The Static Nature of Change-Lessons From the Chameleon

Cape Dwarf Chamaeleon

The ability to adapt to an ever changing environment is never so evident as when observing certain species of chameleons. As seen in the image above they can change to camouflage their appearance to avoid detection by would be predators. However they can also change to signal to others of their species as in flirtation or simply to display their current mood. It was long thought that process was achieved due to numerous pigments beneath the skin but studies as late as 2014 proved this to be false. Instead they found that some species actually have a sub layer lattice of nanocrystals that can be manipulated by the chameleon to affect the way wavelengths of light are reflected or absorbed to create various colors. As for mood swings highly agitated chameleons will appear as red, dark or even black while calm, relaxed or non-threatened ones will appears in the softer blue and green shades.  So in essence it is possible to know the mood of your pet lizard just by observing their color.

There is at least one thing about life that never changes, and that is that life will always change!  Change does not discriminate-it comes to us all.  Many times those changes are welcomed and embraced-you get that promotion you worked for-you meet that special someone-you recover form an illness-you move to that location you always dreamed about-you attend the wedding of your child-you escape an abusive relationship-you change your hairstyle.

And then there are the unwelcomed and unsolicited changes we dread-you become unemployed-your spouse asks for a divorce-you receive bad news from your doctor-your financial and credit status take a major hit-you fall off that trail you’ve navigate before in a foreign country and shatter your leg-you lose your hair. Like it or not, good or bad, a change is a comin’.

Much of the Christian world has been in a panic over recent decisions by our courts that are contrary to our belief system. They feel the church is heading for disaster or even that our standard, God’s word has been compromised or forcefully changed. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have an assurance from Christ Himself that His words would never change or pass away.  The Gospel is an absolute static truth.  What will change is how we effectively use it as a weapon of defense in these trying times.  The face of our enemy will change-the strategy against the family unit and the church will change-the effective polarization of the church will change-the increasing test of our resolve and relationship with Christ will change. Like our chameleon friend, we have to be ready and able to adapt to our new surroundings, and we have to determine how that change needs to take place.

There is a passage familiar to many in the Book of Habakuk, chapter 3 which reads like this:

Though the fig tree does not bud  and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LordI will be joyful in God my Savior.

Many use this passage as an affirmation of faithfulness and devotion to God, and rightly so. But when I read a bit closer, I see an assertion that faith will remain in spite of the pending season of change.  In fact the verse preceding this one eludes to pending calamity. Just for my benefit, this scripture carries much more meaning when I read it as when the tree doesn’t bud and when there are no grapes and when the crops fail and there is little food. Why? Because few of us will escape this world of troubles without facing these seasons of change. Season by definition eludes to something different than the now. If indeed there is a season for everything as written in Ecclesiastes 3, then our expected norm should be the expectation of change, or the change of life’s seasons. If we live our lives prepared for the possibility of change, then change can’t possibly come when we least expect it.

God in His sovereignty is the source of much change in the life of a growing and maturing believer. In every area of life where we ascribe for something higher, whether a higher degree, a higher job title, a higher belt or certification, there is a time of testing that is required to see if we have satisfied the requirements to obtain that higher level. As faithful followers of Christ we should expect nothing different. I have never gone through so great a season of testing than when I asked God to take me to a higher level-a season of spiritual change. I’m not sure I’d do it again, but the change was for my good. Be careful the sincerity of what you ask for!

Thank God for the NEVER changing Word that we an fall back on in our EVER changing lives. And thank God for lessons from the most unusual of His creation. I wonder what it would be like to be purple for a day.

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The Progressive Evolution of the Church

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I have spent the last couple days configuring a new notebook computer.  May I insert here that Patience is not one of my spiritual gifts. I do not embrace advanced technological change. When everyone was singing the praises o this new phone called the IPhone I was perfectly happy with my antiquated Blackberry. When personal music media evolved I was still humming away with my Walkman. As people gather to worship with their electronic tablets I still like the look and feel and smell of my old leather bound Bible with its scribbles, crumpled pages and stretched cover.  I don’t consider myself as old fashioned necessarily but I am not eager to change things that work for me just because I’m told there are better ways of doing things. This new touch screen laptop with Windows 8.1 and Outlook 2013 is replacing my old desktop with Windows XP and Outlook 2003-you can see what I mean when I say I don’t embrace change.

We live in a progressive world. Everything around us is changing-faster, greener, leaner, smarter. Gadgets not in existence twenty years ago are now staples to our lifestyle that we can’t imagine living without. When is the last time you used a corded phone or played your favorite cassette? Can you even find a store that still accepts paper checks? Does anyone still own or use a phonebook or dictionary? Some change can be good even when it is forced upon us through advanced technology.  Some forced change however should not be so quickly embraced.

The face and identity of the twenty-first century church as we know it has certainly been caught up in change. Prayer chapels are now bookstores-greeting areas are being replaced with bistros. The only church organ you might here is an effect on the more modern Korg keyboard.  But more has changed than just the cosmetics.  Our theology and ideology has “evolved” to better fit into a more tolerant society that frowns upon uncomfortable Biblical tenets, rigid commandments and outdated creed. In many churches this more modern ideology has been incorporated to keep attendance numbers and giving in place.  In others the thought is to be more open and nonjudgmental for fear of being targeted as hateful or pious. The mega-churches in our country preach happiness, prosperity, kingdom privilege and favor over discipline, humility, sacrifice and suffering. After all, who wants to go to a church that teaches that following after Christ requires submission to the same sufferings as our Savior when just down the road we can hear the secrets to getting the best parking spot or that job promotion we are not qualified for. And Worship should make us feel good and sermons should be motivational speeches, not disciplinary lessons of faith.

Many in the faith are concerned with the modern day evolution of the church.  Even as I write this the courts of our country have made a decision on what was once a sacred cow to the church.  But we as believers must share the responsibility for the face of our church.  We have stepped away from sound doctrine. We have set up sermon courses like a TCBY bar-just pick those toppings you prefer. We have turned a blind eye to things going on right under our noses because we don’t want the world to see our imperfections. When I was a teen it was common knowledge that you go to church camp to lose your virginity. Famed televangelists are caught up in adultery, fraud and solicitation but reconciled back to their pulpits at the speed of the best computer processors. Fear of God, or more precisely fear of our individual actions before God has been MIA for decades and the fruits of our blindness are being seen today.

We should not be surprised at these events as Christ told us in the Word, that Book that many are trying to change to make more palatable, that there would be false teachers, bad teaching and a falling away from the Body, the church. I’m not an alarmist by nature but we were warned. But if the great apostasy that was foretold is a result of the lukewarm stance and disregard of traditional and Biblical church tenets by the church, then we are going to have some explaining to do before Christ when He will judge us all for how we handled, divided, represented and lived His words in our lives, our churches and our communities.

As an imperfect follow of Christ I have to conduct my thoughts, beliefs and affairs according to absolute, relevant and eternal truths, specifically those I find in scripture:

Psalm 33:4; For the Word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.

Hebrews 4:12; The Word of the Lord is alive and active.

2 Timothy 316; All scripture is God breathed and to be used for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

Psalm 119:105; Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Isaiah 40:8; Grass dies and flowers fall but the Word of God lasts forever.

Psalm 18:30; Gods ways are perfect; The Lord’s word is flawless.

As a church we must united on the uncompromising Word, careful not to disregard the heart of the commands it contains for us in an effort to me more appealing to the world.  Yes we are to go out to the highways and biways to invite them all to come just as they are and we are to love them as Christ loved us and to show them the same mercy and compassion, allowing the Spirit of Christ to make the change.  But in doing so, the church still needs to be reflective of the true character of Christ, not the twenty-first century version we are presenting to them. We must love our neighbors as ourselves, we must forgive so that we may be forgiven, we must acknowledge injustice and take a stand-we must strive for peace whenever it is possible without compromising the very words and nature of our God.  The enemies and forces of this world are ramping up the intensity of the attack.  The weak will fall and the careless will be trapped. The unchanging, still relevant, unpopular Word of God is our only defense and our best offense. It should not be up for debate within the church but held as our eternal banner and standard for living a loving, caring and disciplined Christian life even in the twenty-first century.

Disclaimer; the thoughts above are my opinion and not directed toward any specific faith or denomination. Any resemblance to these allegations are coincidental (and should probably be addressed).

 

 

 

The Healthy Fear of a Sovereign God

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As a young boy much bigger for may age than average, there was little I was afraid of, at least from my peers. I got into very little trouble growing up. It might have been that I was in church so much there was little down time to get into any mischief. Or it may have been the one thing I did fear-those six words that evoked the fire of God whenever I heard them-“just wait until your dad gets home”. You see, at 6’8″ and 300 lbs my dad too was bigger than average! For greater impact I would hear my mom relaying the details of my latest waywardness to my dad when he called while on break, so I knew he would be planning my punishment for several hours before ha came home and played the role of disciplinarian. In every single case the wait was more dreaded and effective than the punishment.

As a believer I am grateful for a God who we can approach as Abba Father-one who is often described as loving, gracious, merciful kind, forgiving, patient-all attributes which are scriptural and true. We are told and can bet our life on the scriptures that tell us nothing can separate us from the unconditional love of God.  But, I wonder if the church, both the institutional church and the body of believers that make up the church, have so embraced the message of grace that we have completely disregarded the unchallenged sovereignty of God. We don’t want to consider the Old Testament God of jealousy , vengeance and wrath because it doesn’t fit into our 2015 definition of a more tolerant, sociable, politically correct, changing with the times God that we have created to better fit our conscious-one that allows us to fit in and be more widely accepted and considered for office, for promotion and for more likes on our social media outlets.

It’s ironic that those who oppose or deny the concept of God are first to point out accurately that God killed people in the Old testament simply because they did not follow His commands. The Mega-churches have apparently lost that section of the Bible. Don’t get me wrong-I believe that those who are looking for the truth and for eternal hope should not be scared into salvation at the thought of an angry God just for eternal insurance purposes alone. The message of the cross is one of forgiveness, of hope, of reconciliation and restoration of a sinful people to a loving, caring God whose desire is that none should perish needlessly. But to properly appreciate the loving and merciful side of God one must balance it against the judging, jealous and total rule of the same God who created a race of people to worship Him and Him alone and to fear Him who has no equals.

The stories of God’s wrath against an unruly people are too numerous to list. There were complete cities destroyed for their shameless disobedience. The armies of Israel were often decimated when they turned their backs on God.  Even Moses was prohibited from entering the Promised land because of a procedural error.  God was and is a stern God who demands fear, allegiance and obedience-nothing has changed in His expectations.  The difference today is God’s gift of His Son who took our sin punishment on the cross and acts as our advocate by covering us who accept Him with His righteousness so that the wrath of God is thwarted before being administered.

We are living in a time of great arrogance and brazen boldness as a church in general and as a nation as it relates to the issues and spiritual challenges of the day.  In order to boost attendance and keep our nonprofit status we have put forth a God who more resembles a Disney character than a God who is described in Revelation having hair white as wool and eyes blazing like fire-with feet like burning bronze and a tongue like a double edged sword. When I was younger and in church I hated always hearing sermons about hell-about how you could leave the church building and be struck by a car and enter into eternity.  The message left me uncomfortable and uneasy about the true motive for following in the path of Christ.  But the message was and is that God can’t be ignored forever just because His ways and laws are inconvenient to us or socially irrelative to the current culture.

In Him there is a life of abundance. But outside of Him, there is danger-there is peril-there is judgment. Some might ask “why would God do that” or how does a loving God allow this or that”. And my answer would be simply, I don’t always know.  He is God, I’m not. He’s in charge-I’m under His loving rule. I don’t try to argue with God.  I have many questions, but who Am I to demand answers or justification from God. I accept my role and love the promise of what is waiting.  And yes, I fear God.  Not in a panic fear but in the realization that apart from Christ, I am worthy of no less than the punishment I read about in the Old Testament.

We are living in perilous times. The Word of God is being dissected and voided of all hateful appearing verbiage. The Government is trying to tell us how we can interpret and practice our faith in complete defiance of the first Amendment to practice without interference. The entertainment, educational and political systems are lining up against the church in what will eventually play itself out as a major war for the saints that may change the face of the church as we know it now.  It is time like never before to have or develop a healthy fear of God, His word, His commands and His judgment.  The popular t-shirt is so right on-“Only God Can Judge Me”. What a horrible notion for those living in opposition to His nature and His sovereignty.

Looking Up When You’re Feeling Down

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If you are one of those who are always on top of your game, you wake up and kiss the sky and your kitchen sings to you while you make breakfast, this post isn’t for you. It’s for the rest of us who don’t live in Disney World, those who strive to live a positive life but still battle the demons of failure, sin and worthlessness-real people.  I am one-I’m with you-those days when you wonder if you really matter, if you are really loved, if you would be missed if you were gone, if you are having any positive impact on those you love and pray for. Those small doubts become large gaping holes of opportunity for attack. Each day is a new war to wage against the dark, spiritual and tangible forces that are well trained at knocking us off course.  If you aren’t the target of such attacks, you aren’t fully engaged in life or your faith. The following are excerpts from a sermon I wrote years ago but still as relevant as it was then.  There are key weapons at our disposal to aid us in our daily battles against weariness, depression and discouragement.

“There are times in our faith walk when we find ourselves in a spiritual funk.  We are on a straight and narrow road, running this race-running like Forest Gump-running and running and running. There comes a time when I just want to stop running.  I see a little spot off the beaten path and I pull off the road just to stop running.  The place I find myself in here isn’t necessarily attractive-it’s isolated-it’s disconnected-it’s quiet.  It’s not lively, it’s not dead-it’s just hereHere is a place where my prayers don’t seem to travel far.  Here is a place that is under the radar from the dark forces of life.

Eph. 6:12 reads “For we fight not against people made of flesh and blood, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in heavenly realms”.

The enemy is highly trained to target those who are engaged in their faith.  But as long as I’m here, no one cares.  As a Christian, I know all I need to do is call on Jesus for help and get back on the road.  I can even see the road from here, but it is just easier to stay here.  This is my spiritual funk.

Now that I’ve painted you a picture of spiritual funk, how many of you have been here too?  How can we get there from here?  I have come up with 5 easy but vital steps for Christians to follow to avoid these funks.

Step 1-Guard your thoughts.

We are so easily led astray by our own thoughts.  We haven’t mastered the art of bringing every thought into captivity. I have struggles with reassurance issues.  In my mind, I tend to put myself up here more than I should.  The problem is that it doesn’t take much of a parting shot to knock me down to here-an unhappy customer, something the kids say, a series of unlucky events, any form of rejection.  If I believed in blind luck, I would be the one person he can’t see.  When things don’t go your way, or the people around you point fingers, you start to believe that maybe you are the problem. Job’s friends told him he was the reason for all the calamities God allowed in his life, and Job tended to believe them.  We completely disregard every positive thing scripture has to say about who we are in Christ. This is the ultimate trick of the deceiver-he wants to remind us of all our past mistakes, all our failed relationships, all our closet skeletons, and we buy right into this trick.  The result is a feeling of inferiority, insecurity, and unworthiness, all contrary to what Christ thinks of us.

Philippians 4:7 says this; “Tell God what you need and thank him for all he’s done.  If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  (Vs 8). Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right.  Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise”. 

Step 2-Seek out positive nourishment

There are several good sources of Christian nourishment available to us.  One of my favorites is Christian music.  I’ve always loved music-it is the one medium that can completely change your attitude or actions.  For example, when the classic rock song “I can’t drive 55” comes on, amazingly, I really can’t drive 55.

Music can be uplifting-I’m always amazed how a piece of music that was recorded years ago on electronic media can still become a worship experience in your car.

Our brains are complex recorders-we can recall every good or bad thing we’ve seen or heard in the course of a day.  If that’s the case, we should expose ourselves to positive influence, whether music, or a good book or a good TV program.

Romans12:2 says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.  This is a daily process if we are to avoid spiritual funk.

Step 3-Choose your friends wisely

This one is interesting to me.  I don’t personally believe that as Christians we are only supposed to hang with other Christians.  That’s not the model Christ gave us.  In fact Jesus, according to scripture, was quite a party animal. But his closest friends were believers.  When we socialize it is important to spend time with those who share your faith-they will become a great help and support to you when you’re in trouble.  And be very careful about those you hang with who are not Christian-they can easily lead you down a different path.  Our non-believing friends need our influence, but we must not yield to theirs.  It is too easy in the course of having a good time to let your guard down or compromise your core values after prolonged exposure.  The friends you confide in will ultimately be advising you.

Psalm 1:1 reads “Oh the joy of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked.”

Step 4-Know your weaknesses

I have weaknesses.  I am not alone.  It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a Christian, we all have kinks in our armor.  The enemy always knows your weakness.  For some maybe it’s lust, for others maybe pornography.  Some may have a substance addiction-maybe you gossip-maybe you eat too much-maybe you have a gambling problem-maybe you’re just plain crazy.  Having a weakness is not necessarily the problem, especially if you’re honest enough to admit it to yourself and to God. However yielding to your weakness over God’s strength  can put you in your own spiritual funk.  Putting yourselves in situations where you could stumble is just not responsible as a Christian.

1 Peter 2:11 says “Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here.  So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they fight against your very soul”.

What does this mean?  It’s simple really-if you can’t hold your liquor, you should stay out of bars.  If you have an eating disorder, the Carnival Buffet is not for you.  If you can’t get on the internet without migrating to a porn site, stay off the computer.  If you’re down to your last $3, don’t spend it on Megabucks.  If you like spreading rumors, don’t listen to any new ones.  Are you starting to get the picture?  Don’t give our enemy any advantages against you.

1 Peter 5:8 says “Be Careful. Watch out for attacks from the devil, your enemy.  He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for some victim to devour”.

Step 5-Spend time alone with God

Perhaps one of the hardest things to do when you’re in a spiritual funk is to spend time alone with God.  Part of being in this place is the feeling of disconnection you feel.  When you cry out to God, it’s as if you hear the echoes of the canyons, but when you pray, you almost feel the prayers bouncing back off the ceiling.  It is in these times that it is most imperative that you habitually seek God out, remembering he hasn’t gone anywhere, even when we don’t feel his closeness.

James 4:7 says “Humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw close to God and God will draw close to you.  (vs. 10).  When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor.”

Sometimes our path is dark and cold and each step is just another step of faith into the unknown. But God promised to be with us in the valley of shadows and death, not to take us around it as some might suggest but to be our guide and companion until we can navigate through the density and the turns. Our yellow brick road to Oz may seem more like a muddy trail through an endless swamp but in Christ, we can be sure that our final destination will be worth the hazards of the journey.

 

Give us This Week our Weekly Bread

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Would you be content with having but one good meal per week? With the unlimited availability of  food in our country, should you have to? What if that one meal per week was just meat or just desserts or worse yet, just junk food?  Most of us would develop ailments from malnutrition, suffer fatigue and leave our immune systems vulnerable to any infectious disease it couldn’t fend off through proper nutrition.

I was recently involved in a discussion with some church folk friends of mine about mature believers who change churches when they feel they aren’t being adequately fed by the pastor or priest.  When I hear this I envision a nest of chicks with their mouths wide open waiting for the pastor to drop in a nugget of spiritual truth, then flying off to gather more food while the chicks wait in their nest for their next meal.   This approach to church is wrong on many levels  and deeply disturbing to me.

In too many instances the burden of spiritual nutrition is laid upon the local pastor with little or no responsibility borne by the believer.  The expectations placed on the local church and its clergy do not line up with the primary function and purpose of the church as described in the New Testament.  Scripture is clear that we gather together corporately to worship God and encourage each other-period.  Of course a good sermon or homily aids in exhorting us on to good works and falls under the function of encouragement. We all love to hear a message that moves us to do something that enables us to more accurately reflect Christ.  But just as our bodies require daily nourishment so too our spirits require daily feeding.

I reside in Las Vegas, perhaps the capital of the world’s best and biggest buffets.  I admit that I love going to one place where I can choose to eat from Mexican to Italian to Asian to American cuisines with no limit on how much I eat.  I can even have just desserts if I choose. But no matter how delicious the food is or how much of it I eat in one sitting, I’d be in bad physical shape if I only relied on that one weekly meal for my overall health.  I had to learn how to cook for myself and provide daily meals the other 6 days of the week or I’d starve.

Church members are no different. Expecting your pastor to provide your weekly meal and complaining that you are not being fed is equivalent to eating out once a week and not knowing how to feed yourself in between. We have at our fingertips the Word, our daily bread, the exact same bread our pastor distributes on Sunday. The responsibility of our own spiritual fitness is not the pastor’s but ours. We are encouraged to “study to show thy approved”, to “rightly divide the word of truth”.  We can’t do that on one meal per week by neglecting our own accountability.

The best clergy are the ones who through their weekly homilies whet the individual appetites of their parishioners for spiritual meat to the point that the parishioners can’t go a single day without personal study and devotions.  And those who are taking in their daily bread will never complain about their pastor not feeding them.

There are numerous reasons for changing churches as the Lord leads, but malnutrition through personal apathy should never be one of them.

Bon appetit!