THAT TRAMPLING BOOT!


1-3 Thank God! He deserves your thanks.
    His love never quits.
Thank the God of all gods,
    His love never quits.
Thank the Lord of all lords.
    His love never quits.
23-26 God remembered us when we were down,
    His love never quits.
Rescued us from the trampling boot,
    His love never quits.
Takes care of everyone in time of need.
    His love never quits.
Thank God, who did it all!
    His love never quits!

Psalm 136, verses 1 thru 3 and 23 thru 26; from The Message (MSG)

“You never know which way his mind is headed!” I suppose that’s what those who know me best would say about yours truly. And this morning would verify that declaration. In this morning’s discipline, I admit that I was a bit discombobulated. So, I took off my headphones and started talking with The Spirit. I’ve found that always helps–the talking with not just talking to. He told me to check out this morning’s Verse of the Day, compliments of Bible Gateway. I thought (there I go thinking again) that I had checked the New Living Translation as my chosen translation. But somehow (I wonder how? Wink, wink!) it came up in The Message.

I find looking at different translations helps me understand a passage better and gives me fresh insights. Now, if you are a one translation person, that’s OK. But just try it sometime when you are relaxed. Any who, I also love The Message and the ways that Eugene Peterson and his crew would turn a phrase that really shined some light in me. Though I love the richness of the King James Version when it comes to the Book of Psalms, occasionally The Message opens my eyes. This morning was one of those mornings.

There are actually 2 phrases from this Psalm that prompts these musings from me. The first one is in Verse 24: “Rescued us from the trampling boot“. Trampling boot! Now that’s exactly what Satan does! He wants to trample us down and squish the life out of us like we are nothing but a bug. Sin is The Trampling Boot! I know that lots of folks don’t like the idea of “sin”–but it’s real; very real. And though there are many definitions of sin out there, here’s mine: Sin is living outside of God’s design, purpose, and will for us. It’s being someone other than who we were designed to be by God.

And where do we find God’s design, purpose, and will? Simple–it’s in The Bible. It will never be found in socially acceptable norms. It’s not discovered in the latest cultural fads. It’s not found in the views and opinions of others. And it’s certainly not ever found in our feelings. It’s found in our relationship with Jesus and The Bible. Living outside The Book is where Satan wants us to be. It’s the only way his boot can trample us! Why is there so much anger in our culture today, especially when it comes to the traditional and orthodox faith? Because they are being trampled by Satan’s boot–and since they can’t stop Satan they turn against us who are doing exactly what Paul reminded the church at Corinth to do:

We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; He’s already a friend with you.

2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 10; from MSG

Oh, that other phrase. Here it is: His love never quits! If you are feeling that trampling boot, remember His love never quits! His love isn’t a sign of approval on your lifestyle. His love is for you. His love is an active force working to get you out from under Satan’s trampling boot. His love is working to bring you back–back to your original design; back to your original purpose, back to where your will is to do HIS Will! And to those who vainly believe they will be happy if the church would just approve and bless their lifestyle, it won’t change a thing. Only by being transformed by God love and learning how to be who God made us to be, can we experience peace, joy, and hope. So, surrender to Jesus lock, stock, and barrel. And He will rescue you from that trampling boot!

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BUT WHICH ONE WAS IT?

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

Luke chapter 15, verses 11 and 12; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

The other day, The Spirit planted this thought in my mind and heart: But Which One Was It? Out of nowhere (actually it came directly from the Throne of Grace and HE who sits on it) I started thinking about what is commonly referred to as The Story Of The Prodigal Son. And I got to thinking, “Did Luke, who wrote this letter, really put a heading on this section that read The Story Of The Prodigal Son? Well, don’t most preachers give their message a title? It just goes to show how our thinking is influenced by HOW we think. When a writer sits down to write, they always put in chapter numbers and often titles. But Luke, and the rest of the writers didn’t write that way back then. In fact, (this may be a shocker to my fundamentalist friends), not only did they NOT put in chapter numbers as they wrote, they didn’t put in the verse numbers. These were devices added later on by editors and translators to assist the readers find a particular passage. Which only makes it a wonderful miracle that day Jesus opened the scroll of Isaiah and found the exact passage He wanted to use that day.

OK, OK, I’m turning into a professor of biblical studies. Let me get back on track. At some point, an editor added this heading for today’s passage: The Story Of The Prodigal Son. Notice, no “s”! Therefore, people assume only 1 of those sons was the Prodigal. Notice carefully what the Father did in this story: So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. Now notice that there’s an “s”. This means the youngest and the oldest received their portion of the estate. Are you clear on this point? Good! So, answer my question: Which one was the Prodigal? Write down your answer. Got it? Good! If you said it was the youngest son:

Did you assume that because the youngest left home that he is automatically the prodigal? Well, doesn’t the word “prodigal” mean “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.”? As a matter of fact, it does. But listen very carefully–Jesus never used the word “prodigal”. This is a story about a Father who had 2 sons–neither of which He identified as “prodigal”. WE and others have given that designation–but not Jesus. So, what’s my point?

It’s rather simple: This “Father” had two sons, neither of which understood their Father at the beginning of the story. Both sons were lost; but only one ended up knowing he was lost. We know this because of the ending of the story:

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

Luke chapter 15, verses 28 thru 30; NLT

The eldest son did not share the heart of his Father. Instead of being thankful for all the money that had been given to him at the beginning of the story, he chose to be ungrateful because his Father didn’t kill and bar-b-que a goat for him and his friends. Can you see it now? We can be lost in the “foriegn” land, wasting our resources on things that doesn’t fill us with life. Or we can be lost right here at home, lamenting that we never had a party with bar-b-que goat. So, which son–the youngest or the eldest–was the Prodigal?

Sure, the youngest “wasted” his inheritance of money. But the oldest wasted his inheritance of the values that his Father had tried to impress on them both. And in case you’re not connecting the dots–we can be just as lost at home, sitting in a church building every Sunday morning, as the person who goes out on Saturday night and parties like there is no tomorrow. If we waste what God has given us on the things that don’t really matter when it comes to The Kingdom Of God–then WE are just as much a “prodigal” as the youngest son in the story. I’ll end today’s musings right here. But be warned, I may take this thought about “wasting what God has given us on the things that don’t really matter when it comes to The Kingdom of God” at a later date. But for now, let me say: “Be very careful who you label as the prodigal!”

HE LOVES TO CREATE!

Newfound Gap, Great Smoky Mountains

Debbie and I are on another sabbatical. We intentionally take at least 2 sabbaticals each year. Occasionally we have taken 3–and sometimes 1 or less. Most folks calls the vacations. We prefer the word “sabbatical” because when most folks hear the word “vacation” they think of an agenda of going here and doing this, that, and the other. We have found that vacations leave us tired–but sabbaticals leave us refreshed and renewed.

One of our sabbaticals is going to the Smoky Mountains. Most of our time this year will be spent at the condo that one of her cousins graciously allows us to stay here free of charge. We arrived here late Monday afternoon. And against our usual tradition, yesterday was a bit of a busy day. Normally we settle into a routine of rest and relaxation. Instead, we went out for breakfast–a meal we usually prepare where we stay. But we wanted to try a new place that some friends of ours recommended we try. It was Crockett’s 1875 Breakfast Camp. Now, they are not a sponsor of this blog, but I highly recommend them if you are ever in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Since we were already out, we decided to go through Cades Cove, a beautiful place with a rich history. And thinking about yesterday has led me to today’s thought: God Loves To Create! This morning as I sat on the deck looking out and talking with the Holy Spirit, I blurted out, “Man, you just love to create, don’t y’all!” And I realized the great joy God had as He began creating this amazing universe. I was thinking about all the scenes we saw, the rocks, the trees, and all the wild rhododendrons we saw, and me and Debbie talked about how beautiful it will be in the spring when the wild rhododendrons would begin blooming.

And as those thoughts were running through my mind, the Holy Spirit put another thought into my mind, and it went straight to my heart. He said, “Oh, yes we love to create, but we love even more to re-create our Image Bearers back into Our Image and it brings us even greater joy!” And I thought–thought about the moment when I was 16 and surrendered my life to Jesus. And I thought about the many more moments when I screwed it up and made my life a mess–but The Father was right there with open arms willing to take me back again–and picked right up where I resisted and continues to this day re-creating my life.

Then I had a fresh memory of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5 and verse 17: “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! Pay attention to how that verse ends: “a new life has begun!” Not over–but begun! There is a journey, a process, that The Father takes us on where HIS work continues to shape, form, and transform us back into His image. And every moment when we allow HIM to take over our heart, mind, and will–well, it just brings Them a much greater joy that when They finished the physical creation! And I leave you this morning with this song that spoke into me hope, life, and strength! I hope it does for you, too!

RECALL ALERT!

Recall Alert! No, not your vehicle. Not some baby product. Not your C-Pap machine. Not the food in your pantry or freezer. Not your coffee maker. Not your hair dryer or curling iron or flat iron. Not some power tool. Not your washer, dryer, refrigerator, or freezer. It hasn’t been on the news, but it should be. Are you wondering what I’m writing about this morning? Well, let me first tell you a short story.

One Sunday morning at my previous appointment, I was talking with someone about something (I forgot what it was), but as I was talking, I forgot some key point of the story. The person I was talking with was Dr. Joe Cooney, a physiology professor. I told Joe, “Oh, man! I can’t remember! I’m losing my memory.” And in his usual calm manner, Joe told me, “No, you’re not loosing your memory. It’s up there. You’re having a RECALL problem.” God bless Joe! I wasn’t loosing my memory, and he’s spent his whole life understanding and teaching about the human body, including the brain!

Recalling that episode this early morning got me to thinking–about Recall! And what does Recall have to do with this thing called the Journey of Life? Sometimes I forget. Do you? It acts like memory loss–but it’s a Recall issue. As a matter of fact, life can be, scratch that, life IS difficult to say the very least. You don’t need this old preacher to remind you of this reality.

Problems at work. Problems at home. Problems with our health. Unexpected deaths. Failures. Divorce. Abandonment. Loss of job. Foreclosure. Depression. These are just a very few of the moments in life that will cause us to question–question the Only One who loves us and takes care of us no matter what happens. Or am I the only one who has ever questioned the faithfulness of God? Felt abandoned by God? Felt like He just doesn’t care? When those moments overwhelm us–we act, think, and feel like there are no memories of how faithful God has been to us. But He has been–we just need to Recall those memories of other overwhelming moment when no doubt, God was with us!

One of my favorite memories was in July of 1971. At a youth service the Holy Spirit moved in my heart and invited me into this relationship with Jesus. I fought so hard that I held on to the pew in front of me–and I said NO to God. Why is this a good recall for me? Because a year later, that same Holy Spirit spoke that same message to me–and this time I said YES!

In September 2003, another of my favorite memories happened. I was a total train wreck, and the darkness was strong in me because of my divorce. I had performed a wedding ceremony for a very good friend’s nephew. A friend called me that next week and told me I really impressed one of the wedding directors and that I really needed to call her for a date. Debbie became God’s Gift to me in my darkest times. And on November 13, 2020 we celebrated our 16th Wedding Anniversary.

It’s not easy–but if we stop focusing on what we have forgotten–and start to Recall, well–it just changes everything. We recover the Truth that God hasn’t abandoned us or forgotten us. Recall is a good thing–an excellent thing. May I suggest, as I did this morning–to Recall moments when God overwhelmed us with love, mercy and grace.

Don’t wait until the crucible heats up–every day Recall something that God has done for you. And if you are having a Recall Problem and can’t remember–then think about Jesus on that cruel Cross. Look at the Cross–and the Recall Problem is resolved!

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

1 John 4:10 (NLT)

What’s An Apple Pie Without Apples?

What’s an apple pie without apples? Or a banana pudding without bananas? Or a meatloaf without meat? The answer? One could say, “It’s not the same.” This is true–but let’s dig a little deeper. The correct answer is: “They are not!” Without apples, it’s not an apple pie! Without bananas, it’s not banana pudding. Without meat, it’s not meatloaf. What’s my point this morning, other than making you crave these and other foods?

Love without the corresponding actions is an apple pie without apples. BUT…when we love in ways that touch another human heart with kindness, care, and concern–it puts the apples back into the pie; the bananas back into the banana pudding; and puts the meat back into meatloaf. John had something to say about this: “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. “ (1 John 3:18 The Message)

This week I have been reminded in powerful ways the value of love when others (as The Message puts it:) Practice Real Love! This morning we are packing our bags to go back to my childhood home as we prepare for my sister’s visitation and funeral–and to help share the burden of my Dad–who shared my burdens when I was hurting.

And I am once again overwhelmed with the love of others. Your prayers, comments, messages and phone calls–are powerful means of God’s grace in my life in a season when I am needing them most. There are a few who haven’t reached out to me that I thought would–and it only adds to my pain. But to you who are reaching out, who are practicing real love–are helping ease that pain and hurt as well. And until that day we are all in The Eternal Kingdom–you will never know how much YOU are helping me in this season.

PS: I will be taking a couple of days off from blogging. And in the immortal words of General Douglas McArthur, “I shall return!” And it’s because of those who practice real love.

Afraid Of What Is, Or Afraid Of What Might Happen?

Image from BBC Science Focus Magazine

You may find it hard to believe what I am about to say; but Fear Is Rampant In Our Culture! Democrats are afraid of what the Republicans might do. Republicans are afraid of what the Democrats might do. Libertarians are afraid of both. Seriously though, just look around and it is easy, so easy, TOO easy to find things that have the capacity to make us afraid.

And here’s the irony of it all: it doesn’t have to be true, or possible, or even probable to make people Afraid! Imaginary fears are just as potent as my very real fear of snakes in order to harm us. For many, fear is more than an every day battle; it is a moment by moment ongoing battle. This battle happens whether one admits it or denies it. Fear paralyzes us into the wrong action or indecision. Just ask the squirrel pancakes you see on the roads.

So what can a person do? The answer is rather easy. But the solution isn’t simplistic. What gets makes fear run like the wind in fear? It isn’t faith–it’s Love! But not just any love–the fields of life are strewn with the casualties of embracing and pursuing the wrong kind of Love. John gave us the answer long ago in his letter we call 1 John, Chapter 4, verses 17-18:

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

(The Message)

John said that God is love. So, if we live in God, and God lives in us, we give love, as The Message puts it, the run of the hose, becomes at home and mature in us. Remember I said getting rid of Fear is simple, but it’s not simplistic. It requires us to surrender and submit to God–not just once–but over and over again–moment by moment. God’s love assures us we do not have to be afraid of Judgment–provided we live in Him and allow Him to live in us. And if we do not have to be afraid of Judgment–then there is nothing else to fear. His Love will always take care of us–He may not take away the problem that is trying to scare the living daylights out of us–but He will stand with us! And when God stands with us–it’s like this song: Fear Is A Liar!

Wednesday Wondering-The Long Suffering Of God

Last night as I was lying in bed I heard in my heart “long suffering”. And the passage I thought of first was Psalm 86:15. Even though I cut my teeth on the King James Version, for decades I’ve used more recent translations. But those other translations miss something, in my humble opinion, that the translators used in the King James Version; and here it is:

But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

The subject is God and David proceeds to add some descriptive words about Him. Most like the idea that God has tons of compassion, grace, mercy and truth; and why not like that idea. But there is another description David has: Long-Suffering!

We don’t use that phrase in our everyday conversations and rarely consider what it means when it comes to God. It’s my contention that it’s because those two words, long and suffering, are words our culture does not like nor appreciate. We avoid long–long lines and long waits; and we avoid by all means possible suffering –because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable so we avoid the vexatious.

I took a moment this morning to look up that word/phrase long-suffering in both the Hebrew and from the dictionary. The Hebrew word is ‘arek and it comes from another Hebrew word ‘arak. It means to draw out, lengthen. From the dictionary it defines it as: having or showing patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people.

And I realize that God experiences LONG-SUFFERING in dealing with me. There are still moments when, after I fail, I wonder how in the world God puts up with me. The Enemy whispers, “You blew it again, Randy, and God is through with you.” If you’ve faced many failures, it’s easy to believe him; that God is simply tired of you.

But then I remembered King David. He lied to protect himself; lusted for his friend’s wife; murdered that friend; sought to do things without seeking God’s guidance–and here in Psalm 86:15 David proclaims hope–through God’s Long-Suffering. God prolongs giving up on me–prolongs giving up on you. He persists for us because of His love. He shows patience in spite of the trouble we cause Him.

So, today, I want to remember God’s Long-Suffering, not as an excuse to keep on failing, but as a reminder that HE loves me so much that Jesus Long-Suffered in the Wilderness, in the Garden, and on the Cross–and I don’t want Him to Long-Suffer again because of me. At times my heart is divided, but today–in this moment–I choose to have an undivided heart for the ONE who is LONG-SUFFERING for me. I can’t give up–YOU can’t give up–because HE never gives up on us. HE goes the distance for us–whatever it takes. So, why would any of us do less for HIM!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!