Decorations of Life

It is the Christmas season with decorations in the stores, around the community, in our neighborhoods, and yes, we have them in our home. Some displays focus on the birth of Jesus but many simply focus on the season.

Look around the room or place where you are reading this blog. What type of decoration or display items do you see? I am sitting in my study, surrounded by books, some sitting orderly on shelves, others stacked on my desk, safe, and on top of the books on the shelves. There are pictures of Jeneen and I, the boys, the grandkids, and friends. I have knick-knacks from our travels, from mountain adventures, and from friends. Of course, there are stacked trays full of papers, computers, speakers, and a printer sitting on the desk and credenza. These things are representative of a life. They show the character of my life.

What do you see around you, in your home, in your special area? Do you have decorations around the home? Our lives are characterized by what we put into them. What do you see?

If you are a Christian, you should see the everyday items of your life but you should also see evidence that you know the Lord. My study has theological books, Bibles, and much more. Jeneen’s table next to her chair has many books and devotional material. What do you see in your decorations of life?Study

7.1 Earthquake, Not So Steadfast and Stable

I received a call from Pastor Aron Schrepfer the day after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in their area of Alaska. They had received damage from things falling off walls, out of cupboards, and off shelves. As far as they could tell, there was no structural damage to their home or the church. Praise the Lord.

Pastor Aron did mention that He walked into his study and found a copy of my book, Steadfast and Stable, on the floor, having fallen off the shelf. He thought it ironic that a book about stability should fall during an earthquake. We came up with some humorous thoughts during our conversation.

One way we could look at it is: the book, Steadfast and Stable, isn’t really steadfast and stable itself, it just teaches about being stable. Of all the things in his study, this book came off the shelf. Or another way is: you had better get your copy of Steadfast and Stable soon because they are flying off the shelves. We had a good laugh.

It is like Alaskans to put a humorous spin on tough situations. They have lots of clean-up and will be feeling the effects of the quake for months ahead. One person from Alaska wrote, if you have family or friends in Alaska, buy them dishes for Christmas. Humor can sometimes help in a difficult situation. Please pray for the people affected by the earthquake.

When the ground which we call “terra-firma” is shaking, it is good to remember our stability comes from a life based upon the solid rock, Jesus Christ. He gives security to the believer in a constantly changing and sometimes shaking world. Are you rooted and grounded in love, on the Solid Rock?

Dropped book

A Reason Churches Close

How many churches have closed in the last few years? How many have declined to a few people meeting in a large building? Many are looking for answers to this problem by changing methodology, direction, or format, seeking to somehow revitalize the church. The answer may be simpler than that.

Even though there are many reasons for a church to close, the Bible gives us one in Revelation 2. Jesus is speaking to the pastors of the seven churches in chapter 2 and 3. We know more about the first one, the church at Ephesus, because there is more written about it in the New Testament than the other six.

Jesus commends the church for their attention to sound doctrine, to ministry without stopping, to working together with patience and perseverance, and to ferreting out false teachers. He has something negative to say about the church; they have left their first love. Jesus then gives the consequence if they do not change, getting back to loving the Lord with their whole heart. He says that He will come quickly and remove the church from Ephesus.

Ephesus was a church doing many of the right things but they were in danger of quickly being closed because they had left their first love. The prescription that Jesus gave is one for all of us to take to heart. Repent, remembering what we once had in our love –based relationship with the Lord, doing the first things, going back to our first love. We have been given a great gift by God, salvation, eternal life, the forgiveness of sins. We have been given honor and love by God, being call His children.

So, it is up to each of us, in our own churches, to love the Lord our God with our whole heart. As we do, we are taking away one of the main reasons churches close. Have you left your first love?

NALFTA

You have heard of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. It allowed imports and export between Canada, the United States, and Mexico, without tariffs. The problem with trade is when a country imports more than it exports.

I am part of the NALFTA. You may wonder what that is. It is the North American Leaf Free Trade Agreement. I do not remember signing up but apparently I am a member. It must be a local agreement between neighbors. It provides for the free exchange of leaves from our trees. Today I spent hours dealing with leaves, my neighbors doing the same in their yards.

As I was gathering leaves into bags, I tried to examine them for the tree of origin. They are not marked, made in Mexico or made by the neighbor’s tree but I can tell that some of them are not mine by the kind of leaf. We do not grow that tree or bush in our yard. So, as I examined them, I was wondering if there was a trade imbalance. Are more leaves being imported into my yard than I am export to the neighbors?

So far, no one has said anything about the leaves I have exported nor have I said anything about the leaves imported to my yard. A wind could fill my yard again with the neighbor’s leaves, or maybe it could blow the rest of mine to the neighbors. Upon closer examination, I see most of the leaves in my yard are from my trees. I have watched some of the leaves from our trees cross property lines in accordance to the NALFTA.

I believe I am exporting more than I am importing. It sure works well when you do. I like being a member of the NALFTA. Sometimes I do feel sorry for the neighbors who have to rake my leaves from their yard but they are members too.

So as they rake my leaves, I think of it as the windfall of the NALFTA.Day I came home from AK 001

Still True Today

I wrote this article six years ago. It is still true today. Stand, having done all stand, fellow Christians. We are ambassadors for the King of kings. Speak the truth in love. Biblical Christianity crosses every border on this earth. Nothing can change the fact that God is still God and His truth will stand forever.
Our Mission Is Clear
The election of 2012 shows the moral decay of our nation. We will continue to see rapid changes, even at a more accelerated rate. More states are joining the acceptance of homosexuality, legalization of marijuana, and continual suppression of achievement by raising penalties on success in order to give to those who do not. Our nation continues to take away rights in order to establish those who want to live an amoral lifestyle with no consequences. The presidential election was determined not by political ideals but by moral issues. We must face the fact that our nation is as President Obama said, no longer a Christian nation.
So what about Christians, who believe in morality and absolutes? We become the target. We become a roadblock standing in the way of change. Those who want an amoral society with no consequences view Christians as stuck in tradition or simple and small minded.
We were able in the past, to think of our nation as embracing morality and good ethics. We must realize the truth and move from our complacent existence and our seeking of acceptance from society. The moral climate of America will not change until the heart of America is changed. Morality and good ethics must come from the heart and soul of the people. You may not be able to legislate morality, but as we see in our country, you can give acceptance to immorality.
Paul just before his death wrote Timothy a letter. He said that God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. He encouraged Timothy to continue in what he knew was truth even though there would be great changes in life and society. As the battle for the heart of America continues, we must stay with what we know is true. God is still God. Nothing can separate us from His love. All those who live godly will suffer from those who do not. We will be ridiculed, laughed at, and may even become the objects of violent action.
Our mission is clear. Speak the truth in love. There is forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ our Lord. Share the truth where you are able. Pray for the changing of hearts and lives. Do not lose heart my fellow believers. There is always hope in the Lord.

Learning From Your Children

P1030052“A wise son makes a glad father.” Today is special because it is the birthday of our son, Peter. When my wife and I were married, we did not think of how many, nor even if we would have children, but God gave us three sons who we lovingly refer to as “the boys.” Peter is the oldest of the three. As a father, it is a blessing to see your sons grow into wonderful young men, developing in wisdom and knowledge.

Peter is a student, teacher, husband, and father. He is a reader, writer, and an award-winning author. He continues to grow in knowledge and wisdom as he journeys through life. I may be his father but I still look to him for the wisdom God has given. It is great when you have sons who teach their dad. I think that comes from them being wise-guys.

Today is your birthday, Peter. I want to write from my heart how glad I am to have you as a son. I post it here because I want everyone to know how blessed I am as a father. You are a gift from God to bless my life. Thank you, Peter, for being the man God wants you to be.

I will be going to you for your wisdom on the book I am writing. Your insight into the writing world is valuable. Just as important is your wisdom and knowledge in walking with God; the subject of the book I am finishing. Hopefully God will give us days together in the future to make this book the best it can be for the Lord.

Happy Birthday, Peter! You are a wise son. I am a glad father. Today, I honor you for your part in the wonderful life I live. I love you, my son.

(You may want to edit that part about the wise-guys. It may not come across the way I intend. Just saying.)

No More

Fall Leaves

Fall is a beautiful time. Leaves change color, falling to the ground, waiting to be gathered or decomposing, bringing nutrients to the soil. The grass stops growing, no longer needing cut, no more mowing. The flowers fade, going away for the winter, no more to be seen. It is the end of the growing season, harvesting finished for the year, crops no longer needing tending.

In life, there are things we hope to see and do no more, or not wanting to go through again. Words are said like, “I hope I never have to deal with that again.” Often we find them not going away but having to do it again or having to work through another bad or difficult circumstance.

There is a verse in Revelation 21 which gives a list of “no mores.” The first in the list is death, then sorrow, crying, pain, and tears. We all would love to see no more death, no more sorrow weighing heavy on hearts, no more tears from crying and no more pain being felt in various ways. No one desires more of these things.

We can be thankful for the hope that lives within us. It comes from the promise of God that one day, in the new heaven and new earth, created by God, there will be “no more.” I look forward to no more death, pain, sorrow, tears, and crying. Till that day comes, God has a reason for this day and all it brings.

God is giving people the opportunity to come to Him, His way. The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation for the unsaved. They have this timeframe of life to make the decision to trust Christ as their personal Savior. I am thankful some will come to Christ, because they will experience the “no mores” of Revelation 21:4.

The Trials That Shape Our Lives

Cody Rock and Tree

The tree was growing straight, pointing to the sky. Then it came upon an obstacle that forced alteration in its growth. Or the tree was impacted by something that pressed upon it, so much so, that it had to bend out of shape in order to maintain its upward path. This tree has always impressed me ever since I first observed it when I was a child. It is still doing the job of holding back the rock from rolling down the hill.

I do not know which came first, the tree standing tall and the rock tumbling down the hillside till it met the tree or the rock precariously perched on the hillside with a tree growing in its shadow till it found the upward path impeded by the rock, then continuing its growth around the obstacle. The growth of the tree has been slow. I remember seeing it in the 1960’s wondering if it would break and the rock would roll into the highway further down the hillside. Last month, I saw that the tree is still carrying the burden of holding the rock.

In life, some people carry burdens that others do not know. We all have trials but some of us have thorns that will never leave, always there, always being seen, always bring pain with varying intensities, sometimes festering into grievous wounds. Trials shape us as we go through them. Thorns focus on our weaknesses, often bringing discouragement and despair. It is in these moments when things look darkest, that we must turn to the Lord. He gives strength and ability to cope moment by moment. His power is made known in weakness.

Our lives are sharpened by the trials of life. How we deal with them will be the evidence of our character. Do we depend upon the Lord to give enablement even when pressed upon by a rock that will never go away? Or do we see God’s mighty power and strength as we continue to grow through the trial or while we carry the thorns which will never leave?

This tree has been an encouragement to me. I want to keep growing even though the trials of life may bend me out of shape. I want to stand tall with my God through whatever comes.

The Lord is our strength, our refuge. Pour out your heart before Him. The Psalmist said that He trusted in the Lord and he was helped. God is a very present help in the time of trouble. God is our strength when the rocks press us out of shape. He gives the motivation and ability to grow upward even when deeply impacted by the storms of life.

“Why would I want to do that?”

Cody - Rattlesnake Mtn

It is a challenge that many are not willing to try. When I was the recreation director for a camp in the Black Hills, one challenge I gave the teens was to run to the top of a hill, about 50 yards of a steep incline. They would take up the challenge and see who could do it the fastest.

Then, pastoring in another state, I became the recreation director at a new camp. I tried a similar challenge with the teens. They would not take up the test of skill and strength. “Why would I want to do that?” was the response of one. They were not willing to try. It burst my bubble of thinking that people liked a challenge.

As a young man, I liked hiking in areas others would hesitate going because it was too steep or rough. That was precisely the reason I wanted to go there. It was not crowded, by that I mean, I would never see anyone in the area. If I did, then it was too crowded. You can be isolated like that in Wyoming. One area I could experience this was climbing the side of Rattlesnake Mountain from the canyon. It is steep, very steep, but up above, there are nice areas and a hidden spring.

I found an old camp site from probably around 1900 near the spring. Investigating the site, I found an old bucket, wire, some old cans, and miscellaneous items strewn around the area. As far as I know, they are still there, battling the elements, rust covered and slowly deteriorating. As I climbed further up and out to a point, I had a view of the South Fork and North Fork of the Shoshone River. I could see all of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and even much of Cody through the window of the canyon. It was worth the climb. I have never seen anyone in that area no matter how many times I climbed the mountain. Yes, it was worth taking the challenge.

In life, we face many challenges, trials, and tests. It is hard work getting projects done, climbing mountains, going through hardships and difficult issues. While proceeding, don’t miss the opportunities to see and learn about our God, life, and relationships. Others will never experience life the way you will. Challenges are unique opportunities God gives to broaden our views, strengthen our faith and character, test our motivation, and to build our lives.

Some Christians like to insulate themselves from difficulty and challenge. They want everything to work smoothly in their life. They don’t try things that may cause them discomfort or stress. For whatever reason, they shy away from the challenge. “Why would I want to do that?” A good reason could be; it is God’s will for you to do or go through it. If it is, you will see and learn things that you will miss if you don’t accept the challenge. What challenges are you facing? Go through them and see the working of God in you and through you.

cody - Rattlesnake Mountain

Forgotten Horse Corrals

Corral in Cody

This is a place where many adventures took place during my childhood. After I overcame my fear, I greatly enjoyed our horses. Jeneen and I were able to see the corrals this week. The pond in the background also holds memories. There were fish, ducks, and willows for fort building. Trying to raise the water level by throwing rocks in the creek leaving the pond gave hours of fun. Pitching hay into the trough to feed the horses, trying to catch them when they didn’t want to be caught, once apprehended, enjoying the bareback ride up the hill to the corral with just a belt around the neck of the animal, and then saddling up for rides around the area.

To look at the place now, no one would know all the events that took place there. It is a forgotten scene. As we travel the west, we see many such structures; buildings, abandoned cabins, barns, and corrals. These places were the homes, dreams of people, some recent but others, many years ago. There were battles with the elements, struggles with animals, and troubles with each other. There were times of joy and pain. Plans were made and carried out. Times have passed and people moved away or entered eternity. Others took their place, not having the same desires or dreams, abandoning the structures and life built before they arrived, carrying out their own plans and hopes.

We have one life to live on this earth. What will last? Too often we focus on the temporal, thinking it is the most important. Learn from history, learn from observation, and see the dilapidated structures of forgotten lives. We work hard and rightly so. We labor and we can enjoy the fruits of that labor. Ecclesiastes teaches that this is the gift of God to us. But that which matters most in this life is that which is done for eternity. Daily labor with plans and dreams for life on the earth is good and the walk with God, seeking Him, and knowing Him, to be with Him forever is eternally valuable.

“So shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Corral Gate in Cody
Weathered wood, overgrown with weeds, the corral stands where we left it over 30 years ago.