Author Archives: daytontn

Five Long Weeks

Sorry for my absence!  It’s been five long weeks for me.

As most of you know, I am a manager at a local IT managed services firm.  That’s my day job. My part-time job is that of adjunct instructor for a couple of colleges.  I rarely teach for Bryan College, but Belhaven University tries to keep me busy.  And that they did!  I taught each Monday and Tuesday in downtown Chattanooga for the past five weeks.  And that about did me in!  Thankfully, Labor Day weekend hit on the second week of the schedule, but I still needed to take the day after the last class off as a vacation day to recoup.  I learned one truth through the experience.  I can’t agree to teach again back-to-back nights.  It’s too difficult on this old body, particularly since I need to be fully-engaged in my position during the day.  I need at least one day between classes from this point forward.

We live and we learn.

I like getting old.

Seriously–I am thankful I turn 50 in March.  I like maturity, partly because it has been so slow in coming for me.  I like perspective.  I am grateful for the realization that the greener grass elsewhere is simply a mirage.

I don’t have anything profound to say at the end of a long week.  I think I am still worn from the past five weeks.  I’m also tired from working outside today with a chainsaw.  I am ready for a good night of rest.  Hopefully I will write something worth your attention in the near future.  Tomorrow I will begin final grading for the two courses I just completed teaching.  I’ll be watching some football as well.  Part of the morning will be spent gathering with God’s people at church.  Looks to be a good day.

Thanks for stopping by the blog.  I hope you had a great month.  Blessings, Tim

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Taylor Swift is not legendary

A few days ago, I heard a promotion on the radio for a major music event upcoming in Las Vegas.  Taylor Swift was mentioned in the list of scheduled performers.  That did not surprise me.  How the announcer described her, however, caught my attention.  In fact, it made me laugh.  He did not call her beautiful.  He did not call her talented.  He called her legendary.

Legendary.

Not the word I expected.  And–I believe–it is not a word we should use so flippantly when describing individuals.

I heard that radio spot on the way to Pizza Hut to pickup food for the family.  As soon as I greeted the teenager at the cash register, I asked her, “What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘legendary’?”  Her response was perfect.  She thinks of “heroes, people who made a difference.”  People to be remembered.

Taylor Swift?

I don’t think so.

But whom?

Let me ask you:  What name comes to your mind when you hear the word legendary?  George Washington?  Thomas Jefferson?  Harriet Tubman?  Neil Armstrong?  Mother Teresa?  All good candidates.  They all made a difference.  They may even qualify for the category of hero.  But one thing is sure, they can definitely be described as examples.  And isn’t what every adult should be?  It’s what I want to be–an example; a great example.

Do you know why?

More is caught than taught.

Whether we like it or not, we are being watched.  Some of us are being viewed by very impressionable eyes.  In my case, five children are watching how I act and react.  They are listening to my words.  They are even evaluating the attitude in which those words are communicated.

That is sobering!

I am not “legendary.”  I never will be.  My name may not be remembered the week after my funeral.  The difference I have made is minimal.  However, I am very much counting on another “L” word to be in play:  Legacy.

I am currently in the process of raising adults.  They just happen to be young at the moment.  But my mission is more than simply seeing that my children mature into adulthood.  I desire them to be adults who genuinely make a difference in the world in which they reside.  Indeed–it is my intense prayer that they become God-exalting, people-blessing adults. Should that be the result of our incessant efforts and untold hours, Jodi and I will be very pleased.  We do not care of our children become legendary; faithful with their time, talents and treasure will suffice.

Parenting is such a challenging vocation!  Without a doubt, it is the most difficult calling in which I have engaged.  How desperately I do I need God in this endeavor!  How thankful I am that Jodi and I are on the same page when in comes to both our philosophy of parenting and how that philosophy is fleshed out on a daily basis!  Are we perfect parents?  Not even close.  Our children will attest to our glaring faults and failures.  Yet I also believe–if not now, in the future–that they will describe our parenting as purposeful.  They will remember how much we were engaged in their lives and how much we valued time together as a family.  They will also easily recall the spiritual emphasis that permeated their environment. This gives us hope as we navigate both the teenage years and the baby years (Celena is 14 and Cadence is 4 mos.)!

If you are a parent, continue to strive to take your responsibilities seriously.  Stay engaged.  Strive to leave a legacy.  If you do not have any children, pray for those who do and support their efforts.  More is caught than taught through you as well.

Taylor Swift isn’t legendary.  I am not legendary. But I can leave a legacy.  You can do the same.

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Contemporary Christian musician, do you really want me to sing THAT?

“His love is reckless.”

I heard that in a Christian song recently on the radio.  What does that mean?  I wonder if the author actually mulled over the meaning of the word “reckless” or if he choose it because it fit the rhyme in his head.  I have often thought that when hearing Christian praise and worship songs.  How much consideration was put into the writing of this song?

Now before you write me off as an old fundy (someone who only prefers the hymns of yesteryear) or someone from the reformed camp that chooses to only sing the Psalter, hear me out.  I do indeed enjoy contemporary Christian songs and modern praise and worship music.  My favorite band is Casting Crowns.  My issue isn’t in the actual music, but in the words put to that music.  In other words, I prefer meat with my music.

I found a humorous article related to this subject on http://www.theblazingcenter.com (see link below). Stephen Altrogge wrote “How To Write An Awful Worship Song.” One of his suggestions is:  Be Vague About Your Theology.  He wrote, “Make sure to avoid any theology at all costs. Don’t talk about atonement, wrath, or any other biblical concepts. You want your song to be all about feeling. Don’t let the mind get in the way. Repeat after me: Worship is a warm feeling, sort of like heartburn, only better'” (quoted with permission).

Someone who left a comment in the section below the blog (joanna) added the following:

  • Write in overblown statements about how dedicated you are to God even though it is not an accurate description of your spiritual life or of anyone likely to be singing it. Examples:
    – Jesus I will tell the whole world about you
    – Jesus you mean everything to me
    – Jesus, I’m totally devoted to you
    – I will live every moment of everyday for you

joanne concluded her comments, “Doesn’t matter if you haven’t thought of God most days last week, haven’t tried to tell anyone about Jesus in years and have a heart full of idols, including the lines above is legitimate you are trying to write awful worship songs.”

http://www.theblazingcenter.com/2010/05/how-to-write-an-awful-worship-song.html

Contemporary Christian musicians, please wrestle with your words before putting rhyme to them.  Please ensure that there is meat with the music.

God’s love isn’t reckless.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

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Grace: I Need It Now

As TJ and I were driving home from Nashville on Sunday, I heard a song on the radio by Jimmy Needham that really captivated me.

“If I Ever Needed Grace”

It still feels like yesterday
A lifetime of empty days
My hungry heart was desperate for a meal
I feasted on the bread of life
Forgiveness pierced me like a knife
Your breath filled up my lungs and I could feel
I was broke and all I could say was

If I ever needed grace, it’s now
You are strong when I am weak, somehow
I am weak enough to see
I need you to cover me
If I ever needed grace, it’s now

I met the woman of my dreams
Wanted to give her everything
Then fear came like a thief in the night
But my journal pages prophesy
That one day I’d make her my bride
Soon my best friend was wearing white
With our lives ahead all I could say was

If I ever needed grace, it’s now
You are strong when I am weak, somehow
I am weak enough to see
I need you to cover me
If I ever needed grace, it’s now

In every joy and pain
Whatever comes my way
God I need your grace

Nine short months ’til she arrived
Little hands and lions eyes
And I’m so scared I don’t have what it takes
But I hear your voice sunday morning
Father give me eyes to see
All I need’s the power of your name

If I ever needed grace, it’s now
You are strong when I am weak, somehow
I am weak enough to see
I need you to cover me
If I ever needed grace
If I ever needed grace
If I ever needed grace, it’s now

He needed grace to become a believer.  He admits to needing grace as a new believer.  He hopes for grace as his marriage begins.  He understands his desparate need for grace as his first child was born.  WOW!  Did I write this song?  Those were my repeated prayers as well.  I very much needed grace during those seasons and God answered those prayers.  But my need for grace never stops.  Like the author of the song, I find myself in need of grace again today.

Now.

When do we all need grace?

Now.

Without it, we are without hope.  Without it, we cannot breath–figuratively or literally.  As I write these words, I am reeling from the news of the apparent suicide of Robin Williams.  I had no idea that he struggled with depression.  I am saddened to think of him in a position of hopelessness–that place of not knowing where to turn for help.

If I ever needed grace, it’s now.

And–thankfully–grace is available.  God is rich in grace and He willingly gives grace to those humble enough to ask.

“Grace be with you  all” (Heb. 13:25).

http://jimmyneedham.com/

 

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Hardees can keep their burgers and porn!

I am not a fan of Hardees (Carls, Jr. for those of you “out west”).  I have never been very impressed with their menu, the cleanliness of their stores or the staff that they hire.  And–I am disgusted with the soft porn they use on television to sell their products.  We saw an ad just the other day where two women were wearing swimsuits that showed as much flesh as was probably legally to show.

So they could sell a hamburger.

Remember the “good ‘ole days” when some fully-dressed, gray-haired ladies yelled, “Where’s the beef?”

Remember when McDonald’s ads were appropriate viewing for the entire family?  I do, because those days are still in the present.  Simply put–McDonald’s does just about everything better than Hardees (you might argue successfully that the biscuits are better at Hardees).  I know that there are exceptions in everything, but I remain convinced that McD’s is a far-better managed restaurant chain than Hardees.  They are also much more concerned with family values.  Chick-fil-A leads the way, but I want to take this opportunity to (1) let McDonald’s know that I appreciate their modesty in their advertisements and (2) let Hardees know that they have seen the last dollar from my wallet.

And believe me when I say–they couldn’t give a rip.

I found the following online helpful:

CKE [owner of Hardees and Carl, Jr] is running the ads in select markets only after 9 p.m. and has no plans to drop the ads, said spokeswoman Jenna Petroff.

The ads are aimed at Hardee’s “target audience of Young, Hungry Guys,” she said in a prepared statement. “We do not aim to exclude or offend any other group with our efforts, but merely to appeal and amuse a very specific audience.”

Another new Hardee’s promotion involves using actresses dressed as French maids on segways to promote the chain’s new French Dip Thickburger.

“The Hardee’s marketing team seems intent on pushing the boundaries at every turn whether we’re talking about ‘iced B-holes’ or the company’s attempts at turning hamburgers into sex objects,” said Parents Television Council president Tim Winter, in a statement. “Each and every local franchisee can and should object and every Hardee’s customer has the right to patronize a more responsible fast food restaurant chain.”

I close with a paragraph left in the comment section below the article from which the above quote was taken. It was written by Inanho on July 22, 2009. You’ll either agree with it or continue to think of me as a conservative, old fart.

It is truly amazing to me that any corporation or advertising agency would subject the public to the kind of commercials that Hardees’ management company has aired for the last decade or more. Many commercials prior to the distasteful “biscuit hole” one have targeted the lowest common denominator of male sensibilities.  Jenna Patroff says that the ads are aimed at Hardee’s “target audience of Young, Hungry Guys,” that “We do not aim to exclude or offend any other group with our efforts, but merely to appeal and amuse a very specific audience.” It’s ironic to me that the spokesperson is a woman who certainly has no sense of the history of subjagation of, sexual objectification, and domestic abuse against women in this country. When, as a society, we have commercials entering our home that are totally insensitive to the safety and wellbeing of women through an act to “appeal and amuse” “young, hungry guys,” then we are going down a path of no return. While I agree that, if we don’t like their ads, then you can choose not to buy from Hardees, AND I don’t believe in censorship of speech in any form, we all must stand up for what is right. We cannot return to a period of our history when women were seen as second-class citizens and sexual objects, I don’t care what some “young, hungry guys” are amused by today!

 

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A Plea to Christian Teachers in Public Schools

Christian teachers, please do not be offended by this post.  I do not believe you are in sin because you are employed by a government school.  Rather, I believe God has strategically placed you on the front line of the culture war for a very noble purpose.

You are in your classroom to represent the triune God and teach His truths–truths about His ways, His world and His Word.

This plea is based out of a love for truth and out of a love for children.  I trust you love these as well or you would not be in full-time education.  You love truth.  You love children.  Teachers should do no less.

My plea also springs from my experience in public education–grades K5-12.  I was educated in government schools in Wisconsin.  Throughout my entire primary and secondary education, I was taught many facts. But I was not presented with the whole truth that unifies the facts and provides the necessary rationale for why things have happened and for how and why things happen this very day.  For example, I had perhaps ten classes in History and Science in elementary, middle and high school without a single mention of God.

It’s not that my competent, educated, well-meaning teachers ridiculed God.  They never mentioned Him.  Ever.

My former professor, RC Sproul, comments on the approach taken by our government schools in a book he wrote about worldviews:

“A neutral education is one that is neither pro-religion or anti-religion. It is neither pro-God nor anti-God. It seeks to keep God out of educational issues. The only problem with the solution is that the ideal is impossible. There is no such thing as a neutral education…Every education, every curriculum, has a viewpoint. To teach children about life and the world in which they live without reference to God is to make a statement about  God. It screams a statement” (Lifeviews).

And what statement does it scream?

God does not matter.  He is inconsequential.

So, how relevant is God to truth?

Every year I pray that I will hear that a Christian teacher in a public school is fired.

Please allow me to explain before you navigate away from this page in anger.  I don’t want anyone to lose their job. I know what it is like to be unemployed.  I hope none of you experience a lengthy period of job searching, wishing that someone–somewhere–finds your resume attractive.

But I do want to hear of Christian teachers possessing the courage to do three biblically-sanctioned activities, thus my pleaLove Christ, Live  Christ & Speak Christ.

Within the last couple of years, I asked a teacher in the government schools here in Tennessee if she had begun decorating her classroom for Christmas.  Her response caught me off-guard.  “We’re not even allowed to say the word ‘Christmas’ at school.”  Honestly, she would probably had been fine had she let the word slip a couple of times.  But had she read the account of the birth of Jesus in Luke, chapter two, she would have lost her job.

Even here in Tennessee.

Don’t miss the irony.  Had a teacher read a truthful account of the one of the most significant events in the history of the world to a class of children, she would probably have been disciplined by her principal or by the school board.  Most likely, she would have found herself filing for unemployment benefits.

But had that been the result, she could have slept well, knowing that–like the apostles so many years ago–she had done “the right thing.”

Act 4:18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

Act 4:19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge;

Act 4:20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Teachers–another school year is about to begin.  Please do not squander this opportunity.  You posses a position of great influence.  Impressionable ears and eyes surround you.  Love Christ.  Live Christ.  Speak Christ.  You are in your classroom to represent the triune God and teach His truths–truths about His ways, His world and His Word.  Let God worry about the results.

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Lost in Luminary

Many years ago I took a wrong turn in Los Angeles.

That ought to cause you alarm.  It did me!  I actually exited the freeway because I had lost my bearings, but when I was coming down the ramp I almost lost my lunch.

“Welcome to East L.A.” 

Probably not the best place for a pale kid from Wisconsin to be direction-less driving–in a new car none-the-less!  I quickly re-entered the interstate and kept moving.

A similar experience happened this week.  I was lost in Luminary.  You may not have heard about Luminary.  Many people here in Dayton haven’t heard about the infamous area on top of the mountain.  Let me introduce it by sharing some interaction I found on a website.  It begins with a question, presumably asked by someone thinking about moving to that area.

Question:  We Just Left Luminary TN And Seen A House We Are Interested In Buying Whats It Like There And What Is The Name Of The Newspaper???

Initial Response:  Is there a town named Luminary in Tennessee? I can’t find it anywhere.

First Educated Response:  It’s in Bledsoe County, north of Pikeville off HWY 127 in the Nine Mile area. You won’t find it on a map.

Great Summation of the Facts:  Luminary is a black sheep community of the county and has a bad reputation.

At one point in the history of Luminary, so I have been told, 2 of the top 10 on America’s Most Wanted list were from the area and/or were hiding out in the area.  It is known as a very tight-knit community where everyone looks out for each other.  But they are very wary of outsiders.

In the early 1990s, I actually served as a pastor of a small church on the edge of Luminary—Bonham Baptist Church (top of the mountain in Spring City on Shut-in-Gap Road).  Shortly after being hired, I was told I should not make unannounced visits to area homes without calling first.  Some citizens shoot first, then they ask questions.  Hmmmm…neighborhood evangelism.

Well…this is the area that I found myself this week.  And I was lost.  Sort of.

My son Dayton and I were asked to make a delivery to a church on the other edge of Luminary—Friendship Baptist Church.  I knew exactly where the church was due to the fact that I drove by it every day for a year when I delivered newspapers.  I also remembered that the road leading down the mountain into Evansville was near the church.  What I had forgotten was that the road was actually next to the church.  Rather than taking a right on the road, we flew by it and barreled into Luminary.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had missed my road and that I was in unfamiliar territory.  However, it was a beautiful day and my son and I were in the mood for a little adventure so I kept driving and I kept driving and I kept driving.  I also kept looking down at the gas gauge.  We were approaching the red.  My concern truly escalated when our road turned to gravel.  I was beginning to think that I must be close to Shut-in-Gap Road and Bonham Baptist, but none of the roads were marked with signs of any kind.

We finally stopped.  We could see the road ahead.  Another hill.  Still gravel.  We could see the gas situation:  1/8th of a tank.  Several miles back we noticed a small gas station.  It was time to turn around.  If they didn’t have fuel, they could give us some direction.  We arrived five long minutes later.

“Hi.  I was showing my son around the area (a bit of a white lie) and I am looking for Shut-in-Gap Road.”

“You’re on it.”

NowhereRoad

 “Really?  Oh, good.  Hey, do you have any gas?”

 “We do.”

 “Do you take credit cards?”

 “No.  Is it a debit card?”

 “No.”

 “’Cause we don’t take them either.  Just cash.”

Thankfully, I had a five-spot in my wallet (Dayton was broke as usual).  We put the gas in after I asked her how long it would take for us to get to Spring City down Shut-in-Gap Road.  She replied that it wasn’t too far, but the road was in bad shape.  We decided against it, and made our way back to civilization–to Friendship Baptist.  And that’s when I saw the road I had been looking for the whole time—Liberty Hill Road!  I knew where I was again!  We would survive our adventure.  We would survive being lost in Luminary.

But we really were not lost at all.

We were on Shut-in-Gap the whole time (as you see above, Summer City Road turns into Shut-in-Gap).  We were headed in the right direction (eventually I would have passed Bonham Baptist and made my way down the mountain into Spring City).  We just felt lost.

Have you ever been on the right road, but felt lost?

That kind of describes my spiritual journey for the past several years.

I’ve been on the right road—the narrow road that Jesus described (Mt. 7:13-27). In other words, I am completely trusting Christ alone for my salvation, not attempting to earn my way to heaven either through the doing of good deeds or the avoidance of bad ones.  I have also been utilizing some of the means of grace available to me—attending church, praying, reading the Bible, listening to sermons, etc. Yet I have felt lost.

Praying for me yet?!

Thanks!

I’ve labored to remain connected, yet I have felt so disconnected.  Maybe you can relate.  Have you been through a spiritually dry season?  Have you felt as if your soul has decreased rather than increased?  Have you experienced a time in your walk with Christ that, though found, you felt lost?

Maybe I am alone in my experience.

What should I do?  I guess I should do exactly what I did up in Luminary:  (1) Make sure I am on the right road, (2) Stop for gas and (3) Keep moving.  Without a doubt, I am on the right road.  Christ has me.  I have Christ.  Furthermore, I have no problem with “keep moving.”  I will continue to do what I am supposed to do.  With God’s divine assistance and for God’s great glory, I will persevere to the end.

But where do I stop for gas?

That’s the real question I need to answer today.  Where can I find the spiritual encouragement I need to once again find joy in the journey?  The answer is probably both objective and subjective.  There are black-and-white solutions as well as solutions perfectly suited for me.  And—honestly—I am yet to possess those solutions.  So I will keep moving until I have them.

But thankfully—though lost in Luminary—I am never alone.  Dayton was with me the other day.  God is with me always.

Christian, if you do not sense His presence, be encouraged by the truth clearly revealed in Scripture:

“…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Jesus words to all of His disciples in Matthew 28:20 [See also Romans 8:29-39]).

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Blog Number 600. Wasted time? I think not!

600_cropped-720x260

I’ve reached another milestone on the blog–Entry #600!

I can only  imagine what I have missed on the TV as I have meditated upon the Word of God and pondered the meaning of my life.  Can you believe that I have yet to see an episode of Lost?  And I’ve lost that opportunity!

Have you ever heard of Fran Copo?  According to the Guinness World Book of Records, she is currently the world’s fastest talking woman.  She can say eleven words a second.  That’s over 600 words a minute.  That is fast!  That’s a lot quicker than I took in writing the previous 599 blog entries.

600 hours (give ‘r take).  I could have wasted them away (I still waste a lot of time). I could have perfected the life of a couch potato.

Not really.

I am a worker bee.  I have to be doing.  But I am also a communicative worker bee.  I have to be talking.  Or–in the case of this WordPress blog–I have to be writing.  I’ve always been a writer.  As I child, I penned a couple of science fiction stories.  When I was a young man, I kept a journal.  In my thirties, I wrote more than a few poems.  But I have been, and I am the most at home, writing devotionals–meditations upon the Word of God with application to life today.  And the best thing about this habit is that my own soul reaps the most rewards.  I am blessed from my encounters in God’s Word and my observations from God’s world.

Now–don’t misread me at this point.  I very much want to bless you in the process.  I want to encourage you to know and show Jesus Christ.  My hope is that my years of writing have not been in vain.  If I have assisted only a few of you in your spiritual walk with Jesus, my efforts have been successful.  However, I am grateful for how I have benefited.  My soul is often dry and weary.  I regularly need to exhorted to love God and love people.  This outlet has been good for me and, as a result, good for those around me.

So I will continue writing.

700–here I come!

You are more than welcome to come along for the ride!

 

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Something lurketh within

That’s a pretty ominous title, isn’t it?!

You might expect me to announce that I have been diagnosed with cancer.  In fact, what I have is worse than the cancer my father fought.

What ails me?

Sin.

“You are seriously trying to tell me that sin is worse than cancer?”

Absolutely.

In a very real sense, cancer kills the body.  It is destructive.  It is often successful in its mission.  Sin, however, always wins.  It has a kill rate of 100%.  It kills the soul that isn’t safe in Jesus and it killed Jesus as He became sin for His people (Rom. 3:26; 6:23; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Individuals are either dead in their sins or they are alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1-11).

I read Thomas A’Kempis this morning and the following phrase especially stood out to me:

“But oftentimes something lurketh within…” (I.14.2).

Indeed.

I love getting older because the older I get the more I understand me.

Self-realization.

You probably know what I am talking about.  As we mature, we gain a deeper understanding of our sinful inclinations and our weaknesses.  We have long since given up our pursuit of perfection.  We’ve exchanged idealism for realism. Rather than seeking a cause through which we can save the world, we begin praying that we don’t mess it up as much as we used to do.

The more I understand me the better I can control me.

There is another mark of maturity.  First, we recognize that while we may have come a long way by the grace of God, we have quite a distance to go before we can truly sing the line of a popular praise song, “in all I do, I honor You.”  Second, we grasp the truth that self-control is a requirement if we are going to bless instead of curse those around us.

Self-control.

It’s a character trait commanded throughout the New Testament.  Without a doubt, it isn’t an easy task.  While some of us may be more inclined to personal discipline, our sinful flesh still desires to rule the day.  Every day becomes a war zone.  This is particularly true for followers of Christ.  We passionately want to honor Him in all we do, but our testimony parallels that of the Apostle Paul in Romans, chapter seven.

14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

Can you relate to this intense personal struggle?  If not, fear for your soul!  Either you are comfortable in your sin, not realizing that there is a fight, or you simply do not care that you are created to glorify your Creator and Sustainer–Jesus Christ.

But I care!  Though I fail, I care.  Though I sin, I care.  Though I often lose in battle, I care.  And I hope you do as well!

What keeps you from becoming despondent in your fight against that which lurketh within?  What helps us from tossing in the towel and returning to the sin we once enjoyed?  The answer to Paul’s rhetorical question!

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Indeed!

The answer is Jesus Christ!  Paul continued in Romans, chapter eight:

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The better I control me the more I realize that there is to control.

And that’s when I comprehend that I need Jesus Christ as much today as the day I met Him.  A further mark of spiritual maturity.

Dependence.

Please believe me when I say that I searched for a word that began with the self- prefix so that my three marks of maturity all started in the same manner.  However, self- is the antithesis of what the Scripture teaches on this subject.  What we truly need is outside of ourselves.  What we truly need is the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is our only remedy for sin–for our sin–for the sin we committed today.

Yes, I do have something worse than cancer.  But I also have something better than chemotherapy and radiation.  I have Christ!

10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, [and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

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Cows don’t visit art galleries

As I was showing Jodi pictures of one of the mountains I climbed while in the Army–Mt. Iwate in Japan–I found this picture.

Iwate cows

It’s a beautiful picture.  Lush vegetation meets rich, blue skies.  Mt. Iwate almost looks as if it were floating above the foothills.  Can’t you just envision sitting in a rocking chair, wasting away an afternoon as you rejoice in God’s creation?!

Well–believe it or not–the cows simply cannot fathom that possibility.  Take a look again at dairy cows above.  Several are resting.  A couple are grazing.  None are admiring the beauty.

Cows don’t visit art galleries.

It’s not because they can’t afford the entrance fees.  It isn’t because they don’t appreciate beauty.  It’s because they cannot see beauty.  They don’t have the capacity to distinguish between the common and the holy.  They have not been created in the image of God.

The imago Dei.

That’s what sets us apart from the cows, from the dolphins, from the monkeys.  Humans alone are made in God’s image.  We are like our Maker and, consequently, possess the ability to determine that which is foul and that which is fabulous.  Due to our sin, we can easily proclaim that which is truly foul to actually be fabulous, but–deep down–I believe we inherently understand that beauty simply isn’t in the eye of the beholder.

Some things are simply beautiful. 

Vivid sunsets.  Snow-covered mountains.  Rainbows.  The smile of a baby.  A rose bush in full bloom.

Like Jesus after each day of His creative work, sometimes we are compelled to think, “And it is good.” In other words, we both notice and enjoy the beauty.  And there is a difference.  A profoundly moving film was released when I was still a teenager.  The Color Purple fascinated me and spoke to me on several levels.  One line, however, stood out among many.

“I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.”

Please forgive my “French.”  It is a direct quote from the movie.  The statement was a megaphone to my soul (even though I was an agnostic at the time)!  The presupposition of the statement is glorious!  God made purple!  More than that–God made purple flowers that we might “notice.”  Or, to put it another way, God arrayed a field with beautiful flowers that we might enjoy them and that we might acknowledge His presence.

There you have it.  God creates beauty that we might enjoy Him by enjoying it. 

You’ve seen some beautiful images lately.  Have you noticed?  Have you enjoyed?  Have you worshipped the Creator?  Don’t be bovine (like a cow).  Don’t look down so much.  Genuinely look around you. Look to the left.  Look to the right.  Look up.  See the beautiful green grass and trees!  Notice the gorgeous blue skies!  Look at Mt. Iwate floating in the air!

Isn’t the Artist marvelous?!

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