A Mighty Fortress
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Sep 12, 2011 | 2702 views |  0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Does God fail?  A better question might be, has God ever failed you?  As Christian men, our knee jerk reaction may be something along the lines of “God never fails” or “God has never failed me.”  I am not here to argue the point, because I would agree with you, however, the way we live our lives sometimes testifies differently than what we have proclaimed with our mouths.

mighty fortressI do not know anyone who has not been affected by the economic turmoil these days.  If you have not been personally affected, then you know someone who has.  Statistically speaking, it would be impossible for you not to fall into one of those two categories because of the immensity of the problem.  Does God know about it?  Does God understand how it is affecting you or someone you know?  Has God failed?  Has God failed you?

Who is your God?

Is your God someone you can count on or not?

In times of greatest distress, I think many of us wonder if we can still count on God.  It is the reality of being human.  There is a circle of people out there with a very cynical view of God, but their wondering and musing can be helpful when we ask the question, “Who is your God?”  I was watching TV the other night when a guy came on asking the question, “Is God in control of everything or not?”  As I listened, he began to cite the many things that are attributed to the work of God, such as tsunamis and volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

He then assumed that, well yes, God is in control of all those things.  Because God, being all powerful could have prevented any of them, yet for whatever reason, chose not to do so.  Without missing a beat, he then cited God for all the other tragedies in the world, and ended with God giving aids to babies in Africa.  Whatever your reaction to these accusations of God, that is the perception of God to people who refuse to believe God exists.  It begs the question: who is your God?

I am reminded by the words of a goodie but oldie hymn called “A Mighty Fortress.”  For those who have never heard of it, here is the first stanza of that song:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevaling.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

What those who choose to not believe in God will never understand is that while Christians may never be able to prove to their satisfaction that God is real, there is great peace and power in accepting and knowing that God does exist.  God does care, and while we may not understand the tragedies in the vapor of existence we call life, we know that God has never failed us, and that God never fails.

Isaiah 14:24  “The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:”

 

Reposted from www.MenRising.com

Separation vs Isolation
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Sep 06, 2011 | 2804 views |  0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

yellow gumballsSuppose I gave you a jar of yellow gumballs with this simple instruction: you are to separate one gumball from the rest without isolating it from the others.  Could you do it?  As soon as you take one gumball out of the bunch, it is separated, but now it is also isolated.  As soon as you put it back in, it once again becomes neither separated or isolated.

Can something or someone be separated without being isolated?  It is a question worth asking because it drives at the core of the meaning of holiness.  As Christians are we to be a holy, separated people, or are we to be a holy, isolated people?

How you look at your Christian life through either of these two possibilities will determine how you relate to the world around you.  From two different pastors I heard the following two statements: “Church is not for the saved, it is for the lost to come and hear the Gospel” and “Church is not for the lost, it is for the saved to come and learn how to live a life pleasing to God.”  As I took in and thought over these two statements, I could not see anything wrong with either of them except for their exclusive stance toward a particular group.  In truth, church should be for the saved AND the lost.

The church should be a place where the lost feel welcome and where the Gospel can be planted in their hearts, however, it should also be a place where Christians feel comfortable bringing their families because they know that the teachings will help all of them learn to live a holy life pleasing to God.

Going back to the example of the gumballs, what if you were to take one gumball out, change it’s color, and then place it back in the jar.  Would it then be separated?  Well, it would certainly be different, and it would stand out.  It would also no longer be isolated.

different1Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:”  John 9:5 “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

If we are in the world and no different than the world, then I propose that we are not separated, or to use another word, holy.  To be holy is to be different in a way that gives honor and glory to God instead of bringing attention to ourselves.  If we are so different that we isolate ourselves, and the world has no interaction with us, then they cannot see God in us in that way either.  We may as well be a gumball wrapped in opaque packaging completely cut-of from any interaction, definitely separated, but also just another form of isolation.

There must be balance.  We cannot hope to influence a lost world if we isolate ourselves from them, nor can we be the light to a world if we are no different than they are.  That balance, that distinction between being separated and isolated, that characteristic that points to God instead of ourselves, that is what I believe is holiness.

Reposted from www.MenRising.com

Lunch With A Young Lady
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Aug 29, 2011 | 2388 views |  0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

When the For Sale sign went on my motorcycle, the first thing my daughter asked me was, “Are you going to sell your motorcycle?”  It was not a question of if, but more a question of why.  I explained to her that I did not need the motorcycle anymore, and that we needed the money more than I wanted to keep the motorcycle around.  I could tell she was sad about the whole thing, so I offered to take her for a ride.  She became very enthusiastic.  I went and got the helmets, and off we rode through the back roads of Jacksonville and eventually ended up on Hwy 204 headed into town.  It wasn’t a planned trip, but it was fun, and instead of just heading home, we went to a local restaurant to get some hamburgers.

Just being with my daughter on this impromptu date was fun for her and me.  We had ridden together on the motorcycle together before, and as we ate hamburgers and fries, she recalled the different times, places we went, and things we did together.  For the most part, we hadn’t done anything spectacular, no pictures had been taken, there were no main events, but I began to realize a couple of things: first, just being with my daughter is an event all its own, and second, this little girl is growing up fast.

At the restaurant, she did all the talking.  Stopping occasionally to ask questions on some point she was unclear on, and sometimes taking a bite of food, she rambled on for many minutes, and I just listened to her talk.  It’s amazing to see what a child takes in, their perceptions on things that have happened, and how they can come to some pretty amazing conclusions all on their own.  She talked about stuffed animals and friends as though they were both an equal part of the world, and in her world I am sure they are.  She talked about riding a bicycle, and how it is a lot like riding a motorcycle, except for all the things that are different, which she began to name.

As I looked at her and listened and watched, I began to wonder what kind of future is she going to have.  Who will she marry?  That thought reminded me of a story a preacher told about his wife who was busy praying one day.  The preacher asked his wife what she was praying about and she said she was praying for a Godly husband for their daughter.  The preacher thought this odd since their daughter was not yet 5 years old, but then his wife added, “Somewhere, there are parents raising a young man who will one day become the husband of our daughter.  I’m praying for all of them.”  That’s when the preacher knelt down beside his wife and also began to pray.

Since that time, I have begun praying for the future husbands of both of my daughters.  As we wrap up our little lunch, I wonder if there are parents out there with a little boy, possibly praying for me and my wife and my daughter.  I wonder if they have the same concerns about this world and a future for their children as I do, and if they care as much about raising their children right.

As I parked the motorcycle on the driveway, and though the motorcycle is still technically for sale, I took the For Sale sign off.  Not because I didn’t want to sell it anymore, but for some reason I found I just didn’t want to sell it as badly as I used to.

Reposted from www.MenRising.com

Moral Absolutes? ABSOLUTELY!
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Aug 22, 2011 | 2932 views |  0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I was talking with a young lady in China, trying to get her to understand the concept of how God sees sin, right and wrong, and moral absolutes.  As we talked, it became apparent to me that either she did not understand the concept of absolute right and wrong, or she was purposefully choosing a line of thinking that said all actions of right and wrong were conditional.

To clarify her position in my own mind, I asked her if prostitution was against the law in China.  She said yes.  When I tried to get her to admit, based on the law, that prostitution was wrong, she wavered.  “Wrong by the government does not mean it is wrong for the girl.  Maybe she must do these things to support herself, and maybe she must support her baby.”

She then brought up a question I recognized immediately as a moral dilemma question.  Here is the setup: A group of people is trying to escape from certain death in a building through the only passage way available.  One person becomes stuck in the passage way just a few feet from the opening outside, and this person cannot be removed by either pushing them forward or backward.  It seems now that everyone will die.

tough choicesHowever, one person in the group has a crude and gruesome means of removing the person from the passage way, but it will certainly kill the person blocking the way.  Some people argue that for one person to die to save everyone else is worth it.  Others argue that it is outright murder and should not be done.  The person stuck in the passage way has a family and does not want to die, but agrees there is no way for everyone to live unless they die, and so the decision is left up to you.  What do you do?

There are variations on this story I have heard since then, such as the person in the passage way is a relative, maybe a husband or wife, or maybe the person stuck is a pregnant female.  In one case the person is begging for their life to be spared, and in another they are consenting to their own death.  Whatever spin you put on it though, the original moral dilemma remains the same as in the first story.  The other variations just seem to add in distractions intended to complicate or simplify what is essentially the same choice: one person (or two in the case of the pregnant female) dies so that the rest may live, or all die in the name of preserving moral right.

While you may never personally face this moral dilemma, we still face these types of decisions once in a while.  Is it OK to change seats at a ball game for better seats you did not pay a premium price for if they are empty?  Is it OK to call in sick on a day when you actually overslept?  If you do something wrong and someone else is getting the blame, do you step in and fess up – even if the consequences are going to be very harsh?

confusedProblem is, these answers may be difficult for some people to answer, but when there is a clear line of right and wrong, and a choice has been made to do right no matter the cost, then the decisions are actually made before the time of decision even comes.  Those clear lines of right and wrong are called moral absolutes, and when solidly based on the Word of God, we can make choices with confidence instead of worrying if we did the right thing or not.

How this really begins to apply is when we are raising our children to choose to do right.  Peer pressure among friends and a desire to fit in with the group has a very powerful way of greying out a line of right and wrong.  “I’m not hurting anyone else but myself” would be one argument, while another argument has been “What is right and wrong for you is not necessarily what is right and wrong for me.”  If moral absolutes do not exist in the first place, there is very little chance these faded lines will hold up when the greying effect of peer pressure comes in to sway you, or your children.  What moral absolutes can you find in the Bible?

Reposted from www.MenRising.com August 15, 2011.

The Power of Vision
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Aug 16, 2011 | 3690 views |  0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

When I was a kid, a conversation that would come up once in a while had to do with our five senses, and which one we could do without, and which ones we felt we absolutely had to have.  Eventually, the list would be narrowed down to a choice between sight and sound.  If you had to lose one of them, which would you choose?  Unanimously, everyone said they would rather lose their sense of hearing over their ability to see, because while hearing is critical, a lack of sight would keep you from doing so many more things.

Most people would be devastated to lose their sight.  No more golden sunrises or sunsets.  No more reading books, at least not the way you’re used to reading them.  Movies would be left up to your imagination.  The faces of your children would be impressions of your hands on them.  So much of what we discover and experience in life comes from our sense of sight.  It would be a very difficult thing to lose.

vision2

Vision, however, is not just what we see right now.  Vision is the ability to see what is coming before it gets here, to see potential problems, as well as the ability to see the potential of what could be.  Before every great development, invention, new product, or new experience we have, there is the flicker of an idea in the imagination that slowly emerges as a vision of a future that could be.  That vision shapes everything, creates motivation, focuses energies, and makes things happen.

As the leader of your home, what is your vision for your family.  Maybe you have not given this a lot of thought, but you should.  What kind of relationship do you see between you and your wife 5, 10, 25 years from now?  What kind of relationship do you see yourself having with your kids when they are grown and married?  What about your grandchildren?  What will it take to get there?

I do not personally know of anyone who ever married for the pure motive of getting a messy divorce, ripping their family apart, and destroying a good relationship – but it happens.  I also do not know any parent who purposefully raised their kid to be a drunk, a drug abuser, or someone who breaks the law and lands in jail for the sole motivation of being able to go bail them out of jail at night, sending them to a rehab clinic, or seeing the lives of their children destroyed – but this also happens.

I feel that part of the problem is the inability of these people to see the end-game of their actions.  The other part of the problem is that they never had a concrete vision of the future they really wanted, or that if they did, then they never had a road map to take them there.  Without such a vision, many things are left to chance, or even the selfish vision of someone else.  You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, so why try to build a home without one?

By home I am not referring to the sticks and blocks that make a house, I am talking about the decisions you make now that can have long-term effects.  Setting standards, having rules that have consequences when they are broken, and saying no to things that do not promote or further the vision you have for your family.  That kind of vision provides a focus that is very powerful, because it makes so many other decisions easier.

Reposted from www.MenRising.com 8/10/2011 post

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