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Don’t Be A Foolish Frog

 

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A frog?

 

How could I ever be compared to a frog?

 

Frogs (like humans) live all over the world and are found on every continent except Antarctica and inhabit almost every environment. Frogs (like humans) need to be around areas with a water source and eat nearly anything that will fit into their mouths. Frogs (like humans) are social creatures that live in groups.

 

012defec45b8807cbab94591676728e4Clearly there are more than one or two differences, but there are some frog-like tendencies that we can often develop that should be avoided. Some of tendencies that come to mind that we must pay attention to will reduce foolishness and may spare our lives in the bargain.

 

Some of us live in geographical places and cultures where food choices are narrower, but for more affluent cultures worldwide transportation development gives us an array that boggle the mind. In such places as this, you can enjoy fruits, vegetables, and all manner of meat or fish produced, caught, or harvested from the local farmers’ market or a ranch, field, orchard, or sea on the other side of the world. How easy to forget such a blessing when a local grocery store offers us aisle upon aisle of options.

 

All these options mean we too can eat nearly anything that fits in our mouths and we often do that to our own detriment. If we fail to consider the nutrients in too great an abundance or those lacking, our health will suffer over time.

 

Our available resources from books to videos to movies to television to our electronic screens in nearly any and all forms create a veritable smorgasbord for us to take into our thoughts, hearts, and spirits as well. If we have access to all of these things, we can become desensitized to what they may be doing to shape how we think, behave, and respond. They also can influence what we believe about our culture, our government, our faith, and ourselves. They do not always conform to a standard we say we subscribe to nor do they present truth or reality.

 

Paul writes an important reminder to us all in 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV):

 

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

 

 Yes, I know this translation might bog us down in the word choices, but the first word makes it a very useful translation: study.

 

It can be easy for any of us to become lazy and take what other people write or say a50badf7fd1815b716b03fc2b4252023without considering the “nutrients” it contains or doesn’t contain and how it will affect our well being. We have parents, teachers, and pastors whom we entrust with leading and guiding us and that is as it should be, but it never excludes any one of us from the personal responsibility of studying to know the truth.

 

I once heard a pastor say, “Don’t just take what you hear me say. Go home and see if what I say lines up with what the Bible says and means.”  Amen!

 

We (and frogs) need a water source around us. Our bodies are made up of 60% water. All cells, organs, and tissues of the body use water to help regulate temperature and maintain other bodily functions. One of those crucial ones is to help detoxify the body of things that can harm us.

 

All of us know to some degree that not all water sources are safe, healthy or beneficial for us to consume or jump into.

 

Frogs are not quite so discriminating if we consider this old story about a frog that was looking for water after he apparently got too far away from his best and healthiest source of water.

 

In his effort to find water the frog discovered there was a large pot of water in the kitchen. His jumping prowess gave him the ability to jump from his place on the floor into the pot. The water felt and tasted great, but what he didn’t realize was that the pot was sitting on a stove and as he swam and drank and enjoyed himself the water got warm and then hot. It was so relaxing the frog didn’t realize until too late that he was getting cooked and would never leave the pot again.

 

This illustrates yet again that if we are not to emulate the foolish frog in the story, we need to consider our water source.

 

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”

John 7:37-38 (NLT)

 

We (like frogs) are social creatures, but if we don’t discriminate those with whom we spend the bulk of our time we can succumb to all types of peer pressure (at any age) and become more like someone we never planned to be.

 

“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)

 

Don’t be a foolish frog.  (Can you find the one on the lily pad in this photo I took?)

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They Are Not The Same

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Have you noticed how sometimes two things can appear the same and dupe us into believing they actually are? If we believe it is X, we ascribe ALL the characteristics of what we perceive it to be.

 

One of the classic examples is that of the Monarch Butterfly and the Viceroy Butterfly. They look a lot alike and are an example of what is called “mutual mimicry” in nature.

 

Both butterflies are orange and black, but the Viceroy is smaller in size and has a darker orange color and shows a black line that crosses the hind wing. Astute nature lovers know there is one other characteristic that differentiates them. The Viceroy flaps its wings quickly and erratically while the Monarch tends to somewhat float. For most of us, it takes a bit for us to recognize which butterfly we are observing.

 

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Queen Anne’s lace

Another example that has gotten a lot of notice in recent years is found in the plant kingdom. Queen Anne’s lace and poison hemlock are both found along roadsides and ditches. Both are from the same family and have hollow stems and flowers that are white and bloom in an umbrella shape pattern. Even the leaves are so similar they are nearly indistinguishable. But distinguishing them is essential.

 

 

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Poison Hemlock

Queen Anne’s lace is lovely and often cut to add to wildflower displays. It is wild and the root is edible and grows in the same habitat poison hemlock does. But the poison hemlock is toxic to humans and pets and could take your life.

 

Another example of two things we assume are the same is Christendom and Christ. If we view them as identical, it can be easy for us to become disappointed and even disillusioned.

 

They are not the same.

 

Christ (Jesus) is perfect, Son of God and one with Him. He is loving, wise, discerning, and gracious. He sees us as individuals and knows us intimately. He is relational and longs for fellowship with us despite our humanity. He always speaks the truth and is Truth. He always operates in the light and is Light. He is humble always and seeks only our best. He is a champion of the weak, outcast, and downcast. He sees the heart, not the status, position, culture, education, or skill set of the person. To know Him is to have life.

 

Christendom is a system formed ostensibly to promote and maintain what Christ taught when He walked the earth and to always point us to God, the Father. It is a system we often identify that should be like Him. Because of that, we often choose to trust it without a great deal of thought. Then when it doesn’t seem to be quite like Him, we can go from puzzled to disappointed to disillusioned without a lot of time between each step.

 

That happens as well when anyone we have admired who is a part of Christendom walks away from belief in Christ or has a major moral failure of any type.

 

We forget that the system of Christendom is made up of our fellow man (much like us) flawed and shot through with imperfection even on our best days.

 

As any human system, as it develops over time it acquires more power and structure. It’s not hard to see why it is needed, but it also seems to create a great opportunity for Satan to sabotage and use it to seduce us away from looking at Christ first because sometimes our ears can be tickled by hearing what we would like to hear or seeing what we want to see. Especially within western cultures fascinated by our model of success, we can get lost along the way and forget who and what we are following.

 

Satan would have us abandon Christ because Christendom has let us down or faltered. It’s little wonder he loves to complicate things further by fomenting divisions and dissensions in the midst of it all.

 

Does that mean we should take the bait and give up on the system known as Christendom? 

 

No, but it does make clear that we need to follow what the writer of Hebrews makes plain:

“As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us,and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.

We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!”

Hebrews 12:1-2 (TPT)

 

It also means our first responsibility toward the leaders of ministries and churches in Christendom is to pray for them regularly, but also to love them as Christ would and hold them accountable when they start to deviate from who Christ is and what He looks like.

 

None of us should use his name when we look nothing like Him.

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Blind Spots

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Most of us are familiar with the old adage, ‘things aren’t always what they seem.’  It’s a reminder to us of an important truth − we can be deceived. The problem for us can be that we forget that is somewhat of an Achilles heel in us all since Adam and Eve listened to the serpent in the garden that twisted God’s words.

 

You may well remember that the serpent (Lucifer) was once an angel in the court of heaven, but he lusted after the power of God. He wanted to usurp that power and he was clever enough to take a third of the angels with him and then God reminded him of his place when he fell from heaven. Deception was woven into the very fabric of his being.

 

apple-apple-tree-branch-52517Before that day Adam and Eve listened to the serpent, mankind was made in the image of God and was meant to reflect Him and his character. After the serpent’s seduction of the happy couple, God’s image in them was marred and their character reflected the serpent’s instead of God’s. They were the serpent’s ‘image bearers’ and that cosmic DNA got knit into what God had intended to be unmarred and reflect Him. That cosmic combination got passed down to every generation after them to those of us who live today.

 

Because our nature is not God’s original intent, we struggle with the same character flaws that the serpent (a former beautiful angel) dealt with and still deals with. That includes a desire for power. We may not always recognize that in ourselves because it isn’t always something we feel. We will see it most easily when we are confined in some way and feel more powerless.

 

We have a paradoxical connection to power.

 

We know it can be bad if used and abused, but we also respect it and sometimes want at least some of it.  When we submit to power whether it is to parents, teachers, clergy, or others, we might assume because of their authority, skill, beauty, knowledge, status, position, etc. that they have integrity. It’s not a big leap to look at this list, compare ourselves to it and decide that person or organization that has these things knows more than we do and will seek to serve us in ways that benefit us. And sometimes that is true, but not always.

 

1280Power can blind us to the truth about ourselves and deceive us. A powerful example of that is evident in J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy, Lord of the Rings. The ring has power and even the simplest of hobbits, Frodo Baggins, discovers it can tempt him.

 

In one scene in the film, Galadriel gives warning about the ring and man’s susceptibility to it:

 

“In the gathering dark, the will of the ring grows strong. It works hard now to find its way back into the hands of men. Men, who are so easily seduced by its power.”

 

Once power deceives us, we are ensnared and may not realize how much so until it is too late.

 

In Tolkien’s epic work, time and again good men, elves, dwarves, or hobbits are drawn to the power of the ring and miss that once they take the ring, it takes them and reshapes them completely.

 

The strongest example is when we watch Sméagol transformed by the ring into the creature Gollum. His lust for the ring of power (“My Precious”) causes him to destroy himself in molten fire rather than to allow the ring to be destroyed.

 

When power is misused and abused, the one using it falls prey to deception.

 

That would be bad enough, but it doesn’t stop there. Often the person doesn’t even recognize he or she is deceived, nor do they see how they move to deceive others. When that step of deceiving others occurs and their goals are thwarted, they then try to use their power to coerce others into giving them what they want.

 

Dr. Diane Langberg has worked with many persons and organizations about issues of trauma and abuse and the role of power and deception. Hear her wisdom in this:

 

“Those who abuse power are deceived. Abuse of power requires deadening our ability to discern good and evil.

When self-deception works with temptation, they convince us that something wrong is okay. Then we blame external circumstances for our choices.

As time goes on self-deception functions as a narcotic numbing us to the danger and damage of our choices.

Deadness of our soul will cause us to lose the power to hate evil and remove our taste for good.”

 

Is all hope lost?  Are we doomed?

 

As Gandalf would say in The Lord of the Rings,

 

 “All we have to do decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

 

 The first decision is to yield to the One whose image we were meant to reflect and then allow Him to reshape us and fight with and for us.

 

And with that decision, we must recognize the One who is all-powerful, to humble ourselves before Him, and learn from the evidence that came from the lust for power by the serpent that sought to usurp God’s power.

 

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Handle with Care

 

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Photo by Pavel Chernonogov from Pexels

 

There are many things we purchase or use that carries a caution warning to “Handle with Care.”  The warning is a reminder that what we are going to use is meant for good, but if it is not handled properly it can also cause damage.  Those who created and designed these tools appear to know that ‘common sense’ is not really common!

 

There are so many other places where such a warning label could be helpful. Certainly a newborn infant should come with one even though most people know the caution, but I think children who go off to school should wear such labels as well. Those who teach or train our children should not sacrifice standards of excellence and moral codes of conduct, but the warning would be appropriate regarding the child’s heart, learning style, disabilities, values, and family life.

 

The label might be good to attach to a marriage license. The person we fell in love with and seek to marry isn’t perfect and as days and weeks go by there will be many opportunities to discover flaws or weaknesses not noticed previously. What a time to extend grace and remember, “handle with care.”

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That label would serve well in friendships as well. Healthy friendships with clear boundaries can weather many things and a variety of moods and passions, but we should never forget to “handle with care” the heart, soul, and secrets of the person.

 

That label would be appropriate as well for members of our ministries or those in our churches, not because they are fragile but rather because if they serve under our leadership we have a duty to “handle with care” the essence of who they are.

 

You see we can so easily forget that each of us has some level of power that needs to be handled with care. You may not feel that way and you likely do not experience it in all situations or all people, but you have it.  Why?  Because when God created you, He gave you power.

 

“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Genesis 1:26 (NIV)

 

At the outset we were commanded to rule and subdue the earth and its creatures. Those words − rule and subdue − mean power. We were made in God’s image and He entrusted power over those things noted in the passage. We were and are to reflect Him.

 

The passage does not say we are to have power over each other, however. But when that terrible fall took place as a result of listening to a beautiful being who seduced us with God’s own words and perverted them, our image was marred and we took on the image of Satan instead of the image of God. After all, Satan was and is a power and glory grabber who seeks to have power over the One he cannot have power over, so he will settle for any one of us he can ensnare whether a Christian or not.

 

Sadly it is easy for us to love power. If we have it, it reduces our sense of vulnerability in one or more areas and vulnerability tends to make us feel small or frightened.

 

Power comes in many forms and sizes. Some power is physical. We see that in sports arenas all the time, but we also see it on playgrounds and in classrooms where the taller and bigger kids take charge over the smaller and weaker kids many times.

 

Other power comes in words and how we use them. Our words can speak life or death.

 

“The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

 

Power can come from positions of authority. We see that as students from teachers, employees of employers, drivers from law enforcement and speed traps on the highway, members of organizations from leaders of those same organizations. Positions carry with them some power and that is not usually an issue except if it is abused and those under those positions are used rather than served and collaborated with. Such positions are evident in any rule-governed entities whether political or ecclesiastical.

 

Because of the marring of God’s image in us, we can misperceive power. We can believe that the one in power over us also has integrity and then grant them even more power. We can hope they have integrity, but it is not a guarantee.

 

When we fail to accurately discern good and evil in relationship to power, we open ourselves to abuse and more so when or if we remain silent in the midst of it.

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Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

 

It can be easy to look around us and point fingers at those we believe are misusing or abusing power, but that is the wrong place to start.  We must start with checking in the mirror to see if our own image reflects God first and if our character looks like his.

 

We need to start the with psalmist:

 

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

We can also learn much from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by pausing long at the one he lists in fifth place:

 

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

 

Power is not so much good or bad, but how we steward whatever power we’ve been given is what is essential.

 

We also need to remember we will give account to the One who gave us power.

 

And He is all powerful.

 

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Look…Morning Has Broken

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Satan didn’t mind the darkness that fell over Jerusalem when Jesus breathed His last breath. He preferred the darkness. He had used it to hide his schemes and scams in the unholy alliance with the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve. He may have chuckled to himself as he thought about how easily it still worked.

 

He had seen Him die. He had watched when Joseph of Arimathea offered his own tomb and when Jesus was taken down from the cross and carried to the tomb. He had watched as the disciples Jesus counted on scattered and the women at the foot of the cross wept.

 

When morning broke on the third day, everything was reordered, transformed. The prophecies were true! Jesus was raised from the dead! He was alive and with that, salvation was accomplished.

 

Satan could not have understood. He was an angel after all, albeit a fallen one to the highest degree. Angels could not comprehend salvation. 1 Peter 1:12 makes note of that.

 

The reality of the mystery of God’s plan would be discussed and debated for years by those who would become the church fathers. The debate of the full humanity and full divinity in the one person of Jesus would be crucial to the establishment of the church.

 

Among those in the debate, one named Cyril and others, would be used by God to bring unity to the church. Those decisions and understandings are key to our understanding of salvation and the possibility of re-union through the centuries to this very day.

 

The debate was centered on what was meant by the whole spectrum of God’s redemption through Jesus. Was the cross of Jesus Christ “the” act needed? Was it only part? It was central, but what about the resurrection, ascension, Christ’s glorification, the role of the church, and Christ’s return?

 

The centrality of salvation was (and is) that ALL were a part of God’s work in human history.

 

Like other aspects of our spiritual lives, too often we speak of aspects of the divine work as “it”. One common place is when we speak of the Holy Spirit. When we do so, we objectify a part of the Trinity.

 

It can happen as well when we think or speak about our salvation as something we do. Not true.

 

Salvation is a person, “the”  person of Jesus Christ. HE is salvation, justification, sanctification, and the source of all spiritual blessing.

 

In Closer Than Close Dave Hickman quotes John Calvin from his writing in Institutes of the Christian Religion as Calvin affirms this:

 

“For we await salvation from him (Christ) not because he appears to us afar off, but because he makes us, ingrafted into his body, participants not only in all his benefits but also in himself.”

 

Hickman uses Cyril to point out that “union with the person of Jesus Christ is possible and necessary for salvation. Instead of believers simply having a ‘close relationship’ with Jesus or ‘appearing to be one with him, the Incarnation proves that humanity is capable of being united (made one) with divinity—and that divinity is capable of being (and willing to be) united to humanity.”

 

Re-union accomplished…except for one thing.

 

We must make a choice to undo the unholy alliance we made with Satan back in the Garden.

 

We must choose to receive, believe, and reunite with the One who has been reaching out for reunion since the spiritual adultery Adam and Eve committed in the Garden that has affected each and all of us.

 

When Christ called out from the cross, “It is finished!” we need to understand the work was finished of salvation for our reunification. No efforts, no work, no striving, no pleading or praying could accomplish it. Only He alone could offer us Oneness again!

 

Does it look or feel that way?

 

Is it perfect in its work?

 

If I am a believer in Christ, then salvation has been fully established and accomplished, but the completion of that work has not yet been consummated. When Jesus returns, we will have perfect union with Him because His Word teaches we will be transformed into his likeness and image.

 

As Dave Hickman so eloquently states in Closer Than Close:

 

“Instead of being restored to the image of the first Adam, we will be transformed into the image of the perfect Image himself—the firstborn of the new creation to come. Jesus Christ. Perfection.”

 

Until then, what is critical for us to hold fast to?

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