a pic full of rocks with a question mark painted on one of them

Between My Ears

If you have ever listened to a classic rock playlist or radio station, you have probably heard the song “We Are Family,” sung by Sly & the Family Stone. It’s a catchy toon. For believers, we are family. The old saying, you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family is true about the Church. “The church is a family, the “household of God” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Now you may have had bad experiences with your natural family and some in the Church. Here’s the difference. You only have your natural family for a short while. Don’t love them to get love; love them to be love to them. As for your spiritual brothers and sisters, you have them for eternity, so do as God’s Word declares: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Have a great day!

Photo by Ana Municio on Unsplash

a pic full of rocks with a question mark painted on one of them

Between My Ears

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.

Ecclesiastes 11:5 NLT

Oh how often we want to know the mysteries of God. When we are crushed, we cry out to God, “Why?” When our lives seem to be unraveling, we cry out to God, “Why?” When doors of opportunities for good deeds are shut, we cry out to God, “Why?” But God seldom tells us why. In these times, what God desires is trust. In our darkest hour, we should remember Psalms 16:8 KJV, “I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

When confronted with events that make no sense to you, don’t allow doubt to come into your life. Don’t be moved by circumstances. Trust in Jesus, the only one that can mediate your condition to our God whose activities cannot be understood.

Photo by Ana Municio on Unsplash

a pic full of rocks with a question mark painted on one of them

Between My Ears

In the 1957 TV show, “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” there is a funny exchange of words between Lucy and the actress, Tallulah Bankhead:

Lucy Ricardo : Are you asking me to leave?
Tallulah Bankhead : ‘Throwing you out’ would be more appropriate.
Lucy Ricardo : Let me tell you something, Tallulah Bankhead, I’ve been thrown out of better places than this!
Tallulah Bankhead : You have never BEEN in better places than this!

The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour

When we experience an embarrassing or stressful circumstance, our nature tries first to justify our actions, but then our emotions kick in, which makes us relive that event over and over and over. We run scenarios in our heads to take the same set of circumstances and produce a better outcome. This state can become crippling, but that’s not God’s plan for you.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Psalms 43:5 NIV

If you find yourself reliving an embarrassing or stressful event, give that circumstance to Jesus. Remember, it is because of God’s will that you are alive. “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

Photo by Ana Municio on Unsplash

a pic full of rocks with a question mark painted on one of them

Between My Ears

This morning I was reading in the book of Mark, chapter eleven. This chapter begins with the first-hand account of Jesus making His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. I had to stop and write this “note” when I came to these two verses.

As they were untying it, some bystanders demanded, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They said what Jesus had told them to say, and they were permitted to take it.

Mark 11:5-6 NLT

This verse may be surprising to us because we no longer have a society in which everyone participates. It is impossible to impose a civil society “from the top down” – this approach is called oppression. Only when a society has a unifying “good” can they experience peace and prosperity.

Notice that some bystanders challenged the disciples when it appeared that the disciples were stealing the colt. Israel had a unifying “good.” Their “good” was God and His Scriptures. These tenets were generally taught and accepted by the Israelites. This cohesiveness empowered average Israelites to be invested in the good of their country. America needs this.

We, as Americans, need to return to our “good.” Our “good” is God – “Only God is truly good.” (Mark 10:18) We find our good documented in our “Declaration of Independence.”

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

Declaration of Independence

Only when “these self-evident truths” are generally taught and accepted by Americans will we have sufficient cohesiveness to empower average Americans to be invested in the good of our nation.

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Court Jury Debate Lawyer Legal Justice Law Judge

Our Judicial System

Something that is a concern in our country is whether our judicial system is trustworthy. There are many political perspectives, but I don’t want to consider any of them today. Instead, I would like us to consider why any judicial system must be accountable to God to be effective and accepted.

Let me state right up front that there is only one law that is required for a safe, peaceful, and just society: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Mark 12:31 Every disagreement can be resolved by this law. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need rules – speed limits, tax levies, building codes – but all laws, codes, and ordinances should be under (ruled by) love your neighbor as yourself.

Insulated From the Flaws of Humanity

When it comes to upholding the law, credibility is key. Every judicial system requires the trust of the people it serves to function effectively. Anything that chips away at this trust erodes the system’s legitimacy in the eyes of those it’s supposed to protect. For a judicial system to be credible, it must be insulated from humanity’s flaws. This seems impossible, but God solved this problem for the Israelites and set the example for every judicial system ever created.

16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother.

Deuteronomy 19:16–19

The Solution

Here is the solution for removing human flaws from a judicial system: Accept God as the head over the judges and all those that serve in the judiciary as well as all people that are accountable to the laws of the land. Notice what God established in Deuteronomy 19:16–19. The defendant, the accuser, and the judges all are beneath a mediator between God and man. For the Israelites, priests fulfilled the role of mediator.

No judicial system can ever hope to serve justice if its laws and the legal system are made by people, implemented by people, and enforced by people. Why? Because people are fundamentally flawed. I heard an attorney say that our legal system had nothing to do with justice. The sole responsibility of our system was to enforce the laws. There should be no consideration as to what is construed as “fair” or “just” because our legal system is charged with the enforcement of statutes conceived by legislators and codified by bureaucrats

What We Need

In America, courts used to require anyone that spoke to the judge or jury to take a vow of truth (swear to God). This put the court, and everyone involved in the judicial system “under God,” just like our money.

When we talk of mediators, as Christians, we may be tempted to claim that we are accountable only to Jesus as our high priest and mediator but concerning civil matters, He said, render to Caeser what is Caeser’s. (Mark 12:17) If we desire justice, then we must bring God back into our judicial system. The same is true for our school system and legislators. If we bar God from our institutions, we can have no expectation of justice.

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court room

Distorted Gospel

 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7

A time of distorted gospel

We live in a time like the days of the apostle Paul, so much so that this passage in Galatians, from the pen of Paul, resonates in us as we, too, seek to tell the good news that Jesus bought and paid for with His blood and royal position (Revelation 17:14). Yet even while we tell people that Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke19:10), we are confronted by false doctrines from laypeople, religious leaders, and people at all levels of our government that lay claim to the name of our Savior, yet twist His words, attempting to smother the Truth with a gospel mixed with the leaven of this world. (Matthew 16:6)

Our goal is obedience

A Christian’s goal is not to rack up the most days lived, but to rack up the most days lived in obedience to Christ Jesus. It’s not a long life that we seek. It’s a long obedience in the same direction that we seek. Being schooled by public officials on how we should worship and where we should worship is beyond foolish; it’s heretical. 

This world is not our home. We are as Abraham, looking for a city built by God (Hebrews 11:10). We are just passing through this veil of tears (Psalm 84:6-8 NLT), attempting to avoid the Slough of Despond1. We live in this world, but we are not of this world (John 15:19). If we were to receive and ingest the heretical teachings from those who believe they have made wickedness holy by their own power, then I would no longer need the cleansing of my feet, but as Peter said, “wash all of me.” (John 13:9-10)

Purveyors of a perverted gospel

These purveyors of a perverted gospel are received and extolled by business tycoons, heads of state, and all manner of media moguls. The safety net that Christianity has so long enjoyed is gone. We are witnessing a separating between the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), a kind of foreshadowing of that great day of God’s judgment. (Acts 17:31)

Where sin abounds, grace abounds more

So, what is a Christian to do? Flourish! Where sin abounds, grace abounds more (Romans 5:20). We are in the midst of a great harvest. People are desperate for the true fruit of the vine. (Matthew 26:27-29) True, people deceive easily. And when told the true Gospel, the decision they face is whether they will surrender all to Jesus. (1 Peter 5:6-10) And by all, that means their lives, prejudices, predispositions, and pride – this often costs them their family, friends, and the very structure upon which they’ve built their lives.

Yes, it’s no longer business as usual. We can’t just hide in our houses and wait for this sea-change to fall upon us. God is a Mighty Warrior. His name is El Shaddai – God Almighty, the Overpowerer (Job 40:1–2Matthew 19:26)

God is a Mighty Warrior

I think many of us have forgotten this. It’s time to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11) and join in the spiritual battle that now rages, for we fight not against flesh and blood (people are made in the image of God):

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12

God destined us for this time in history

Some Christians may lament the loss of a lifestyle that their grandparents had, a time of distorted gospel, but be of good courage. God had us born into such a time as this, for this is our calling!

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  1. Slough of Despond – The Slough of Despond (/ˈslaʊ … dɪˈspɒnd/ or /ˈsluː/;[1] “swamp of despair”) is a fictional, deep bog in John Bunyan‘s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, into which the protagonist Christian sinks under the weight of his sins and his sense of guilt for them.
Children Running, Playing

Children Running

Right at this moment, I hear children running, and screaming with glee. Today is the first day of school and this is their first recess of the year. There seems to be an imperative within kids that when exiting a school building and entering a playground that they must run and scream and burst forth with joy and that’s just fine with me.

Upon this first day of school, each child is a bit older, a bit wiser, a bit fuller of anticipation of what the future may hold for them. What joy this brings to both my wife and I. You see, we live behind a school. It is all an open field between us and the school. Over 200 yards of empty.

The kids of this school, like most schools, are full of hopes, dreams, social challenges, social victories, and all that comes with an environment built to affirm the value of each child.

For me, I’ve reached a point in life when birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and such have lost their excitement; not their joy but just their newness. In this process, I see within me the mechanics of what often happens as people age.

Shrinking World

So often, older people shrink their world, they become hesitant of change, they close their pockets, and close their minds. But I have determined that I will have none of that. Whatever I have, that is good or of value, has come from Jesus.

I have not forgotten who I really am. I am that young man, standing in the dark, outside a social gathering, hoping I could find someone to help me get a job because I had failed in all my efforts. That’s the real me. All else is the work of the Holy Spirit within me.

Anything good that can be found in me or from me is not of me or is mine. That which is of value or is just or right is what Jesus, my Lord and Savior, placed within me. Therefore, how can it be that I should allow myself to be stingy, withhold my help, or haphazardly pass judgement upon others. No!

I pray, oh my Father, in the Name above every name, that Name of Jesus of Nazareth, help me to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2 ESV) Oh God, I pray you would impregnate me with Psalms 112:5, which says:

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;    
who conducts his affairs with justice. Psalm 112:5 ESV

May I never deal harshly or haphazardly with anyone made in Your image, my God. Amen.

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Creation Dances

Watching God’s Creation Dance

I spend most of my time at home, which is fine. I have a great view of our backyard where I watch birds and squirrels, and all manner of Gods creation. Still, for me, outside in wide open spaces is where I see God’s creation dance.

If we look back to the time of Adam, many scholars believe they all lived a nomadic life. A life not unlike that of Adam’s descendants, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

But, when we visit Adam, we also should visit Cain. See, Adam’s son Cain was the first person to build houses and cities. Why? Because of fear, and that fear birthed a need for self-sufficiency. Cain wanted to protect himself, so he made things in which he was willing to place his faith.

Genesis, Chapter Four

Genesis 4: (ESV)
8 …Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.

10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 

13-17 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden…Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.

[Cain’s Enoch not the Enoch that God took]

Keep in mind that Cain was the first murderer (v.8). Still, one of Cain’s biggest fears, when confronted by God was, “and from your face I shall be hidden.” (v14) So, even while Abel’s blood is crying out to God (v.10), Cain desired God and God’s heart of mercy is present in His judgment of Cain.

Out of God’s mercy and desire to remove Cain’s fear, God places a mark on Cain so everyone would understand that if you mess with Cain, then you were messing with God. (v15). We don’t know what the “mark” was, and it doesn’t matter.

Now, Cain wanders (i.e., Nod) towards the East (v.16). He finds a lovely place, and unlike all of his relatives, Cain builds a city, and he builds a family (v.17).

Yes, his wife almost certainly was his sister. (you can puck here) However, God didn’t give humanity the law to not marry close relatives for another 2,500 years. And Abraham was married to his half-sister, Sarah. Still, not marrying a close relative has been the law for at least 3,000 years, so it is never acceptable.

Seth Gets Cain’s Inheritance

It is essential for us to know that all the chosen people by God are from the lineage of Seth. Seth was the son God gave Adam and Eve after the death of Able. All of the great things God has done through humanity should have traced back to Cain, the first-born son of Adam and Eve, but because of Cain’s anger, he lost it all. Uncontrolled anger is a drug more damaging than any chemical we can abuse.

Perhaps, the next time you walk outside, you can take a moment to thank God for His marvelous creation. And, in your heart, determine not to put your trust in a house or a city and don’t allow your anger to cost you and your descendants everything God desires for you and them.

In your heart live free, live unencumbered by this world, live joyfully; live a Christian sojourner’s life, and watch God’s Creation dance.

Photo by Jyotirmoy Gupta on Unsplash

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I’ve worked for many good leaders but I once had the privilege of working for an exceptional leader. He was excellent because he had woven into his leadership style some non-negotiable values. For example, as president of the company, he would regularly go into the factory and work with the temporary “temp” workers for an hour or two, and he required his leadership team to do the same.

He was consistent in his decisions and required anyone that came to him with a problem to also bring with them a recommended solution. He placed a strong emphasis on himself and all his leadership team to continually learn and apply techniques that would be good for everyone. I saw him “tear up” in front of the whole company because we had to lay off a group of people.

Deuteronomy 17:18-20 (NIV) says, “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests.  It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left.”

God made sure His kings understood their leadership mandate was from God and under the auspices of God. Therefore kings had no reason to think more highly of themselves than they ought (Ro 12:3). This principle also holds for any leadership position right down to those in charge of the men’s fellowship breakfast or the cookie sale.

Leadership is a tough job full of temptations to think of yourself as unique, to exempt yourself from burdens you place on others, to avoid the details and focus on concepts and to compromise instead of working to build a consensus.

The underlying wisdom here reminds us that leaders need to build into their lives accountability, to be committed to managing core principles and to not delegate those to others. Also, leaders need to write down a copy of those core principles (really) and continually reference them, so they are sure they remember them and to communicate that those core principles are non-negotiable.

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

The seriousness of the allegation…

A conversation with my son plus a “hit piece” in the media about a minor political figure prompted me to address, again, the dangers of hateful rhetoric. 

My son has become exceptionally well educated in history and politics, and is a true source of joy, especially during our lively debates. However, during our recent conversation, I became aware by the casualness with which he passed judgment on public figures, verbally attacking them instead of disagreeing with their ideology.

I’ve tried for many decades to convince people to keep their complaints and their debates centered upon ideas and actions and to never demean or demonize a person. After all, we are all made in the image of God so we should tread lightly when we venture from the world of ideas into the world judging people.

Certainly, there are people that have said and done things so egregious as to justify their excommunication from society. Nevertheless, it’s a rare thing for God to show us His plans for that person so we can, in good conscience, elevate ourselves above them to pass judgment over them. 

As a society, we have been duped by sound bites such as, “Due to the seriousness of the allegation…” I’ve had more than one attorney tell me that I can sue anybody for anything at any time. Allegations are just that, an assertion by a person or a group of people. The person(s) making the allegation is rarely, if ever held responsible if their assertion is found to be incorrect or misplaced.

A challenge for us is to, in humility, apply justice and mercy if we are called upon to judge a person. Let’s look at what Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-3,5 (NIV): “1) Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2) For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3) “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?…5) You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

The heart of Christ’s command is not a wholesale prohibition of judgment (see v.5), but rather to humbly seek the truth in a matter with fear and trembling. Condemning a person’s faults may be a failure by us to forgive, for God’s Word says in Micah 6:8: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

In closing, please again consider the commentary on Matthew 7:1-5, from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

  • Judge no man unless it is your duty to do so.
  • As far as may be, judge the offense, and not the offender.
  • Confine your judgment to the earthly side of faults, and leave their relation to God, to Him who sees the heart.
  • Never judge at all without remembering your own sinfulness, and the ignorance and infirmities which may extenuate [make more forgivable] the sinfulness of others.

These are the concepts I communicated to my son, and now to you. I hope that all people heed this message, especially myself.

Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash

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