Saturday, July 25, 2009

Recipes to Live By

I like to eat. I've had fancy foods which I thought were "good" at best, and I've eaten things I couldn't pronounce from ingredients I won't tell you about at this time, but my all time favorites are just plain old down home country meals prepared with more heart than fancy recipes. With that thought in mind let me share a "bite" with you.

Any one who knows me, will have to admit I'm not one much for fluff and the fancies of life. What you see is pretty much what you get and I generally gravitate to the simplicities with more of a country aspect, so let me tell you what I've learned about the chuck wagon cooks from the cattle trail drives. They, and their chuck wagons, were the life blood of the trail drive. Not only was the cook "The Cook", he was also the tailor,dentist, doctor, banker and usually the most surly of the bunch. You learned early on not to criticize his fare, even if you had a hard time swallowing it. It could be hazardous to your health in more ways than one; you probably wouldn't die from his cooking skills, but an insulted cook could insure your demise by lead poisoning from a neatly placed round in a heart beat.

The cook was the first to arise in the morning making breakfast for the entire crew, and the last to go to bed at night after all the pots were cleaned and the next meal set in order and ready for the fire. But the most important thing the cook did was to move the tongue of the chuck wagon and point it in the direction of the North Star. The reason being was so the trail boss would have a type of compass to point out the direction he was to move his heard that day in relation to the star. Again profundity is found in the simplistic. Direction once again coming from the Heavens.

Isn't is ironic the tongue of the chuck wagon, the rolling store house of daily sustenance, always started out pointing in the direction of the North Star up in the Heavens? There might be a lesson in this. The one individual who was responsible for feeding the entire crew knew and understood daily direction was more important than any other aspect of his job because if he couldn't provide the correct direction, after looking to the Heavens, nothing else mattered because the destination would never be reached and he only carried enough supplies to get from the starting point to the trails end. Matthew 2:1-12 tells how wise men, no number given, started out following a star that lead them to a baby in a feed trough, who would grow to feed not only 5000 men, not counting women and children, but eventually all man kind through his broken body only 33 years later.

I've found when I rely on my own instincts and "level" my gaze at temporal things in this life I'm always disappointed and my view eventually falls to the dust of the earth. If I heed the example of the wise men, and a chuck wagon cook, making sure my first thing each day is knowing, and more importantly, understanding where I'm headed in a true upward direction, I set myself to be ready to ride when time presents itself. Wise men and chuck wagon cooks have a lot in common. They know where they're headed and prepare themselves to "present" to others in need, whether supplying gifts from afar, or serving up biscuits and gravy with a strong cup of coffee to clear the cob webs.

When Jesus was led of the Spirit up into the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days is when he faced his first temptation as the Bible says "he was afterward an hungred." Old slew foot was waiting, challenging His authority by tempting Him to turn stones into bread. The Devil knows when we're at our weakest. He'll wait until we're hungry, not having been back to the "Chuck Wagon" before he plays his hand. I love what was written next..."It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4. Wise words from the wisest man to ever live. It wasn't an example of turning stones into bread in question, it was an example of how and when we're at our weakest, we know we're going to be tested and tried. Hangin' round the camp fire, close to "The Chuck Wagon" will ensure we're always "filled" and ready to ride at the dawning of that great gettin' up morning.

Mount up. You're burnin' day light and we've got a lot of strays to round up. Come on. Let's ride.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Just a Stone's Throw Away

Ever been "caught with your hand in the cookie jar?" Not a real comfortable situation to be in, especially if The Boss catches you. While reading my Bible this morning, I was loaned another treasure and I'd like to pass it on to you.

The story of the woman caught in the act of adultery takes on a whole new meaning in my continuing relationship with the Lord. I found something I've never heard preached before and there it was right in front of me, all along!

St. John Chapter 8, verses 1-11 pretty well tells the basic story, but let me tell you what I found in reading between the lines. When the Pharisees brought the woman, "taken in adultery" to Jesus they had pretty much decided her fate, but wanting to "kill two birds with one stoning" they'd see what Jesus had to say about it all. They immediately started quoting to Him the law, according to Moses. Pretty impressive credentials to say the least. I mean, when you're talkin' THE LAW, you really don't need to say much more once you mention the name of Moses. He was the first to bring it down the mountain. (Come to think of it, he was the second too, but I digress)

When her accusers brought her before Jesus and the rest of the crowd, I love what He did next. Verse 6 ..."But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not." Now I don't know where you come from but for someone like that to ignore me would just about burn my biscuits! But I love the way he treated the woman. A true gentleman in every sense of the word. After he spoke the immortal words "he that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her" He went right back to writing on the ground again. Now the words or pictures he drew on the ground have been the subject of debate from that time to this. I don't know that what he wrote is as important as that he wrote. Stay with me here.

The God of all creation, just visiting for a 33 year incarnate stint, stopped by one day to hear a case which by virtue of the law of the land, in that time, was pretty well sealed and delivered. However, because of who He was, He "stooped down" and touched the ground with His finger, writing something that would affect the lives of everyone there. The judges, the jury and the accused all stood with bated breath waiting for the verdict. When you can't figure out which way to run, or in her case, with nowhere to run, you go back to the basics. He touched the same element from which you and I and every living human being, since Adam, was formed and made a difference, the dust of the ground. The law was presented, but it took divinity wrapped in a cloak of humanity to make a difference by stooping down to touch our base element, and when the accusers indictment was brought forth is seemed to fall on deaf ears, because the Bible says, it was "as though He heard them not." I know he could hear them. He just didn't justify their taunts. This is where true Grace appeared. Mercy would have granted the woman in question imprisonment or perhaps a lashing, instead of a death sentence. Grace on the other hand makes the offence disappear, as if it never happened, and she was free and uncondemned to "go and sin no more." But it took the hand of God, once again reaching down to fallen man, or woman as the case may be, and a simple touch of the base element from which we're all created to exact change in a life.

Jesus stated that He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. He proved it that day by setting the woman free, forgiving her and allowing her to become a new creature with all the benefits of righteousness. By His stooping down to touch the ground, paying no heed to the voices of doom, and setting an adulteress free he fulfilled everything prophesied about Him. Pretty amazing in my Book.

Now put that rock down. You might hurt somebody with it...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The eyes of a true friend...

Interesting how we find companionship in our dogs. Lately I've been giving it a little more thought, but in a Spiritual vein. Stay with me a moment... I've been contemplating the scripture of 2nd Chronicles 7:14, "If My people, who are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face..." Welp, there you have it! Seeking His face instead of His hand will always bring greater rewards. The thing I'm pondering is just what does Jesus really look like? Greater minds than I'll ever meet have debated this down through the centuries and yet no one really has a definitive answer.

Back to the original idea of companionship with dogs, I look into the eyes of our Border Collie, Ranger Walker, (don't go there about the name), and I always see a facial expression of #1. Trust and #2. Expectation. Those deep milk chocolate colored eyes cause me to ask, "is this what Jesus would look like?" I don't mean like a dog, and I'm not denigrating my Saviour to that of an animal, but really, stop and think with me for just a moment. The facial expressions of the one's who love us unconditionally and always must be something similar to that of Jesus. I mean, who else gives us such trust and unconditional love on an unending basis? The spirit of love, beyond measure, is found in Jesus. When I'm the most unlovable, Jesus is is always the first in line with outstretched arms welcoming me back, with a smile and and expression of expectation. Ranger is pretty much the same way. They've both seen me when I pretended to be something I really wasn't yet they both loved me unconditionally. Quite a concept.

Next time you look at your dog, look a little "deeper" and see if you don't notice the same thing. You might be surprised at what you can learn from "seeking a face."


Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Homicide of Hope

Far too often the trials and temptations of life today seemingly engulf us in situations which appear hopeless. It seems there's no way out and a suicidal kamikaze last ditch effort remains as the only avenue of relief. This is what I call the homicide of hope.

Hope is defined as Trust, Reliance. A desire accompanied by expectation of fulfillment. When that hope is lost, death, whether natural or spiritual is inevitable. Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding." I have recently come to read more from the amplified Bible and I like the wording there as well; "Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding." How ironic that the very center of the Bible is found in Psalm 118.8 "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." These two scriptures are intertwined and bring about the same thought. Trusting in the name of Jesus and the power of the blood will calm any storm of life and see you safely to shore.

In the book of Acts chapter 27 we read of the Apostle Paul's journey to Rome aboard a sailing vessel which encountered a storm of hurricane proportions called "Euroclydon." Curiously, having not followed the instruction of the man of God, the captain of the ship went his own way and the vessel was in danger of being lost for 3 days. When finally, on the third day, the crew began to lighten the load of the ship by throwing all of the tackle over board. They realized the weight was too much and of no further use, and to be saved, they needed to get rid of it. All of a sudden, the words of the man of God took on a new revelation. Trust in man made things only weighted them down and brought them to the brink of death. The hope, trust or reliance in what were once considered tools, now became their down fall. In a final act of desperation they jettisoned the unnecessary in exchange for one last gasp of life giving hope. They had nearly committed the homicide of hope through their disobedience.

I find it interesting that the storm did not abate for many days afterward and the ship was literally adrift without anyone at the helm. When neither the sun nor the stars were visible for many days afterward, indicating no point of reference was available, the Word says "all hope that we should be saved was taken away."

It was on the third day after having fought through the hardships of death, hell and the grave that Jesus won the final victory and arose from the dead for our salvation. All humanity had given up, because The Point of Reference, our Compass in the time of turmoil, was not visible. He was busy, none the less, on our behalf, but because mankind could not see him, the world felt all was lost. How easily the newly weds, in Cana of Gallilee, had forgotten the miracle of water turned to wine in the midst of their need. Under the law, in the time of Moses, the waters of Egypt were turned into blood. Because of Jesus coming to dwell among us, he was able to turn the waters of the wedding into fine wine enabling us all to be partakers with Him. Hope was not lost, even in the crucial moment. A crisis, (Chinese word for dangerous opportunity), was not only avoided, but transformed into the first of many miracles. The beauty of the ceremony for the bride and groom were somewhat lessened by the rescue of the Righteous One in the time of need.

As Paul's vessel foundered on a natural sea of life the example was made evident that our reliance and trust in God, at all times, not just when the ship is sinking, is paramount. Even though the third day is upon us, and the point of reference is not yet visible, trusting in the Word and in the Lord, always keeping him at the very center of our lives, is what will keep us from committing the homicide of hope.