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Orientation is important. Perhaps the most important part of life. Here are some definitions:

Noun – the determination of the relative position of something or someone (especially oneself)

The relative physical position or direction of something

The adjustment or alignment of oneself or one’s ideas to surrounding or circumstances

In high school and college I went to freshman orientations. These were intended to help new students orient themselves with the geography of the school. I learned where the library, cafeteria and different classrooms were. After orientation I always knew where these places were, no matter where I was. That was important. To this day I have bad dreams that I am in some large school and I am disoriented and can’t find my class, or worse yet, the bathroom, and I really need to go!

Orientation is important for everyone. Orientation is not just knowing where we are spatially, but also knowing where we are mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Many people’s lives are oriented around the wrong things. For example, some people orient their lives around money and the accumulation of wealth. Acquiring wealth makes them happy, at least for awhile. With money they have a house, a car, a savings account. They can have nice clothes and eat at the best restaurants. With wealth they have security and status. They know where they are by how much money they have.

Other people orient themselves around sex or drugs or power or education or family or work or politics. There are countless things we can orient ourselves around. Good things and bad things. I am reminded of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Verse 40 tells us that Martha was oriented around all the preparations that had to be made. Her orientation led her to be “worried and upset about many things.”

Mary on the other hand, sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. Her orientation was Jesus. Jesus told Martha that “few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

May I suggest that we choose to orient our lives around Jesus? I recently read about a comedian whose life was oriented around being a comic. He couldn’t imagine his life oriented around anything else. Then he heard about Jesus, and how he would live a happier, more complete, more contented life, if his life was oriented around this God/Man. He didn’t believe it. He fought against it. But he couldn’t get Him out of his mind. Finally he gave in. In his words, he began to orient his life around God, and discovered, quite to his surprise, he was happier, more complete and more content.

I like that he used the word “orient”. Some Christians use the words Saved, Born Again, Converted, Redeemed or Rescued. Those words indicate important aspects of what it means to be a God Follower, but not the entire package. I think the the concept behind the phrase “to orient myself around God” encapsulates the entirety of what it means to be a Christian. When I orient myself to God, my whole life, every moment becomes related to God who loves me and gave himself for me.
There are many Bible verses that refer to this kind of orientation:

Seek first the kingdom of the heavenly Father and his righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:37,38)

Rejoice always, pray continually give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


My life is oriented around God at a mission that helps needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico; a mission run by FFHM. Our mission statement states that we exist to make disciples of Christ. A disciple is one whose life is oriented around the teachings and practices of a person or organization. We aim to orient the poorest of the poor in Mexico to lives centered on Jesus. This ministry takes in children whose lives have been oriented around abuse and poverty, neglect and rejection. Showing them the love of God by meeting their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs enables them to reorient themselves toward a better life. Once they see themselves as dearly loved children of God and orient their lives around that truth, they are able to live happy, fulfilled lives.

We all want to be happy. God created us in his image; he created us to be happy. We can all be incredibly happy. It just takes the right orientation.

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Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what the author of Hebrews thought about when he or she began writing about the incarnation. Hebrews 2:9,14,15 says, ‘We see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone…. Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what the angel of the Lord was thinking of when he told Joseph to name Mary’s son Jesus, for he would save his people from their sins. (Mt. 1:21) It was Jesus death on the cross that accomplished salvation from sin.

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what Herod was thinking about the newborn king. “When the magi had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ “

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what Paul was thinking about in Philippians chapter two when he wrote, “And being found in appearance as a man, Christ Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.”

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. That’s what Paul was thinking about when he thought about his own death. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. Paul thought about Christ’s birth and death and resulting reconciliation with God. “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled shall we be saved through his life.” (Rom. 5:9,10)

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death. This Christmas maybe we can change our focus a bit. Sure there are gifts, decorations and family gatherings to consider, but perhaps these last few days before December 25th, we can orient our thoughts toward something more substantial, like death – the true reason for the season. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross. Jesus was born to die so that we can live. Let’s embrace death to self so that we can live meaningful lives in Christ. God became flesh and dwelt among us and died for us because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

Thinking of Christmas? Think of death, and celebrate!

Reasons Why Jesus Was Born

 

I read an insightful article from Fuller Studio entitled Silence, Patience and Presence. I especially liked what the author, Dr. David Augsburger, had to say about Silence, and want to share some with you. He begins the article recounting an experience when he was a young pastor and went to be with a man whose wife had just died. They went for a long walk in the rain. Neither man talked. When they got back to the house, the man told the pastor to go home. On the way home, the pastor, the author of the article, felt ashamed, an utter failure, because he had not give the man any advice or words of comfort. Later he realized that silent presence was probably the best pastoral care that he could have given.

He follows with some wonderful quotes about silence.

To every thing there is a season …

A time to weep and a time to laugh,

A time for mourning and a time for dancing,

A time for silence and a time for speech. (Eccles. 3:4,7)

——

Silence is the gift we give when words are untrustworthy, unnecessary, unwise.

——

Those who know do not talk; those who talk do not know.”

Chinese wisdom from the Tao Te Ching

If your speech is no better than silence, be silent.”

Dionysius the Elder

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Abraham Lincoln

——

Silence precedes speech:

only the one who has learned to be silent is prepared to speak.

——

No moment of silence is a waste of time.”

Quaker Rachel Needham

It is often more effective to fast with words than with food.”

Rabbi Vilna Gaon

The deeper one’s nature, the more time is necessary for solitude.”

Soren Kierkegaard

Nothing in all creation is so like God as silence.”

Meister Eckhart

Those who hear the word of God can also hear his silence.”

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Richard Rohr’s Prayer from Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.”

In silence and hope shall be your strength.”

(Isa. 35:15)

—–

Silence is the language of respect.

—–

Be quick to listen, slow to speak.”

(James 1:19)

Job and friends:

seven days of silence waiting for the sufferer to speak first.

_____

Ezekiel: at the end of his journey, to be present with Judean exiles:

For seven days I sat in silence dumbfounded.”

**************

One who loves God loves silence also.

One who loves Christ loves the silence of the desert.

One who knows the Spirit knows the winds of silence.

If we root our lives in silence we grow deep into God.

Dr. Augsburger

I have been thinking a lot about the importance of silence after reading this article. I wonder if I spend enough time in silent reflection of God and his will; of Christ and his sacrifice; of the Holy Spirit and what he is saying to me. I am concerned that maybe I speak useless words without thinking that may offend or hurt a brother or sister. Perhaps I need more time alone to consider the deep things of the Father and the Word and listen to his still, small voice. I will go off by myself to a quiet place and give it a think.

I have been reading Deuteronomy lately and a certain phrase seems to keepdefender popping up, that is Foreigners, Fatherless and Widows. These three groups of people seemed especially important to God. Check these verses out:

God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.         Deuteronomy 10:18-19

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.          Deuteronomy 14: 28-29

Rejoice before the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name-you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites in your towns, and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows living among you.      Deuteronomy 16:11

Be joyful at your festival – you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.         Deuteronomy 16:14

God wants his chosen people to live in community and respect and care for one another, especially those who are poor and powerless and most likely to either be forgotten or taken advantage of. That would be the foreigners, fatherless and widows.

God takes special pains to remind the Jews that they were once foreigners in Egypt and to remember how unpleasant that was – to be used and abused. It was bad, don’t treat the foreigners in your midst like that.

With regards to the fatherless and widows – well, in that patriarchal society the male head of household was everything. The breadwinner. The family representative. The protector. If the father died the outlook was pretty bleak for the surviving spouse and her young children. Relatives were expected to help them out. But God goes beyond leaving the burden of care to the extended family. He wants all the people of the community to not only help them out, but to respect them, remember them and include them.

That was then, and this is now. That was God’s commands to a group of tribes that lived thousands of years ago. What about our tribes today? Does God expect us to continue to help the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows? Or is that the governments job and the church can pretty much ignore those people and get away with it. God will wink and look the other way. Maybe, maybe not. James, the brother of Jesus wrote to the church that true religion that is pure and faultless is to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Perhaps people who fail to look after orphans (the fatherless) and widows have already been polluted by the world.

In the United States there are more fatherless and single mothers than ever before. Doing some research on the internet I was surprised to learn that there are aproximately 13 million single mothers raising 22 million children and that about 60% of children living in mother only families are impoverished while only 11% of children living with two parent families are impoverished.

In the Gospels children seem to have a special place in Jesus heart. I don’t think that has changed, and perhaps none are closer to him than the fatherless.

The foreigners, fatherless and widows were on the bottom rung of society in ancient times, and even today they struggle more than most. There are other groups in the United States that are struggling and many feel hopeless and helpless. As I was considering the plight of many foreigners, fatherless and single mothers, three other groups came to my mind that God may be calling the church today to not only give a hand out, but a hand up, spiritually and economically speaking:

The department of Housing and Urban Development reports that there are about 554,000 homeless people in the United States.

There are about 16.1 million mentally disabled people in the United States.

5.5 million veterans have some type of disability.

Thank God for all the churches and various ministries who help these millions of people with encouragement, programs and spiritual direction. Everyones greatest need is the love of God and living in right relationship with God. God loves everyone and wants everyone to be happy. Sometimes God calls a church or individual to be part of the answer to relieve human misery; to bring joy and peace to a suffering soul, whether that person be a foreigner, a fatherless boy or girl, a single mother, a bruised and battered veteran, a homeless person or a mentally challenged individual. Helping people in need helps us to be happier people. Just ask God, he’ll tell you.

Rejoice – verb – feel or show great joy or delight

rejoice1

I have been reading Deuteronomy lately. Three times in chapter 12 the Israelites are instructed to rejoice. Two of these instances hearken back to my last post. Moses relays God’s instructions to the people that when they take control of the Promised Land they are to gather in a place that God will designate and offer sacrifices and offerings and rejoice. They are to celebrate God and his rich blessings that he had given them.

The third instance of “rejoice” in the chapter occurs in verse 18. Moses tells everyone that they are to rejoice before the Lord their God in everything that they put their hand to. This reminded me of what Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!” ( Philippians 4:4)

Moses told the people to rejoice in everything they put their hands to, and Paul tells people in the church emphatically to rejoice in the Lord always. After meditating on these words I decided, at least for one day, to be intentional about rejoicing in the Lord.

I get up pretty early most mornings, and when I went outside to begin my workday, it was still dark, and the sky was filled with stars. I rejoiced in this beautiful sight and gave thanks to God for his marvelous creation. All those stars! God didn’t have to make all those stars, but he did because he loves us and wants us to be happy. He wants us to rejoice, to feel great joy and delight.

I’m the gardener at the home for needy children here in Oaxaca, Mexico. One of my jobs is to water the soccer field. I turned on the sprinkler and rejoiced that we have water that keeps the field green and the kids have a wonderful place to play their favorite sport.

My wife, Anita, is the kitchen supervisor and was making breakfast that morning. Walking into the kitchen I rejoiced in the dedicated wife that God has given me, and that we could work together in ministry. Helping her make quesadillas I rejoiced that the children and staff would have a healthy, nutritious meal to start their day. I thought of Jesus words, ” I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…When you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.” I wondered what the children would have had for breakfast, if anything, if it wasn’t for this home for needy children.

Afterwards I drove some of the teenage girls to their school in Oaxaca city. I rejoiced that they could go to a private Christian school and get a quality education that would prepare them for whatever career they might choose. I rejoiced that God chose me to be a part of their lives, to make a difference in who they are and what they would become.

And so went the day, rejoicing intentionally in the Lord and all that I put my hands to. I realized that no matter what we do, we have three choices in how we emotionally react. We can complain about what we see wrong or negative in our situations. That makes us angry or depressed. We can react indifferently which makes us apathetic. Or we can rejoice, which makes us alive to God’s presence and his blessings. This makes us happy, and after all, God does love us and wants us to be happy.

Most of the day the rejoicing thing went great because all my situations were pleasant ones. That changed toward the end of my day.

After work I took my daughters, Sally and Kelly, to their piano class. While they learn tunes on the keyboard, I teach the piano teachers daughter English. It’s a barter deal where no money exchanges hands and everyone is happy. I rejoiced that my girls enjoy learning the piano and I could bless the music teacher and her daughter with English skills.

When we finished we went to a little piece of property that Anita’s dad had given us. We are in the process of building a tiny house and have planted a few fruit trees that needed to be watered. I rejoiced at the thought of these blessings as well.

What we encountered upon reaching the property was not a blessing. Some mischievous young truant, or so I guess, had crawled under our fence, had climbed to the top of a shed where we keep a water tank, and had broken off the water valve, unleashing a thousand liters of water. How could I rejoice now?

I felt violated that someone had come onto our property and distressed over the waste of our water by some random act of vandalism. While I stared in disbelief, my daughters kept asking me “Why?”. ” Why, Daddy, would someone do this? “

I told them that this is how a lot of people act in the “real” world. I explained to them that they live in a Christian community and go to a Christian school, and while Christians aren’t perfect, they normally try to live by the standard of love, and that is what they are used to. People in the world who are not Christians, many times just live by the moment and if it makes them happy to cause pain to others and destroy things, they just do it.

After saying these words I found cause to rejoice. I told the girls that we needed to pray. So we prayed and rejoiced at the work God had done in our lives and was continuing to do. We thanked God that nothing worse had happened and prayed for the person who had done this, that he might see the light and come to know the love of God and find his joy in Jesus and not in random acts of violence.

We got back in the car and drove home. Most of the anger and frustration had left me, replaced by the “peace that passes all understanding.” Some disappointment remained, but it helped me to think of Paul’s words to the Roman church, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). And in this I rejoiced.

 

dissappointment

mex indp1

What do you get when you combine dozens of children, the colors red, white, green, Jenga, Dolores, gritos, September 15 and a pigs head? You get a grand Mexico Independence Day celebration at the Home for Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico!

Yesterday we celebrated the big day with lots of games, food, music and fun. Adults and kids here at Casa Hogar made their own teams and set up booths, some for games and others for food. The food included corn on the cob, melotes, beef, chicken and pork tacos, and pastries (even a Chinese dish from a staff member who spent three years in China). There was coffee, hot chocolate, soda and champurrado to drink. There was a prize for best food and booth. Anita, my wife, and her mother worked together on the tacos and some of the muchachas and girls helped with decorating the booth and serving tacos and coffee. The pork tacos were made from a pigs head and won first place (last year Anita won second place with her grasshopper salsa, but that’s another story).

tacos dolores madre

Anita’s mom making tacos

pig head

Today a pigs head, tomorrow a taco

dolores

“Dolores” – made by muchachas

All of the staff and children at the mission were encouraged to invite friends and family, so there was a good crowd on hand enjoying the fiesta. Anita is the kitchen supervisor. She invited the people who supply our tortillas everyday and the couple who bring us fresh chicken once a week. There were people from the church gathered together as well as families who work with other ministries in the area. It was a wonderful gathering and as they say, “a good time was had by all.”

 

God loves us and wants us to be happy, and he loves it when people of faith get together to have a good time. Not only does he love it, he commands it. In the Old Testament he commanded the Jewish people from all over Israel and all over the world, to gather three times a year for worship, feasting and fiesta. There must have been hundreds of thousands of people all crammed into Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to their Loving Creator and rejoice and celebrate God’s goodness with their fellow citizens.

It’s the same in 2000 a.d. as it was in 2000 b.c. God doesn’t choose people to be “Lone Ranger” followers, but to follow him as a community of faith. He not only calls his people to come together to worship him and serve him, but also to celebrate him and enjoy him as a faith community in unity, forever.

unity

Miriam-Webster Definition of Cretan – a stupid, vulgar, or insensitive person:clod,lout

At church on Wednesday nights we have been studying Paul’s letter to Titus. Most ofcretans the letter talks about what is good. Love what is good. Teach what is good. Be an example of what is good. Be eager and ready to do what is good. Learn what is good.

At the end of chapter one, Paul writes about a group of people who are incapable of doing what is good. Those people would be the Cretans. Paul quoted a Cretan philosopher who, talking about his own people, says that Cretans always lie, are brutes and lazy gluttons.

This is somewhat unfortunate for Titus as he is on the island of Crete, ministering to said Cretans.

I have been doing some thinking about those Cretans. I have come to love the Cretans. Why? First of all, God did not take a pass on the Cretans. He didn’t say that those good for nothing Cretans are hopeless and that it’s a waste of time, effort and resources to share the Gospel with those people. No, he had Paul doing some evangelizing there. Some were converted and became followers of Jesus. When Paul had to leave the island, he put his trusted companion and son in the faith, Titus, to continue the work. Then Paul wrote him this letter instructing him what he needed to do to establish a strong church there.

The take away here is that no matter how bad the Cretans were, God loved them and wanted them to be happy by radically changing the way that they thought about right and wrong, good and bad, God and man.

The second reason I love the Cretans is that I was a Cretan, and sometimes still act like one. In fact, according to Scripture, we are all cretanish until we start walking in the Way of Christ and with Christ. Colossians 1:21 says that “once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” Until our spiritual eyes are opened and we are illuminated to the Truth of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are all just a bunch of Cretans. Ephesians two says that we were all dead in our sins, until Christ Jesus made us alive. Another way to say that is that we were all Cretans. We were all liars, brutes and lazy gluttons.

We were all liars, and mainly lied to ourselves. We told ourselves that we were pretty good people and deserved to go to heaven.

We were all brutes. The dictionary says that a brute is a cruel, unpleasant or insensitive person. In one way or another we all acted cruelly in that we were insensitive to those that were different from us. To those that offended us we wished in our hearts pain and destruction on them. Sometimes we could even feel that way toward our own family members. Jesus said that as we think in our hearts, that’s the way we really are. While we may not have killed anyone, we have hated and cursed others and acted unpleasantly toward others.

We were all lazy gluttons. We were lazy in that we made no effort to know God, to serve God, to follow God. We were gluttons in the sense that we continually fed our pleasures, feasted on what we thought was good for us, with little or no concern for others. We dined without stop on the lusts of our flesh, the lusts of our eyes and the pride of life.

We were all just a bunch of Cretans, until the day that God rescued us from that slimy pit of existence, and forgave us, redeemed us and adopted us as his dearly loved children who could now live joyfully in right relationship with the Father.

Thank you God for not giving up on Cretans!

mercy

The book of Deuteronomy is primarily Moses farewell speech to the Israelites beforethere is a way they go off to conquer the Promised Land and he goes off to a mountain to die. In some respects it’s not such a happy speech. Honestly Moses seems a bit ticked off. And why shouldn’t be be? God’s people, Moses’ people, whom they led through the wilderness lo these forty years are going off to the land of milk and honey, and all Moses gets is a t-shirt and a view from a mountain top. Moses traces his sad state of affairs to an incident that occurred shortly after they left Egypt.

They had made good time getting away from Egypt and were soon knocking on the door of the Promised Land, preparing to invade, when some wise guys suggested to Moses that they send in spies to check out the land and the best route to invasion. In chapter one of Deuteronomy Moses said, “it seemed like a good idea.”  Looking back, he surely reflected that it was the worst idea ever and ultimately led to his exclusion from the Promised land.

The spies came back from their recon mission and while all of them declared that it was an extremely abundant land, most of them said that the inhabitants were as big as giants and the walls around the cities were huge, and that they would all be killed if they tried to take the land.

The Israelites all panicked and God got angry and instead of the Promised Land, they received a promise ban. God promises that that generation would be prohibited from entering the land and that they would wander in the wilderness until all the chicken hearts die and a new generation grows up that will follow God into the land of milk and honey and take possession of it.

So why was it such a bad idea to send spies to search out the land? Because up to that point they had trusted God wholeheartedly. He laid down the plagues on the Egyptians and Pharaoh finally let them go. Then the Egyptian leader changed his mind and chased them to the Red Sea. God parted the waters of the sea and the Israelites escaped while the Egyptian army drowned. Then God led them through the wilderness with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He delivered them, protected them and guided them to the doorstep of the Promised Land, and then the people stop trusting him, and decide they know best. “Okay God, we can take it from here” they seemed to be saying. It was all downhill from there, both for the people and for Moses.

Verse 34 of chapter one says that the LORD was angry and solemnly swore: “No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give to your ancestors, except Caleb because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly.”

Verse 37 is the nail in Moses coffin. “Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, ‘You shall not enter it either.”

What seemed like such a good idea ended up being a terrible idea. From Exodus through Deuteronomy, Moses is talking to God. Maybe if Moses would have taken some time to talk to God about the spy plan, things would have turned out differently and would have had a happy ending for Moses and the troops.

That’s kinda like us sometimes. We hear a suggestion, and it seems like a good idea, and we go with it, only to have it go sour on us later on down the road. Many times these suggestions come from the World, the Flesh or the Devil. That’s why some ideas seem good, because they appeal to our fleshly appetites. Rather than run the idea by God, or Godly counselors or the Bible, we just run with it. Sometimes we pay a terrible price for an idea that seemed good at the time. Sometimes our families pay as well.

My wife and I are cooperating with God and partnering with Foundation For His Ministry to help needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico. At the home here are almost 60 children who are being cared for. Many are here because of decisions that their parents made that seemed good at the time, but then went terribly wrong. Some of the children have been abandoned by their parents. Others have parents in prison or parents with addiction issues.

Fortunately, all the children here learn that God loves them and wants them to be happy. They learn to make decisions based on God’s Word. They have godly house parents who they can turn to for advice. They learn that the best decisions that they make are decisions that they have invited God to be a part of.

We have all been like Moses at times and have made decisions that seemed good at the time and ended up being big mistakes. Thankfully we have a God that forgives us, picks us up, shakes the dust off us, wipes our tears away, and continues to walk down the road of life with us, encouraging and guiding us. Let’s go with God all the time and not take a path away from Him that simply seems like the the way to go because it feels good at the time.

 

may god go with you

The last verse in Judges says everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Everyone wants to be happy.  Everyone does what is right in their own eyes because they think that will make them happy.  Nobody thinks “I am going to do what’s wrong in my own eyes so that I will be happy.  Doing what’s right in our eyes is equal to doing what we need to do to be happy.  Muslims, Mennonites and Mormons do what is right in their own eyes to be happy.  So do Anglicans, Animists and Atheists.  We have some philosophy or world view that instructs our behavior in hopes that we will be happy.

So what about those Israelites who did what was right in their own eyes?  I think that they were happy.  Dallas Willard clued me in to this idea on his book  about Spiritual Disciplines.  He writes that the people of Israel at this time were living during the times of the Judges.  They had recently taken control of the Promised land.  The land flowing with milk and honey.  They were happy because they had seen the mighty hand of God at work in their favor.  They were a people specially chosen by the Creator of the universe and had received His laws, precepts and commands because He loved them and wanted them to be happy.  When they had a conflict with someone that made them unhappy, they could present their case before a local judge who, with the help of God, could make a wise decision about the conflict, so that ideally both parties could walk away reconciled and content.

We also can do what is right in our own eyes and live happy lives if we live in right relationship with God.  Then His delight becomes our delight.  His righteousness become our righteousness.  This doesn’t happen overnight.  That’s why Willard wrote his book about Spiritual Disciplines.  These disciplines Jesus practiced to be happy and live in communion with the Father.  Disciplines like silence and solitide, alone time with the Father.  Disciplines like study, worship and service, in fellowship with other believers. These are all important to successfully live a happy life doing what is right in our own eyes.

Here are a few more good words from Dallas Willard, taken from his book The Spirit of the Disciplines –

To do as one pleases is the ideal condition of humanity, what is often called “freedom”, and does not imply wrong doing at all.

God has all along intended that we walk with him on a personal basis, be pleased by the right things, and then do what is right in our own eyes. This is why we were made and what constitutes our individuality.

God calls us to be part of his efforts.  Our part is to understand the way God works with humanity to extend his Kingdom, and to act on the basis of that understanding.

So, just like the Israelites, we can live righteously, delighting in God, cooperating with God, doing what is right in our own eyes.

white house on green grass and green mountain

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I was a child I went to church because my parents took me there.

When I was a teenager I went to church because I experienced the love of God and wanted to learn more about Him and His great love.

When I was in Bible College I went to church because it was required by the Bible College and I enjoyed the preaching.

After I graduated from Bible College I went to church because I worked with the youth group and I was married and had two daughters.

After I divorced I went to church because I needed the fellowship and support of the Body of Christ, and I was committed to contributing to the life of the church in various ways.

I have gone to church my whole life, and for the most part it has been a positive experience. I have enjoyed the music, both the richness of the old hymns and also the lively contemporary tunes. Most churches that I went to had talented musicians who made that aspect of the service something special.

The sermons were usually my favorite part. Most of the ministers were highly educated, gifted speakers who made the Bible come alive. Preachers who explained biblical passages in their cultural and literary settings, and then offered practical applications for present day followers of Jesus.

I came to Mexico to help needy children thirteen years ago. These years have probably been the happiest years of my life. Living my life helping the fatherless and the incarcerated. Making a difference in the lives of poor children who have been abused and neglected by those who should have cared for them. Seeing smiling, happy faces everyday of young ones who would otherwise be living miserable lives, is an exceedingly rewarding experience for me.  Laughing with inmates and bringing a message of encouragement to them; many who were falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned, is a great blessing for me.

Going to church in Mexico, on the other hand, is not such a great experience for me. The music is almost always too loud and hurts my ears. The lyrics are generally shallow and the theology of the songs suspect. The same can often be said for the preaching. I miss the music and sermons from the U.S.A.

So why do I still go to church? Because that is where I encounter the Body of Christ, the Community of Faith, gathered together to acknowledge the goodness of the God who has called us, redeemed us, justified us, rescued us, saved us and is sanctifying us everyday. I go to church primarily to look around and be reminded that God loves US and wants US to be happy. I go to church and see the Family of God, adopted sons and daughters of the Most High, brothers and sisters of the Faith.

In reality, every time I walk out my front door here at the mission, I go to church.  The church is the people who I work with everyday, my fellow Christians.  In one sense, I don’t go to church – I live in the church.  I live and work with people who are dedicated to making beauty, doing good and sharing the truth in the name of Jesus.  People who strive everyday to love God and love humanity.  People trying to bring peace, joy and light into dark and unhappy lives.  We do it all depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the strength of the Lord and the nurturing of our loving heavenly Father.  That is the true church.

But when we all gather together, now that is something special.  The presence of God is manifest in our lives in a unique way.  I look around the auditorium and I see house parents who give their time and love to children desperate for love. I see cooks who make delicious, wholesome meals for children who previously lacked a proper diet and nutrition. I notice men who do maintenance; who keep the vehicles in working condition so the kids can go to school safely and the cooks can go and buy food and the teachers can go and buy supplies. I take in the school teachers who are so dedicated and give so much of themselves so that their students have a good education and can make something of themselves in this country where it can be so difficult to get ahead.  God’s presence is with us all as we go about our individual chores and fulfill our responsibilities.  But when we all gather together to worship God and look into each others eyes and pray for one another, that gives God an opportunity to do a work in our hearts and lives that would not otherwise be accomplished.

So I go to church and worship God with music that is too loud and where the preaching is less than stimulating, because I am part of a team that God has called. He has not just called us individually to salvation, but He has called each of us to come to Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico, to work together and grow together and make a difference together. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I go to church to celebrate US. US who are God’s handiwork. US who are created in Christ Jesus. US who are doing good works that God has prepared for US to do.

I go to church to celebrate God with my brothers and sisters in the Faith. The God who has opened our eyes to the truth. The God who gives us a common vision of how we can participate in the Kingdom of God in the Tlacolula valley of southern Mexico. To celebrate the faithful God who gives us “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”

That is why I still go to church.

Don’t

live in the world

and go to church.

Live

in the

church

and go into the world!!!

Why Am I Here?

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