Animals Change, Not God

Last week Americans went to the polls to cast votes.  Elephants voted red, donkeys voted blue, and those of some hybrid filled bubbles of various hues. 

Today, some voters are joyful while others count the days until they can try again. 

Election day stands outside the Ordinary days of life.  Yet on November 7 (this year), Ordinary days resumed.  The joyous and the saddened alike arose from sleep, grabbed a warm mug, combed their hair, and met the new day.  Just like every other day, diapers were changed, classes were attended, and dentures were set in place.  The young, the old, and the "in between" returned to life as usual.

Speaking through the prophet Malachi, God challenged and assured the Israelites ("descendants of Jacob").  He said . . .

 “I am God—yes, I Am. I haven’t changed. And because I haven’t changed, you, the descendants of Jacob, haven’t been destroyed."
Malachi 3:6 (The Message)

Borrowing those words to personalize them, we can feel their challenge and comfort.

“I am God—yes, I Am. I haven’t changed. And because I haven’t changed, you,(your name here) . . .
     can carry on."
     can rest assured."
     can trust me."
     can know that I am in control."
     can know that I know you."

Election days as well as public office holders (Hopefully, each lives up to the title "Public Servant.") come and go; and through it all, God remains the same.


What Time Is It?

What did you do with your extra hour?  If you live in the United States (except Arizona and Hawaii), you gained an hour on November 4th. 

If that is news to you, you're welcome.  Now you know why you seem to be early to every meeting and your favorite TV shows seem to be on at the wrong time.  Go ahead - take a moment now to set your watch or clock.  Then continue reading.

As a pastor, I much prefer the end over the beginning of Daylight Savings Time.  Since the clock-changing times always occur on Sundays, the ending of DST allows for even the late-risers to make it to church on time or, at least, closer to on time.

Several years ago (long before we carried computers, aka smart phones, in our pockets), we could not depend on electronic reminders of the nationwide hour change.  So, on one Sunday, my wife and I commenced with our morning routine of readying ourselves for church and then drove to the church building where I served as Minister to Students.  To our surprise, the only person there was the Building and Grounds Manager who was unlocking doors and switching on lights.  I did not recall any dispute or member-uprising from the previous Sunday that would have caused a Sunday morning boycott.  The helpful manager, noticing the confusion on our faces, offered a grin on his face and then kindly asked a question to which he knew the answer, "You forgot to set your clocks back, didn't you?"  I cannot recall how we spent our extra hour; I hope I helped him ready the building.  Whatever we did, I do remember thinking how grateful I was that our forgetfulness had not occurred in the spring.  It is not a good thing for the Minister to Students to arrive late to minister. 

Ever since that day, I change our clocks about midday on Saturday - just to be safe.  I do so in order to avoid a repeated mistake. 

Some mistakes result in more harmful consequences than arriving to church one hour earlier.  How can we avoid those more costly mistakes?  We can take steps that are similar to setting clocks at midday.  That is to say, we can take preventive measures such as . . .
- Count the cost.
- Say "I'm sorry."
- Say "I forgive you."
- Don't judge a book by its cover.
- Keep your promises.
- Don't set unreasonable expectations (for yourself or others).
- Train your children in the way they should go.
- Listen to your parents.
- Listen to Lady Wisdom (see Proverbs).

Those nine actions are but a small sample of the near countless steps you can take to avoid costly mistakes.  Each step you take will draw you closer to God and, therefore, to a life well lived.


Renewed by the Equation

The Bible in 27 minutes.  A month ago, I accomplished my goal of summarizing the biblical account (Genesis to Revelation) in twenty-seven minutes.  Rabbit Creek Church - Bible 101.   With whiteboard marker in hand and digital clock setting the pace, I began with "In the beginning God" and closed with "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen." 

Those bookend phrases of the Bible set the stage and close the curtain.
  "In the beginning God" sets the stage by establishing the truth that before all things, God was.

The grammar critic in me cringes at ending that last sentence with a passive verb.  I could, appropriately, add a word to follow - such as mighty, or eternal, or great, or creative.  Clearly, the Bible itself continues the sentence.

Nevertheless, I contend that a pause at "wa
s" proves beneficial.  A pause at "was" draws our attention to the utterly important understanding that all things find their root and meaning in God (with the exception of evil).

You and I belong in the category of "all things."
  Therefore, with God as our rest and source of meaning, the only way we will discover our reason for being and our significance is to seek His leadership (Lordship) in our lives. 

Two sentences from the Bible reveal the equation for a successful search. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
All sincere seekers of God long to know and live His will.  Most sincere seekers struggle to find it. 

It is for those reasons that I greatly appreciate the clarity of 12:2 - especially the "then you." 
"Then you" tells me that what follows "you" depends on what precedes "then."
Here's the equation:
To solve that equation, we need to identify the ways in which we tend to conform to the world.  In what ways do you tend to conform?
  • Spending too much time doing less than important things?
  • Viewing things that your eyes need not see?
  • Speaking words that hurt rather than help?
  • Talking more than you listen?
  • Seeking revenge rather than restoration?
  • Celebrating another's defeat rather than supporting the weak?
  • Cashing in rather than helping those in need?
  • Aiming to be first while forgetting the value of last?
A transformed mind minus those things leads to knowing God's will.