Monthly Archives: July, 2014

Blog Number 600. Wasted time? I think not!

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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!

 

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.”

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?!

Top Ten Places

Disneyland

We all have special places, locations with sentimental significance, places where memories have been made, places that changed our lives. Here’s my top ten list.  What’s yours?

Ft. Leonard Wood Chapel Balcony – December 1984 – The Army facility where I first heard the gospel and the news that there was hope for a sinner such as I.  It wasn’t special in its construction, but it will forever remain a special place in my heart.  The Bible was preached.  The Spirit descended.  I was never the same.

New Union Baptist Church Altar – In 1991, two became one flesh.  A Rouse and a Wehse officially became a family.  I will never forget the moments Jodi slowly walked down the aisle into my arms.  I had not seen such a beautiful woman in my whole life.  The woman God gave to me proved to be an excellent wife!

Hospitals – Sunrise Hospital, Las Vegas (Celena – 1999), Mountain View Hospital (TJ – 2002 and Dayton – 2005), Woman’s East-Erlanger (Cascade – 2008) and Erlanger (Cadence -2014).  It is amazing how a sterile hospital can become the intersection of heaven and earth.  I cried each time.  God is indeed gracious.  I have been greatly blessed.

Minneapolis, MN Convention Center – 2003 – 2007 – Site of the Desiring God National Conference, an event I attended for five consecutive years and where I encountered God afresh through worship and the Word.  During those conferences, I was blessed to hear great teaching and be led to genuinely worship my sovereign God.

Grand Canyon – I’ve probably been to the canyon ten times and in it three times, twice to the bottom.  I feel almost a spiritual connection to the ancient place.  Its canyons and colors mesmerize me.  In the bowels of the canyon, I felt swallowed up by eternity.  I look forward to my children standing on the rim, praising the Creator and Sustainer of all that is–Jesus Christ.

Mountains – I love the mountains.  I’ve been to the Sierra Nevada, the Rockies, the Smokies, the White Mountains and the mountains of northern Japan.  I’ve climbed mountains in the U.S. and Japan, including Mt. Fuji.  The first mountain I climbed was Mt. Iwate in Japan.  The last was Mt. Whitney in California.  Whitney, in particular, was breathtaking.  I may be done climbing mountains, but my memories remain.

Beaches – I’ve spent time on the beaches of California, Florida and Japan.  The first time I saw the ocean was at Revere Beach in Boston.  The most fun I had at the beach was at Gulf Shores, AL.  Jodi and I used to visit New Smyrna Beach on the Atlantic coast of Florida while I was in seminary.  Several of our vacations were held on the Pacific coast in California, some with my parents.  Good memories indeed!

Military Battlefields – The Alamo, San Antonio, TX – Chickamauga, GA – Cowpens, SC – Lexington and Concord, MA – Lookout Mountain,GA & Gettysburg, PA.  I have had the honor of standing where heroes both stood and fell.  There is a sense in which the holy is experienced there as no other place.  Of the many sites I have visited, I especially want my children to see Gettysburg.

Presidential Libraries – I visited the Eisenhower library (Abilene, KS) and the Nixon library (Yorba Linda, CA).  These were wonderful sights, beautiful and informative, but neither compared to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA.  I’ve been twice and would love to visit again.  I am proud to be an American.  Presidential libraries pour gas on that flame.

Disney – I’ve been to Disneyland in Tokyo and Disneyland in California, and I have visited Disney World in Florida several times.  Every time I walked through the gates, I felt a wave of emotion.  The inner child rises within.  Disney truly is a magical place and I look forward to taking my kids there again (I don’t look forward to the cost of that trip!)

 

Tectonic Plates Move, But I Don’t Fear

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I watched a fascinating documentary recently on tectonic plates.  I probably do not need to remind you of this popular theory which states that the surface of our planet is divided into more than ten plates that slowly float around just a few miles beneath our feet. Their movements usually go unnoticed by the casual observer, but sometimes they collide.  Sometimes they thrust above one another and, at other times, they slide under.  You’ve seen the results.  You may even have felt the results.  Hopefully you do not fear the possibilities.

What possibilities?

Great question!  Well, to sum up, it is possible that one day Tokyo will not exist.  It’s possible that Yellowtone National Park will be transformed into a super volcano.

Scared yet?

Don’t be! A very BIG GOD controls these massive, moving plates under our feet.  He literally has the whole world “in His hands.”  I thought of that the morning after I watched the documentary. As I was reading God’s Word, I rejoiced in the truths of the Triune God:  His transcendence and His imminence.  He is both absolutely sovereign, choosing to exercise that authority, and He is thoroughly engaged in His creation. Consider the words of Psalm 145:

“I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate. Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, And I will tell of Your greatness. They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD sustains all who fall And raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to You, And You give them their food in due time. You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds. The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them. The LORD keeps all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.”

In my studies, I have noticed several psalms taking the form of Psalm 145. The text begins with an affirmation that God is great and “highly to be praised.”  His restrained power is awesome.  Those who know Him cannot help but “speak the praise of the Lord.”

However, that praise isn’t simply offered because God is transcendent.  It is freely given in light of the fact that God is actively involved in that which He has created.  Perhaps no passage makes that as clear as the one you just read.

“The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness…The LORD sustains all who fall And raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to You, And You give them their food in due time. You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

The Lord created our world (Col. 1:16) and He sustains it (Col. 1:17).  Understanding that God is good and does good (Ps. 119:68) allows us to leave without fear (regardless of what may or may not happen under Tokyo or Wyoming).  We rejoice in God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence.  We also rejoice that God has chosen not to disengage from this fallen creation.  He truly is gracious, determining not to treat us as our sins deserve.

So, don’t be afraid.  God is going to destroy the earth with fire (2 Pet. 3:7). Tectonic plates will probably move.  Volcanos will most likely erupt.  But it probably won’t be today.  Spend this day meditating upon the glorious splendor of His majesty and upon His wonderful works.  Enjoy His grace.  Jesus is truly amazing and He does truly amazing things.

 

Celebrating America – Ten Reasons Why I Love the USA

I am still proud to be an American–even if that sentiment has been a bit muted as of late. In spite of decisions rendered in the past several years in Washington, D.C. which have sent reverberations throughout the 50 states–some of which will eventually prove to be important pieces in the collapse of a once strong truth-based culture–IN SPITE OF THESE DECISIONS–I remain grateful that I was born a citizen of the great country.  In that vein, I offer a list of ten reasons why I love the USA.

1.  George Washington (our Founding Fathers who thrust their defiant fists in the air to an arrogant monarch; the citizen-soldiers who courageously and victoriously battled the professional military of King George).

2.  Symbols of freedom (an anthem  a glorious flag, a cracked bell, a soaring eagle, magnificent monuments).

3.  Heroes (Paul Revere, Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Harriet Tubman, Bob Dole, Rosa Parks, Sally Ride).

4.  Standing against tyranny (WWI–WWII–Korea–Vietnam–Invasion of Kuwait–The War on Terror).

5.  Grand Canyon (Carlsbad National Caverns, Zion National Park, our beautiful lands).

6.  Rock and Roll (Elvis, Billy Joel, Styx)

7.  Grace Bible Church (the religious freedom I exercised on Sunday to visit any church of my choosing).

8.  Disneyland, McDonalds & NCITE (entrenapeurs and small businesses with the opportunity to thrive)

9.  US Army (Air Force, Navy, Marines, Border Patrol, Cost Guard–for protecting us from another 9/11 attack).

10.  Today (freedom to do just about anything I want).

If you have couple of minutes, watch this link from American Cowboy Poet Baxter Black.

Have a great day!