The Door of Temptation?

The Door of Temptation?

The Door of Temptation?

When I walk through this door each Friday, my rebellious streak confronts me. This door is at the local Post Office and I go there to check our church’s mail.

The problem is there is a rule, but there are also choices. See the PULL decal? That’s the problem. Some door signs say PULL and the door is physically built so that’s the only way. If you PUSH, it goes nowhere. If you want to go through, you PULL.

The problem with this door is it swings both ways – you can follow the sign and pull, or you can ignore the sign and push, and either choice will get you into the Post Office.

I think I know the logical reason for it being a PULL not a PUSH. If you push the door, you’re more likely to hit someone who is coming toward the exit from inside. But, my thoughts are it’s a glass door and I can clearly see the area around the door. I’ll be careful and I won’t hit anyone. And, besides, physically, the push is easier, smoother and faster. You don’t stop but just move right through.

Good excuses, aren’t they.

If you follow the sign and pull, it’s safer. Being “easier” and “smoother” probably aren’t measurable. And, “faster” could be measured in fractions of a second. So, why would the thought of pushing even come to mind?

That’s where the rebellious streak comes in. We don’t want to be told what to do and not do. We want to make the choices and “do what’s right in our own eyes.” That’s when we get into trouble.

If deciding once a week whether to push or pull a door was the only time we had to confront our rebelliousness, that would be simple. The problem is we are confronted with it in every decision we make, and many, obviously, are much more important than push or pull.

So, what should we do? We should pay attention to the signs. If it says PULL, we should pull. Or yield for a YIELD, and stop for a STOP.

However, all signs aren’t written in plain sight in capital letters. Some are simply written in our hearts. If we notice our anger rising, or if we think thoughts like “this is a stupid thing to have to do!” or “I’m not going to do that!”, we need to realize our rebellious streak (put simply, our pride and selfishness) could be rearing its head and we may be ignoring a sign. Then, instead of pushing on through, we need to stop and look within our heart for the Lord’s sign and follow it.

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:” Hebrews 8:10

Polishing Up Our Graces, for God’s Glory

Needs Some Polishing!

This Reflector Needs Some Polishing!

 

My first real job was as projectionist at the Georgia Theater in downtown Statesboro, Georgia. It was an interesting and fun job, most of the time – but, since it was back in the time of one screen with the same movie showing for several days, it could be boring, too.

Several memories come to mind about the job: My first night working by myself, I learned that if you incorrectly flip the thingy that holds the film frames straight, the movie shows half on the screen and half on the wall, and you start getting yelled at by members of the audience.

When I worked on Friday or Saturday night, my (future) wife, Sharon, and I sometimes stayed after the last showing. We were able to eat the surplus popcorn and listen to music on the theater’s sound system. It wasn’t fancy by today’s standards but was the best sound in town in those days.

But, something I read this week reminded me of the projector’s carbon arc lamps used back then, and the reflector that focused the light on the film. In the arc lamp, two carbon rods are brought together and an electric current flows through them (see photo.) As you move the rods apart, an arc forms and creates a blinding white light. The light from the arc goes in all directions within the projector chamber, and because the frame of the film is very small, there isn’t enough light going to that one spot to clearly show the movie on the screen.

That problem is solved with a concave shaped mirror near the back of the chamber. It reflects and focuses the light on the film frame and the images as bright and clear as daylight appear on the screen.

Since the reflector was partially surrounding this miniature blast furnace (the arc consumed the copper bit by bit), it would get smoky and splattered with bits of metal. If you paid attention to how the movies looked you could see the screen darken over time and know when to polish the reflector. (The one in the photo definitely needs polishing)

That meant it was time to get out the Bon Ami. Bon Ami was, and still is, a powdered cleanser that consists of tallow soap and feldspar, a natural mineral abrasive. The cleanser was spread over the reflector with a wet cloth, then allowed to dry. When it dried, it formed a film on the mirror (much like car wax.) As you rubbed the film off, you were using the abrasive to remove the smoke and tiny bits of carbon, and also polishing the surface. It was amazing how improved the reflector was after the process. The images “bright and clear as daylight” were a reality again.

In his Bible Study on Philippians, Sinclair Ferguson wrote “Suffering is the friction which polishes our graces. Without it, we would be all the poorer as reflectors of the image of (Jesus).” As I read that in our Bible Study this week, you can see why it reminded me of getting out the Bon Ami and polishing the reflector.

Many books have been written about Christians’ suffering, and these few words can’t address the depth of questions that can be discussed. So, I’ll just try to give us something to think about.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of us being the light of the world, and noted that you put a lamp on a lampstand for it to be seen. Then, He said  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 ESV

We have no true light of our own that will glorify God. As Ferguson wrote, the light we want to shine before others is a reflection of the image of Jesus.

As you read the following passage, think of God using our suffering as His spiritual cleanser – maybe taking off a bit of pride here, or a bit of self-righteousness there, but particularly polishing off the smoky film that not only blocks out God’s marvelous light that is shining upon us, but also prevents us from being able to reflect that light (the image of Jesus) and focus it on others.

Through him (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ” Romans 5:2-5 ESV

And the image becomes bright and clear as daylight again, and the Father, who is in heaven, is glorified

(If you’re interested in a little more info on the projectors of the past, here’s a link with good info and photos)
http://www.mywvhome.com/1900s/plaza3.html

(PS: I hope to be posting again on a more regular basis – life got in the way!)

Autumn Can’t Be Remembered – How About God’s Love?

chapter graphic

I’m reading “Travels With Charley” by John Steinbeck, which tells the story of a trip around the USA they took in the 1960’s (Charley was his poodle). Steinbeck’s first stop was in Maine, so early in the book he wrote a good paragraph to ponder. A woman was describing the majesty of the autumn colors of the tree leaves. She said “Autumn can’t be remembered, it’s a surprise every time.” She explained that you think you remember, but the first day it’s in full splendor you realize your memory has faded from the real thing.

I thought of a trip my wife, Sharon, and I took to Colorado a few years ago. The first sight of the Rocky Mountains was stunning – bringing the open-mouthed wonder kind of stare. I think I can still see the mountains clearly in my mind, but another trip and another sight of them would be stunning again – A surprise every time.

I mentioned the woman’s statement to Sharon, and her first thought was that first day you notice the greenness and newness of life in Spring after a long, seemingly dead Winter. You realize your memory has lapsed from the actual level of beauty.

These sights may be so glorious and non-ordinary that the routine of daily life tends to dull our remembrance. Routine begets routine and we end up with a veiled version of the true picture. The surprise doesn’t come when autumn or spring happen, or when we see the Rockies. They are well known parts of God’s Creation. The surprise comes when we encounter the real thing again, the veil is lifted and the actual beauty comes back into focus.

God’s love is well known to believers. It should be no surprise when His mercy and grace reveal it to us. But, we can allow our thoughts of God’s love to become routine – to become a veiled version of the true picture. Then, we talk with someone whose heart has recently been changed by God. The wonder and amazement  fill us with joy, lift the veil, and we see the actual beauty once more. We are surprised by the Lord’s gloriousness because we have not remembered it as it is. (The circumstances that bring that same response are too numerous to list!)

I stated above that we shouldn’t be surprised when God’s mercy and grace reveal His love. That’s from considering the many times it has been revealed.

But, there is a basic level of surprise that should always be there for believers. That surprise is that the Holy God of all Creation loves and saves sinners from themselves.

And, on this Christmas Eve, we should remember God’s love in its full glory, and be surprised and thankful and awestruck that God came to Earth for one purpose.

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.”   Matthew 1:21 KJV

Lay Aside the Weights Which Hinder Us in Our Race

Bent Power Pole

Bent Power Pole

This power pole is next to US Highway 80, along the route between our house and the church we attend. So, for quite awhile, on my trips to and from church, I’ve watched it bend a little more each year. (Yes, we electric utility engineers do notice the power lines as we drive along.)

It’s not leaning. You can see it’s straight at ground level. Leaning would mean the foundation is weak, but the foundation is strong (in this case it’s the dirt around about 6 feet of pole in the ground.) No, it’s just bending.

The pull of the attached cable that goes off to the right is causing the bend. Is the pole in danger of breaking? Probably not, unless it stays a long time, with enough bending and enough age (like our bodies, a pole’s strength lessens as it gets older.)

The more the pole bends, the more gravity comes into the equation. When it’s straight up and down, the entire pole carries the weight. But, as it bends, the weight of the top of the pole and, in this case, the weight of the transformer, create offset forces that increase the bending even more. That concentrates more force at particular locations along the pole (think of breaking a stick with your hands – it bends, then breaks at a particular point.)

If it’s not likely to break, what’s the problem? A power pole has one purpose – to hold things up. This next picture shows the span of cable that goes off the pole.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

You can consider the two photos and see that, as the pole bends more, the cable will sag closer to the ground. If it’s significant enough, the clearance to the ground can become unsafe. The pole’s purpose – to hold things up – can be compromised by weights and pulls and burdens. Even while just doing it’s job.

As I’ve passed the pole these many years, my thoughts often go to Hebrews 12:1-3: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Our purpose is to glorify and worship God. Laying aside sin is obviously needed for us to fulfill that purpose (run the race). But, the Scripture verses and the pole in the picture remind us there are also weights and pulls and burdens, even “good” ones, that can hinder our race and compromise our purpose – slow us down, or get us off track, or cause us to sag under the burden. Those can be subtle and require continual self assessment to keep under control. And, as the verse also says, keeping our eyes on Jesus, and remembering what He has done, will help to reinforce the purpose in our life, and allow us to lay aside the sin and weights that hinder us.

What are some of these weights, and pulls and burdens that you’ve come across in your life?

The Beatles Came and Went – But, the Word of God Will Remain

The Beatles Come to America - 1964

The Beatles Come to America – 1964

I remember we were at recess at Sallie Zetterower Elementary School, in November, 1963, when our sixth grade teacher called us into the classroom and told us President Kennedy had been shot. Strangely enough, I also remember a few months later, in early 1964, when a fellow student, Lee Driggers, told us during Civics news-sharing time that the beetles were coming. That’s the way most of us heard it and thought it, at least.

We all laughed and it took a little explaining that the bugs weren’t coming. Lee said a rock and roll band was coming from England to visit the US, and they spelled their name: The Beatles. We laughed again at someone misspelling a word on purpose.

I’m sure I could remember more events from elementary school if I concentrated, but overall, the other things I remember are the teachers, and the smell and taste of the cinnamon rolls in the lunchroom.

Yet, I know I was there and apparently paid attention to the teachers at times. I can read and write and do arithmetic (although, I do still have to think about it to remember that 7 times 9 is 63.) So, someone was doing things correctly, and I’m sure it wasn’t me most of the time.

Makes me think about Sunday preaching. I can usually remember some topics and points of the last few sermons I’ve heard (at least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) But, I couldn’t list out the sermon topics and points for the last three months. And, certainly not for the last six years – relating that length of time to the six years I spent in elementary school.

But, I can think back on the last six years and say that I have learned from and been affected by many sermons. Someone was doing things correctly, and I’m sure it wasn’t me most of the time.

I (and we) do need to pay attention and think about what is being said in order for a sermon to affect us. And, in my opinion, the preacher needs to spend time in prayer and study in preparation for the preaching. However, while those actions are doing things correctly, they’re pretty much useless unless the One Who does all things correctly is involved.

In the praying and studying. In the hearing and thinking. In the preaching. Without the presence and power of God, it is all foolishness. Yet, with God’s power and presence, our hearts are opened up to Him, and His Word is opened up to us and, yes, we grow spiritually.

We can look back over a sermon, and a month of sermons and six years of sermons, and remember specifics of only a few. But, we also find it has become more common that a verse of Scripture or something said about a verse of Scripture comes to mind at just the right time. We realize we have grown stronger in our faith and knowledge through God’s power and presence.

The Beatles did come and did have an effect on the country, but, my memory of Lee making that announcement isn’t much more than a bit of personal trivia. Some elementary school classes (and news sharing times) may stick with us through time, but it’s the overall process that’s critical. If we have good teachers leading us, it makes for good results – and we learn reading, writing and arithmetic, along with other life skills.

Specific sermons may stick with us through time, but, it’s the overall process that’s critical. If we have our Lord and Savior leading us, that’s fantastic, and we learn and follow His ways and His paths through life – and those are the most critical life skills.

Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.” Psalms 25:4

Father’s Day Windspinner – Reacting to the Storms

New Windspinner in the Garden

New Windspinner in the Garden

 

Father's Day Windspinner

Father’s Day Windspinner

Here are a wide shot and closeup of the latest windspinner addition to the garden. Sharon gave it to me for Father’s Day. All the vanes are attached to one pipe so they turn together. Even in a strong wind, it doesn’t madly spin like the windmill and the other spinner on the blueberry frame. This new one takes its time, and seems to methodically turn as it sees fit. It can be soothing to watch – you can glance at the windmill spinning too fast to distinguish the blades, then see these blue vanes regularly advancing around – in no hurry but still in action.

Could be a good example in the stormy wind’s of life, and a reminder for us to remember Who is still in control in those storms.

And he (Jesus) awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:39-41 ESV

Garden, Blooms and Scripture 7

Lavender and Rosemary

Lavender and Rosemary

Here are the lavender (on the left) and the rosemary under the windmill. First time on the lavender this year, too. I didn’t think about it until I started this series that there were quite a few new things in the garden this year. We weren’t expecting the lavender to get established since we’re definitely in the middle of the hot, humid southeast. But it’s just turning summer so we’ll see how it gets along during the “dog days.” Sharon has enjoyed the aroma of a few blooms already so that makes it a successful “lavender year.”

We know the rosemary can make it here. Sharon had a plant that lasted more than ten years, but didn’t make it through last winter. So this little one is the replacement . Might take some time, but it should come through.

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” Mark 5:35-36 ESV

Jesus went to the ruler’s home and proceeded to bring his daughter back to life!

A good reminder to trust Jesus to take away all fears – even (or especially) in the worst of situations. It doesn’t mean He’ll keep us from those situations, nor that the outcome will always be what we desire. The fear is driven away by knowing and believing that He will see us through them.