Monday, April 27, 2015

I Will Choose Free Will

RUSH: Free Will (from the album Permanent Waves)
You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose free will

The writer of this song clearly states that his choice is free will. IN OTHER WORDS, "I will dang well do as I please!" He acts as though he can do that with no consequence to fear, and no one can make him do anything else.In some ways, there is truth to that. When God created us, he gave us free will. He laid out a place for man to live and enjoy, with only one rule. Don't eat of the fruit from a certain tree! I don't believe it was apples though. I love them too much and I've never felt bad after eating them (unless it was a lot of pie and ice cream, and then, I deserved what I got) so I am not sure of what that fruit was. I think it was a fruit/tree that is not available to us anymore as it is shut tight in the garden that is now hidden from mankind. But there was going to be trouble with that tree and God knew it. When He created mankind, he knew everything that would happen until the end of time (does time really end???) and yet he still decided to let man have a choice. Free will, in other words.
He could have built a fire around the tree that would have kept us from reaching it. Or He could have left that tree out of the garden altogether and we would have never had to make a choice. His rationing could have been that, "Well, I'm about to make a human and I know that if I make him the way I want to make him, he is gonna screw this thing up royally. So I'll just skip that part and set everything in motion so that there is no choice, there is no consequence, there is no pain, no suffering."
Well why in the h-e-double LL didn't He choose to do that?!?!?! Man that would have been easier and simpler!
Because He loved us. While man was laying on the ground, motionless, perfect in every way, He loved us. And He wanted us to love him. Well, duh, what would have been hard about that for us?
Think about it for a second. If all you've ever known, or will know, is just someone who is Love, and you have no imperfections or flaws, how will that ever keep you close. When everyone around you is on the same level as you, the same playing field so to speak, and you've never known anything else was possible, how can you truly say that you are loved and appreciated.
Humans learn that in their lives. A baby is born, and all it knows is how it is treated. For most of our parents with a newborn, the child is held, cradled, fed, diapered; it's every whim and care is taken care of. It never wants of anything nor knows the feeling of true pain and unworthiness.
That baby grows up into a teenager and suddenly, there is nothing that you can do right, you don't know squat, you're stupid and out of touch and unusable. They might have a flash of a moment where they appreciate you, especially if you are the kind of person that gives them everything they ever need without letting them earn at least some of it on their own.
Then they grow up, and they have a "life crisis." Who do they call? Mom and Dad. They realize that you actually do love them, care about them, and just maybe you do know a little bit about the world that they live in. And their appreciation for your knowledge grows when they have a child of their own to care for.
Life truly is a circle.
And God knew this. He wanted us to understand just how freakin great His love is, even though we know we don't deserve the things that He gives us. So God HAD to give us a choice, even though He knew it would turn into a disaster. There is an old saying that I grew up with; "You never knew what you had until it was gone." Think about what Adam and Eve must have felt when they got kicked out of the Garden. OMG! Your every whim and need is right before you with no way to supply anything for it anymore. In the garden you never wanted for anything. Now, you don't have squat. "HOLY CRAP!" is the thought that had to be going through their minds as they stared out at the barren empty land.
Like I've said in the previous blogs, I have a past. And a lot of it I am not proud of. I pushed my boundaries one too many times and got what I deserved. One time it included being kicked out of my mom and grandparents house. I was stubborn and it only caused me even more trouble. But with no place to go, I looked at my future and made some choices that were even worse than what had gotten me into the initial trouble in the first place.
But, I did come back home. Tired, defeated, deflated, and like the prodigal son, I was still welcomed back in. I did work to change my life, though I was still screwing it up quite a bit, but I knew that I was loved, and I was able to appreciate everything that had been restored upon me.
The "free will" that God had allowed upon me caused me to make some grave errors in judgement, but I also was able to make a "free will" choice that brought me "back into the fold", as my pastor used to say when I was growing up in church.
A lot of people get mad at God, or choose not to believe in God because of events that they see happening to themselves and others around the world. They say that if there was a God that He would not have allowed something like this to happen. Like I explained in the beginning, had He not allowed things to happen, we could never count our good fortunes for the things that we do have. Sin was brought into the human life by Eve, then Adam. And we're stuck with it. As with any disease (yes, sin is a disease that will cost us something as we go through life), our bodies do pay the price. People act upon evil choices, diseases are communicated openly and at will by our world. It isn't that God doesn't want it to happen, He wants us to choose NOT to let it happen. We can't go back to a sinless body. But we can have a restored body again in Heaven one day if we make the right choices. Will our lives be perfect? NOPE! Will our lives be HUNKY DORY? NOPE! Will we suffer in pain? YEP! Will we be able to appreciate when times are good? I CERTAINLY HOPE SO!
So in closing, what choice will you make? You have free will. You can say this is a bunch of "bunk". Or you can say to God that you do believe and you want to have what He desires you to have. Doesn't mean that He is going to give you everything you want!! But you will have what you need, and when you do come upon those things that hurt you, whether physically or emotionally, you'll have a parent that you can go to that will never leave you, nor forsake you for another more favorite child.
I choose free will. I choose God!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Silence is Golden ... Unless ...

Okay, if you are a parent, raise your right hand. Right now. Take your fingers off the keyboard. Raise your hand. Okay, good job. Now you all have just agreed that this picture speaks a thousand words. Having raised 2 stepdaughters and a son, there was usually quite a ruckus coming from some room in the house, unless it was bedtime, and even then all wasn't always quiet. There were the usual "no, that's mine, you can't have it, give it back, I'm gonna tell" coming from amongst the gathered throngs.
But let it get quiet, and you start to wonder what could be happening. For a moment you contemplate whether or not a coup is in progress as your eyes silently scan the room for any oncoming warriors. And then when your curiosity gets the better of you, your body follows your feet which were told by your mind to go investigate.
In a stealthy manner you creep up to the room where you last knew of their location, listening for any clues as to the manner of action that may be called for. Nothing is audible so far as you approach the door where the activity is happening. Then WHAM! All of them jump up, usually in some form of makeshift costume, and run to attack you as you retreat to escape the marauding revelers. Finger gun fights erupts as the bedlam comes to full force and then hugs and giggles finish up the escapade that just took place.
Come to find out they wanted to have this happen, it was planned, knowing that if they were quiet enough, it would draw you into their lair and the fun would start. Kids can have great imaginations and many times they can get the desired result that they want just by acting upon knowledge of how they have seen you react in situations before.
For adults, life is like that, especially where God is concerned. Activity around us goes on in the usual way, with the normal activities and sounds that we are accustomed to. We go about our business, following God's lead and continuing to have His desires for us in our heart. And then, one day, all is quiet. Nothing. The music stops, the jester has ended his monologue and the crowd just stands there in anticipation of what is to come next. For most of us, until that happens, we keep our everyday "noise" as a background issue, failing to pay attention to the details of our surroundings. God knows how humans react and He knows what it takes to get our attention. Sometimes, instead of trying to yell over the buzz of our everyday lives, He resorts to something else that is sure to get noticed.

Psalm 62:5

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.


Psalm 62:1 ESV

To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. 

Sometimes God has to be quiet to be heard. Our daily lives are so busy with family, school, housework, children, and jobs that we become "tuned out" to anything around us that is being said. You've seen people who you have to shout their name several times to get them to realize that you were talking to them. Or maybe you were on the receiving end of one of those shouts. The same thing happens with God. Our lives get full and there is so much "white noise" in our lives that nothing important gets through. Sure, we go to church, but even then many of us do not actually listen. Our thoughts are caught up in the upcoming weeks anticipated activities, and it is almost like coming out of a fog when you realize that the closing hymn/music has already started.
For many people who earnestly seek God's wisdom and guidance, there can be a deafening silence that springs forth for quite a while.We pray, ask for guidance about a situation, then we wait on a sign or an answer in a form that could only be from God. But nothing. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENS. Deafening silence. Frustration. Stomping of Feet. Arms slinging in the air. Eyes/Head pointed skyward as if the answer could be seen up above.
Sometimes the answer will come within days. For many others, sometimes the answer will come in months, even years if at all. For those who never seem to get their answer, I wonder if maybe the answer was given, but missed. Or maybe the question that was asked was not the right one to be seeking the answer to.
Either way, the hardest thing to do is to wait. I have a hard time with patience. Years ago I heard a pastor's wife tell someone to never pray for patience, God may teach it to you. I think they may have been on to something. Patience is the hardest period of time to remain stalwart towards God.
But one more part of this that may be even harder is knowing what to do while waiting. When I was growing up I always heard that "idle hands are the devil's workshop." So staying focused and remaining vigilant can be really hard for many people, myself included. I have begged, pleaded, and listened for answers, only to be distracted or mislead down a wrong road following a false lead.
For myself, the problem comes with constant dead ends. Many times things keep seeming to be very promising, but then it is as if God SLAMS the door shut with no explanation. My exercise in patience is becoming rather lengthy it seems. I feel like I've hit the brick wall, and now there is nothing to do but lie in wait. Just like the children in the story at the beginning of this blog, I will get quiet, and wait, listening for the footsteps, maybe a creaky stair, that will signal the coming of the Lord. At that time, when I see His glory and know that my time has finally come, I will jump up and begin my journey, knowing that in the end, I will rest in His arms for all of eternity. This seems the most prudent of options for me, and the one that hopefully will bring about the desired results.
There was a short song that we used to sing in church.
"They that wait, upon the Lord. Shall renew their strength. They shall mount up, with wingsssss like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Teach me Lord, Teach me Lord, to wait." (based on a verse in Isaiah).
My strength is getting better and I find myself wanting to mount up with wings so that I can go where God can use me and I can be an active servant in His house. I want my steps to be quicker, lighter until I break out into a 4 minute mile.
Until then, I will wait Lord, I will wait.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Finish This Sentence ...

What Day Is It??????????

I bet you know the answer to this question. Just a pic of a camel will bring the complete ad to mind for most people. Advertising in the United States works really well for several reasons. First of all the commercials are played repeatedly on television until they are seared into our brains. Secondly, there are always catch phrases that are at the center of the advertising. This is how items and brands become popular many times. It doesn't matter whether or not the product is actually as great as it is being advertised, it's just that when we think of that type of product, this particular brand comes to mind first. C'mon, admit it. How many times have you asked for someone to pass you a Kleenex, even though it may have been a Puffs Plus box that they pulled it from. What you really wanted was a facial tissue. But we don't call them that. That is what the retailers are hoping for. They want you to think of their brand first and not even consider any of the other choices.
So, in case you haven't seen this commercial (as we have a lot of readers in Europe, both Western and Eastern, especially Russia), it is a commercial for an insurance company here in the US. The camel is seen in different scenarios walking around going, " (persons name), do you know what day it is?," or "guess what day it is?" The joke being that Wednesday is called "Hump Day" and with the camel bearing 2 of them, he thinks it is all about him. I've attached a YouTube video to watch in case you are not familiar with it.

Geico Camel Commercial

But for me, this picture also takes me to another time and place. It wasn't a commercial. There may have been camels around the area, and most likely there were. Jesus had just left Galilee and went to Judea, trying to escape the large crowds. They followed anyway, and once everyone was settled, there were Pharisees who wanted to test Jesus and his theories. They asked questions about divorce (This was dealt with back in a much earlier blog) and then Jesus spent time with the children of the families who followed Jesus. Jesus started on the move again and a man came up to him and asked Jesus how to gain eternal life. Jesus quoted some of the scriptures from the Ten Commandments, but this still did not satisfy the man. He asked Jesus what else he could do, as he felt there was so much more that was still required of him. Here is Jesus' answer:

(Matthew 19: 21-24 NIV)
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

This man had the same problem as many of the others that came into contact with Jesus and heard his words. For many people who live today, they still cannot accept this part in their lives. People want security in their lives. A safe home, a family to surround them, and financial security so that they don't have to worry about how to pay the bills. They don't want to have to worry each day how they will survive until the next day comes around. Yet, this is exactly what Jesus asked the disciples to do. And they did. They stopped doing their profession, many of them fishermen who dropped their nets and left their boats, and they followed Jesus for 3 1/2 years around the land. At times we see a glimpse of worry in the disciples, though not usually for themselves. The feeding of the 5000 (yep, you heard it right, that's a lot of people to cook for!) is one case in point. But Jesus never showed concern. He simply gave instructions to the disciples, they followed them, and there was food left over. From the human perspective it would have been impossible to do what he did. But for Jesus, he knew what God was capable of and therefore he never flinched.

I do not know if this is true for all of those who are sent as missionaries to foreign lands, but many here in the US will sell all of their possessions and they will use those funds and other monies raised from churches and Christians who want to support them, and they will go to foreign countries to preach the gospel. I do my best to keep my faith and to show others how to gain and maintain theirs, but this is one point that if asked of me, I do have to admit it would be hard. First of all, by the time we sold our belongings and paid our debtors, there would be little left to go on, which really makes the idea scary. I wouldn't say no if I truly felt that it was from God, but I'm human, and I would definitely be freaking out while I was preparing for it. I have lived overseas and Europe, though much of it is English speaking and a beautiful paradise to behold, it is still a different culture. The thing I love best about it is how much snow and cold they get. My wife and I are truly avid winter fans, especially in areas where the summers are a lot milder than here. We also love adventure and it would definitely be an adventure. But to see people being brought to salvation through Christ Jesus (yep, Him and Him alone, I can't do anything for you except preach the word) would thrill my heart! Many of the modern day disciples are asked to go to places not so far away. Sometimes it is only a state or two a way, and sometimes it is to the other end of the country. While I am not a big fan of anywhere that has temps above 80 in the summer, I will still accept His calling to go anywhere that He leads.
So now I'll get to the part as to how this ties in to a camel. Jesus continued his speech to the disciples after the man had walked off.

 Matthew 19: 23-24 NIV
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Now, I love to cross stitch. I haven't had the chance to do much over the last few years, but it is a favorite past-time for me. There are different size needles that you use, depending on the cloth. But I have NEVER used one that would let a camel fit through the eye of the needle (that's the part where I ran the thread through). As a matter of a fact, whether it is a knitting, crocheting or a sewing needle, I've never heard of one that has an eye that big. So, basically, Jesus is saying that it is impossible. The people could understand this part because they didn't have fancy retail stores where everything was made for them which caused many of them to make their own garments, and camels were a very popular method of transportation in that day and age. So this impracticality was visible in their minds. I can only imagine the amount of head shrugging that occurred when Jesus spoke that. But it did get the disciples to thinking, as shown in this next part of scripture that follows.

Matthew 19: 25-29 NIV
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

In other words, quit worrying about what you can obtain here in life. In eternity, it will only get you a life in Hell, burning in a lake of fire, with never a chance to have even a drop of water to cool your tongue. But if you follow Jesus and do His will, you will be rewarded where it really matters. In Heaven!! For Eternity!!! Sure sounds better than being a smoldering heap for the rest of forever!

My heart once again burns for Jesus and to spread His word. That is why I have started this blog once again, hoping that I can change someone's life for the better. I want to show them how to have the best outcome from their lives, and not the worst, even if the "here and now" seems like the best that they can get.
My wife and I have prayed for quite a while to be used by God, and we have as yet to receive an answer on what to do next. Will I be scared if asked to sell all and go wherever? Poop Yeah! Who wouldn't?!?!? But in the end, if that is asked of me, I will. I would much rather be used by God there, even if it meant a harder life than staying put where we are now, and gain so much more from God, plus the knowledge that I helped a lot more people to do the same, once I reached heaven! 
So we eagerly await the instructions of God as to where the next journey in my life will take us. We have tried our best to prepare our hearts and minds and to be ready when He calls. No, we're not saints or perfect. Nope! Far from it. We screw up daily. But we ask His forgiveness and we both know that there is a calling on our lives, and God has a purpose and a plan to use us.

Please pray along with us for several things:
1   The strength and courage to follow His will, no matter what is asked.
2.  The wisdom to discern what is from God and what is from Satan, who would love to trick us and lead us down the wrong path.
3.  The ability to lead others to Christ and show that it is Him, not us, who get the glory and all of the credit for what has been done.
Thank you,
Keith & Sheri

Monday, April 6, 2015

Have You Ever Meant What You Said, But Didn't Say What You Meant?

For most of us in our dealings with others, our speech can be interpreted closely to what the speaker was intending to say. Some people slur some things, like consonants, especially in geographic regions where the dialect can be a little tricky. But generally you can figure out what they are trying to convey to you.
Look at the picture above. Can you tell what the actual message is?
Annual Egg Hunt, April 12 @ 10AM, Free Family Event.
Now, whoever posted this at the Lakewood Springs Homeowners Assoc knew the message that they were trying to get across. Most of you reading this should have recognized the meaning the minute you saw it. A few probably laughed, a few probably went ewwwwww and a few Proctologists are possibly making copies to hang in their office right about now. :-)
I can be a little OCD at times, and when I'm reading someone's words online I find myself wanting to correct them. Online versions of news stories are the worst (where are they hiring these guys from?), with people's spellings on Facebook coming in at a close second.
But sometimes even I have to sit back and cackle at the things that are posted. The evolution of the internet age has brought about a lot changes in how we communicate, and "spell check" doesn't always catch every typo. But the problems with poor communication have always been around. Sometimes it is the sender that screws up the message, and sometimes it is the receiver.
God's word is like the latter portion of that statement. The sender never messed it up one time. God had it right from the beginning. The spelling was right, the diction was right, everything was right. Then man got ahold of the message and things went awry from there.
From early on in the Old Testament, prophecy was given that told of a Messiah coming, and the Jews of Israel looked excitedly for him each year, yet each year always ended in disappointment. They thought they had someone who would come and sit on a throne and rule the world and make the rest of the world pay for how they had been treated for 1000's of years. Yet the prophecy clearly stated that there would be a different set of events, such as is laid out on this site  and many others that can be found online. Everyone read the same words, yet only some of the people got the correct meaning. That is why many recognized Jesus as being the Messiah, even the woman at the well who was the morally loose woman of the neighborhood. His disciples knew in an instant that Jesus was The One.
Yet, many more would not accept that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy. Because of that, Jesus was "tried" in a court, sentenced to death, and hung on a cross. Then 3 days later he arose and proved them wrong. He WAS who He said he was. We just finished celebrating this event which we call Easter. (FYI: "Easter" is derived from Eastre, or Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of spring and dawn. So the term actually has no scriptural background, just a name for a pagan celebration.)
There are many people who try to twist the words of God to fit into their own lives. They do not want to accept what the disciples and followers already knew to be true and would be willing to die to uphold those values. Instead, many people want to change the words and preach to people their "interpretations" of the word of God that makes the idea of being a Christian more "palatable." (To answer your question, I'm not a KJV only believer. I just don't like hearing pastors turn the gospel into something that it isn't.) Watered-down, "It's a Wonderful Life" sermons are given in churches all across the globe. Why? It's easier to pack the pews when people don't have to feel guilty of how they live their lives and their non-service to God.
Christianity will never be easy. It was never meant to be. God wants servants who will put effort into what they are doing. Anyone can claim to serve yet never spend any time serving. This never gets results, no matter who/what you are serving.
For this week I want you to take some time and decide if what you're reading and hearing is actually what was intended, both in your bible study and in your daily livings. Are you really understanding what is being said? Or do you take everything at face (or maybe posterior in this case) value? Are you connecting with people through speech and writing, making sure that they understand what you're saying? Finally, are you listening to God and grasping what His words mean for you?
I pray that you will slow down and consider your communications, not only this week but for many weeks/months/years to come. And if anyone ever invents SpellCheck for signs, let me know.