On The Offense

As I mentioned in my post about the attack on the Sutherland Springs Baptist church (link) there is evil in this word. In fact, as it states in Ephesians, our struggles are not truly against earthly things or people. They are actually against the forces of darkness in this world and in the spiritual realm. We need to protect ourselves from those evil forces as Paul wrote “by putting on the full armor of God.” I also believe we need to take physical measures to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Having an aggressive nature I also think we should attack the forces of darkness wherever we can, not just defend against them.

I was moved to take that stand and make that statement without really knowing exactly how that should all work. As I stated before, I do know that it doesn’t mean physically attacking those who hold different views than we do.

Today, I saw a glimpse of how to take the offensive.

I was in the Houston Medical Center waiting to pay for parking when I noticed an elderly man wearing a hat showing the unit her served in during Vietnam. Based on our location in the MedCenter and a few other indicators, he is probably battling cancer. I wanted to thank him for his service but he was focused on figuring out how to use the automated system to pay for his parking (I struggle with those kiosks as well) and I didn’t want to interrupt and distract him.

That’s when it hit me that this was an opportunity to “be the light” and push back against the forces of darkness. Instead of waiting for him to be finished I interrupted and paid for his parking while thanking him for his service.

It was a small thing. Not worth mentioning and I am definitely not mentioning for any sort of recognition but it does point the way to how we can shine the light into this world and drive darkness. Every single action we take that reflects God’s love displaces the darkness. Every tiny victory in the battle against the darkness counts because major victories are nothing more than a whole lot of tiny battles won.

I don’t think this is the complete answer on how to take the offensive against darkness and evil. There is more to it than a simple bit of “paying it forward” in a parking garage but it is a part of it. It points to the ultimate direction.

In the meantime, I will continue to look for every opportunity to “be the light.” Every kind word, every expression of thanks and compassion is a tiny win against the darkness.

God bless

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Inspiration

Daleth
25 I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
26 I gave an account of my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.
27 Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
28 My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
29 Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me and teach me your law.
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I have set my heart on your laws.
31 I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
do not let me be put to shame.
32 I run in the path of your commands,
for you have broadened my understanding.

-Psalm 119:25-32

David is often referred to as a “man after God’s own heart.” A man who, by his faith and the favor of God, fought and killed a giant in a duel and became king of Israel.yet, throughout the Psalms he writes of his failings and brokenness. In verse 25 he says he is “laid low in the dust.” we don’t know if that is from the weight of his own sin and brokenness or from the trials he faced at the hands his enemies. Regardless of why he feels this way, he asks God to restore his life and his spirit. The way out of his trials are through God’s word, strength and laws.

So it is with us as well. No matter the trials we face, no matter the struggles or pain, we can always lean on God since even our very breath is a gift from Him. The more we focus on Him and let Him reshape us, the stronger we become. We can always gain strength by keeping in mind that the struggles of this earth are only temporary. By the sacrifice of Jesus, by faith and by God’s grace we will have eternal life once we finish our temporary struggles on this fallen world.

God Bless.

Post-Harvey Update (2): Blessings

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world

-Teresa of Avila (1515-82)

I was alone in the house when the flood waters began to rise in our neighborhood. Wonderful Wife was on the other side of an already flooded river taking care of folks who can’t take care of themselves. My kids were scattered around the state and all were high and dry.

Even after evacuating to my daughter’s house a couple of miles away, a house filled with he small family, myself and another refugee of the flooding I still felt very alone. That could have just been me wallowing in my own self-pity or the shock of a home I was sure wouldn’t flood being flooded but that’s how I felt.

When I got the call that the waters were receding that changed…fast.

The call came from the owner of the house next door, a house that didn’t flood, and he was there waiting for me. My fellow flood refugee who was staying with my daughter as well was there too. We opened the house while there was still several inches of water in the house and started removing the door sills to help the water drain faster, removing carpet and personal items that had been contaminated. As I looked around another neighbor, a man I had never met before, was in the house helping as well. The son in law I was staying with showed up a short time later and was soon hard at work as well. We did what we could in the remaining daylight and then decided to hit it again the next morning.

As we started the first full day of cleanup, the enormity of the task at hand finally started to sink in. Even with the crew from the night before this would take days to finish ripping out the carpet, rip out the damaged drywall and worst of all the wood flooring. There was no more room upstairs to put what wasn’t damaged and the hopelessness began to settle in again.

That’s when I received a call from the pastor of one of the churches nearby. He had heard what happened and would be over in a little while with the team he had put together to help with the floods in Louisiana a while back. What a team it was!

Thirty or so people showed up and started to work. They had trailers already loaded with needed tools and equipment. Everything from wet/dry vacs to drywall knives were there, organized and ready to go. The ladies and kids went upstairs to stack and reorganize what I had moved previously while another group started carrying more up. The men jumped in with knives and started tearing out the drywall. The youth group started ripping out the floors. They spent the rest of the day working on my house and getting 90+% of the tear out done. Work that would have taken us weeks on our own was almost completed and much needed knowledge of what to do next was passed on.

Church Flood Response Team
A Portion Of The Team At Work

Once the team arrived, my neighbors moved onto see if they could help others, of course there were plenty more to help. Once the church team got started on my house the pastor began walking the neighborhood to identify who else needed assistance. By the next day their numbers had doubled and they had two sets of teams working in different areas.

My Mom and daughter showed up partway through the day with pizza for the crew at my house and for our neighbors. They bought out everything the local Domino’s could make and passed it out to those who were helping and those who were flooded in the neighborhood.

Dinner also arrived from a member of our church and it became a community meal (by flashlight) for those flooded and those helping.

Since then meals have been provided from various sources throughout the day so those working to save what they can of their lives and the neighbors who are helping them can be fed and not lose focus on the work. A tent was set up around the corner to provide snacks and drinks for folks, neighbors and church groups have literally been walking the streets passing out food and drinks to any who wanted or needed them. Cleanup supplies (unavailable in the few stores that are still open) are being distributed.

Neighborhood dinner by flashlight

God is good, even in these difficult times.

As much as this storm cost us financially, I will never forget the blessings it has brought. The outpouring of help and caring has been incredible. This disaster has transformed our neighborhood into a community. Folks around here have truly been the “hands and feet of Jesus.”

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these

John 14:12

 

There is still a lot to do. There are still a lot of folks needing help. Not all communities banded together as we did but through it all there have been some amazing blessings. It has also helped restore a bit of my faith in humanity…

God bless

Inspiration

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

-Luke 8:5-8

I know my heart is hard and shallow but You who made the entire world can change my heart. Let Your Word and Spirit take root in the soil of my heart and grow. Lord, may Your Word and Spirit find my heart to be fertile ground. Let me be fruitful and share the bounty of love and forgiveness that only You can  grow in me.

Amen.

Inspiration

Psalm 130 – A song of ascents.

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

After reading this Psalm the other day I copied it into my prayer journal but substituting America for Israel:

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.
America, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem America from all their sins.

Given everything we see in the media deriding and even attacking those who want to hold fast to Biblical principles…

Given the moral direction our nation is headed…

Given the threats of enemies both foreign and domestic…

Given the growing hatred and intolerance of those who don’t share the same ideology or views…

…could this prayer be any more appropriate?

Inspiration

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Psalm 127:1-2

I have been very stressed of late. I’m worried about our jobs, our health, our finances, our kids, and our grand kids. I see what’s going on with looming debt crisis and threats from abroad and they add to my worries. It has gotten so bad lately that my sleep has been affected. For almost a week I have been waking up several times a night literally in terror, convinced someone was in the house and about to do us harm. When I could sleep nightmares seemed to plague me all night long.

Each time I would wake up I would check the house (no one was there) and only praying for God’s protection would would allow me to get back to sleep. The lack of sleep was taking a toll on my relationship with Wonderful Wife and having a negative impact on my ability to do my job. I was so tired I wold catch myself dozing of on conference calls, meetings, while reading or watching TV.

That is why this Psalm really resonated with me and made me want to share it.

It helped me to realize that anything I do on my own, as the work of mortal hands, is only temporary. No matter how hard we work and toil in our personal lives, no matter what we do to protect ourselves or our nation none of it matters unless God is with us…and more importantly, we are with Him.

Many use this as a reason (excuse) to give up trying to do anything but that is not what the Bible tells us. God works through us and we still have to do our part but the success is through Him and His will. Not our own efforts.

Understanding that lifted the burden and the worry from my shoulders. His strength and peace filled me.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Yes Father, it is. Thank you.

God bless

Inspiration (Part 2)

Earlier today I posted a verse from Psalm 121:

From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

-Psalm 121:1-2

I also prayed for those who were struggling and posted a few words of encouragement. Little did I know that I would need that same prayer and those same words today…

I found out today that a man that I respected deeply, a man I worked with for ten years and a man who had encouraged me and helped me to find Jesus as my Lordand Savior passed away. He was a great spirit who was always positive and always cheerful despite so many health issues. The only time I ever saw C upset or cranky was when his blood sugar tanked. He was diabetic. When he almost didn’t make it through a kidney transplant he was busy consoling others. When he had to quite driving because of his declining health we all knew how much that hurt him he still smiled. He loved his cars and driving them. When a lost young man was struggling to find himself he showed, by example, what a man should aspire to be. He wasn’t perfect. But he was forgiven and touched by Grace. As long as I can hold true, stay on the narrow way and make it through the small gate I will see him again on the other side.

I never told him how much he influenced me. I never told him how much I respected him and even admired him. There is a lesson there.

God bless you C. You will be missed…until we meet again.