Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easters Still Quiet Voice

In Genesis 3:9-10:
The LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. Gods voice, full of purity and righteousness was recognised by Adam and he immediately was aware of his failure, his sin.
In Mathew 17 we are instructed by Christ himself to not be afraid of the voice of God: While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
In 1 Kings the voice of the Lord is delineated from the surroundings. Elijah, discouraged and ready to die on the mountain of God (Horeb), is told by the Lord: "Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by." A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn't to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn't in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn't in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. (1 Kings 19:11-14, The Message)

In the days of Samuel, as chronicled in 1 Samuel 3 the Lord also spoke in a quiet voice as the boy Samuel was lying down in the Temple of the Lord where the ark of God was. He mistakenly (three times) thought the voice was that of Eli his master, a prophet of the Lord. Each time he answers the call and comes to Eli. Eli finally discerns that the Lord is calling the boy and directs him to answer “Speak Lord, for your Servant is listening”. Verse 1 of Chapter 3 indicates that “word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent”
At the very birth of Christ, while Angels could be heard on high, unable to contain their joy, the voice of God Himself remains relatively quiet. This fact leads one theologian to say “While humanity slept, God came down the back staircase of heaven with a baby in his arms.” Once again, quiet & gentle. This Easter we would do good to remember that the Resurrection of Christ, the single most important event in the History of this world, happened in the still quiet of a morning, as far as we know without a sound and without a witness.

There is a great clamor of noise in the world today, as busy people chase allusive happiness and suffer the pressures of the tyranny of the urgent. People wonder if God still speaks to His people in this day, in this age. I submit that He indeed does. As was true in King David’s time, He looks to our hearts; He knows our minds and our intent. He still speaks in a still quiet voice that the open heart can hear and a willing soul can discern. He has much to say and to teach us.

Are we responding as Samuel did; “Speak Lord, for your Servant is listening”?

Happy Easter 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

How is your Morale?

1: From Moral principles, teachings, or conduct.
2: a. the mental and emotional condition (as of enthusiasm, confidence, or loyalty) of an individual or group with regard to the function or tasks at hand. b. a sense of common purpose with respect to a group.
3: the level of individual psychological well-being based on such factors as a sense of purpose and confidence in the future.
Work place morale is a delicate mixture of the mental and emotional conditions of all the work place group participants. When people discuss their satisfaction at working for a particular place of employment, morale usually plays an important role. Some people feel great working somewhere even if they do not realize ecomomic benefits that they might otherwise expect. Some folks have a great many ecomomic benefits and priveledges with their job yet feel trapped. For a meriad of reasons work place morale can make all the difference in the work place environment.
Due to the volitale mixture of personality types, work place morale is difficult to elevate and maintain, even in periods of economic boom. A big “HATS OFF” to those unsung heros in Human Resources who carry the burden of keeping morale buoyed by decorating the office lunchroom or even individual cubicles for birthdays, anniversaries, etc; organizing pot-lucks or office parties. HR never really knows how things will be interpereted by the employee. Let me give you an example:
Years ago I worked for a mid-sized company. Every Christmas in addition to bonuses they gave their employees a ham. Not a coupon for a ham, but a Ham. In an office of some 500 employees it was really strange to see everyone lined up at the end of the day, just a few days before Christmas, to receive a ham. In many ways it was quite nice, but there was a strangeness to it as well. Imagine your entire office lined up to be handed a cold 10 of 15 lb. hunk of Ham. People would actually "Moo" in the line because we all felt like cattle, lined up, not to be slaughtered of course, but the feeling of being in a "soup line" was ever present and made it somewhat strange and uncomfortable. Everyone was cordial and friendly and would make jokes and goof around but this "nice gift" still felt a little strange for all of us. Several times I wanted to get out of the line, just to not feel that way. I think it comes down to not wanting to feel beholden to the company for a simple piece of meat. There was an element of "selling out" involved in that feeling!
During times of ecomomic decay maintaining work place morale becomes a never ending uphill battle. We are all aware that adjustments need to be made as corporations, just as families and individuals tighten their belts. But, in this era of bailouts, bonus scrutiny, layoffs and cutbacks everything that management does becomes suspect. I am fortunate to work in a small company that understands the needs of the empoyee to feel secure and vital to the overall success of the firm. When it became clear that adjustments were going to be needed to weather this current ecomomy a plan was developed that included all parties across the board and was divided into three (3) tiers. Tiers 1 and 2 involved the reduction of some lesser benefits and some reduction in hours (40 hour weeks reduced to 32 hour weeks) and tier 3 would result in a reduction in manpower (job losses). Because these company adjustments are being shared there remains a sense of community, which helps maintain the company morale and fosters respect for management.
I really feel that even in these tough times, morale is as high as it can be here at my work. People still smile and laugh and enjoy being here. I hear tales of other companies that too often management is too interested in the bottom line dollars and not enough in the individual well-being, of those that made those dollars available. Corporate American needs to remember that it is built by investing in people. People who, whether they openly acknowledge Him or not, live their lives based upon at least a subset of Gods moral principles.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Great Do-Over

The Father of Lies is an expert in the game of misdirection. By offering up half truths and false hopes for what we really need and desire he attempts to lead us away from the one true God, who offers real truth and real hope for all eternity. True believers need to be mindful of the deceivers attempts to mislead us.
I recently heard a radio ad that spoke of the “Bail-out” friendly times we are currently living in. The ad promised to assist any listener who called right away in obtaining their own share of the Trillions of dollars being handed out by Washington. It seems that the “Age of Entitlement” has arrived just in time to meet the needs of the hurting, the unemployed, the broken, and the overextended and yes even the greedy!
I remember playing games when I was a child. When opposing teams had differing interpretations of the rules or accusations regarding a bad call were made, someone would call a “time out” and more often than not we would start over again. It is natural for humanity to desire a “do-over”. We were made that way so that we would need Jesus and desire the salvation He alone can provide. So, whether you are A.I.G., General Motors, Joe the Plumber or John Q. Public having a safety valve, a do-over, a second chance or net beneath you is comforting. It is one of the reasons we all have auto, home and fire insurance. It is also why our banks place that “FDIC Insured” sticker on the bank door. We feel safer, knowing someone is “watching over us” and “has our back”.
But just who is that someone? In whom are we placing our trust?
Our president and the Democrats in Congress are telling America that only the Government is big enough to solve our current financial crisis. The Conservatives will tell you that you need only trust in the free market; that the financial market will self correct if allowed to do so and a new stronger economy based upon this Darwinian “survival of the fittest” will grow out of the recession. But in either scenario money plays the key role in our salvation, either by government handout or wise investment. Both look in the wrong direction for true security.
Who invented the “Time Out” & the “Do-over”
The Creation story in Genesis (1:31 to 2:3):
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. Through this simple act of resting God created a sabbatical (from the Latin sabbaticus, from the greek sabbatikos, from the hebrew shabbathon, i.e., Sabbath) or rest from work.
Why did God create the Sabbath? Did God need a rest? The answer to this question is best found by offering another. Why did God create everything else on days 1 through 6? This world was purposefully created by Him, not for Him, but for us, so that we might have a home to live, grow and relate to him. He did not need rest, but He knew that we, as imperfect creatures, would need a hiatus, a period of regeneration, a time and opportunity to refocus our lives and attention on Him. He demonstrated this wisdom by practicing it. This is just one of the ways He showed us His Love, by first loving us.
The Sabbatic yearThe concept of a sabbatical has a source in several places in the Bible Leviticus 25, for example, where there is a commandment to desist from working the fields in the seventh year :
(Leviticus 25:1-5) The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a sabbath for the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land.
The Super Sabbatic Year - the Jubilee Year - annus jubilaeus, "year of jubilee", or simply ha-yobhel, "the jubilee" : The Hebrew word yobhel stands for qeren ha-yobhel, meaning the horn of a ram. Now, such a horn can be made into a trumpet, and thus the word yobhel came to be used as a synonym of trumpet. According to Leviticus 25:9 a loud trumpet should proclaim liberty throughout the country on the 10th day of the 7th month (the Day of Atonement), after the lapse of 7 sabbaths of years = 49 years. In this manner, every 50th year was to be announced as a jubilee year.
The Jubilee Year, being the crowning point of all sabbatical institutions, gave the finishing touch as it were to the whole cycle of sabbatic days, months and years. The Jubilee Year was to be observed after the manner of the sabbatic year, i.e. there should be neither sowing nor reaping nor pruning of vines, and everybody was expected to live on what the fields and the vineyards produced "of themselves," and no attempt should be made at storing up the products of the land . There are three distinct features of the Jubilee Year: personal liberty, restitution of property, and a more simplified life.
Personal Liberty:
The 50th year was to be a time in which liberty should be proclaimed to all the inhabitants of the country. While bond slaves must have been the foremost in realizing its beneficial effects, the law was intended to benefit all, the masters as well as the servants. They should never lose sight of their being brothers and citizens of theocratic kingdom. They owed their life to God and were subject to His sovereign will. Only through loyalty to Him were they free and could ever hope to be free and independent of all other masters.

Restitution of Property:The institution of the Jubilee Year was meant to become the means of fixing the price of real property (see Lev 25:15), it excluded the possibility of selling any piece of land permanently (see Lev 25:23), the next verse furnishing the motive: "The land is mine: for ye are strangers and sojourners with me." The same rule was to be applied to dwelling-houses outside of the walled cities (see Lev 25:31), and also to the houses owned by Levites, although they were built within walled cities (Lev 25:32). In the same manner the price of Hebrew slaves was to vary according to the proximity of the Jubilee Year (see Lev 25:47-54). This passage deals with the enslaving of a Hebrew by a foreigner living among the Jews; it goes without saying that the same rule would hold good in the case of a Hebrew selling himself to one of his own people. In Leviticus 25: 17-25 we find a similar arrangement respecting such lands that were "sanctified unto Yahweh." In all these cases the original owner was at liberty to redeem his property at any time, or have it redeemed by some of his nearest relatives (25:25-27,29,48 ff; 27:19).
The crowning feature, though, was the full restitution of all real property in the Jubilee Year. The primary object of this regulation was, of course, the reversion of all hereditary property to the family which originally possessed it, and the reestablishment of the original arrangement regarding the division of the land. But that was not all; for this legal regulation was closely connected with the high calling of the Jewish people. It was a part of the Divine plan looking forward to the salvation of mankind.
"The deepest meaning of it (the Jubilee Year) is to be found in the restoring of all that which in the course of time was perverted by man's sin, in the removing of all slavery of sin, in the establishing of the true liberty of the children of God, and in the delivering of the creation from the bondage of corruption to which it was subjected on account of man's depravity" (Romans 8:19) In the Year of Jubilee a great future era of Yahweh's favor is foreshadowed, that period which, according to Isaiah 61:1-3, shall be ushered in to all those that labor and are heavy laden, by Him who was anointed by the spirit of the Lord Yahweh.

A Simple Life:In the 7th and 8th years the people were to live on what the fields had produced in the 6th year and whatever grew spontaneously. The Jubilee Year was producing a "simpler life." They could not help but live simply for two consecutive years. What was the intention of the Lawgiver? Perhaps it was not the simple life as such that God had in mind, but rather the establishment of its moral and religious foundations. "What shall we eat the seventh year?" The answer is very simple and yet profound: "Then I will command my blessing upon you," Nothing was expected of the people but faith in Yahweh and confidence in His power, which was not to be shaken by any doubtful reflection.
The root of the simple life: no life without the true God, and no simplicity of life without true faith in Him. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Mathew 4:4)
What became of the Jubilee Year?
The Jubilee Year is well outlined in the Book of Leviticus, but did the Jewish people ever observe the Jubilee Year? There is no reason why they should not have observed it in pre-exilic times If they failed in keeping it, we should not be surprised at all. Not that the Lords idea was flawed; but what is more common than unbelief and unwillingness to trust absolutely in Yahweh? Was it observed in post-exilic times? Here, too, we are in the dark. There is, indeed, reason to believe that the Jubilee Year has never been observed neither in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah nor at any later period. The truth of this seems to be corroborated by the silence of Josephus, who, while referring quite frequently to the sabbatic year, never once mentions the Year of Jubilee.

Whom can we trust?Is God still seeking a relationship with His people? Does He still desire that we have faith and confidence in His power and provision? The answer is Yes, of course! God is steadfastly unchanged in His commitment to loving us. Do His people still need rest (Sabbath) as designed by Him? Do they still need a do-over (Grace) from time to time? The answer is in the way we still seek to fill these God shaped holes in our lives with things other than Yahweh. The answer is in our indivudual hearts. Hearts hopefully open to receive His rest and His grace, never willing to settle for the false hope & security of anything else, whether it be is a government handout or a well performing retirement portfolio. Our true security rests in Gods provision on our behalf of our daily bread and the eternal salvation offered through His Son. As our founding fathers proclaimed....In God we trust!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Building Gods Kingdom - One E-mail at a time!

Larry Lucas is a friend of mine. He used to work for Chick Sporting goods building all their stores. He now works with Calvary Chapel Golden Springs building God's Kingdom by spreading the word of God as a lay leader. For the past several years now, even while he was still working at Chicks, he has been writing a daily devotional. He started the devotional to reachout to his fellow employees. He felt that if he gave them little bits of Gods word, coupled with a little story or illustration, it just might sink in and enable the Holy Spirit to take root in their lives. Today his devotionals are e-mailed out and forwarded to hundreds of people just like you and I all around the globe. Like a small mustard seed, Larry's vision for reaching people for God has grown beyond his wildest imagination. Larry has a heart for God. Here is todays devotional from Larry.
Good morning,
Today’s Scripture is Hosea 4:7
The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame.
Hosea, whose name means Salvation, was by commandment of God speaking to and about the northern kingdom of Israel. The nation was enjoying a time of prosperity and growth, but moral corruption and spiritual decay set the tone and attitude of the people.
The more they prospered, the more they trusted in themselves and not in God. The more they prospered, the more they turned away from God and His ways. In the previous verse we are told that the people were destroyed for of their lack of knowledge and their rejection of the law of God. They were too busy with the good things of this life to seek out the Lord in His Word, and they found their enjoyment in the things of the world rather than the things of God.
Prosperity wasn’t their sin, it was that their desire for the things of the world was greater than their desire to know God and to follow God’s ways.
Sounds a lot like our country today doesn’t it? And what was the warning that God gave His people if they wouldn’t return their hearts to Him? “I will change their glory into shame.”
Has our time come? Are we reaping what we’ve sown? It would appear so from the state of our economy and everything else that’s going on in our country right now, but God is so gracious, He always gives us a way out.
2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
I know that things seem impossible and it looks like we’ve past the point of no return, but let’s not forget that with God, all things are possible. We must never stop praying for this country and its people.
God bless you all. Have a great day.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Prepare for the Worst / Expect the Best!

Well, it’s fast approaching, it’s almost here, and it’s about to happen: my hard-wired, time clock is sounding the alarm; my built-in tachometer is about ready to redline; my internal odometer is about to move to a very significant digit… I am about to turn 50.
Quite a number of people arrived have at this milestone ahead of me, what wisdom could they offer a fellow traveler? Here are some funny ones I found and enjoyed reading:
“Looking fifty is great… if you’re sixty.” ~ Joan Rivers
“If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself.”
~ Mickey Mantle
“I'm not 50, I'm 49.95, plus tax!” ~ anonymous

It is somewhat difficult not to start believing that I should search out and find more sand for my misshapen hourglass or rollback my odometer somehow. Here I stand, on the brink of the age precipice, with no retreat, no relief, no ability of turning back. Is it all down hill from here? Or is it? Each day, it feels like I am struggling to go up hill more and more. This old body does not function as smoothly as it once did, long ago. But in truth, it is not the years; it’s the mileage …and the inadequate level of maintenance too. Over the past 30 years I have been a slacker in the area of fitness. Too much TV and evening snacks have had their way with me and I now find myself a diabetic cancer survivor, 40 lbs overweight, with a 50% blockage in my right carotid artery. The true picture of our condition and circumstances, can be quite sobering:
"Turning 50 gives me more yesterdays than tomorrows." ~ anonymous
The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always being asked to do more, and you are not yet decrepit enough to turn them down. ~ T.S. Eliot
I'm aiming by the time I'm fifty to stop being an adolescent. ~ Wendy Cope
Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life. ~ Daniel Francois Esprit Auber
“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age” ~ anonymous

I can choose how to view my life, as I survey it from this milestone. I can look back on my life and see mis-steps, missed opportunities and misfortunes of my own or I can see the countless blessings that my creator has bestowed on this worthless soul. I can be choose to look upon my life negatively our upon my loving God’s gift of blessings and grace positively. Too often I opt for the former, knowing the latter is a far better reaction to our Lords continual provision.
This weekend I will be celebrating 50 years of life with true thanksgiving to God for His grace. I have much to be thankful for. I have my beautiful wife Traci who loves me in spite of and through my flaws. Her patience and love for me have demonstrated Gods love to me time and time again. I have three beautiful children Skyler, Dylan and Kaycee who are a complete joy. Each of them joyfully and openly receiving and growing in the love and knowledge of Christ. I have a brother, Jeff and sister, Andrea and a full complement of nieces and nephews that reach out and love me even in the sporadic times we assemble and share. I have a loving mother who always has a smile and kind word to say, in spite of the piecemeal attention I extend to her. This family of mine deserves far better than I give them and yet they accept what I give anyway as a full portion and in so doing they demonstrate to me the love and grace of Christ.
I have two dear friends Kent and Michael who love me and entrust me to keep them accountable to the God they love and to the spiritual growth they wish to achieve. What an honor it is to serve them in that capacity and to have them reciprocate the favor far better than I am able to do for them. Most importantly I have a God who loves me, has a plan for me and wishes to give me the desires of my heart. Sure, I pray that my physical health will improve, but more importantly I pray that my spiritual fitness will soar to new heights and that I will always have an answer for the hope that is within me:
By the time we hit fifty, we have learned our hardest lessons. We have found out that only a few things are really important. We have learned to take life seriously, but never ourselves. ~ Marie Dressler
“Except ye become as little children, except you can wake on your fiftieth birthday with the same forward-looking excitement and interest in life that you enjoyed when you were five, "ye cannot enter the kingdom of God." One must not only die daily, but every day we must be born again.” ~ Dorothy L. Sayers


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Attitude – A Window Into The Soul

Recently I saw a movie that contained the following line “I want to get a face lift to improve my looks, you know… the face is the window into the soul!” I remember laughing at the line, feeling that if that were true…. then I had a rather wrinkled, leathery soul. It is true however that smiling faces are always more inviting and soothing to the spirit than frowns, snarls or the variety of displeased facial contortions of a downcast spirit.
It is truly amazing how contagious moods can be. Up beat people are a joy to be near, depressed people are a joy to be far from. Maintaining a positive attitude is important in your effect on those you encounter on a daily basis. Some of these people may not know Christ and you may be a key player in their exposure to Him.
Unemployment figures due out Friday are expected to show that the U.S. lost a net total of 500,000 jobs in December. If accurate, that would bring 2008's total job losses to 2.4 million, the first annual job loss since 2001 and the highest since 1945, though the number of jobs has more than tripled since then. If that news does not depress you, have a look at your 401K balances. I am reminded of a passage from Charles Swindoll’s book “Strengthening Your Grip” on the importance of a proper attitude:

"Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens and 90 percent how we respond to it. I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me, my circumstances or my position. Attitude keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. When my attitudes are right there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me."
What a great attitude about attitudes! Also there is Paul’s Letter to the Church in Philippi to consider (Philippians 4: 6-9):
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you"
While our firm has managed to retain all of our employees during this economic downturn, we have gone to reduced work hours, which has forced us all to “tighten up our belts” by 20%. Such financial changes challenge our faith. I hope and pray that as people of faith, we repond to such challenges as God would have us. I remain His. I remain All In!