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Sunday, March 27, 2011

What am I to do with these People? - Moses talking to God about the Jews

     We went to a Men's Retreat this weekend.  Despite my being sick I went on faith with the hopes that the weekend would not be the end of me, but help to invigorate my spirit.  It is a yearly event and we can usually get about twenty or thirty of the guys to go, its quite an experience in a very beautiful setting.  This year we were plagued by foul weather, but I believed it was the will of God to keep us inside talking to each other instead of separating and doing our outdoor activities, simply put, God wanted us to be fisher's of men, not so much fisher's of fish.  Our days were split up between meals and free time with lectures throughout the day.  Our Pastor gave one of the lectures on Moses and the book of Exodus.  I give the credit for this bloggable to him because it was his idea and I am simply expanding on that idea, and here it is....

     There is a little story with what could be considered a big impact in the book of Exodus.  This particular story is about the Israelites fighting the Amelikites, lets call them the big A's versus the little J's.(Exodus 17:8-16)  The big A's had a large army, and should have easily defeated the little J's.  But there was one thing that the little J's had on their side, the Big G.  The indepth story of Exodus is that the Jew's were freed from slavery by the adopted prince of the Pharoah, Moses, who took them to the promised land, where they waffled about what they wanted to do at every turn.  They wandered around the desert for forty years, waffling, until the army of Amalek came upon them.  These were a large people, who greatly outnumbered the jews.  It truly is a great underdog story, because the big A's should have wiped up the dessert with these people.  But before the battle began, Moses said to Joseph, who would eventually be the one who took the jews to the promised land, and who actually met Jesus, thats right, Jesus, more on that in another blog, 'Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites.  Tomorrow I will stand on top of a hill with the staff of God in my hands.'  Joshua did as he was commanded, but Moses was a great leader, he was taught leadership by the Pharoah's of Egypt after all, he was a Prince for a while.  Moses went atop the hill to watch the battle and hold high the staff of God, the same staff that broke the stone and made water, the same staff that turned into a serpent in front of Pharoah, the very same staff that parted the Red Sea.  But Moses was an old man, he was about eighty at the time, so being wise, he took Aaron and Hur with him atop the hill.  Everytime that Moses grew weary and lowered the staff the big A's would start winning, and when he held it high, the little J's would win.  So Aaron and Hur seeing Moses grow tired placed a rock under him so he could sit, and they held his hands up on either side until sunset.  By doing this Joshua was able to defeat the much larger army.  So what does all this mean in modern terms, how can we relate to this......

     Moral-  Pastor John used this message to tie in with the male aspect of how we need each other, how we need to support one another.  You see, in life and in all things, we cannot accomplish anything alone.  God never intended Man to be alone, he first gave him a woman, we see how that worked out, settle down ladies.  But God has always intended His people to be relational, to be in community.  You see, we all strive to live a life like Jesus, but Christ being God is an unobtainable goal, we should strive to be more like Moses, just a very smart man.  Moses was not perfect, he was alot like us in some ways, flawed, and in no way wanted to accept the things God wanted him to do, ring a bell with any of you.  But being a smart man Moses learned that the will of God is more powerful than our own will, and indeed our own strength.  But not if we remain in community with one another, we can hold each other up, rest up, and in community, could hold that staff up high as long as we wanted to if it was the will of God.  In community is the only time we can fully accomplish the will of the Lord.  We must be willing like Moses was to realize that we cannot handle a task like holding up a stick all day by ourselves, and that sometimes in our lives, even the simplest of chores may require us to humble ourselves to ask for help.  But here is our ultimate flaw.  How many of us want to be Aaron or Hur?  It is not within the true male spirit to sit atop a hill and watch the battle from afar holding up an old mans arms, WE WANT TO BE THE WARRIORS, we want to be Joshua.  That will be the hardest part of this lesson, we can't all be Joshua, we can't all be the warriors, even though God filled us with a warriors spirit.  Sometimes we can't be the lead actor on the stage, we must accept that we are the guy who pulls the chord to let the curtain up and down.  What this really means is, not only do we need to be able to ask for help from our brothers, but we must be willing to be helpers too.  How many of us can say we are always there for or Christian brothers 24/7?  The harsh reality is, we are seldom there enough for our wife and kids, let alone or church family.  We are far too involved in our own things, and in those things, doing it by ourselves.  Learning to be accountable and learning to accept help from others is the only way we can ever win any of these life battles.  How long will you stand and hold that staff until you are so tired you can no longer do so?  A battle can never be won when fought by one.  How long will you wander in the dessert, waffling about?  I write these things to lift your spirits, who among you will even admit to reading it, I have a community of anonymous, I am not Moses, I am Aaron or Hur, who are you?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Only Thing We have to Fear is........Fear of that zombie hidden in our closet that wants to kill us at night while we sleep alone in an empty house!!!

Fear.  That's it.  Fear

Fear is defined as an aversion to a person, place, activity, event, or object that causes emotional distress and often avoidance behavior.

     Ok, so what is it.  In the purest of viewpoints it is what drives our everyday lives.  It dictates our schedules, our relationships, and even our love itself.  Fear can put us in such a state that we cannot function otherwise without first considering our fear.  It is amazing sometimes that we can even function at all with each other based on our collections of fears in our communities.  Fear is what makes you lock your doors, hide your money, keep your kids indoors, limit driving, limit interactions with others, and even limit the love we have for others.  

     And lets look at that a little closer.  We limit our feelings towards our fellow men and women based on our fears, whatever they may be.  If we limit our feelings towards them, do we not also limit our feelings towards God himself.  Are we the type of people that say I Love God completely, knowing full well that we do not mean it, knowing that our all knowing Lord knows we don't mean it completely.  So if that is true, why do we even say it, are we afraid of what anyone would think of us if we said that yes I limit my feelings toward Christ based on my fear.  Truth is, no one would ever say that, and sadder is the truth that most of us feel like this.  Imagine when you walk into a social setting, church for example, and someone asks 'how are you?', what is usually your response.  You lie, you and I always lie.  What are we afraid of?  How is it that we are less afraid of the judgment of the Lord than we are the judgment of our brothers and sisters.  Why do we care so much what other people seem to think of us, and so little about what our God thinks of us, shouldn't it be the other way around?  

     Are you afraid of snakes?  Why?  Are you afraid of heights?  Why?  Are you afraid of cats? Why?  Are you afraid of society?  WHY?  

     Here is the ultimate conclusion in my eyes.  Let me see if this can help you with your everyday fear.  It 'IS' the fear of the Lord that drives all of our other fears.  It is the fear of death itself that is the foundation of all our other fears, no matter how big or little they are.  It is ultimately our fear of dying and facing the judgment of God, and God alone.  So considering that, do these other fears even exist?  Your faith in fear is not unlike your faith in the foundation of your governments monetary system.  Money is just paper, you trust your government, and that trust puts a value on the money itself.  A one hundred dollar bill is just a piece of cotton with the numbers 100 printed on them, it has no value, it has no meaning except the value you place on it, if you believe it, it is so.  The same can be assumed of our fear.  We place all of our emphasis on our fears.  We let our fears tell us what we can and cannot do, where we can and cannot go, every aspect of our lives is based on whether or not we have the courage to do it.  So if we place a value on our fear, doesn't it become that much greater, do we not empower it with qualities it does not have?  If we were to put a whole bunch of counterfeit bills in the world would that not devalue money itself, you would not know what was real or fake, the system would collapse.  Can't we do that with our fear, realize that fear is an emotion, it is not real, it has no value.  You feel happy, you feel sad, and you feel afraid.  Why do we live lives based on the negative aspects of our emotions, should not the want and desire to be happy be what dictates our schedule?  But it isn't.  We are a collection of addictions and fears.  

     And here is the final thought.  We claim to be Christians.  We claim to love our God and believe in his son Jesus Christ.  We believe in the trinity and the resurrection do we not?  If we truly believe that, if that is the life we are trying to achieve, what is there to be afraid of anyway?


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I am not freakin Lion

     This is one that has been roaming around the empty skull for quite a while trying to find a proper moral.  Due to recent events it got me to thinking about it.

     Have you ever watched Animal Planet or Discovery and watched a pride of lions.  It is a very interesting social system.  From whether the pride is ruled by one male or by three teaming together, all the work is done by the female lions, all the males really do is make sure no other males come into the territory.  But specifically, have you ever watched lions at a kill.  Most channels will not show you the horror of a lion kill.  The brutality is too aweful to watch sometimes, the fact that the animal is basically still alive when the lions begin to consume it, how they go after the high nutrient items in the body first, namely the organs, horrifically the first thing consumed is the sexual organs.  But I am not here to gross you out with this, what I am trying to do is give you the appropriate visual.  Imagine a group of lions at a kill, what is it they usually do, not even really usually, it is like this at every kill.  They fight.  The scratch, bite, claw, and do everything you can imagine to hurt each other so that the best portions of the kill can go into their stomachs.  The weaker and smaller lions have to wait in the outskirts because it is not uncommon to be killed themselves if they try to interfere.  The icing on the cake is if the males that rule the pride come along, they will kill any female or young that even attempts to keep him from taking the entire meal for himself.  How can we relate such a gruesome spectacle of nature into our everyday lives, like this...

     Moral- We most commonly see this in the workplace, but it can be applied to any social setting where there is a hierarchy involved.  We encounter people in our jobs who behave just like the lions, the will do anything they can to get ahead.  That promotion, that raise, the better office, the company car, the best office location, there is nothing they will not do to achieve these things.  These are the people who are all about the here and now, the brass ring.  They want what they think is the good life, and they want it when they are young.  The enemy among us convinces us that these are the things that we want in life, and we are actually looked at in society as failures if we do kick and scratch like a bunch of lions at the kill.  Often times it even seems as if the people that we work for look for the lions when it comes to promotion time, they want that aggressiveness, killers mean profits, profits satisfy the here and now for them.  So what are we to do as the meek and mild turn the other cheek Christians, is this the life God wants for us, is this who He wants us to be?  How is a humble Christian supposed to get ahead in this world?  The answer- we can't.  I wish that I had a better answer for you, but the reality is, we can't get ahead unless we become a lion.  Clearly, from scripture we know that this is not the life Christ had in mind for us, it is not the life He wants us to lead.  "You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers (Matt. 24:9).  I highly recommend reading in Matthew 20 the parable of the vineyard workers.  Do not be jealous that sometimes the world is kind to those we don't think are worthy of it, Jesus said 'So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.' (Matt 20:16)  There is no comfort is the bloggable, it is not written to give you that warm fuzzy feeling, its the truth.  We have to live lives not seeking the things that society claim as valuable, but seek those things that God deems valuable, and God will give us what we need.  The harder you strive to swim against the current of the river you will find the more you either stay in place and go nowhere, or, you will eventually see that you are moving backwards.  God wants us to swim with the current, His current, and when we do, we find that there is little effort actually involved in order to get where He wants us to be.  No amount of amassing wealth or posessions of this earth will we be able to take with us.  At your funeral they will not read your bank statement.  Your wealth is in the Kingdom of Heaven, your reward is there for your faithful service.  Try to imagine this, every strike that Jesus took for you will be the bad times you will have in your life, and like Him, we must sometimes endure pain to achieve glory.  No one talks about how many promotions you got in your Eulogy.  No one really cares how much money you will leave behind either, and the one's that do, are lion through their teeth.  JT

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Giving up is for Quitters

     It is that time of year again folks.  Fat Tuesday followed immediately by the sobering and hungover Ash Wednesday.  In many religions across the globe most Christian beings will observe a time of Lent.  The meaning of Lent is quite simple, you give up something that you really like or enjoy for forty days and nights.  The cheaters quit something that they seldom do, because our Lord loves it when we take the easy road.  But the true meaning of this time is to reflect on what Jesus did in the desert.  Before He went forth with the Gospel Jesus spent forty day and nights in the desert to be tempted by the devil.  I cannot imagine all that the devil did during that time, but I am sure it was quite vivid and would take a Saviour to not eat or drink and resist the enemy for that long of a time.  We as simple humans find it difficult to give up coffee for that amount of time.  The beauty of Lent is that at the end of it most, I said most, people go back to the habit they gave up.  They have grown accustomed to not having it in their lives and realize they don't need it anymore.  The harsh reality is that it only takes half of the time of Lent to completely break a habit. 

     Then there are the two schools of thought on sharing about Lent.  I am not one to say which is right or wrong, but from the way I explain it you will surmise my point of view.  There are those who enter the time of Lent in secret, not letting anyone know what it is they are giving up.  The theory is, Jesus was alone, and so must we suffer alone.  They follow the scripture of Matthew 6 very closely, But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  Then there are the others, the ones who tell you what they are giving up.  These are the ones who need you to know they are suffering for Christ, and just how much they are suffering, as if a public flogging will earn them a better place.  I for one am one of those people who choose to suffer alone as Jesus did, it should be apparent that it is the season of Lent, and it should also be apparent that if you are a Christian then you are observing the season and have therefore given something up.  As Christians, we must pray for the ones who give up big for God, and even pray for the ones who publicly give up for God.

     So here is the big question, will I tell you what I am giving up for Lent?  Of course I will.  Without being a hypocrite as well.  You see, I have already practiced my season, it is over for me.  Me, I gave up church, for forty days, and forty nights.  But for me the result is different, I have found that I still need church, I still need that sense of community and companionship.  I broke the habit of being involved in my church community.  But unlike smoking or drinking coffee, I have actually found that it is the only habit you can have, that is more addictive than drugs, and no one considers me a failure because I could not break that habit.  In fact, upon my return, it was quite a homecoming.  Like our Saviour, during your time of reflection and loss, pray earnestly to the Father to protect you from the enemy, he will be there, and he hates you, because nothing angers the enemy quite like the strength you achieve from fasting.  Jesus did it, and so shall we, what will you give up for the Father?

p.s.- if you don't make it, or if you feel a moment of weakness, ask yourself this, whom do you serve?  Have faith, a coke zero is nothing but pure poison anyway.