So, Who Really Owns it, Anyway?

Over the weekend I read the comments with some interest made by a man made on Face Book about his frustration over his county road being neglected by the County road department, and then he got his tax statement. He reported that he called the tax office and told them, “When y’all repair my road I will pay the taxes.” Of course he was told that the fees for delinquent taxes were scheduled on his tax notice and those fees could not / would not be waived under any circumstances. It was also explained to him that other issues such as road-maintenance or such other grievances never play into the payment of one’s taxes.

The dude was irate and went on for a while. Some of his FB friends explained that if he pursued his foolish course that a day might well come wherein the state showed up with an eviction notice and held an auction. That really set him off and he explained how many guns he owned and how many rounds of ammo he had stored, and announced himself as being “ready for war!” . . . Poor foolish dude.

As I thought about his boast “I own this place free and clear and there ain’t nobody gonna take it from me!” . . . I wondered how many guys have owned that very piece of ground and said those same words. I am certain there were some Indian folks who once felt that same way, then there were some Mexicans who did as well. Those folks have passed into history . . . likely not even remembered . . . and today this guy claims that very parcel of ground as his very own.

The point? Simply that we are just pilgrims passing through life on earth, and not much is permanent. Today, there is a piece of paper filed in the courthouse which might identify me as the current owner of a piece of ground . . . but that is certainly not set in stone . . . next week the state could show up and declare their intent to take the land so they can put a road through it . . . and the court has historically upheld such actions . . . known as “eminent domain” . . . meaning the legislature has put more chips on the State’s side of the table . . . and did that in the name of “the common good.”  Private property rights are diminishing in the USA, and the state’s rights are on the rise.  Just visit the courthouse, do a title search, and see how many folks before you owned that same plot of ground before you were even on earth . . . look at that and tell me again about how you and your family own that land.

My family history includes the loss of some beautiful land . . . that in the mind of a foolish man . . . ought to rightfully belong in my family today. But the simple truth of the matter is that times and fortunes change, as do circumstances and events.

All of that notwithstanding, I do have a deed to a home that cannot ever be taken from me . . . Jesus has secured it for me and will forever hold it in trust for me (John 14). That home is there for me because of what Jesus did for me . . . and a decision I made years ago.

Matthew 6 says, “19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I can never truly own property down here . . . simply control it during my life on earth – well, if I can pay the taxes, and if the state never sets its sights on it!

Think about it . . . where is your treasure . . . how safe is it, really?

Answers to Life’s Confusion . . .

When Courtney created this blog site and asked me to ‘start leaving my foot print in the sand for those who will come after me,’ I liked the idea, but was a bit apprehensive. I visited with some folks who had blogs and picked their brains. It seemed that each blogger had a different objective. I wanted to leave behind something of a collection of my thoughts, beliefs, experiences, and thinking on a large number of issues. Thus, I entitled the bog as “It Seems to me . . .”

I also wanted to include a means wherein folks who stumbled upon the blog site could leave comments and opinions . . . even if it included a message telling me that I was full of prunes. Several folks suggest that I forget that notion and suggested that folks could be mean. I had been doing professional seminars for many years and always concluded the sessions with an evaluation form. Sometimes some folks were rude, but for the most part I thought they were pretty fair and I used that feedback to improve my program and message.  I am glad that Courtney built that into the site and I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of comments with folk’s thoughts that have been posted. I have also been surprised at the range the blog has seemed to reach . . . a number of comments have come from across Europe . . . and in a number of languages. I am coming to realize that there is an obvious information hi-way in this new high-tech world . . . and sometimes folks stumble onto my site. I am glad to have them visit and pray that perhaps my musings might challenge some thought. I understand that they stumble upon me as they search for information on a particular topic about which I might have offered my thoughts; thus, I try to put a topic heading on each post . . . just as I have today.

Sometimes life becomes complex, perplexing, and even troubling. In such times, we need and want answers . . . something real to which we can grasp and hang onto. I know that I certainly do, and my source of wisdom, strength, and the anchor to which I hold is the Scripture . . . the Holy Bible. I don’t suppose I have ever discovered an issue that was beyond its wide and powerful scope.

Recently, we have witnessed a new level of ugliness and have been shocked and horrified . . . terrorism across the globe with evil, misguided men driving trucks into crowds of people, the tragic mass murder in Las Vegas, and the Church shooting in Sutherland Springs. What can we say to such things, such depravity, such evil?

It seems to me . . . that the Apostle Paul explained it well in his epistle to the early Church located in the City of Ephesus when he reminded those Believers that “our struggle in life on this earth is not ‘against flesh and blood,’ but against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Here is his encouragement and inspired insight into this struggle . . .

Ephesians 10:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

How are we to respond in spirit to this ugliness? It Seems to me . . . that my best defense is to try to follow Paul’s admonition . . . keep close watch on my heart, mind, and tongue. I can best do that by putting on the whole armor of God . . . and being ever mindful that I am dwelling in a troubled world and surrounded by a confused and troubled culture, and pray for those who are hurting and afflicted in this craziness . . . all the while praying, “even so, come now Lord Jesus!”

I yearn for that day when the Messiah will make all things right . . . and the lion and the lamb will lie together! What a day that will be!

Confusion Abounds . .. . .

The world is a confusing and perplexing place. Last weekend an evil, troubled, and misguided man walked into a small country Baptist Church outside of San Antonio and murdered 27 worshippers in cold blood.

President Trump was in Asia . . . calling on the nations in that region of the world to help reign im the madman dictator who heads the North Korean government . . . and poses a serious nuclear threat to the free world (the situation is so intense that 10+ million lives could be lost in 30 seconds).

The leaders (so called) in our nation’s capital are divided into warring factions . . . and are on constant alert for things to argue over and further fracture the nation . . . those folks would seemingly prefer to fall upon their own swords than to find a reasonable way to deal with the serious matters that loom large over us all (the health-care nightmare, the deficit, trade imbalances, corruption within our government: Russia collision, Clinton e-mail scandal, former FBI Director Comey and his peculiar actions during our most recent election, the Muellar Special Counsel investigation, and on and on).

As a nation, we are still reeling from the Las Vegas blood-bath.

Many struggle in the aftermath of a brutal hurricane season across the Atlantic, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

In spite of all of this confusion and evil, as Christians, we have neither the right nor the reason to grow weary or faint. The Scriptures are endless in assurances for us . . . that as we journey through this world we are merely pilgrims in search of that bright city. Just as the Lord led the Old Testament saints in search of the Promised Land, today He leads us toward that special dwelling place called Heaven. In John 14, Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us and that He would return for us and then take us there to live with Him forever. From that we can conclude that Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people . . . and all of this is somehow preparatory for our life in Heaven.

In Romans 8:31, the Apostle Paul asks a profound question: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Paul begins the 8th chapter of Romans declaring that “there is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ” . . . that Believers have been set free and are now “joint-heirs” with Christ, and he concludes with “what shall separate us from the love of God . . . nothing” . . . and then right in the middle of it all (vs 28) he assures us that God is working it all out for good “according to His purposes.”

The world is a troubled and perplexing place, but we are encouraged to look beyond the confusion and know that there is glory out ahead!


 

God’s Presence with Us . . .

Recently I began a series of posts herein relative to the Lord’s presence in His creation. I want to continue that a bit this morning.

Do you realize that the Bible both begins and ends with God being present with people . . . and is actually quite active in their lives?  In Genesis we are told that God created mankind and He walked and talked with them in the cool of the day. He came to see about them after their encounter with the enemy. We learn in Genesis of God’s interaction with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and several others. Then in Exodus we learn of God’s involvement with the man Moses and the Jewish people. Then, throughout the Old Testament, we learn of God’s presence in the lives of numerous people. Just to name a few: Samuel, Saul, David, and the list just goes on and on.

Then, in the New Testament we are told of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ . . . Emmanuel . . . that being, “God with us.” We are told repeatedly that Jesus came to save us from our sins . . . and to show us the Father. Throughout the New Testament, we see God actively working in a large number of folk’s lives: Peter, James, John, and the other nine Disciples, the Apostle Paul and his collogues, young Timothy, and others reported to have served in local Churches.

Today, we are repeatedly assured in the Scriptures that God is active in our lives . . . and in fact that He literally indwells Believers. We are told that the body of a Believer is literally the temple of the Lord and the Believer’s heart becomes His throne! I know that is certainly true in my own life.

Then, in Revelation, we learn that the curtain on human history on this earth as we know it closes as the Sheep and goats are separated. The sheep are taken to dwell in Heaven with God forever . . . and the goats are delivered to a fate too horrible to even attempt to describe.

The great truth of the Bible is that God does exist, He did create the universe, He is active in His creation . . . always has been . . . and always will be . . . that we all started off as goats, but because of God’s grace and mercy, we can be transformed into sheep . . . but we must do it in the method He prescribes.

My encouragement to those who read this post . . . I beg you to investigate this important matter and call upon the One who wants to be involved in your life (John 3:16, Romans 10:9 – 10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Revelation 3:20). Moreover, call me at 361-790-6952 . . . let’s have a cup of coffee and discuss it!

Be wise, be prudent, be alert . . . be prepared . . . the game will come to an end at a time when you least expect!


 

The Call . . .

Much about life can be impacted by a call, e.g. the doctor called with the test results; the sheriff called to say there has been an accident; and the list goes on and on.

My Bible study has moved from the Old Testament book of Exodus into Leviticus. Leviticus is an interesting book, but quite likely the last Book a Christian seeks to study today. I was surprised to learn that it is the first book that Jewish children are taught.  Why is that? Because it explains the standards God calls His people to! Leviticus is popularly called by the Hebrew name Vayikra . . . meaning “He called,” which is how Leviticus begins in chapter 1, verse 1. Leviticus is known formally as Torat Kohanim, “instructions for the priests (Mishnah Megillot 1:5).

In my study, I have discovered (at a new, deeper level) that the Bible really tells the story. Let me explain:

In Genesis, God creates the universe and everything within, including mankind, and he invites man to live in relationship with Him. But, then the enemy makes an appearance into creation and human history and introduces man to sin. Man takes the bait and sin grabs man and holds him in bondage . . . creating a great strain between Holy God and unholy man.

Then in Exodus, God calls man out of sin and bondage . . . and actually with a mighty hand, delivers man out of bondage, and reissues His gracious invitation for man to live in relationship with Him. In that experience, God speaks to man of a place He has for man to live, and begins leading man to that place.

In Leviticus, God sets His standard for man, about how he is to behave and think. In that, God provides rules, regulations, and procedures necessary for man to live in peace with God. Normally, it would not be possible for anyone to worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. The Bible says that all people are sinners (Romans 3:23). By our own efforts, we cannot please God. But God has provided a method so that we can worship him properly. For the Old Testament Jews, that method was by sacrifice. They would give to God parts of select animals that they killed. Sometimes they gave the whole animal. The priests burned the gift on the altar at the house of God. God accepted the animal’s death so that the Jews could worship him. The animal had suffered death so that the Jews could live as friends with God. The big idea and the overall message of Leviticus is sanctification. The book communicates that receiving God’s forgiveness and acceptance should be followed by holy living and spiritual growth. Now that Israel had been redeemed by God, they were to be purified into a people worthy of their God. “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy,” says Leviticus 19:2.  In Leviticus, we learn that God loves to be approached . . . but we must do so on His terms.

In the New Testament, we learn that we must approach God through His son, Jesus (John 14:1 – 6).

Just as surely as we live and breathe, God calls people today! Actually, there are three distinct calls to each one of us. Those calls are as follows:

  1. God calls sinners to repentance in the form of “Come experience forgiveness — become my child” (John 3:16; Matthew 11:29 – 29; Revelation 3:20)
  1. Come walk with me — live in relationship with Me; (John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent”; and finally,
  2. Come up here and live with me — forever! Hebrews 9:27, And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment; 1 Thessalonians 4:14 – 16; and 2 Corinthians 5:8.

I hope you have answered the first call . . .

I pray that you are responding to the second call . . .

And I trust you are prepared to answer the third call . . . it is coming and you can put that in the bank!


 

A life of Service, Meaning, Purpose, and Honor . . .

It’s Friday morning and I am thinking on the life of my friend, Robert Sweet, who passed away last evening. In the eyes of the world, Robert was a simple man, unassuming, never seeking any glory or recognition for himself. Never any effort to stand out from the crowd.

He had a long and varied work history, having worked at many trades during his life. He had worked as a bellman in an old-style hotel in his earlier years in West Texas; he had worked as a municipal employee in Washington state; he had been a cook; owned his own barbeque and catering business; worked as a foreman for a firm that built mobile homes; he had owned and operated a detail shop at which folks could have their cars made almost new; he even worked in a bank in Sweetwater!

He did these jobs to earn a living and provide for his family, while he did his main job . . . preach the Gospel. Robert was a bi-vocational preacher and his flock was scattered across West Texas. He typically would learn of a struggling small Church that could not afford a Pastor, so he would answer their call and start a meaningful work. The Lord would bless the work and after a while the Church could call a full-time Pastor. Robert often would leave home at 7 am on Sunday morning, preach in six or seven different Churches and return home at 10 pm that evening . . . the love offerings from the Churches were rarely enough to even pay for his fuel. That never caused Robert to complain or question the Lord . . . he was delighted to just tell folks about Jesus.

Robert always lived in a modest home, generally drove a used automobile, and from all appearances just barely eeked out a living. As I have reflected on his life, my thoughts turned to 1 Corinthians 13:12 – 13, where the Apostle Paul wrote about the Christian life . . . and the most important things . . . chief of which is love. He wrote about this life and said, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  And now faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

What was it that Paul meant?  The ‘glass’ of which he spoke was actually a mirror . . . the mirror of the ancient world.  Those mirrors were of polished metal, in many cases they were of brass and they required constant polishing, so that a sponge with pounded pumice-stone was generally attached to it. This was the mirror of which the apostle Paul who wrote this famous passage in his letter to the church in Corinth, which City was famous for the manufacture of these kinds of mirrors. The images reflected in those old brass mirrors were indistinct in comparison to our modern mirrors of today.

In that ancient mirror, the revelation appeared indistinctly, imperfectly. Paul is telling us that this is the state of our knowledge of divine things–imperfect and incomplete. “Now I know in part,” Paul mourns.  There were limitations upon the knowledge even of Paul; only a part was seen. But wonderfully, it will not always be so. One glorious moment in the future every single human being on earth will suddenly face Him — Jesus – without a veil, without obscurity . . . but face to face!  That is what happened for my friend Robert!

 

The Presence of God . . . continued

In my previous post, I wrote about God’s presence with the people of Israel as they journeyed from bondage in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land; that place they now call home some 4,000 years later. They had been slaves for 400 years . . . living under constant orders. They got up in the morning when they were told to get up; they ate when they were told to eat; they ate what they were given to eat; they worked where, when, and how they were told to work. They had no self-defense skills . . . they totally depended on their brutal task masters for their protection, and that of their families. Suddenly, they become free people, but had no real grasp of how they might use that freedom. God saw their helpless estate, and made Himself known to them. He chose to make Himself known to them and He chose how to manifest His presence to them. The people clearly understood that God was with them . . . and were able to overcome their natural fears and apprehension as they were warmed by His presence with them.

God manifest His presence with them in a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. He was always there and they knew it by seeing it! As they crossed the brutal desert, the cloud provide them with protection from the brutal sun, but it also provided protection from potential enemies. As they moved forward, that cloud served as visible testimony of God’s presence and protection of His people. It gets rather cool at night in the desert . . . they were warmed by the fire of His presence.

Both the cloud and the pillar of fire displayed the Glory of the Lord . . . which was both awesome and frightening. The visible evidence of His presence demonstrated that God had come to dwell amongst His people.

I believe that God continues to dwell amongst His people today, but in a much more profound way. I believe that historical events from the Old Testament serve as a picture of a New Testament reality. Just as God was said to dwell in that tabernacle made by human hands, I believe that the physical body of a Believer serves as the new tabernacle and the Believer’s heart becomes His throne. The Apostle Paul wrote of this truth in 1 Corinthians 3:17 & 17.

If we are to have some understanding of our great Creator, there are a few things we must first understand. Today, I want to record what I believe is foremost for us to know about God . . . and that is that God is immanent because He is transcendent! Wow . . . what exactly does that mean? Simply, that God drawing near to His creation stems from His being distinct from creation. There is a goofy new teaching today that we as humans in some peculiar way completes God. That is error . . . God does not come to us needy and wanting, but rather He comes to revive the spirit of the lowly and the heart of the contrite.

The new teaching is error and exactly 180-degrees off of the mark. The truth is that God completes man. Since the fall, man has been dead in trespasses and sin . . . dead spiritually.  Jesus is Immanuel—God with us. Jesus came to pay a debt that He did not owe and that we could not pay. And as a confessing sinner comes to Him asking for redemption, He reconciles that sinner to God the Father.

Amazingly, God reveals Himself to creation and then uses Himself to draw men to Him and then redeems them . . . one heart at a time. In some miraculous way through this marvelous process, God completes that confessing sinner and empowers him to stand in God’s presence . . . complete, holy, and forgiven . . . transformed!

Now, you can be certain that all of that takes a miracle!

The Presence of God . ..

I am currently studying and teaching the Old Testament book of Exodus . . .

What a terrific story . . . what a rich history . . . what a picture of God reaching through time and space and inserting Himself into human history and calling out a group of sinners for whom He delivered redemption . . . not because they deserve it, but because of who He is.

It is a story of rescue, redemption, rebellion, of both war and peace, of wandering and discovery. It is a story of need and provision; it is a story of both defeat and victory. It is a story of love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and kindness in a fallen world in which there was not much kindness to be found below the clouds.

The story begins with an enslaved people living a harsh, brutal existence and under an order of genocide from the king. Yet, two mid-wives defy that order and permit a baby boy to live. After a brief time, the baby’s mother puts the baby boy in a basket and places the basket in the bull-rushes of the Nile River. The mother instructs her teenage daughter to look after the baby from a safe distance. As fate would have it, the king’s daughter and her attendants come down to the river to bathe and heard the baby cry out. The king’s childless daughter has the baby brought to her and claims him as her very own. The baby’s sister approaches and volunteers to find a wet-nurse for the baby. The king’s daughter accepts the kind offer, and presto the mother and baby are back together. In this, one can see that sometimes in life one must let something go . . . in order to get it back . . . and get it back on a much better basis!

That baby was raised, educated, and protected by the very man who had ordered his death. Spared from genocide, rescued from homicide, he would become identified as the grandson of the great king!

That baby boy would grow to become the very man by whom God would rescue the enslaved people and take them to the Promised Land. God would provide them comfort by His presence on their journey. He manifested His presence to them in the form of a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Later, He instructed them to prepare the tabernacle . . . referred to as the tent of meeting. Once it was completed, God’s presence so completely filled (enveloped) the tabernacle in the form of a cloud that the people could not even see the tent. They knew that God was with them, and was watching over them.

Question: Have you ever had an overwhelming sense of the presence of The Lord in your life? I did . . . just last week. Since Hurricane Harvey, we have been on a half dozen lists for volunteer help. Yesterday morning a group from First Baptist Church, Boerne, showed up at our house and went to work. Think about that for a minute . . . three husbands and wives and three young sons spent their weekend helping others . . . folks they didn’t even know. In order for them to do that, they had to get up about 5:00 am, drive over 200 miles, work like pack-mules, eat lunch from a box, and then sleep on the floor in a church. As I watched them labor for me and my family, I saw Jesus in them . . . and I saw Jesus’ love in what they did. For the next few days I will use this space to discuss this great topic of ‘The Presence of The Lord.’

What I Believe . . .

Succinctly stated . . . I Believe . . .

. . . Believe what, you ask? Well, actually, I believe:

. . . that life is a mixed bag . . . it can be wonderful . . . but it can also be quite confusing and painful.

. . . that the world is a pretty big mess . . . and I believe that humans are totally responsible for said mess.

. . . in God . . . I mean that I have a deep and abiding belief that He is the Creator . . . and as such is the very author and giver of life.

. . . that the Holy Bible is God’s Word to us . . . and for us. I believe it is true and it says what it means and means what it says. Moreover, I believe God inspired the writing of it and that He was most certainly capable of ensuring that it was His message . . . exactly the way He wanted us to have it.

. . . what it says about God . . . and what it says about man . .. and what it says about The Lord Jesus Christ.

. . . that Jesus came to save us.

. . . that the Bible tells us how God wants us to live . . . Jesus enables and empowers His followers to live accordingly.

. . . and above all, I believe that Jesus is coming back to get us . . . and He will take us to live . . . forever . . . in that place He has prepared for us!

What do you believe? It is actually a very important matter . . . and impacts both your life . . . and your future.

 

 

Have We Come Full Circle?

In the early 20th Century, most Americans lived in rural communities. At that time, most folks’ simple ambition was to own a large enough parcel of land to enable the family to provide for its needs without anyone having to go to town and work for wages. Then, big changes came about . . . the industrial revolution that had begun in the early 1800’s was jump-started by the creation of the assembly line. Henry Ford was the driving force behind moving goods from one work station up the line to other work stations . . . and this new approach created jobs in great numbers, which increased as other industries followed suit. Folks by the thousands left the rural south and headed to northern and mid-western cities to fill those jobs. The cities offered opportunities for many.

Then, in the later part of the 20th Century, those jobs went south under a program known as The North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA), where Canada, the US, and Mexico would approach business as if there were no borders. By most accounts, Mexico enjoyed considerably more success under NAFTA than did Canada or the US, as American companies moved operation to Mexico to take advantage of cheap labor. The sad truth was that the trade unions had driven prices out of sight. Cities like Detroit that had once thrived, were left in poverty, and basically became slums.

President Donald Trump has had surprising success as he has promoted American business and the American worker. Under his leadership, the financial community has demonstrated great confidence in his agenda of tax cuts and elimination of regulations that have been choking business. Recently, the Demographics Research Group at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service in the University of Virginia quantifies a stunning demographic and economic transformation of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas over the past quarter century. That group reports that high paying jobs for young, well-educated Americans is on the rise . . . and that many are moving in to accept those positions. An increasing number of American firms have announced plans to return operations back to the States.

It Seems to me . . . that electing a successful businessman as President was a smart thing to have done. Heaven knows that our economy did not do well under a community organizer, disbarred lawyers, and those whose greatest success came from birth in a well-to-do family.