If a turtle lost its shell…

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I don’t know if you ever thought about this, but did you ever wonder, “can a turtle live without its shell?”

I’ve thought about that and the answer is “no”.  Its outer shell is not something it just carries around, it’s actually a part of its body.

The turtle’s shell is vital to its survival. Not only does it protect the turtle’s life from predators, who most often are not able to break through the hard shell, but that shell is bone with blood vessels and nerves. The turtles rib cage is actually fused with the top of a turtle’s shell which protects the turtle’s lungs.

Interesting, huh?  But, is there any further take away for us today other than gaining a little knowledge?

How about this?

Christians, we too, have an outer shell. Did you know that?   This outer shell we have is our flesh. It is that DNA in us that wires us to be enslaved to selfishness, rebellious to authorities, and independent-minded.  It seeks to lead us away from dependence on God and absorbed in a “life revolves around me” mindset.  Rather than worshiping God, the flesh seeks to exalt “me”.

One of the benefits of Jesus dying on the cross was that our bondage to the flesh (our outer shell) was broken.  The life,  truth, and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ disarmed the flesh’s power over us.

BUT, here are a few things to understand.

The outer shell (the flesh and all its attractions to the world around us) are still alive, it’s just we don’t have to obey its promptings.

Once someone submits their life to Jesus Christ by admitting their rebelliousness to Him and accept His loving forgiveness, we are given the Holy Spirit of God to live within us.  Through God’s Sovereign leading in our lives, He enrolls us in a war against our outer man and any pockets of its presence still doing guerilla warfare in our life.  God allows circumstances in our life to reveal areas where we still want to carry the shell of pride, or lust, or bitterness, etc

What the Holy Spirit does in our life when we encounter difficult circumstances  is shout out us to continual reminders that we are “FREE”.  We don’t have to listen to or respond to any outer shell/fleshly promptings.  The Spirit tells us carrying our obedience to the flesh will  harm us and because we are loved, He wants to spare us from that.

Unlike the turtle who can not live without its outer shell, the Christian is called to be intentional about putting it to death.  This is the path of the normal and powerful Christian life.

In John 12:24-25 (esv), Jesus says, “truly, truly,  I say to you, unless a grain of wheat  falls into the earth and dies ( I’ve added this note to this verse: where the seed’s outer shell breaks down), it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world  will keep it for eternal life.”

Christian brother or sister, you have been called to the truth that you no longer need to carry the weight of your outer shell – that part of you that wants to go solo through this world.  Because of His amazing grace, He wants you to understand that your greatest joys in life will come when you realize that your protection, and purpose, and identity are all found, not from any outer things, but all from the internal things of a right alignment with the one, true, Living and Loving God.

“Off” with the old, and “on” with the new!

 

For further study, please read, Galatians 5, Colossians 3, Ephesians 4 & 5, and/or memorize Galatians 2:20

 

 

 

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Are you focusing on building sand castles?

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Looking out at the ocean, my mind was filled with wonder.  So much water.  It just went on and on until the horizon–such an incredible a sight.  On top of the awe I felt in looking out over this marvel of creation, I found myself also basking in the warmth of the sun, and the almost perfect temperature balance of the cool water on my toes.

Suddenly, my dreamlike experience was interrupted by some commotion further down on the beach.  “What was going on?” I wondered.  As I got closer, I could see that a crowd had built up around a bunch of kids playing at a sandcastle.  Their laughing, smiling, and energy was bringing joy to everyone admiring them.   

But, just to be clear, this was no ordinary sandcastle.   This thing was so big, there were rooms in it. The kids also built some tunnels that they were able to pass some of their toys through. Wow!  One of the fathers was also playing with the kids because I believe it was his idea that had conceived the suctioning of water from the ocean through some kind of contraption that the kids could then use to soak each other (and imaginary armies attacking their castle).  It was an incredible sight to behold.

Now here’s the point to me telling you this story—-it’s just a story.

Actually, I’ve  been thinking about this story for the past couple of weeks because I think that’s how life is.  Stay with me on this.

In this story, the kids (and the father), as well as the onlookers were having fun.  They were enjoying themselves and that is a good thing. Life should be like that. I hope you are enjoying your life because whether it’s with amazing sights of creation to behold, or amazing foods that dazzle your taste buds,  or fragrances that make your nose come alive, or any other experience in life that invigorate our senses, all of us should find pleasure in living life.

But, with that said, there is a need for balance to just  enjoying the individual moments of life and that is perspective.  The reality is that when the tide rises, the sandcastle in this story will be destroyed and be no more.  Just like that, the dream will be over.

Life is like that too. How much longer will you live before the high tide of life comes in?  40 years, 20 years, 5 more years, 1 more year; 30 more minutes?—none of us know, but the certainty is there.   Then, what?

My friend, I apologize if you were looking for a fun, little post about kids on beaches, and then got whiplash to thinking about “deep things”.

To be honest though, my heart seems pretty heavy these days as I’ve perceived people getting overly focused BUILDING SAND CASTLES.  In what they talk about, what I see their time being spent on, etc., it all seems to be focused on the here and now.   Just to be overly communicative,  I believe life should be enjoyed.   Personally,  I am finding greater and greater appreciation for every day I have and the sights and sounds that make up my days.

But, something inside of me, blares out through posts like this one to encourage others not only seek to enjoy life now, but to prepare yourself for the eventual day when this life is over for you and the next life begins.

Have you given that any thought lately?

For some, they have never  thought about life beyond their time now on the beach building bigger, and cooler sand castles,     If that is you, let me encourage you to pause from your beach building and consider your unworthiness to stand before the holy God who created the vast ocean next to your little project.  Before Him, you, like I am, are unworthy. The Bible says we are all sinners, and all we deserve is separation, death, and judgement. Instead, this gracious, and loving God offers us forgiveness and mercy.  What He offers to all who will accept this free gift is His kindness.  Have you accepted His generous gift made possible by the death of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection?

For others, you accepted His gift a while ago, but you have gotten so distracted by building sand castles that you have lost perspective. You have been so captivated by building the coolest sandcastle that you have made this the priority in your life.  You spend extra resources on your project. You talk with others about their sand castles to get ideas on how to improve yours.  You tend to do a lot of looking at others to judge your own to improve your feelings of importance.

If that describes you, you need to look beyond your sand castle to the ocean behind it.  Let me encourage you to once again consider the awesomeness of the One who created that vast ocean in front of you and Who has made a provision for you to come to know Him (as you once did). You need to get perspective to remember this bigger picture of life.  Yes, we are to enjoy each and every day, but we are also to live with eternity in mind and prioritize our behaviors now based on that eternal perspective.

How are you living your life, my friend?  Are you able to not only enjoy your sandcastle, but the Creator of the ocean behind it?

 

 

 

Beyond words!…… there is always hope

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Have you ever had the experience of standing on a beach and looking out at the ocean and just… “well, just feeling overwhelmed with the sight before you and its implications.  It is beyond words”!

The same feelings could be used to describe standing in front of some majestic mountain range, or the Grand Canyon.
Its one thing to go to some scenic destination and experience these awesome sights, but what if you lived at the base of some glorious mountain range and saw those incredible mountains every day? Would you ever lose the awe of seeing those peaks, or would you become desensitized to them?  I wonder.
Again, how about if you lived on the coast and had the vast ocean before you all the time?   Would you ever stop having your mind blown away from the thoughts of how deep those waters are, or are many miles of water there are before you come to some land? or wondering about all the many sea creatures that live in those waters?
Let’s keep going with the same “beyond words” theme, but apply it differently.
How about prayer?
Because it is so familiar a topic, have you become desensitized to the “over the top” incredible experience that prayer is?  Here you are, among 7-8 billion people on this planet and you have the opportunity, 24/7 to talk to the One, True God, who created it all, and sustains it all.  You have the opportunity, if you desire, to talk to this God.    Are you doing that regularly?  If so, why wouldn’t you be?
If you are a person who has submitted your life to Him through your faith in believing that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross has made provision for you to be forgiven of ALL your sins—well, not only are your prayers being heard, but you are also getting communicated back by Him through the Bible, and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit living within you.—–YEAH, that is awesome!
As our life is tuned in to doing His will and living for Him, seeking for His name and reputation to be honored and not our own, God gives us the following promises regarding our prayers being answered:
John 15:7 (esv)  – “if you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish , and it will be done  for you.”
John 15:16b-(esv) -so that  whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
Yet, although we have direct access to this living God and He tells us that our prayers will be answered, I still have an awful tendency to want to manage the challenges in life by myself. Unfortunately, and at the same time, foolishly, I want to act independently and control my own life.  How sad.
Well, let’s keep on this theme of “beyond words” and even go one better than the amazing truth that my prayers (when I do them- James 4:2) can be heard by God and will  be answered by Him.  In James, it says that the “prayer of a righteous  person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16b  (esv).
How about this further truth: if my prayers (although I am still so caught in the snares of my own selfishness and weaknesses) can get heard and answered by God think of how effective and powerful are the prayers of the other members of the Trinity on my behalf.
* Romans 8:26b (esv) tells us that  “the Spirit himself intercedes  for us with groanings  too deep for words”
* Hebrews 7:25b (esv) tells us that “He (Jesus Christ) always lives to make intercession for them.”
WOW!
The truths that not only does Almighty God listen and respond to my prayers as I come humbly before Him based on my faith in Jesus Christ, but  incredibly I have members of the Holy Trinity itself praying for my best.  I and you are supported beyond what we can imagine.  Why would any of ever feel we are without hope.  He has and always will be there to support us and offer us hope  as He gives us of Himself  (ALL……SO UNDESERVED….JUST GRACE!)

 

a Patriotic special encounter

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I really enjoy the holidays, pretty much all of them.  I especially like the holidays where family gets together and we can all enjoy, un-hurried “hanging out” times.

Today, was one of those special times with my receiving an unexpected encounter.  My wife, daughters, and two grand kids  had just gotten to the pool for another day in the blistering sun, looking forward to being refreshed by the cool splashing water, and very precious times of playing “Marco Polo’, or “Motorboat, Motorboat” or “Airplane” .

While we were unloading all of our necessary pool supplies in a shady oasis in the pool area, we saw an older man, John, who  was finding comfort in the cool shade.  My wife made some friendly comment thanking him for his service to our country and how  “grand pa was  ready to go in and start playing with his grand kids in the pool”.

The older man commented that he was not able to go into the pool, because of some disease. He then mentioned another health problem due to “agent orange” from his time of service in the Viet Nam war.   

As I have been challenged lately by the Lord to be more respectful of all human life, I continued to show concern to this man and asked John questions about not only his health, but about his war experiences, as well as his perspective on how those experiences intersected with him having faith.

It was so enjoyable. Such a relaxed conversation I had with his man as he spoke of his time in the war. With my curiosity peaked, and my questions flowing from them, John told me about some of his war experiences that both shocked me, and well, just disturbed me.  I will spare you the details he shared with me.

The one story he left me with that has seemed to stay with me most was this.  It wasn’t the death he saw all too frequently, ( some stories he shared with me), or the health issues that resulted from his time in the service (depression, diabetes, PTSD, uncontrolled anger), but the his experience  when he returned to the United States,.

He was on a plane loaded with servicemen at the airport and the plane was a few hundred yards away from the gate.  However,  the pilot didn’t seem to have any intention of moving the plane up to the gate, which puzzled the soldiers.  Some of the anxious servicemen were starting to get agitated looking forward to the cheers they expected to receive at the terminal, yet everything was being delayed.

After about an hour, one of the airline staff on the plane told the servicemen that they were waiting for a bus to come out to the plane to load them up and take them to a nearby army base.  There was no crowd of cheering people waiting to shower them with their gratitude, gifts, and smiles.  Instead, the airlines official told them they were having to board these military personnel on a bus because, in actuality, what awaited them in the terminal were protesters who were just looking for the opportunity to curse these soldiers, spit at them, and show in every conceivable way they could, their objections to the U.S. being in this war and these soldiers having a part in it.

The lack of gratitude and disrespect they experienced on their return “home” I can’t even begin to relate to, yet I found that even imagining what they experienced made me almost verbally gasp.

Friends, this 4th of July take a moment to show gratitude to our servicemen for their willingness to have laid down their life and for protecting the freedoms of our country.  I get it that some folks may not agree with war in general, or our involvement in a specific war, but let me encourage you to put your right to your own opinions aside for a few moments, or even hours and empathize with one of our military whose life was forever changed, fighting on your behalf and mine.