Monday, June 30, 2014

Wear your white hat

I am a fan of TV Westerns, and the older black and white movie westerns.  The TV cable provider that serves my house can easily track my viewing choices if there is an old western movie on.  I was raised during the years when western movies were the choice of the majority.  My writings have already reflected in several early blogs about Roy Rogers being one of my childhood heroes.  I also liked Gene Autry, John Wayne, Tom Mix, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, and others.  (Sorry if I missed your favorite cowboy.)

I mentioned TV Westerns at the top of the page so let me mention names which are still of the household category like, Matt Dillon (James Arness), and of course the Cartwrights.  While most of those actors in the westerns were people we like to identify with, their lives were hard, and without the benefit of a lot of the things we have learned to consider common today.  Running water, electric lights, indoor plumbing, to name a few.  My point is that in spite of all the disadvantages they had, they still seemed to enjoy life and helping make living better for others. 

I recently read an article about the morality and good examples of the heroes of the earlier westerns. Admittedly, the newer westerns have followed the course of popularity in the movie industry, many of them including vulgar language and nudity.  But did the westerns of old give us a sense of good morals and right living? 
The article suggest several things you could always count on in a western movie; things that were to be lessons for us in morality, making right decisions, and treating others well.   Let's look at some of them. 

The westerns gave us a sense of believing in the right, and defeating the wrong. I remember a disclaimer that played at the end of several TV shows that said, "Viewers will never see criminals glamorized or the 'wrongs' portrayed as right."  From the writers to the  producers to the actors, they all gave us a sense that making all things "right" would prevail. They also gave us the feeling of respect for those who keep us safe, those who enforce the law.  That respect could be tied to the first suggestion when we knew before the villains were on the screen, the good guys would always prevail. The other suggestion in the article said we were taught the limits of vengeance. Realize it or not, that was usually one of the underlying themes of the old westerns.  Let's see how some of these might compare to the Bible.

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”   1 Corinthians 15:33
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness"  2 Timothy 3:16
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  Ephesians 6:4
"You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."  Matthew 5:48

While I would never suggest that your salvation is based on Ben Cartwright or Gary Cooper, think today of the basic truths of right and wrong portrayed in the lives of our Hollywood heroes, as we wish for the good old days.   God bless, wear your white hat today..........and Happy Trails.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Pray like this....

Matthew 6:9-13
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one."

Familiar words, memorized by most of us, source of information concerning our prayers, taking on spiritual perspectives applied to life, and direction for our steps.  These are only a few of the descriptions which various Bible scholars have given to those verses we know as "The Lord's Prayer."  Other gospel writers either allude to the prayer or give a little longer version of it, but the basic meaningfulness of these words constitute, in the words of Jesus, "how you should pray."

We've heard sermons preached about the prayer, studied it on our own or in discussion groups, yet I am wondering if we actually take this as a sense of direction in our prayers.  For a world of people who are prone to thinking of spiritual matters only in one of life's emergencies and looking for a bail-out from our troubles, Jesus is telling us in the model prayer, that our prayers, too, need to be about the kingdom, God's will, our daily needs, forgiveness as we have been forgiven, God leading us away from temptation and delivering us from Satan. 
For our weekend meditation, let's consider an application of that last part, verse 13.  "Lead us not into temptation."  It's easy for us to say the words in a prayer, but so difficult for us to talk about feeling the Lord's direction when we are tempted.  Or do we believe at all, that God actually leads his people today?

We sing songs about his willingness to lead, but are we missing one of the grandest blessings of all when we overlook God's leadership and ask his help for the steps we take?  The indication we get from Jesus himself is one where God will help us and be our strength when we are tempted. 

The latter part of that verse, "but deliver us from the evil one," needs similar questions asked.  If we have difficulty recognizing God's ability to lead us in the right way, away from temptation, do we sense his power in delivering us from Satan's influence over us?

One Bible commentator suggests that word deliver, is actually a stronger word than we imagine.  It carries with it the idea that we are asking God to grab us or snatch us aggressively from Satan's control over us. 

May we pray with boldness and confidence about God's direction and power. 


Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Pair of Kings

A recent Bible study I attended addressed the contrast between an earthly king and the King of Kings.  We were introduced to a New Testament character we know as Herod the Great.  From biblical writings as well as historical findings, Herod was obviously a powerful man.  Saying that on the one hand, his greatness came at a great price because he seemed to live in constant fear of someone coming along that was more powerful, and claiming authority over him. 

Herod built quite a string of fortresses which doubled as palaces, which were lined up to offer him an avenue of escape.  Should one be attacked by enemy forces, he could run to another.  All the fortress and palace building had labeled him as the "building king."  It was all to protect what was his, and if he had his way, he would maintain power and authority over all the people, and no one in their right mind would challenge his rule.  He was the picture of power, authority and magnificence.

I find it a bit ironic, during the reign of Herod, in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, there were only a few miles separating the Herodion, Herod's main palace and fortress, and the birthplace of Jesus. 

Our study that day was to draw a contrast between the two kings, Herod and Jesus, a study of God's plan in bringing kings together in order to fulfill eternal purposes.  The irony continues when King Herod, whose power demanded all authority and all glory for himself, was soon issuing edicts for the killing of babies because of rumors of the birth of the King of Kings. 

All of this story finds its roots generations earlier during some important Old Testament times.  You remember Rebekah, married to Isaac the son of Abraham, conceived and bore twin sons.  Esau, the first of the twins born, founded Edom, and Herod was one of his descendents.  Jacob, the other twin, founded Israel, and Jesus descended from the line of Jacob.  Every good Jew knew that even though Herod was their king, the day was coming when a king would arise from Jacob, and overpower the line of Esau. 

Jump forward to today when we remember Herod simply as a power hungry ruler, who demanded all the glory of being king, yet a baby killer in fear of losing his prestigious life.  Herod was now running scared of losing all his palaces, all his fortresses, his expensive belongings, and his position of prominence. 

We who love and follow Jesus, knowing him as our King, live with the blessing of knowing his faithfulness in purchasing our redemption through his sacrificial death on the cross.  Your King Jesus has been given all power and all authority and is the head of the church.  From Ephesians 1, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Daily Walk With God

I have recently received notes from several different people who are frequent readers of our blog.  Their questions were all different, but were similar in lots of respects.  Along with other comments and questions, all were basically asking for help with Bible study, Bible interpretation and one even asking about Bible relevancy.

Today's article certainly isn't a complete answer to the questions asked, but maybe a good start for those searching for deeper understanding and especially for the "how to" of Bible application to people today. 

I have been hearing for years about the benefits of keeping a journal.  Some have suggested a prayer journal, some a Bible reading journal.  Of course there are other categories  we could add to a journal so this may take some thinking and planning on your part to come up with what suits you and works best for you.

I have recently began a journal method for me which wraps just about everything into one journal.  I start each day with a blank page, making only the entry of the day's date. Then I start reading.  I read about 8-10 blogs or daily devotional articles, some a full page, and others only a paragraph or two.  From that reading, I ask myself some questions about what I have read.  Those questions might include which topics seemed to attract my attention that day.  Another question will inspect the Bible verses from my reading, which perked an interest for deeper study or the search for more meaning.  In addition, I will prompt myself to ask if anything I have read convinces me of the need to apply the things I have read to some area of my life which needs change or growth.

So by now, my dated page will include some articles in my reading which "spoke" to me, some Bible verses which support the truth and validity of the things I have studied that day, and some ways the truth affects me or ways it can be applied to my personal life.  All of that takes less than 30 minutes and they are the first 30 minutes of my day.  Throughout the day I will think on those things, and sometimes go back to the journal and write a few more comments. 

I always list on my journal page the people I pray for, the events I pray about, and some time in prayer for thanksgiving, personal things I wish to address with God, and a seeking of God's guidance in the subject matter of my daily writing.  

Yes, there are days when I feel like writing nothing in my journal.  I find on those days, before the day is over, I have had an encounter or an experience I wanted to list on the daily journal page.  I have also found the more I practice being aware of God's presence in everything, the more I have to write about. I do my journal on the computer, and save each day in a journal file. 

Like I said earlier, find a method that works for you.  Study with your Bible open, your dated page blank, and allow your journal to be a daily account of your prayers and your walk with God.  God bless.  


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Winning the Trophy

I have been celebrating just over a week.  I have followed and cheered for the San Antonio Spurs since their schedule began last year.   Now MY Spurs are the Champions of the NBA for 2014.  This is the fifth time they have won the trophy in fifteen years.  Excitement is still in the air, and coffee shop conversations are still centered around the Spurs victory.

I noticed several weeks ago that it seemed everyone was more excited about the Spurs winning this year.  I have supported them during other winning seasons, but for some reason, this year was more important.  Just the fact they claimed the Championship is a tremendous feat, but there were also various individual and team records broken through the finals. 

If you follow me on social media, you will also be aware of how this championship had a positive effect on me.  This past Saturday, I had the privilege of slipping three Spurs championship rings on my own fingers.  A friend of mine is a statistician for the Spurs organization, and brought his rings from 2003, 2005, and 2007 and I got to put them all on my hand. (He didn't join the Spurs until 2000, so he doesn't have the 1999 ring, and the 2014 rings will not be handed out until this fall.)

All of us like to be winners.  We work hard for success.  We are prone to see victory and success in the lives of others and develop the feelings of envy, because we like to win, too.  Even the Word of God has segments which encourage us to be winners.  One is from the pen of Paul who says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing."  I like Paul's expression of confidence and trust in God because our God has promised his children the eternal reward.  The crown is ours because of the righteousness of Jesus.  We not only have God's promise, but we have the Holy Spirit right now, as a guarantee. 

Here's another verse for you.  "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-- our faith."  We who are born of God are overcomers.  We have overcome the world.  That is the real victory and we can experience victorious lives because we are born of God. 

There is a remarkable difference between the Spurs winning the NBA trophy and us having a crown awarded to us.  The Spurs earned theirs, we cannot possibly earn ours.  The Spurs fought long, hard battles on basketball courts all across our country to win.  Even the very strongest among us could never fight hard enough to claim victory on his own.

You see, the crown of righteousness Paul described, is our crown, but the righteousness is from Jesus.  The victory of overcoming the world is ours because we are born of God. 

I rejoiced with my team, the Spurs, when they won the trophy.  I rejoice with the angels when sinners repent and turn to God.  One of our old hymns has a line, "Faith is the victory that overcomes the world."