We all know the story of how Peter walked on water with Jesus (Matt 14:22-31). This particular story has been on my mind the last couple of days. I thought about Peter and how much faith it took for him to step out of that boat onto those surging waves. I thought about what made him doubt. What made him take his eyes off of Jesus, and focus back on the waves around him? What made him doubt? Was it the waves lapping up on his legs? The spray of the sea on the wind? What? Then my mind leapt (as it is wont to do on occasion) to the men standing on the deck of that ship he left behind. What were they thinking? Did one of them say “He looked away! Look! Peter looked away from Jesus, now he is sinking!” As I thought about those men I placed myself there on that deck. I could see Peter step out, and I watched him cross the boisterous sea. I knew the exact moment when he failed. I saw the moment he took his eyes off of Christ and I knew his doubts as he started to sink. You see; it’s really easy to see the whole picture when you are not there among the waves. It’s easy to watch, when you’re not in the midst of the action, and to say “There! That is where he made his mistake!” We must refrain from doing that, though. We mustn’t persecute someone for their mistakes while we sit safely to the side without anything on the line. It was when I thought back through the story and realized I had pointed the accusing finger (“There! That is where he made his mistake!”), that I had to stop and tell myself to shut up. Who was I to criticize? After all at least Peter got out of the boat.
2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? Eccl 1:2-3 (KJV)
King Solomon was the wisest king to rule over Israel, yet he remained unsatisfied with all that he did He was unhappy with all his accomplishments Wealth flowed into his kingdom’s coffers as freely as water fell from the sky, and yet he remained unhappy, seeing nothing worthy in anything he did. When money didn’t suffice, he turned to drink. When that didn’t work, he turned to pleasures of the flesh. When that didn’t work, he threw himself into his labors, and still nothing helped. Nothing made him happy. I find myself in that same rut sometimes. What’s the point? Nobody is seeing these words. Why bother writing them down? What do you gain by doing this? DING! There is where we go wrong. Happiness is not something you can gain for yourself. Happiness is given to you by God as a reward for faithful service. If you start into a venture wondering what you will gain from it, you probably won’t be gaining happiness out of it. Satisfaction, maybe. Maybe even pleasure, but not true happiness. Solomon realized this by the end of the book, but the first section makes you wonder if he is going to live long enough to learn. Gloom and doom rides him like a tangible cloud. The things that give you true happiness can’t be bought and they are treasures you will only find by giving of yourself.
With all my running around, and prepping for the convention Friday, I forgot it was Monday (until it was Tuesday). So I’m afraid it will be a retro post this week. Here is one of my favorites that was originally published in 2012 (wow has it been that long?);
I recently went to the eye doctor. Since I have worn glasses most of my life, I decided I was ready for a change. I tried contacts when I was younger, but they were the hard lenses and were a lot of trouble. With all the advances in the field of optometry, I thought I would give them another chance. I tried them today, and was amazed at how much clearer my vision was. I was also how much less of a hassle they have become. I started thinking about how much trouble I’ve had with my eyes and then realized that God was showing me things from another angle, yet again. I’ve always had eye trouble, and I’ve always had I trouble. “I” tends to get in the way of so much that God wants for us. We think we know what “I” needs. We think we know what “I” wants, but when we get it, we are only happy long enough for the new to wear off of it. When God gives us things, they are things that keep on making us happy. The new never wears off of them and it fulfills us. I’ve been facing these “I” problems for the past couple of months without realizing it. “I” was focused too much on what “I” thought God wanted for me. “I” kept thinking “Why would God lead me this way?” when it seemed so contrary to the way “I” thought He would take me. “I” forgot that He knows better than “I”. “I” forgot that He can see farther than my “I” will ever be able to. I’ve finally decided I need to stop trying to see things through my “I’s” and just let Him lead the way. Amazing how a trip to the Eye Doctor can bring things into focus for you, isn’t it?
When I was growing up I checked a book out of the public library called ‘The Wizard of Earth-Sea’ (they eventually made a movie of it. I wasn’t impressed). I always loved to read, and had read enough that almost all of the books that the library had that I liked to read, I had already read. I usually chose them at random. A lot of times it didn’t even matter what genre. I read everything from westerns to sci-fi. When I would pick out a book, I would choose by how cool the artwork was on the front, barring that an interesting synopsis on the back, but ‘The Wizard of Earth-Sea” had neither. It was a plain hardback book, with a hideous green cover, and the title in small flowing, black script on the front. The only reason I picked it up was because it was something I hadn’t read that was in one of my favorite genres. I read that book through in one night. It was a short, but well written book, and I loved it. The writer had a way with words that swept you along through his story, transporting you in all but body to his world where heroes and dragons faced off. I would have really missed out on an awesome story had I judged that particular book by its cover. People are like those books. You never can tell what is hiding behind those covers, and if you refuse to read the first chapter because you don’t like the way the dustcover looks, you could be missing out on the greatest adventure of a lifetime. I know we have all heard this particular piece of advice before, but I felt like we could all use a little reminder with all the hate-speak and political correctness going on today. So before dismissing that person standing next to you in line, read the first chapter. You might be glad you did.
My dad is a logger. We (kids) would help him in the woods over the summer when we were growing up. Most of the time I worked the Loading Zone, trimming up trees as the skidder would drag them in. Now in the logging business, you want to separate your trees by loads. The good, big and straight ones you can cut a length of log off of the base and get a better price when selling them (a little over simplified, but bear with me). Those logs had to be a certain length for the wood yards to accept them. Because of that, when working the Loading Zone, the trimmer or de-limbing man usually had a measuring stick. That stick was marked, and as those logs came in, he would measure the cut of log with that stick. If you knew a log was coming into the Zone, you would stand there at attention with that stick propped with one end on the ground and the other on your shoulder, like a quarterstaff at rest or your best friend. As a kid, back then, working for my dad, that stick killed a million deadly imaginary ninjas and slew dragons by the dozens. So that stick became more than just a way to measure a cut of log. It became a way to measure the cut of a man. The demons that I faced back then were all imaginary and since then I have come to learn the real ones all too well. But I can still see my dad holding that stick and standing taller than any man I have ever known. During all that time that stick was just a stick. It wouldn’t measure anything unless you gave it a value first. If it was dropped in a pile of them, all it would be was another stick. If you broke it, you went out and cut another. The stick itself was ordinary and didn’t mean anything unless you assigned it a value first. The funny thing about it is this; once you gave it a value, you had to use it to measure with, and when you did that you had to tote it over to that log. This is what most Christians forget. As you hold that stick waiting on the log to come in and getting ready to measure, it has already started measuring. Standing there holding that stick, it is measuring you. How well do you measure up against it? This is the meaning of that oft misquoted Bible verse;
1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Matt 7:1-5 (KJV)
The message yesterday was on Acts3. While I sat and listened to the preacher talk, the scene began to play out before my eyes. Those of you that have read and are familiar with the New Testament know the story I am talking about. The story of Peter and John as they came upon the lame man begging for money outside the temple gate, where Peter spoke those famous words; “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give to you also. In the name of Jesus Christ stand and walk.” Immediately the beggar’s legs were healed and he ran shouting the praises of God. As the story was played out on the screen in my head, I began to empathize with one of the players. This is one of the many ways God has spoken to me through the scriptures, so I waited with eager ears to hear what He was about to say. I wasn’t disappointed. I was surprised, and astounded by the vastness of my ignorance, tho. I expected to see something of me in Peter, or for something to resonate between me and John. I did NOT expect to empathize with the lame beggar. You see when Peter spoke to him, the beggar paid attention. He turned to Peter and John expecting money, something to live on for the next day, or if he was lucky, the next two or three days. These men of God had taken pity on him, and were going to give him something. This is the way I feel when God speaks to me. He has had pity on me and is going to give me something to help me through the trying times of this life. So when Peter said his famous words, it confused the beggar for a moment, and then he reached and took him by the hand. That is when God worked through Peter. Not just giving the beggar money, but giving him something worth sooo much more! The ability to walk! No more did he have to rely on the generousness of others to live. No more sitting and hoping that some man would take pity and help him. He turned to Peter expecting money, and received his Life instead. If we count on men, at best we can only get enough to get by for a few days. If we count on God, we need never worry about it again. After the service I was in awe of how I could miss such a message in all the times I had heard and read that story. Then I had to laugh. I realized that I was going to have to go home and tell my wife that God told me I was lame.
There have been times in my life when I have gotten into arguments. No, really, I have. I know you find it hard to believe, but it is true. Nine times out of ten (or maybe eight, at least seven, I know) times it is because of miscommunication. More specifically on the definition of a certain word or phrase that I thought was a “given” meant something different to somebody else. I recall one time my wife and I got in a serious disagreement over the Bible. She said it was an ‘Instruction Manual’, and I corrected her (yep, mistake no.1) and said it was a ‘Guide Line’. When someone says ‘Instruction Manual’ I think of “place screw 15786509 into hole 344476349 and tighten until snug” or some such. You see it names the screw and the hole and tells you what to do with them. A Guide Line is more of “a good way to take connect these two boards with a screw. You may also use a nail or some twine, but the screw is the best way.” Do you see the difference there? It may only be a subtle difference, but there it is. It was enough that the Devil could stick his foot in the door and cause stress and dissention in the ranks. We argued over that particular subject for quite some time, and I had no idea why until much later. We were both saying the same thing, but using different words to accomplish it. The Bible tells you how to handle situations without getting bogged down with the specifics (like names of screws and pegs and what-nots). Now-a-days, with the advent of texting and social media we have to be extremely careful of how we phrase things, lest we give the enemy an opening. We as partakers in social media need to also keep this in mind and not take offense at the first perceived insult. It is really hard to apply the right ‘tone’ to some messages, and sarcasm often doesn’t translate well either (imagine that!) So when you read something you may find offensive, before you fly off the handle and start a three page rant about someone, and then unfriend them, you might stop a moment and try to figure out if what they ‘said’ was actually what they ‘meant’. (And to finish the story about me and my wife arguing, all was well as soon as I admitted I was wrong. There see how easy that was?)