I Don’t Know What It Is

What is it?

What is it?

I downloaded the photos from my camera and remembered all except this one. I had no clue. If I was taking pictures with film and the developed photo looked like this, I would think there had been trash all over it. Or perhaps thought it was a shot from the movie Ghost that picked up the dark spirits passing by.

I reviewed the other photos from the download and retraced my day’s steps. Then I remembered this was a shot from the front yard and there was a flock of hundreds of blackbirds landing and circling in the peanut field across the road. Obviously my camera isn’t fast enough for rapidly moving blackbirds.

If you were able to tell what this was before I explained it, you were more perceptive than even me, who took the photo in the first place. But, I would think most folks were like I was at first – didn’t have a clue.

My confusion over the photo reminded me of Philip and the Ethiopian in the desert (Acts 8.) The Ethiopian was sitting in his chariot reading out loud from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Philip heard him read: “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living

Philip asked if he understood what he was reading, and the Ethiopian replied “How can I, except some man should guide me?” And Philip guided him through Scripture and he understood (in fact, came to saving faith and was baptized.)

At times we may feel like we don’t have a clue about a passage in the Bible. If prayer and meditation don’t provide clarity, that means it’s also time to ask  someone to guide us. And, on the other side, there are Scripture passages we understand clearly. Along with prayer and meditation, that may be the opportunity to guide someone else.

How can I, except some man should guide me?” Acts 8:31


A Change of Perspective May be Needed

Pecan Orchard Cropped

See the Forest and the Trees

The facilitator of the corporate liability workshop mentioned the famous case when the woman sued McDonald’s because she was burned when she spilled a cup of coffee in her lap. Of course, there was laughter and some guffaws about how frivolous the lawsuit was. “Surprise! the coffee’s hot – well, duh”.

When the laughter quieted down, the teacher asked: “What would be your response if I told you that particular McDonald’s had a defective coffee maker that overheated the coffee, and they had been receiving complaints about it for several months?”

The room was totally hushed as we pondered what she had said. Someone quietly spoke up, with no laughter, “How could they let a problem go on like that?” The perspective had totally changed.

The facilitator (an attorney) wouldn’t verify that was the situation, but she did get our attention – both from a corporate liability point and a personal aspect. Sometimes we need to change our perspective and get more information or do a little more thinking before we react hastily.

Balaam was riding his donkey and the animal stopped and would not move. (Numbers 22). Balaam beat the donkey mercilessly and threatened to kill him. The Lord opened the animal’s mouth and the donkey asked, in effect, “why are you beating me? Haven’t I always been your faithful servant?”

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes and Balaam saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the path with a drawn sword. Had the donkey not seen that and stopped, Balaam would have been slain. Balaam bowed his head and fell flat on his face. His perspective had totally changed.

A bit of waiting and thinking can change our perspective and keep us from making mistakes.
Be still, and know that I am God;” Psalm 46:10

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

Do We Have a Birthmark – From Our Second Birth?

Pole Birthmark

Pole Birthmark

The “birthmark” on this power pole provides several bits of information. “SOCO” is the company it was “made” for (changed from a tree into a pole for.) ACE is the pole making company. “515” is May, 2015. And the bottom “5-35”, means it is a 35 foot long, class 5 pole. The class refers to the diameter and thus, the strength. I’m not familiar with the other line of characters, but it most likely refers to the species of tree (since it’s in southeast Georgia, almost surely a Southern Yellow Pine), and type of preservative treatment of the pole. When the tree is “re-birthed” into a pole, it receives its birthmark. (For reference, this is the information I was looking for when I came upon the eyed click beetle featured in my last post.)

Some people are born with birthmarks (and that, of course, is where the term comes from.) These birthmarks come in different forms, such as spots in the eye, or streaks of different colored hair. Most I have seen are colored patches of skin of various sizes and shapes. Birthmarks can identify a person, showing clearly there is something different about them.

My question is, do we have a “birthmark” from our second birth (when we received the Holy Spirit in our heart – or, we can also say, when we became a Christian)? Are there characteristics we have that make it clear to others that we are different? The Bible says there should be. We are to be humble. We are to love one another – not superficially, and not just those who love us – even loving our enemies. We should not retaliate for wrongs (not repaying evil for evil.)

That list could continue for several pages, but let’s consider this birthmark a bit more. A Christian’s birthmark isn’t branded on like a power pole’s – deep and complete the moment it’s done. Nor, is it like most physical birthmarks – clear to those who see it when the baby is born.

Our Christian birthmark may not even be evident to anyone when it’s begun. It’s like a painting. In the beginning, there is no clarity. The painter knows his plans, whether it will be a portrait or a landscape, but an early view won’t reveal which it is to be. Over time, the artist adds layers of color, blends light’s and dark’s, and creates textures to bring out previously unseen dimensions. What’s on the canvas becomes clearer, and those who see it begin to understand what it is becoming.

The artist of our Christian birthmark is, of course, God Himself. As He makes our birthmark clearer and deeper, the Holy Spirit leads us, strengthens us, teaches us, and, yes, sometimes chastises us. However, unlike the lifeless canvas which has no part in a painting, we are a part of the process. We have responsibilities to exercise faith, to learn and to change in response to the Spirit.

In the first chapter of 2 Peter, the Apostle writes that we have obtained faith by the righteousness of Christ, and through Christ’s work have become “partakers of the divine nature.” In our context, we could say we were given a birthmark that showed we became children of the King.

Then Peter writes that because of that, we should be working to make that birthmark visible to all around us:
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7 NKJV

With each step in the process, our birthmark becomes clearer, deeper and more complete. Those around us notice we are different. But, before we begin to take credit for all the work we’re accomplishing, we must acknowledge the Artist is still in control. The Holy Spirit provides the power and abilities to take these steps and without Him, as Jesus said, we can do nothing.

So, just what is our birthmark for? Why does the Spirit work in us and with us to make it clearer and more visible? There’s a simple answer for a child of the King: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 NKJV