What’s Your Excuse?

What’s Your Excuse?

butterfly I often wonder why it took me so long to come to faith in Jesus Christ when His creation speaks so loudly of His existence. If you have ever walked through the woods alone and were awestruck by the beauty therein or if you have ever seen a breathtaking sunset or ocean view, you must at least realize that these things didn’t happen by chance.

Romans 1 says “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.Often it seems we can find any and every excuse to discount God’s handiwork, even in our own lives, but the truth is that God is the Creator of our universe and even our own lives.spider

 

When we take the time to swallow our pride and give credit where credit is due we can humbly see that God does truly love us, even simply by just the things around us He created just for us to enjoy. Next time you are out in creation or even just stuck in traffic, give God thanks for all that He has made and be thankful you were on the list of His created things! What’s your excuse?

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Do You Love Your Brother Like A Golden Eagle?

Do You Love Your Brother Like A Golden Eagle?

goldeneagle1When I was a kid I got a rather large book on eagles and other birds of prey from my grandmother one year for Christmas. I studied that book, drew pictures of the different birds, and daydreamed about one day seeing them in the wild. I was pretty shocked to learn that when a golden eagle (and numerous other eagle species) lay more than one egg in a nest, often the first one to hatch will kill the weaker second born. In terms of survival this is advantageous to the firstborn eaglet but horrific for the second. Although this deals with real aspects of life and death, how often do we do the exact same thing to our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Isn’t it easy to steal spiritual food from our Christian brothers and sisters in hopes of selfishly growing faster than those around us? We can unknowingly be causing fratricide in the body of Christ by not appropriately loving those around us that God has placed in the family of believers. 1 John 4:20 says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” In our pursuit of holiness we can often leave in our wake any number of people that we have held unforgiveness for or simply not given an adequate amount of genuine love. Christ, through the Apostle John, challenges us to truly love one another so that we can really love God. Do you love your brother like a golden eagle?

goldeneagle

 

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Do You Create A Suitable Environment For Others?

Do You Create A Suitable Environment For Others?

Have you ever had the opportunity to witness beavers creating their dams in a wetland habitat? It is quite an amazing phenomenon to experience. A beaver can create an entirely new habitat in a very short time. They are very hard working animals and by their diligence and boldness they are able to gnaw through trees and divert the flow of water in fresh water ecosystems. They have the ability to literally change the course of streams and creeks and to use their dams to create ponds and swamps. They change the entire topography and by doing so they create a new ecosystem that can support a variety of animals that previously couldn’t have lived in the area. In many cases their habitat transformation can be a blessing to other wildlife by providing new homes and places to forage for food.

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1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 says, “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.  And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” If we think about the parallel with beavers creating a habitat, we can see that pastors and church planters could fall into this category of hard workers that the Lord has placed over us. The desire of the Holy Spirit is for Christians to operate in unity with one another as the body of Christ. We are to be kind to one another and help each other in our areas of weakness. As believers in Christ our mission is to create suitable habitats in the spirit and to build one another up in our faith. We should be creating some new ecosystems of grace and encouragement for other believers. Do you create a suitable habitat for others?

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Can You Tame Your Tongue?

Can You Tame Your Tongue?

Have you ever had the experience of taming an animal? It could be as simple as training a puppy to do simple commands or habituating a reptile that you have caught in the wild to be accustomed to handling. As someone who works with animals on a regular basis I know that taming animals is all about consistency. You have to do the same things at the same times so that the animal gets used to you and understands that you don’t mean it any harm. It can often be a frustrating process and even be cause for the occasional bite or scratch but the end result is far more rewarding.

teguJames, the half brother of Jesus, talks about the taming of the tongue in the 3rd chapter of his epistle. James 3:7-8 says, “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” This doesn’t mean that we have free license to say anything we want but that in our own power we are incapable of taming our tongues. When we become believers in Christ we are made into a new creation and Jesus becomes Lord over our lives.

Jesus is able to tame even the vilest of tongues and use it for his glory. The unrepentant tongue can produce words that are like poison to the hearer. As believers we are called to bring life, not death. Scripture also says that we will be judged for every careless word we speak. We must remember that and be more cognizant of the words we speak. Let us speak life to those around us! Can you tame your tongue?

 

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Can You Defend Your Faith Against A Sasquatch?

Can You Defend Your Faith Against A Sasquatch?

I have been fascinated with the allure of Bigfoot (aka Sasquatch, Yeti, Skunk Ape, etc.) since I was a kid. I mean who hasn’t watched that iconic Patterson film from the 1960’s and wondered if it was in fact not a hoax but a potentially undiscovered large primate. I am the eternal skeptic though and often read stories about Bigfoot only to later see that they have been debunked as a fallacy or just someone’s attempt at their 15 minutes of fame. I do, however, commend the Bigfoot community in their efforts to authenticate their findings and their tireless searching and research on the subject matter.sasquatch

I wish I could say the same thing for the average Christian. Can you defend, or even explain your faith to an unbeliever? This is something Jude, the half-brother of Jesus felt very strongly about in the beginning of his epistle. Jude 1:3 says “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

Jude addresses fellow believers and it seems almost mid-thought he changes course from encouraging them about their shared salvation and begins pleading with them to contend for their faith. The mental imagery he was painting about defending the faith was something very physical, something reminiscent of a Roman gladiator fighting for his life. We are called to preach the word of God and proclaim His truth so we must know the word in order to defend it. I encourage you to pick up your sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, and start defending your faith. Can you defend your faith against a Sasquatch?

 

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Do You Sleep Like A Bear?

Do You Sleep Like A Bear? Do you live in a place where bears can be frequently seen on spring and summer days? That must be terrifying! Lock your doors immediately! With all joking aside if you have ever noticed the behavior of bears you notice that their activity starts to slow down once the weather gets cold and pretty soon their sightings stop altogether for several months. During the cold winter month’s bears will often hibernate because of a lack of available food. This process is quite interesting to me as their bodies simply slow down their metabolic processes and this allows them to essentially “sleep” through the harsher months.

How many times as Christians does it seem that when times get tough we will simply shut down and go to sleep? It is quite the easy route to take when we forget the power of Christ that resides in us. Our natural inclination is to just slow down our rate of activity in order to enter into false rest. When scripture talks of sleeping it usually is a metaphor for death, as in the case with Lazarus in the Gospel of John as well as in Ephesians.

Ephesians 5:13-14 says, But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” So even when times are hard and we just want to ball up and go to sleep both physically and spiritually we must remember that the light of Christ has illuminated us. Jesus calls us back to life and requires us to carry our cross even when it gets heavy. Do you sleep like a bear?

Photo Credit:  Jim Bauer

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Are You Watering Grass That’s Just Going To Wither?

Are You Watering Grass That’s Just Going To Wither?

Are You Watering Grass That’s Just Going To Wither?Have you ever thought about how much time you spend on trivial things like making sure the lawn is perfectly manicured or the flower garden is adequately planted with the prettiest blooms? Isn’t it easy to get carried away in the pursuit of perfection or attainment of “yard of the month” and neglect the things that truly need our attention? 1 Peter 1:24-25 says For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you.”

This scripture is comparing out lives to withering grass and falling flowers. The good news is that God’s word stands the test of time and we can rest assured that the time we spend studying the word of God is time well spent. The word that is preached to us, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is timeless, everlasting and has the utmost importance and staying power. Our mortality is just as real as that of a flower fading and grass withering in the context of eternity. When we root ourselves in God’s word we will not wither and we will not fade because the result is an eternity with Jesus where there is no more death. That’s an amazing thought! Are you watering grass that’s just going to wither?

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Pure As The Driven Snow

The past few days have been a chilly reminder of winter’s very firm grip on my home state of North Carolina.  An “arctic blast” of cold air has swept across much of the country sending temperatures down well below freezing.  I honestly can’t remember a colder winter and yesterday it snowed. I watched the developing storm on the local news channel for days, hoping its trajectory would amble just a little further east so that we would get snow where I lived.  I mean if it's going to be cold it might as well snow right?  It seems that my prayers for frozen precipitation were answered and by lunchtime there was a thin dusting of snow covering the ground. Tiny bitter cold snowflakes fell for the next 12 hours or so as the temperature plunged lower and lower.  We ended up only getting around 1-2 inches of snow but it was enough to blanket my backyard in a sheet of white.

When I looked out my kitchen window this morning as the sun was rising over the trees in my backyard I had the thought that Jesus covers our sins like this snow covered my yard.  It’s not an original thought, I’ve heard that analogy for years and it's even in the scriptures, but today it struck me more than normal.  Just like a winter storm, conditions have to be perfect for us to accept and receive our salvation from Jesus.  We have to admit we are sinners, realize the need for salvation, and confess that Jesus is our Lord.  Without these elements all working together as a well timed storm we can’t receive our free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Isaiah 1:18 says “Come now, let us settle the matter”, says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  When we accept Jesus, our sins are covered, just like my backyard with the pure white snow.  Everything that was a blight, the holes, the dead grass and dog poop are all covered by a white covering.  To the eyes of the Father our sins look like Jesus' blood and in his righteousness and perfection we are now viewed by a loving father thanks to Jesus’ covering.  No matter what is underneath the snow, the new focal point is the purity and not the filth that lies beneath.  I’m thankful that God sees me through the lens of what Jesus did for me and not what my life looks like without Jesus.  How about you?  Are you pure as the driven snow?

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Do You Have Wisdom Like An Owl?

Do You Have Wisdom Like An Owl?

Have you ever heard the saying “wise like an owl?”  The personification of the owl seems to suggest that they have an inherent wisdom that we humans may or may not possess.  The truth is, an owl is no wiser than a crow or hawk or any other large predatory bird and surely not wiser than a human being.  This idiom probably has to do with the way an owl looks very serious and almost seems to be contemplatively listening as it sits silently in the trees.

The good news is that our Lord gives wisdom generously to those who ask.  James 1:5 says If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”  Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”  If you truly want to be wise, look not to the owl but to the God who created owls!  Do you have wisdom like an owl?

owl

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Are You Tired Of Flying Solo?

Are You Tired Of Flying Solo?

Have you ever been struck with awe as a group of geese fly above you in their clamorous V formation?  Seeing this phenomenon has always been a delight for me for as long as I can remember.  The geese fly this particular way when they migrate south because it helps them to not get exhausted flying such far distances.

Romans 12:3-5 says, For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

The geese function as a team, not as individuals, just as we are supposed to operate.  If the same geese flew south individually they would take much longer to get there and could potentially die because of the stress involved in flying alone.  The function of the V formation is to provide less wind resistance for the group, thus making it easier to fly in tandem.  When the leader of the group gets tired he can fall back to the read of the formation and essentially draft with the others as they all fly as a unit.  This V formation also requires each goose behind the leader to keep the others in its direct line of sight so they are all accountable to one another. If one is suffering or falls back they’re even able to adjust their flight to accommodate the individual in need.

Jesus has called us as believers to live in community.  We are not set apart to become lone rangers but to live in unity with one another, holding each other accountable and sharing in the gifts he has blessed each of us with.  We all aren’t good at the same things but thankfully as a collective we can achieve the purposes of Christ by combining our talents together.  Are you tired of flying solo?

goose

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Are You Like A Hollow Tree?

Are you like a hollow tree?

Every time I see a hollow tree while hiking through the woods I always knock on it in hopes of seeing some sleepy animal coming out to greet me.  There have been a few occasions where my habitual knocking have produced something wild, like the time I found a nest of baby raccoons and the time a swarm of angry bees erupted from the cavity.  It’s not always a good experience initially, but the mystery of the tree’s cavity always gets the best of me.

A rotting of the heartwood in the tree typically causes hollows in trees.  This can occur as a result of stress brought on by disease, lightening strikes, fungi, bacteria and a slew of other agitators.  The emptiness in these trees weakens them and can lead to their death if the cavity is great enough.  The integrity of the tree is compromised because the strength of the tree lies in its core.  The rotted heartwood negates its structural integrity making it susceptible to breaking during storms.  We can use this as an obvious parallel if we allow the stress of this world to cause emptiness in us.  When we are stressed out and we allow emptiness to consume us, any number of things can fill the void.

Proverbs 4:23 says, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  As believers in Christ, we are called to guard our hearts because that is where Jesus takes residence as we believe in Him.  Our heart is the wellspring of our lives and out of the excess of our heart we will speak as scripture says.  As believers we can fill our emptiness with the love of Christ because He is more than enough to satisfy our every need!  Are you like a hollow tree?

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Are You On The Right Path?

 Are You On The Right Path?

 

Have you ever heard the statement “all paths lead to God?”  I was recently hiking at a place I had not previously hiked before and realized I didn’t know which path actually led to the place I wanted to go.  If I used the logic that all paths would lead me to the goal I set out to find, I can only imagine where I would end up.  The problem with that statement is that all paths eventually do lead to God, but all paths don’t allow you to stay in his presence.  We will all be judged for the actions and choices we make in this life and we will all eventually meet the creator of the universe, so in that regard I can agree that all paths lead to God.  The problem is, however, if we don’t accept Jesus and are cleansed of our sins by his blood, God’s justice requires that we will be eternally separated from His presence.  It's not God's wish that any of us spend eternity in Hell but we are already condemned if we don't accept the free gift of salvation He sent by way of his crucified son.

Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” God has given us a way out, a way to the right path, through His son Jesus Christ.  We have the opportunity in this life to be forgiven and placed back in right standing with God if we accept the sacrifice of His son.  If you’re seeking to find the right path and don’t want to just be lost in the woods, I encourage you to look to Jesus.  He is the way, the only way!  Are you on the right path?

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Do You Sing Like A Bird

Do You Sing Like A Bird?

 Birds truly inspire me to worship God and focus on proclaiming how awesome He is.  Birds sing all day long, I’ve even heard them sing in the rain!  They are such a great example of how we are to live as believers and followers of Jesus Christ. Psalm 145:21 says, “My mouth will speak in praise to the LORD.  Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” 

The Psalmist proclaims that his mouth will speak in praise to the Lord.  Every time I hear birds singing I think about them singing praises to our God.  Psalm 96:11-13 says “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it.  Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.  Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.  He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.”  Since our God is the creator of all things, it is only fitting that His creation worship Him in thankfulness.  Have you ever thought about birds singing praises to God or the trees joyfully singing in worship to their creator?  Do you sing like a bird?

PineWarbler

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