similarly to inner city street gangs. I saw the non-gang members engaged in acts of collusion, secrecy, adultery, gossip, slander, and more, -even secret parties where licentiousness was condoned with profit, and inner lusts were given temporary sanction.

What can we learn from watching? Something very significant I think. What the Amish, and specifically this shock Discovery offering shows us, is the utter impotence of religion. (gasp)
The Amish have all the trappings of religion, but it’s merely a form having no substance.
They have restrictions on dress, conduct, ethics, and all kinds of moral trappings -all based on isolated and un-contextulaized scriptures. They go to church faithfully, and have a high regard for church authority, and supposedly, for God Himself.

The lifestyle illustrated vividly by the Amish, or any religious cult, show us the inability of religion to transform the human soul, let alone temper sin. Rather, religion only casts a shroud on it.
And the following verses are proven:

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit –Romans 8:2-4 (NASB)

The only thing that can truly transform the human soul is the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God does not work in the efforts of human religion. The transformative, empowering, work of the Spirit of God, is imparted to those who, by faith in the person and work of Jesus, yield themselves to His magnificent grace in love.

Did you watch the show? If so, what was your takeaway?

 

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Culture, Real Life

 

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This Land Is Your Land.

Like a lot of conservatives, this week’s election has left me kind of scratching my head.
There are so many issues that divide our nation, and many of them were voted on Tuesday.
I’d like to lay out what the American populace chose, the way I see it.
It’s therapy for me, you will either find it interesting or infuriating.

1. America chose to maintain the right to kill her babies. The Democratic party did a good job demonizing Mitt Romney in swing states, instilling fear that he would take away a woman’s right to choose. (to kill her baby) Of course it’s not true, at this point that is in the hands of the Supreme Court, and it’s unlikely to change.
At any rate, it worked, this is a very important voting issue for most folks, on either side.

Personally, I would like to see abortion go away. It’s murder of the most vulnerable and innocent. For convenience, we look the other way, and what we allow, trying to cover our eyes and ears, we would not allow to happen to a frog. Imagine if I made a video in which I ripped off the limbs of a live frog. I could do it in a clinical setting, then discard the remains in a dumpster. What if I posted it on youtube? Can you imagine the outrage from the animal rights activists? It would make that anti-Muslim video that gave us the tragedy of Benghazi (wink, wink) look like a legit documentary!

As a nation, we chose to embrace a postion that is entirely against “nature and nature’s God.” There is nothing more engrained in human DNA, especially the makeup of a woman, than to nurture and care for a baby. It’s something wired into them. When a mother, and complicit father, violate that natural programming, the emotional and mental trauma is certain. Violating the conscience is a seriously damaging thing. This is why those who have chosen this path live with guilt and regret for the rest of their lives. What they have tried to do with that guilt, is just legalize it away. The problem is the DNA. Though they deny the legitimacy of the unborn child, the facts remain … living human beings are slaughtered in the name of convenience, and we know it.

2. America, or at least the great state of King County, WA chose to modify the definition of marriage, and further embrace homosexuality as normal and healthy.
Now, it doesn’t matter what opponents of gay marriage say, they have been labeled as haters. I know there are some fringe groups that do use hate speech, name calling, etc. It’s unfortunate everyone gets lumped together, as there are many opponents of gay marriage that I find I have very little in common with. They say we want to infringe on others rights to live how they want and practice whatever sexual expression they desire. But the referendum that just passed, didn’t really have anything to do with rights, it had to do with definition. What the homosexual community wanted, and got, was a redefinition of marriage that included them.
Isn’t it interesting, this is exactly what the pro-choice crowd wants –legitimacy.
So now, after thousands of years, marriage will be defined as “any ol’ couple at all.”
I don’t hate homosexuals. I don’t approve of their practice, but I don’t hate them any more than I hate drug addicts. Here is why I think it’s wrong…

The most obvious thing to the critical mind, is that the plumbing just does not work. That thing, was not designed to go there… period! Yes, I said designed, as in Designer. God designed you and your body to function a certain way. Sex and procreation are included. Yes there are many ways to have physical sexual pleasure, but clearly the designer intended one way in particular. It doesn’t take an engineer to figure this out.
So, you might say, “well, I don’t believe in a designer.” That’s fine, but you realize you cannot then run to evolution don’t you? If you believe that homosexuality is normal and healthy… that logic doesn’t work so well.
Remember, much of what evolutionists believe is based on Darwin’s “survival of the fittest.” Are you following me? Homosexuality simply doesn’t work in an evolutionary model. If you take a dozen homosexuals and put them on a desert island and leave them for a generation … they disappear.

The problem is spelled out very clearly in the scriptures. The Apostle Paul gave us a very clear understanding of the practice of homosexuality in Romans chapter one. Here is what he has to say: ”

“women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error” –Rom. 26 (partial) & 27 (emphasis mine)

So, biblically as well as naturally, what America is choosing to embrace and advance, in both cases, is unnatural and violates God’s design. How do you think that is going to work out? What if I decided to exchange my motor oil for antifreeze, putting the oil in my engine, and antifreeze in my radiator? The car might work for a short while, but eventually it would seize up. It would be ruined.

3. America has decided it’s good to get high.
Again, not every state got to vote on legalizing marijuana, but we did. We are embracing it wholeheartedly.
I know christians who voted for it based on economic reasons. That’s great thinking, “get out of the fiscal crisis by mortgaging the future health of our kids” -brilliant! I have lots of experience with pot. I started with alcohol, but marijuana is the gateway drug, and it opened the door to many others, and it ruined a good portion of my young life. As a pastor and counselor, I’ve seen it over and over for years and tears. Literally.
Marijuana is really no different in my mind than alcohol as far as inebriation is concerned, and soon it will be available legally. What’s the difference between Johnny smoking a little bud, and his old man who has a couple of glasses of wine? Nada.
The scripture says, “don’t be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.” –Eph. 5:18
The problem isn’t “getting high” it’s getting addicted. Welcome to the future America. Here’s a tip: when Shick Shadel goes public, buy stock, -it’s a winner.

So here is what we are doing. We are embracing unnatural and God forbidden behavior, legitimizing it, and calling it good. Well, that is easier to do when you are stoned.

This land is your land, but increasingly, and eventually, it’s not mine.

I welcome reasonable argument or discussion on these things.

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2012 in Abortion, Homosexuality, Politics, Real Life

 

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