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Digital Selection

Sometimes I feel young at heart even though I’m getting older. When it comes to modern technology I usually feel ancient. Although working with modern computer systems and knowing more about the systems than most people I meet I’m still like a dinosaur when it comes to using these devices in the modern social media inundated digital age. I’m into Facebook (to keep tabs on my children and grandchildren), email (a dinosaur), texting (formerly SMS), cloud storage, and a host of modern technological marvels which attempt to improve my life. I think I’ve got it figured out until I start interacting with the next generation’s immersive lifestyle of technology.

My wife coined a great phrase, “Digital Selection.” It started when some young upstart commented that finding such and such on the ministry’s home page was simple and intuitive. It was then we decided their definition of simple and intuitive was different than ours. I figured with my extensive background in computers, web page design, and the like, I could find what we were looking for. No success. I’ve become a victim of Digital Selection.

What is Digital Selection you might ask? It isn’t using a search engine to find the cheapest price for a new tablet or notebook or to decide the proper resolution for your new high definition television. It’s when the ability to easily wade through modern technology to the desired destination is hampered by an aging understanding of how things work in the digital world. We’ve been Digitally Selected to be out of touch with the younger generation. Beth says, “They’re going to put us on an iceberg and float us out to sea.”

Originally electronics and computers were purely logical. That I can understand. Unfortunately, with the proliferation of social media infecting the mental growth and processes of the next generation what used to follow rules has been reprogrammed to follow the circuitous pathway of the younger mind in a media saturated generation. Pure computer logic has given way to what can appear as random chaos similar to a planned life-giving way to going with the flow. In my mind, the algorithm of the program isn’t easily discovered, almost like the perfect security cypher.

For those raised in such an environment it makes perfect sense. All the pieces fit together smoothly in their concept of the digital age. Unfortunately, it leaves the older generation confused trying to put the square pegs into the round holes. Sometimes we just don’t see the connection. We are therefore Digital Selected to be relegated to the outer circle of fellowship and communication. While I poke fun at this the centuries have demonstrated the division of one generation from another almost proportionally related to the advancement in technology.

When I was young the use of electric guitars, electronic pianos and electronic organs started insinuating themselves into the fabric of modern rock and roll music as well as creeping into bastion of the classic orchestra and even, gasp, into church music. This confused parents who were familiar with the smooth tones of classical wind and string instruments, pianos and pipe organs. It was a new sound and while some parents embraced the changes many of their generation relegated it to the deepest depths of degradation and evil. There’s was an error of Electronic Selection threatening to drive a wedge between two generations.

Other things have separated the ages. Changes in cultural beliefs and activities, the redirection of skills from rural to urban work spaces, and any technological advancement from the steam engine to the multicore processor have created segments of selection. Often the selective nature of these advances isn’t perceived as a change by the generation in which they develop but as the norm. The concept that the older generation might not comprehend this shift doesn’t seem to motivate the new generation to understand the change and work towards an effective stitching together of the two worlds. So, it falls on the ousted to decipher the recent technology and introduce it to their lives in a way which will once again connect them with the new generation.

Things move forward. I’m sure there is more ahead of me to learn than I dealt with in the past. I just hope I have the where-with-all to comprehend and make use of the advances which become so ingrained in our lives. I don’t want to be Digitally Selected forever. In the church, we must be careful not to Digitally Select (exclude) those interested in helping because we have some new high-tech sign up site which appeals to the young and confounds the less young.

As a Christian, I’m glad God doesn’t use a Digital Selection scale for eternity. I’m looking forward to simplifying things and reducing my digital footprint. I figure if I’m in the presence of God I don’t think there’s a need for a Facebook status for Him to know what I’m doing. But for now, . . . I guess this is the season of the tablet, phablet, smartphone, social media and whatchamacallit and I better keep up with my skills to avoid Digital Selection.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 WEB)


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Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, WEB) 

I can be oblivious at times. As Beth will attest, it’s usually when I’ve got my thoughts deeply imbedded in a particularly difficult conundrum trying to unravel the pieces of a complex problem to create an elegant and simple solution. At other times I’m just tired from resolving the aforementioned puzzle and my brain goes into the oft ridiculed “nothing” box which every male keeps handy for escape and relaxation. But, there are many areas of life where I endeavor to be very observant. Sometimes for safety reasons and other times to insure I’m behaving appropriately for the sake of those around me.

When I was growing up my parents instilled in me certain cultural expectations and behaviors for the sake of politeness and common sense. One of those areas was driving habits. Always look out for the other driver. Don’t do anything which can distract you from the road. Always pay attention to your surroundings just in case you need an unexpected detour to escape an accident or obstruction.

Driving back from the beach one day Beth and I were enjoying some music as we cruised down the highway. Traffic was minimal but there were a few other autos peppered along he highway. We slowly passed some and others passed us. Then a big car went flying past us in the left lane. Being passed was not unusual for us. However, when I looked over at the driver he was reading. He wasn’t glancing at highway signs but held a book in his hand, in front of the steering wheel, and was reading and turning pages as he evidently exceeded the speed limit in a casual fashion.

Aghast at the apparent lack of concern for other vehicles or his personal safety it reminded me of other “modern” annoyances. I’ll admit I’ve done some stupid things and been oblivious to others around me. Still, I try to be courteous and not endanger my fellow human beings. I’m not old fashioned when it comes to technology and courtesy.

How many times have you stood in line when someone answered their cell phone? There’s normally nothing wrong with that. We carry cell phones to be available everywhere (another topic I’ll leave for another post). However, if you have to shout into the phone so loud that others stare at you then something is amiss. If your phone is that poor get a new phone. I’m convinced the person you’re talking to can hear your booming voice without the aid of the telecommunications network. Really people. Show some consideration and concern for those around you.

Back on the driving kick and cell phones, driving, and traffic lights. Is your life so hectic and important that you must text or call someone every time your car comes to a stop. And, what makes you think that suddenly driving below the speed limit on a busy road makes it safe to text or call someone? Where did common sense go?

It just seems to me people have become so self absorbed that there’s a perpetual lack of attention to anyone and anything around them. You’re so important that holding hands and spanning an entire walkway in a busy mall is OK even if other shoppers are piling up behind your show of family unity. Who cares if the waiter can’t hear your order because the person a couple tables away is shouting in their phone?

People are taking a back seat to what “I” want or the prevalent persistent attention seeking electronic devices so ubiquitously beeping and clanging not to be ignored. We’ve become too worried that we might miss something happening and thus be a social outcast because we failed to read, laugh at, and comment on some bane, self indulgent post on social media. We cannot travel 60 seconds without a conversation which is best left to our full attention.

I’m reminded of the Psalmist’s admonition to pay attention. Be still, and know that I am God the Lord proclaims. We can’t be in tune with our savior and creator if we are always focusing on the creation and the things we’ve created. When flushed with a need to tweet, text, post or otherwise interact via an impersonal piece of electronics; perhaps it’s time to pause, quiet our thoughts, still our heart, and realize God is the one in control. When we lift our eyes to focus on the God of the universe it keep us from becoming oblivious to those around us, the very ones He created just as he created us. He’ll keep our vision focused and not oblivious.

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I’m Content

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6 WEB)

No matter what people may think, I’m content with my life, my family, my work and my faith; so, stop telling me I need something more. I was thinking about this while lying awake in bed one morning. When I look at things in my life and consider what I’ve done, where I’ve been and what I’ve acquired (physical stuff, experiences, etc.), I’m content. Unfortunately, sometimes, when my frustration over things around me percolates to the top of my patience, I might present a temporary persona that doesn’t portray a contented soul. But that’s another subject.

One of the first things I thought about was my wonderful wife quietly asleep beside me. It’s the precise planning of God that brought us together at the right place and time to embark on an amazing busy, full and fantastic life. Two-thirds of our lives we’ve been together and I’m looking forward with anticipation to undertaking together the next 40 plus years of life and adventure God has planned. Like most married men I know; I often wonder how my love tolerated me all these years. But I’m content knowing God was gracious to me and gives her lots of patience.

We’ve lived through raising four children, watching them leave the nest and start a life of their own with their own families. I like my children’s spouses. I love them all and I believe they like me. Our children are doing well in a variety of jobs. We’ve got service managers, restaurant managers, teachers and soldiers carrying on the family line. I’m proud of them all. They’ve had their problems, we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but as family we work through things. Thanks to them I have a number of grandchildren that I love dearly. I think they love me as well. I know why God gives us grandchildren. It’s to insure we still have that delightful spark of innocence to encourage us in life. They have good and bad days, they’re little children and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m content with my family.

I’ve spent the majority of my life serving and working with the same organization in various places around the globe. I’d like to say everything was rosy and delightful all these years but the truth is there were hard times along with good times. Still, I’m content with what God has been able to accomplish through my work around the globe. More than once I felt ill-equipped for the job. It was then I watched as God stepped in to show His grace and let me know that I can do all things through Him. I can’t say I never had doubts about what I was doing. They would raise their ugly heads now and then until I reset my vision on the one who gives me strength. I can say I never had doubts about God’s calling me to this life. I’m content in my work and ministry.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned to God and asked, “Why?” Sometimes I found the answer. Some questions remain unanswered. I’ve railed at God in my frustration and anger and praised and worshipped Him at all times. Yes, even when I was furious I still worshipped God. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, some things I still don’t understand, but I trust in God in all things. I’m comforted understanding that I can come to God with praise, anger, questions and the small issues of daily life and He listens. He shows me grace, especially in my stupid times. He loves me always, even in my disobedient times. I’m content with my faith in God.

In all this I find myself wondering why I would consider not being content. I can stop and think and realize that this is a great life God has provided and like the verse above I have great gain. Sometimes people think I’m discontent because I’m frustrated with things or get angry over an encounter with massive stupidity. So I wonder if we’re not confusing contentment with emotionless living. Are they the same? I don’t think so. God gave us emotions to help us deal with life on this spinning rock. We can let them get out of hand but to dismiss them as ungodly just doesn’t ring true for me. There are some things, regardless of my godliness or contentment, which I suspect will always increase my blood pressure.

There are inconsistencies in the behavior and reliability of computers, an area I’ve worked with for over thirty years that make me want to test the aerodynamic characteristics of the device from any open window (which I have done). There are vehicle drivers who apparently didn’t attend driving school, forgot all they learned or had incompetent teachers. Some folks standing in line for ten minutes or more to pay for items wait until they reach the counter to fish through their fifty gallon purse looking for their credit card. Sometimes I just sigh and roll my eyes. Other times, for whatever reasons, I just get frustrated or angry.

Then there’s the modern church. As a faithful member of the congregation we’re never doing enough “for God.” We hear preaching about contentment and at the same time a message of “do more” which creates discontent because we’re not doing enough, in the eyes of the local church, to justify our claiming to be faithful believers. Rubbish! I’m concentrating on my walk in this world as a faithful follower of Christ. Just walking faithful with God through normal tivities of life is doing something “for God.” Where that intersects with a church ministry, such as being a full time missionary, I’m glad to go as God leads. I don’t doubt some future heavenly residents might need a little fire under their backside to get them moving but who lights the fire, God or man? Without getting into a pet peeve let me say I’m content with the ministries where God has place me and I’m not looking for more. If He gives more I’ll undertake it. Otherwise I’ll be content with the here and now.

That’s probably where contentment lies. It lies in knowing you are where God wants you to be. It’s understanding the abilities God has given for the particular task and being content that God knows what He’s doing. Does it remove all emotion so we can be like good southerners and just say, “Bless their heart” when they do something ridiculous. At times it might. At other times life boils to the top and we are reminded we are humans, designed with emotions, by a God with emotions, to live in an emotional world. I’m content to live here, with all my foibles, until He takes me to that perfect mansion. Are you content?

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Bats in the Belfry

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (KJV Romans 8:28)

Over the years, I’ve stayed in a variety of places. These ranged from storage rooms in the back of broadcast complexes, to private homes, hotels, castles and palaces. Yes, I’ve stayed in a palace or two. The first palace I stayed the night in was with my wife and sons on our trip west toward castle Neuschwanstein. While it was considered a “hunting” lodge at one point it eventually was renovated to the status of palace. By the time we arrived it was a retreat center but still spectacular. We stayed in the queen’s room. Yep, the room we occupied was the room normally reserved when the queen came to visit. It was large, luxurious and just the intricate wood designs in the walls and on the ceilings impressed us as we brought in our plastic suitcases and two energetic boys.

Fortunately, it was updated with modern plumbing and heating. We enjoyed the thought of being temporary royalty as we strolled around the room and the grounds. We were traveling with friends who enjoyed the cushy comfort of their own royal chamber.

The second palace we enjoyed a few years later was also converted into a retreat center. In this case it was operated by a Christian group running retreats and summer camps for Christian youth and the occasional adult group. Considering the massive number of steps, we had to climb just to reach our room I can understand why it was more youth oriented than “older” adult oriented.

2008_06_BobPhotos_310Beth and I enjoyed the tallest tower on the south wing. Our room covered two floors within the round tower with a spectacular view of the surrounding valley. We were above most of the rest of the palace with a spire on top of our nice room. The bath and toilet were by the entrance. A few steps up from there was the kitchen and dining area. From there we climbed steep steps (aka a ladder) into the living area. To reach the beds we crawled through a triangular door (like the Krell construction on Altair in the sci-fi classic, “The Forbidden Planet”) where two single sleeping mats were laid head to head. The ceiling over the beds was the roof of the adjoining building giving just enough room to slide in for the night. In truth, I couldn’t sit up without hitting my head on the ceiling. Ah, the comforts of palace living.

Snuggled in for the night, a hot night at that, we eventually fell asleep. I’m not a big fan of sleeping on futon beds but that was what we had. I like a little more padding. Part way through the night we were awakened by a noise in the living area. Since a youth retreat was in progress we thought maybe someone had wandered in thinking the room was vacant. Beth and I crawled on our elbows like the two legged Krell and looked out the portal.

There, flitting back and forth in the living room, were a couple bats enjoying the darkness of night. Apparently, they were doing us a service by gulping down the little critters who were flying around the room looking to feast on us for dinner. The bats, although spooky to watch, were keeping us off the menu for the night. Thank you bats!

I’ve heard the phrase “bats in the belfry” many times in life. That night it took on a whole different meaning. Granted, this wasn’t a bell tower but it was close enough. When we arose we carefully peaked out the Krell doorway and assured ourselves they departed during the morning hours.

I wonder about what God allows to cross the path of my life. Sometimes I get annoyed or distracted as things can flitter this way and that disrupting what I think needs to be accomplished. I want to shoo the distractions out of the way and get on with things. Now I’m inclined to think these ‘distractions’ are at times little helpers to clear away other obstacles from my walk with Him. The have their unseen benefits, like eating insects we couldn’t see in the night, and protect us from hidden obstacles. Next time I’m in a castle with bats I think I’ll just watch them for a while and think of God’s protection.

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Venture Capitalist Missions

Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:3 WEB)

I know I’m not young so when I think to myself, “I miss the way things were,” I feel even older. But I must admit I do miss some things from the past. I miss some of my old music, my hair, and other things I don’t want to talk about. I do want to talk about the old approach churches took when considering new missionaries for support.

I remember going from church to church presenting the work of the ministry, presenting how we were called to the ministry and presenting our desire to bring God’s love and grace to a world in need of salvation. We were looking for opportunities to share the work of the ministry with the people of the church to encourage their prayer for the impact of the ministry. Yes, we were also hoping God would lead the church or people in the church to support our financial needs in the ministry.

guam97God touched their hearts and they did partner with us. In those days you shared your calling with the body of Christ and received prayer, encouragement, financial support whatever was needed for the ministry. Of course, folks had to be convinced that you were sincere about your calling and they received assurance when they prayed on your behalf for clarity and confirmation. If your life reflected the calling and commitment and the body was convinced through God’s reassurance, then you were sent off.

Folks expected to hear now and again about how God was working in your life and the lives of those where you ministered. Just sharing a story or two of how things were pressing forward and how God was helping your spiritual growth in the process was enough to encourage the church and continue to affirm your ministry and calling. It didn’t take an analytical demonstration of the efficaciousness of your particular style or methodology weighed against the numeric counting of those claiming conversion to understand God was working in and through your life and ministry. People wanted to simply know that God was working and you were still committed to obedience to God’s call to ministry.

The definition of a call to ministry has changed. It isn’t that I’m called by God to server where He leads. It’s that I’m called and here are the spectacular, awe inspiring, facts, figures and examples of how you’ll be impressed with my calling. Support (financial, prayer or spiritual) has changed from trust in God’s calling someone to ministry to become man’s statistical analysis of a person’s potential. Just ask any missionary trying to raise support in the accountant guided world of church administration. Numbers and spectacular new methods are the guiding indicators of whether someone should be supported or their support should be continued. Like venture capitalists trying to convince potential investors (aka supporters), those in ministry must come up with a new and spectacular methodology for presenting an ancient simple message to a complex and technologically advanced world. If my story isn’t better than your story then I lose. It has become a competition for those called by God in the human arena of predictive bang for the buck. They must convince the body of Christ by presenting a new flashy ministry, complete with astounding numbers, that they are called. If we can’t quantize it, then it isn’t sustainable and thus unworthy of the church’s backing.

Why should someone feel guilty and need to apologize for not having large numbers, personal encounters and spectacular stories of salvation? People usually come to the Lord in the simple, everyday ways of life. Even with the increasing number of avenues for proclaiming the simple Gospel message people still respond in simple humility, not spectacular world shattering declarations. But that’s what we came to hear about. That’s what the church and the mission committee wants to hear, the spectacular.

But God, spectacular as he is, isn’t looking for spectacular people but humble people who recognize their need and turn to him. He’s not looking at the bottom line of a ledger but the end of a pathway that leads to salvation. God’s not calling workers into special ministry based on their high tech approach or their book sales or their ability to captivate an audience with spiritual literary quotations. God is calling humble servants willing to follow him wherever, whenever, and however he needs them.

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Lofty Aspirations

He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. (Ephesians 4:10 WEB) 

At one time we lived in an apartment with a loft. It wasn’t really a room but it was large enough to substitute for a library and office. Connected with the master bedroom and bath it made a nice little upstairs get-a-way in our apartment. This came in handy when we had company in our guest room on the first floor. It let us have some semblance of morning privacy until breakfast called.  
Sitting up there was like being away from it all. It was a great place to sit, think and come up with lofty thoughts and aspirations. We could develop these aspirations in the thought provoking confines of our small library. It was just a step away from all the comforts of home. It was like sitting in a master’s library composing earth shattering philosophies while the simple people wandered through the stacks below contemplating the common thoughts of life. 

I’ve had some lofty aspirations in the past. I was going to be a famous folk song musician. I was going to write the great American novel or at least a fascinating children’s book. At one time I was going to be an astronaut and make amazing discoveries. I’ve been a poet, song writer, theologian, and never thought I’d work with computers or spend most of my life overseas insuring a lifesaving message reached the world.

I’ve often wondered what lofty aspirations the apostles had before they met Jesus. Were there thoughts of being a famous tax broker or building a nationwide fishing industry, or setting up the first health clinic in the Middle East? I just can’t see them growing up with visions of giving up everything to follow a preacher claiming to be God’s son and the nation’s Messiah. Needless to say, I doubt they talked about suffering in life to proclaim a new interpretation of their nation’s religious teaching contrary to established theology.

Whatever their lofty aspirations I’m sure things went a different direction as soon as they met the Savior. Lofty aspirations have a way of being deflated by the reality of earning a living, raising a family or answering a heavenly call. We can wistfully look back and wonder what happened. Or, we can realign our aspirations to discover the loftiness of what we’re doing now. What do we aspire for today! Do we want to be famous, build a fortune or just do nothing? I’m really good at doing nothing when necessary.

My aspirations have changed over the years. I still aspire to fulfill my calling to bring the message of God’s love to the world. I’ve added some new exciting things. I want to build and maintain a great relationship with my wife, children, and grandchildren.

I want to encourage others in their walk with Christ. I want to help build them up, train them to answer God’s call and to walk faithfully. I want to live my life in faithfulness as a redeemed believer that God loved so such I was worth Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. I want to finish what I started well.

I figure, as long as my aspirations focus on God, His love, and His grace I’m aspiring for good things. It will all be interesting even if it wasn’t one of my lofty aspirations. God has a way of keeping things interesting. If I’d known some of the places I’d go, or things I’d eat, or situations I’d find myself in, I’d have run for the hills like Jonah and probably ended up in some giant beast’s belly. So I sat in my apartment loft considering my next lofty aspiration.

There’s nothing wrong with making plans or contemplating lofty aspirations as long as, at the end of the day, God is the one who makes the decisions. When we aspire and then place our aspirations in his omnipotent hands we’ll find ourselves in good hands indeed. Aspire to big dreams, then let God make them happen. . . or adjust them slightly.

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Privilege Requires Responsibility (1 Peter 1:10-16)

Have you ever had a hero in your life? I’ve had a number in my life. I remember how I watched with wonder as John Wayne rode across the High Sierra to stop the bad guys. I remember meeting Carlos Montoya, a world renowned flamingo guitarist. I’ve met Van Clyburn, Peter, Paul and Mary, John Glenn and a host of other “famous” people who were heroes in one form or another. I’ve always held my parents as heroes. Anyone who can live with me that many years and still love me deserves a medal. My wife, Beth, is another of my heroes. There are many heroes that have crossed the path of my life. I’m sure you can think of heroes who have touched your life through personal relationships, messages or movies.

Whether it’s someone’s musical prowess, their theological expertise, their loving care, different people have impacted our lives. Most never know we look up to them as examples to be emulated. But we try to copy something in their lives which we think is cool, exciting, proper and right. As Christians, we look to Jesus as the ultimate hero to be emulated. But does anyone look at us that way? It’s an interesting question Peter touches briefly in this passage. Let’s begin in 1 Peter 1:10.

1 Peter 1:10-12 NASB

(10) As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries,  (11)  seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.  (12)  It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look. 

I’m encouraged when someone does something for my benefit. Whether it is a word of encouragement, a good meal, or a loving hug, they all lift my spirits. Peter lets us know that, in case we missed the point, the prophets were working for our benefit. They weren’t working for themselves but for us. The Holy Spirit was guiding their efforts. Throughout their investigations, God revealed to them their work was for the future generations. They knew God’s grace would be revealed in an unique way, in a special person and through His suffering, and glorification.

That’s good history to know. Our salvation wasn’t defined by some haphazard interpretation of God’s word. It was carefully orchestrated by God through the prophets before Christ’s appearance. But what really caught my attention was the last phrase, “things into which angels long to look.” What? Angels are already privy to the heavenly throne —aren’t they? And still they have questions . . . amazing! Our relationship to God the father is a curiosity to the heavenly angels.

Peter is showing us the unique place we hold in God’s kingdom. We have a “new birth,” a “living hope,” and an “inheritance” which never perishes. Through fiery trials and tribulations, we are kept safe in God’s mighty hands. Our faith is tested and proven genuine. And in these verses, we see it was all part of God’s eternal plan. It’s a plan He has revealed to us through the prophets that even His angels didn’t decipher. God didn’t leave His children’s eternity to chance, but carefully revealed it through the ages. We are privileged. And with privilege comes responsibility. In the next four verses Peter begins to explain our responsibilities. Let’s dissect God’s word beginning in verse 13.

Verse 13; “Therefore, . . .” A great and simple word. It can be translated, “for this reason.” Whenever you see this word you should look at the previous verses. They are leading up to the point which follows the “therefore.” Because of our new privileged position, we have a response to make. Let’s continue; “Therefore, prepare your minds for action.” Literally this would translate, “gird up your minds.”

In Peter’s time everyone, men and women, wore long flowing robes. If something was about to happen they would grab the extra material and stuff it in their belts. Then they would be girded up (their belts stuffed) freeing their feet for quick action. And there always seems to be something calling for action.

Life just doesn’t stand still. It’s so busy there are times I would like to put my brain into neutral and coast for a while. But Peter is calling us to be prepared. He’s building up to a point. It’s like the flag man shouting to drivers in the Grand Prix, “Gentlemen, start your engines.” All the horsepower of their finely tuned engines comes to life with a roar. Mechanics make last minute checks to insure everything is just perfect. They’re ready to go, ready for action.

In the same way, we’re called to start our engines, put our brains in gear and get ready for the wave of the flag. All this takes careful preparation for insure success. When things are not properly prepared engines run rough and slow. The writer to the Hebrews mentions some of the things which make our motors run rough. He tells us, “Therefore,” that special word pops out again, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

If our lives are filled with sin then we aren’t prepared for action. Think about a race car. If the engine is filled with the gunky sludge of the past it won’t work well. It will fail when put to the test. The same is true in our walk with God. If our lives are filled with sin we’re not going to function well. We might get out of the starting gate but somewhere along the way that sin will bog down our engine and smoke will start to billow out of our lives.

We need to change the oil, reorient our thoughts, our lives and remove the sin which easily entangles us. We need to discipline our thinking. God gives us the strength through the presence of the Holy Spirit but we are called to do our part and act. What interferes with your Christian walk? Is it TV? Is it the Internet? Is it the people you work with? Is it . . ..? I could go on with a long list of questions but we each know what’s corrupting our life. Maybe it’s time for some internal evaluations.

We need to prepare our minds, tune our thoughts and be ready for action. Let’s read further; (13)Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit. . .” What’s Peter saying? He’s not only talking about our drinking habits. The word has another meaning in English. The NIV translates this as “self-control.” I think that’s a good choice of words.

Our minds control our actions and therefore our self-control. If we are not mentally prepared our actions will be uncontrolled. We need to be sober physically and mentally to be properly prepared for action. We can’t know what will come our way. Eugene Peterson expresses it well in his translation, The Message, for 1 Peter 3:15. “Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.” Are we ready this morning . . . or are we side tracked with all the activities from last week? Are we distracted by the activities we see today and in the future?

Peter goes on to help us focus. It’s much easier to prepare our minds for action when we focus on the right things. Let’s finish verse 13; “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (NASB)

When we focus our life on the grace of God we are better prepared for action. What is this grace from God which should hold our attention so fully? When I think of grace I think of many things. Someone once taught me a simple definition, “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” I’m not sure who figured that out but I like it. I’m also drawn to Ephesians chapter 2 verses 8 and 9 where we read, “(8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—(9) not by works, so that no one can boast.

God has already finished what is necessary for our salvation. He’s extended His grace through Christ’s death on the cross that we may be redeemed. Nothing you or I can do, no matter how righteous and good, will make us fit for God’s kingdom. It’s only through His grace, only through belief in Jesus, that we can cross the chasm between our sinful nature and God’s holy house.

As we focus on what God has done for us it’s easier to keep our thoughts in order. Our actions reflect our salvation. As James wrote, “(18) But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (James 2:18 NIV)

Action is the active result of faith, not the cause of faith. God calls us to be prepared for action and to obedience. Look at verse 14; “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” (1 Peter 1:14 NASB)

The phrase “do not conform” is used only one other place. Glance over at Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (NASB) Before salvation we were lost in sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 NASB) At salvation we are born again. Just like new born children we learn and grow.

As we learn and grow we make mistakes. It happens. But we need to be growing from those mistakes and leaving the former “lusts” behind. Paul writes a lot about this in Romans. After a long discussion, he writes this great summary; “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14 NIV) We have a new master to obey. He calls us from our past to a new life.

Look over at (Eph 4:17) “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind.” And then down at verse 22, “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Eph 4:22-24 NASB)

We were ignorant before but now we are learning and growing. We are looking for a hero to follow and we find it in God.

1 Peter 1:13-16 “(15)  but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;  (16)  because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’” (NASB)

I started talking about heroes as people I look up to and try to imitate. I want to be like them because they have it all together. God is telling us that He has it all together and we need to try to imitate Him. A desire for holiness should weave its way through all our behavior in this world.  But what is holiness?

Striving for holiness is to do what Jesus would do. I’m not a lover of “Christian” slogans but there is a good lesson in this thought. Whatever we approach, if we consider what Jesus would do in that circumstance, and then follow his example, we will be working on Holiness.

Ravi Zacharias, a well known Christian apologist, says this about the pursuit of holiness;

“Our response to the holiness of God is to reflect his character in our lives—in one phrase, the pursuit of holiness. In our endeavor in this direction, however, we need to be careful to note that what we have come to call personal holiness—what is inward—is only a potential that has to be constantly actualized in interpersonal relationships. The time I spend with God must enable me to relate to a world of people and things in a right way. In fact, I can be holy when I am by myself; it is when I come out of my room and meet the world of people and things that I run into serious problems! I am afraid that the emphasis on holiness that we often talk about is my preoccupation with my hands being clean and my conscience clear for my own sake, and that happens to be a pretty selfish motive. A selfish motive to be selfless, indeed! It would be almost as if Moses, on coming down from Mount Sinai, began to enjoy his shining face in a mirror!” (Zacharias, Ravi, ed., Beyond Opinion, Thomas Nelson, 2007, p.247)

We need to form our character to be like God’s character. It is in the confines of relationships to one another and the world our character is tested and proven faithful to the original. This includes justice, faithfulness, fairness, love, grace, and a long list of other aspects of God’s character.

Unlike the other creatures which God created we were created in His image. We fell from that but can still try to reclaim that image in our daily walk. When someone looks at you or me, what do they see? Do they see what Jesus would look like? Do they see the reflection of the one true God? This is our calling. Our minds need to be prepared to act like God would act.

I don’t believe we reach perfect holiness this side of Heaven but we can do our part to show the world a glimpse of God’s holiness. God has a plan for His children. He has a plan for you and for me. We are privileged to be part of his family. We need to be prepared, constantly ready for action, with our focus on God’s grace and not our past. Over and over I remind myself of Philippians 3:13, “(13) Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. (14)I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)

Will join me in the race today? Let’s get our engines tuned and our focus on the goal. Together let’s seek to behave like our Savior would and give the world a glimpse of His holiness.

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