No One Will Like This One

Back in the Old Testament, occasionally women got a bad rap. Like in the book of Proverbs. There are lots of things about immoral women and the pitfalls they create for men.

But, for the most part, immoral women attract immoral men so there’s no blaming one gender over the other here.

And no, I’m not going to go into identifying as an immoral man or immoral woman. I’m just going to stick with “X” and “Y” chromosomes and leave the crazy however many genders they’ve supposedly identified out there with Bigfoot and aliens from outer space.

I hope you aren’t offended but life is confusing enough with just men and women.

Ok, now back to the topic.

Proverbs 2:16 Wisdom will save you from the immoral woman,from the seductive words of the promiscuous woman. 17 She has abandoned her husband and ignores the covenant she made before God. 18 Entering her house leads to death;it is the road to the grave. 19 The man who visits her is doomed. He will never reach the paths of life.

Is God saying that adultery is all the woman’s fault?

Not at all!

Proverbs is divided mainly between two types of people, wise and foolish. God is saying that no matter how great that woman over there looks, no matter how skilled she is at seduction, a man has no excuse for falling for her but his own foolishness.

We are responsible for our actions no matter how much we want to blame the temptation.

And no, today’s topic is not just about adultery. It is about a lot of the houses I am tempted to visit.

I used to visit the house of cocaine. It seduced and wooed me as much as any person ever has. I entered that house and found it indeed led to death and the grave. I became doomed.

I blamed a lot of things, my depression, I worked nights and was tired, I needed something to clear my head (what a joke).

The truth is that I tossed wisdom aside to engage my inner simpleton and charged full throttle into a place I was completely out of control, reckless and lucky to live to tell about.

Yeah, this part of Proverbs is describing a lot of places we can go visit but shouldn’t.

It really seems that in this day and age, if you decide you aren’t visiting this house or that house, you get called foolish and stupid. People are wandering around to places they have no business in just because they are shamed if they don’t.

Fools don’t have a lot of respect for wisdom. They like to get in a huge mess and blame the immoral woman for it. Then they ridicule the one that avoids the mess.

Staying out of the house of whatever brings you down is not hate nor intolerance nor judgment. It is simply wisdom. If idiots don’t like it, well, that’s what idiots are supposed to do.

Just because a moron calls me stupid, doesn’t mean I should act stupid.

I’m not getting political here. I’m not talking about liberals or conservatives. I’m talking about liberals AND conservatives.

In this day and age, there is pressure to be stupid from both sides of the playing field. Everyone has their house of horrors they want us to enter.

Every day I have to resolve to grow some wisdom, to engage more brain cells and throw aside the pressure of the seduction of foolishness.

I have spent to much time in the bondage of my own making to chain myself to the shackles of yet another prison made of silly thinking and trying to make wrong right.

I cannot help anyone if I succumb to the attractions of sin. I know what is wrong for me. I cannot compromise on that.

But, at the same time, I also realize that it is God that convicts man of sin and leads him in the right direction. No amount of me ranting about what is right and wrong on this blog, posting hateful memes on Facebook, taking everyone else’s inventory or character assassinations is going to do what God can’t.

I guess that’s why Jesus told us to love others and clean our own eyes before we go looking for trouble in someone else.

It is hard to love people that seem to blurt out stupid with every word. But, who is as smart as they think they are? Who is really wise?

I can only cling to the hand that guides me the right direction and love the way he commanded me to love. After all, it is the greatest commandment, not the great suggestion.


Good Things

Do you ever wonder why you are so dog-gone broke? I sure have. I wonder how, after working for all these years, decades even, that I can be still living from paycheck to paycheck.

Then I see that other guy over there that has more than he needs and he’s living life the way I wish I could live it and wonder, “Why can’t that guy be me?”

I really know the answer.

I don’t really like the answer but I know it.

A year or so ago, I got to know a guy that has all the extra stuff and doesn’t know what to do with it all.

Even when he tried to show humility with all his might, he was still full of himself. He still managed to take credit for everything.

Fake humility tastes a lot like bull manure. Someone starts tossing it around and the smell gets kind of overpowering and it kind of ruins your appetite for their company.

If God blessed me with a bunch of brand new awesome stuff and I still had loads of money in the bank and my job was to just be a genius and I was great at it, I would be that guy that is full of himself…and maybe a lot of that by-product of being a bull.

I’ve been that guy with a lot less.

In fact, I have more than I need already. I just always seem to be able to convince myself that I need more.

Sometimes, I convince myself that God owes it to me.

Matthew 7:7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Doesn’t that sound like the ‘Vette I’ve always dreamed of is only an “ask” away?

But Jesus chooses his words carefully.

Matthew 7:9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

If you take a good look here, these gifts are things of sustenance, things someone needs to be whole. He doesn’t mention parents dishing out shekels like they are going out of style. Nope. He doesn’t mention a nice new donkey to cruise the local Jerusalem Steak n Shake.

He’s talking bread and fish.

I have to be honest here. I’ve tried to corner God with this scripture to get what I want. But God promises “good” gifts.

I can sit here today and tell you that the best “things” I have ever had were never good enough.

Have you ever watched a TV show where people collect cars? They always end up selling that car that was the best there was because they become convinced something else is better.

I’m sure they regret getting rid of it at some point. I still regret letting go of some of the cars I have had and most of them were junk.

Having the best isn’t really a good gift. The best seems to always fall from its place of glory.

Do you know what the number one hobby of the wealthy in the world is?

Accumulating more wealth. The richest desire more riches.

Tons of money isn’t a good gift. There can never be enough.

So, when I discover what God is really all about, I want something good.

I’ve found that living life guilt free is a pretty darn good thing. When I lose my guilt, I don’t have to lose more. When guilt is gone, it’s gone.

I’ve found that love is a pretty good thing. Lots of it is great but it only takes a little to feel like a soothing salve on an irritated heart.

I’ve found a lot of things that when I ask God for them, they come out of nowhere like the rain has been coming from the sky around here lately, often and in abundance.

So, when God doesn’t seem to be giving me what I ask for, maybe, just maybe, I am not asking for good things.

Maybe Jesus should have added, “If your child asks for a nuclear bomb, do you give it to him?”

I think I should be more grateful for the things God hasn’t given me. Even though I did a lot of damage in this world, I never went nuclear and decimated things beyond what he can repair.

Well, I’ll call it a day on this one. I wish you many good things today.

I Can See Your Problem!

Finding fault is a fun game, isn’t it? It seems like I have always been a great player when it comes to this exercise in the dissection of other human being’s endeavors.

I know that today I will have to resist the urge to discover the flaws of another person and announce them to all who may listen. I know if I do this that others will agree and we will all nod our heads in disapproval of the poor soul’s imperfection.

It may seem subtle sometimes, just a little critique of a friend or acquaintance, a co-worker or client, but in truth I might as well jump up and down and scream, “I’m better than you! I would never do something so stupid! How do you remember to breathe?” Sometimes, I manage to keep silent but I am still doing it. I am keeping a mental tally of all the faults another person has, filing them away neatly in a part of my brain that is fast becoming too full to take any more in, taking over the parts of my mind that should be full of other things.

I can honestly tell you that there have been times in my life when I heard a great idea, something that would have vastly improved the way I live, and I have instantly found something wrong with it and discarded it like yesterday’s trash.

How did I do this?

I became so focused on doing that thing I was so talented at, finding fault. Did I ever find fault with someone else or what they were trying to do and say, “Here, this is the problem. Let’s fix it!”? Not very often. Most of the time I just withdrew and figured I would get away from that mess and sit in my perfect world and let someone struggle on their own.

Matthew 7:3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?”

I guess it is all about perspective. That log in my eye causes me to look at everything without depth. I skim the surface and if it isn’t perfectly smooth I begin to perceive every ripple as a flaw on the water. I can’t see that below the tiny waves that cover depths that there is still, clear water teeming with life. I have to fix my perception and allow myself to realize that there is more to every man and his ideas than what I can see.

Just a tiny bit of dust in my eye irritates and annoys me, yet often I am content to be spiritually blinded by selfishness and jealousy.

James 3:16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

So first of all I need to continuously remove these things from my life. They refuse to just go away and stay away. God gives me the basic plan for ditching these two pesky critters. Selfishness and jealousy must yield to God’s Word.

James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

By allowing God to work on me in this way, through his wisdom, we become pure, peace loving, gentle and way less bull-headed! I am forgiving and do good things and not just talk about them. Prejudice falls away and I speak honestly and I strive for peace. If I strive to achieve these things, finding fault is a poison I no longer choose to taste.

Matthew 7:4 “How can you think of saying to your friend,‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

So now I can see the faults in the lives of others in a different light. I can be a helper. I can approach the faults of others by obeying what God’s Word says in James 3:17. Those things look differently when selfishness and jealousy don’t cloud my vision. The things that have brought me turmoil and worry can now bring me peace and righteousness. This is a life-long commitment. I have to renew my resolve daily. I must continuously assess myself to make sure I am ready to face the day and view others the way God would have me to see them.

God, cleanse me of selfishness and jealousy and help me not to feed those things which cause me to find fault in others. Help me see opportunities to help and build others up. Amen.

What’s an Othniel?

People are funny critters. It seems like the better things go, the less God they need. But, when things get real, real bad, prayers bombard heaven, promises of faithfulness thunder through the pearly gates and vows to never do that again cover the streets of gold.

Man finds a right place with God through their lack of faith and things seem to be going better.

Some folks say that this is a sign of the times we live in with all the entitlement, deflecting blame and denial of our human condition.

But when a person reads God’s word, we can see that man has changed very little. We still find someone to hate, still find a way to do terrible things. We are still able to repay grace with selfishness, love with anger and peace with war.

Judges 1:7 The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. They forgot about the Lord their God, and they served the images of Baal and the Asherah poles.

Maybe God should have noted the word “Israelites” here with “Insert you name here.”

Here in this day and age, we may not worship Baal and Asherah but we sure find a lot of other things besides God to worship.

Money comes to mind. OK, maybe I don’t put a dollar bill on a pole and bow down to it but I do put the things money can buy at the top of my list of things I am working for and bow down to it often.

I bow when I ignore the homeless, sick, hurting, addicted and chase after something I don’t even need to satisfy something inside of me and ignore doing what brings me closer to God.

I don’t want to admit I do this.

That’s the thing though. I do it whether I admit it or not. I can only do otherwise if I stop denying my Israelite-ness and admit I am not quite doing all of this right.

Sin is eternal unless we confess and repent.

The Israelites began to worship other Gods. I don’t know if they wanted to fit in with the people that now ruled over them or if they wanted to score some brownie points. Maybe they looked around at the mess they had gotten themselves into and just decided God wasn’t enough or it was easier to worship false gods.

I don’t know.

There are a whole bunch of reasons I have compromised my faith in God. I guess the Israelites had enough reasons to rationalize their compromise but God didn’t even bother to put them here in the scripture.

Judges 3:8 Then the Lord burned with anger against Israel, and he turned them over to King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram-naharaim and the Israelites served Cushan-rishathaim for eight years.9 But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, the Lord raised up a rescuer to save them. His name was Othniel, the son of Caleb’s younger brother, Kenaz. 

The famous Othniel enters the picture. What? Never heard of this guy? Most people haven’t. There are so many other more flashy judges that get the air-time in the Old Testament.

But, Othniel was an answer to prayer. After eight years of serving some king with a name too long to fit on his headstone, God gave Israel the answer to their prayers.

Judges 3:11 So there was peace in the land for forty years. Then Othniel son of Kenaz died.

Othniel led Israel to forty years of peace. Wouldn’t it be great if Othniel came to this country and worked that miracle? God appointed one guy and the king with a long name was no longer the biggest crown in the land.

My dad was a pretty tough guy. But we had four kids in our house and my dad had a hard time bringing peace to the living room for five minutes. Othniel bringing peace to the Israelites for forty years is pretty amazing.

You’d think that after forty years of peace, Israel would have figured out how to be pretty good at it.

But the peace only lasted forty years.

It would be easy to fault these people for their cycle of turning their backs on God, finding themselves in a mess, crying out for God, being delivered, forgetting about being delivered…etc.

That was my life-cycle for decades, though. I found myself bound to this false god and that false god, unable to extricate myself from the chains I had placed upon myself.


Here’s where I want to wrap this up. God has done miraculous things time and time again to rescue me from the disasters I have created.

What if, after being rescued, I kept crying out to God in desperation?


This time, not to be rescued from the mess I made but to do what God has called me to do?

What if I get the same miracle working power in my life to help others out of their messes?

I’m afraid that too many times God has brought me out of the fire and set my feet on solid ground only for me to find my way to the couch and rest a few years while I bow at the altar of television programming and advertising slogans.

God’s word is chock full of those who were like me, those that needed Othniel to come along and fight the fight, grab peace and keep it around as long as he lived.

I have so much more. God sent Christ to bring me peace that is eternal yet I launch myself headfirst into every puddle of turmoil I can find. Facebook and other social media are littered with puddles of turmoil.

It is so tempting to try to attack those puddles and vaporize them when in reality what they need is God’s love, even if that makes no sense to me, even if I deem them undeserving.

There is no other way to peace.

Here Comes the Judge(s)

When I read the Old Testament, there sure is a lot of killing. It seems kind of out-dated now to run around in your tribe and conquer the people on the other side of town.

But back in the Old Testament days, if you had an enemy in the land, it was about like a cockroach problem. Everybody that was anybody simply went to war and the winner got the land while the losers got what cockroaches tend to get.

I’m really glad that these things were recorded in God’s Word. It gives an accounting of history that shows simply packing up your weapons and taking them to Canaan isn’t going to put an end to war. It just changes where you fight.

One of the problems with war is that it takes a lot of might and power to win. When man experiences might and power, they start thinking they are as mighty and powerful as anything anyone could ever need and we really don’t need God.

I’m not going to name names but I can think of one country that fits this bill pretty well. I live there.

I realize that there are things worth defending and things we often have to fight for because the world is going to take advantage of someone unwilling to fight back. Ask any kid that dreads going to school every day because he is being bullied.

With all that being said, I am going to go along with some of what our church is studying currently, the book of Judges.

There’s a lot of war right from the get go in Judges.

Judges 1:1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Which tribe should go first to attack the Canaanites?”
2 The Lord answered, “Judah, for I have given them victory over the land.”

God had promised Canaan to Israel way back when Moses was still around, even after Israel betrayed God, they got lost in the desert (God took away their GPS for forty years) and they got the ten commandments from a guy that always makes me think of Charlton Heston.

There was one big problem.

Somebody else called Canaan home.

Before Joshua kicked the bucket, he had a talk with Israel. He told them to serve the Lord with their whole hearts and they would receive the land they were promised.

Joshua 24:16 The people replied, “We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods.”

They said a whole bunch of other stuff they would not live up to besides this.

Here is something I will take away from this. God may sometimes give me enough rope to nearly hang myself so that from time to time I experience the need to call on him.

I am going to tell you some truth about me. Maybe you aren’t like this. I hope not but I’m afraid most people are. If God just sets me up for life, takes away my struggles and problems and makes everything work out just the way I want him to, I will stop seeing that he is doing all these things.

Yep, I’ll start seeing that I am doing all these things and become my own god.

When I read about Israel, I see myself.

They fought many battles, beat their enemies, served God and then….turned away, became their own gods, got themselves in a bind, seemed headed toward extinction and failed the same way they had failed over and over again.

Israel represents recovery gone wrong with relapse after relapse while they played the blame game to deflect their own responsibility.

When we go through Judges, we have to remember that the culture was very warlike and based on the survival of the fittest.

It seems foreign to us, yet, it is familiar…too familiar.

But God has gotten bigger since then, in a way. We have access to God Israel didn’t have. We have the life, death and resurrection of Christ and the Spirit living within us.

It should be easy, right?

But Jesus taught us that we don’t go out and kill a whole slew of people to get what we want but that we go to him for what we need.

But it is still so hard. There is war raging inside me. Some days the artillery inside my brain makes it hard to hear anything but eminent destruction.

Joshua 24:14 “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve.

Every morning I decide who I am going to serve. Believe me, there are days that serving myself seems like the way to go. But, I have learned one thing through my whole history of behaving like Israel, choose to serve the Lord.

Then after I choose, I ask God what I should attack.

No, it isn’t ever people. It is anger, pride, selfishness, greed, hate and a bunch of other ugly things that are ready to defend their positions in my promised land.

So, in the next few weeks when I write on Judges, the battles are no longer against flesh and blood but powers and principalities. All the blood that needs to be spilled was spilled upon the cross many years ago.

When God Talks

I remember a commercial that used to be on TV. When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.

Here’s one of them right here:

It was an effective advertising campaign and people all over the place were eavesdropping on what E. F. Hutton had to say.

Well, E. F. Hutton is no more and no commercial campaign is bringing them back. I guess they ain’t talking and no one is listening either.

The whole premise of the whole thing was that if we listened to what this brokerage had to say, we’d get rich on the stock market and investing. Apparently, they should have listened to themselves?

Here’s the thing that appealed to a much younger me about those commercials. If I listened to E. F. Hutton there was something in it for me.

So, naturally, I had the same attitude about God. I was totally willing to listen to him if the possibility of having everything I wanted was going to be the payoff.

But just like I found out E. F. Hutton was no E. F. Hutton, God isn’t E. F. Hutton either.

So when God talked, I stopped listening.

This was a very stupid strategy on my part.

Genesis 1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

God talked. Something happened.

Oh, I know that some of you think the universe just happened and there was no God involved at all. That’s your choice but all the science I have read agrees that once this planet and the sun did not exist and all at once…it did!

What triggered it all? The random combination of just the right things happening just so over and over again until we have this life right now?

No matter how it all came to be, I can’t help thinking that along the way, there had to be some words. The world we live in was created with a purpose.

God talked. Something happened.

I think the biggest tragedy that befalls us is that mankind is hell-bent on explaining God away.

We reason and rationalize and use facts to support our theories that are damaged and unreliable because we are discarding truth that doesn’t support our vision of a godless creation.

John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

These are words spoken by Jesus.

They are the proof that God created all of this with a purpose.

See, I was without form and void. I was lost. I had become like dust in the wind hoping to land somewhere that I could be a part of something greater.

But, I drifted through life without anything.

Then, God spoke. I listened. Things happened.

I became a new creation. I found the place I was created to be. I began to have meaning and purpose.

And the more God spoke, more happened.

I can’t believe, sometimes, that God can manage to remain quiet. I get angry at the silence that pours down upon me from the heavens. I challenge the one that can speak and create worlds and universes.

I wonder why he hasn’t spoken me clear into the next solar system and shown me what it is like to live on the planet Zork with the lizard people.

Yet God speaks peace to me and I experience more than I deserve. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if people hung upon every word from God?

I know there are people out there that are afraid of God’s words, afraid it will destroy who they are, condemn them and judge them. But Jesus says that isn’t true. People just don’t seem to be listening.

Today, I am renewing my commitment to let God talk…and listen. Because when God speaks, things happen.

Do NOT!!!

Growing up, going to church and hearing lots and lots of sermons and stories from the bible, I got the idea that God was all about the “Do Nots”.

Do not drink.

Do not cuss.

Do not go to dances.

Do not boogie woogie oogie till the sun comes up.

Do not go to the movies.

Do not even think about sex!

Do NOT have any fun.

There were a lot of “Do Nots” and I agree that a lot of those “Do Nots” are pretty good guidelines. But, to this day, I don’t understand why watching a movie in a theater was a “Do Not” but watching it at home in the living room was a “Why Not?”.

We have a pretty good legacy for the “Do Nots”.

Leviticus 19:26 “Do not eat meat that has not been drained of its blood.
“Do not practice fortune-telling or witchcraft.
27 “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.
28 “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.
29 “Do not defile your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will be filled with prostitution and wickedness.
30 “Keep my Sabbath days of rest, and show reverence toward my sanctuary. I am the Lord.
31 “Do not defile yourselves by turning to mediums or to those who consult the spirits of the dead. I am the Lord your God.

Good old Leviticus. That’s some quality bible-reading right there.

It seems everyone has a list of “Do Nots” that they can’t live up to. I’m sorry, but if you try to tell me that you are living proof that living legalistically is practical and possible, you are either in denial or full of something that is on my do not say list.

Here is the thing, no matter how well I obey the list of “Do Nots”, I can still be a total jerk and far from God.

It this whole big list of “Do Nots” was the answer to man’s problems, there would have been no need for Christ.

In fact, the list of “Do Nots” for Israel got so long and complicated, it became impossible to do anything but seek forgiveness for failing the list of “Do Nots”.

Remember when football only had a few rules? Anyone could sit down and know what was legal and what was a penalty. Well, as people learn to bend those rules and use them to their advantage, more rules have to be made to clarify and strengthen the old rules.

I feel really sorry for someone sitting down and trying to understand what a football game is now. I’ve watched it my whole life and I no longer even know what a catch means. Touchdowns are kind of vague and a tackle is getting hard to understand.

That is what living under the law became. The list of “Do Nots” got so complex and confusing, a guy needed to consult a lawyer to see if he was allowed to bend down and pick up a nickel from the yard on the Sabbath.

I had to really reduce my “Do Not” list down to about ten and there are only a couple that I really have a tough time with.

There are a lot of things that I should be doing. I can use a list of “Do Nots” to justify not doing them.

See that one up above in verse thirty? I can keep the Sabbath as a day of rest and use that as an excuse to not do anything God tells me I should be doing, like loving my enemies, praying for them, loving my neighbor.

Nope, not doing those things today. It’s my day of rest. Pass the remote. I have to yell at the TV while I try to argue with people that can’t hear me about the call they made in the football game pertaining to a rule I don’t understand.

The law pointed out sin. People don’t respond well unless we have proof. Adam and Eve didn’t believe God was enough. Israel proved time and time again they didn’t think God was enough.

God kept pointing to heaven and they kept pointing to themselves.

Mike Ridenour has done the same thing over and over again.

I’ve tried to prove that I am Godly by adhering to my list of “Do Nots” only to find that even the simplest list is too much for me to handle.

Now, there is Christ. He is not the referee waiting to throw a flag and penalize me for breaking the rules.

He is the one that made all those rules wash away under a personal relationship with the him by covering my sins under the blood, raising beauty from ashes and securing a place for me in a glorious future.

He didn’t come here and lower the bar. The principles behind all those rules are still there. Truth is still truth.

But my life is now based upon who I am becoming and not what I am striving to not do. If I seek to do what God tell me to do, the things I should not do become easier to manage.

God is enough. There is no list of things I can do or not do that makes him more or less God.

I Know My Redeemer Lives

There are some things this morning that I would really like to see happen. I can’t really go into that with you all because, even though I am transparent and willing to let you in on my private thoughts, I cannot let you in on the private thoughts, fears and struggles that others are going through.

Rest assured, if you confide in me, I will not tell even the most trusted souls I know. A man’s secrets and privacy are his own to tear down or expose as he chooses.

But, there are some things I would love to see resolved. In fact, I have a pretty good idea HOW I would like to see them turn out. Add to that, I believe I have a handle on WHEN they should happen.

It all seems so black and white to me and I’m quite certain God would have it no other way.

But, I have been around this planet living among other humans for a long time now and I have seen that God works in mysterious ways.

I try not to say stuff like that. That phrase seems to have been used to death. But, it seems like most people don’t believe it, including me.

I tend to think logically or emotionally. Logic gets me the most likely scenario and emotion gets me what I want.

Logic often tells me that two wrongs don’t make a right and emotion often tells me that two wrongs is one wrong shy of revenge.

God tends to do things without logic. Since he can see the beginning and the end, he often defies logic to teach me something.

God does things without letting feelings ruin them. I often get out of bed in the morning not really feeling like I can get up and get in the shower. Yet God, somehow keeps me breathing and allows me to get to the hot, wonderful warmth of the water streaming down upon me without stubbing my toe or walking into a wall (most of the time).

God never loses sight of my destination and every move I make is a step toward it and he makes the way for me even it I think he is leading me sideways or even backwards.

I am always losing sight of the real goal here.

The real point of life isn’t making it to retirement or getting a lot of money in the bank or even becoming a big shot at my church.

The real point of life is for me to learn to love others.

I forget that going through my days working, striving and struggling.for things that don’t help me reach that goal in the least.

Job 19:25 “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,and he will stand upon the earth at last.26 And after my body has decayed,yet in my body I will see God!.27 I will see him for myself.Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.I am overwhelmed at the thought!”

I’ve never liked the story of Job. I always thought that it was a kind of lousy deal that Satan connived God into allowing all this bad stuff to happen to the one good guy in the neighborhood.

But Satan has never manipulated God.

See, I am pretty sure that just like me and every other human that has set foot on Earth, God could see where Job was going.

Besides that, God could, at the same time, see where WE are going. I think we like to say God is all-knowing, ever-present and all that ginormous stuff but we seldom contemplate the huge advantage that gives him when it comes to his plan for our lives.

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Yep. Even though Satan thought Job was perfect in God’s eyes, Job needed something.

In that verse above, things were NOT going so well for poor old Job. Even his friends were dogging him about how God was treating him.

He knew his redeemer lived even though things were falling apart.

To this day, I don’t know the reasons why God put Job through everything he faced. Maybe it was just so I could read these words.

I know my redeemer lives.

This message was long before Christ came and rose from the dead. Yet, today they mean more than they did when Job uttered them.

Even though things aren’t progressing fast enough for me in a clear enough direction for me, the one who directs the entire thing lives.

My salvation lives, my hope lives, my future lives and no matter what happens today or tomorrow will change any of that. Yesterday I woke up with God’s eternal life in my future and it is still there today. Better yet, it will be there in all my tomorrows.

I will one day see God. I will see him for myself! This struggle that I stare into the eyes of will be dead and gone, covered in amazing grace and resolved by the almighty God of the ages.

I hate to admit it that there are some things I may not see turn to peace until I leave this old body. Yet, even though this life has a beginning and an end, I do not.

I know my redeemer lives and because he lives, I can face tomorrow. Because he lives all fear is gone. Because I know, he holds the future and life is worth the living just because he lives.

Oh yeah, most of that last paragraph just kind of happened. I was transported back into time to a hot summer night in a small church with no air-conditioning, my mom playing the piano and my dad standing behind the pulpit singing.

The words of a song that has a simple message that points me beyond today and what I want and when I want it to what God has in store for me that is, as of this moment, invisible.

I believe that no matter how lousy this day gets, I can pull up this truth in the middle of it, “I know my redeemer lives.”

Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought.

Manipulation and Deceit (Someone’s Gonna Get an Eye Poked Out)

When I get caught up in the cycle of manipulation, it seems inevitable that someone is going to get hurt. In fact, often everyone involved and some not involved casualties of the war of imposing my will upon others.

I get Bob to do something that hurts Bill and Bill takes it out on Ralph and before long, it is all just a big mess and eventually it comes back to me and bites me right where I sit down.

We see it in the story of Samson, the Philistine leaders bribe Delilah and get her to betray Samson for money and Samson spills the beans to get Delilah to shut up.

It seems like the end.

Samson is taken captive and his eyes are gouged out.

Judges 16:21 So the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes. They took him to Gaza, where he was bound with bronze chains and forced to grind grain in the prison.
22 But before long, his hair began to grow back.

But amidst all the deceit and scheming a little detail got overlooked. Samson’s hair starting growing back.

I’m not sure why God chose hair to be a symbol of Sam’s strength here. But I can clearly see that this story truly shows me what selfishness can do to relationships.

When a situation is being manipulated, the whole truth is the enemy. It has to be warped by lies and deviant “facts” that convince someone else that truth isn’t quite what they thought it was.

The manipulator usually forgets the details of this lie and truth cocktail and something falls through the cracks.

That’s the thing about truth, it stays the same. It isn’t fluid and ever-changing like half-truths and outright lies.

So they forgot to get Sam’s wig trimmed.

But, they didn’t forget about Sam!

Judges 16:25 Half drunk by now, the people demanded, “Bring out Samson so he can amuse us!” So he was brought from the prison to amuse them, and they had him stand between the pillars supporting the roof.

So they decided to trot the once-mighty warrior and let him stumble to the middle of their temple so they could all have a few laughs and pat each other on the back for the way they had made this situation turn out!

It’s party time!

Judges 16:29 Then Samson put his hands on the two center pillars that held up the temple. Pushing against them with both hands, 30 he prayed, “Let me die with the Philistines.” And the temple crashed down on the Philistine rulers and all the people. So he killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime.

Sam was feeling pretty hopeless. He probably felt pretty foolish. I’m sure he felt pretty angry. He felt like he had nothing left to lose.

Then in the middle of the big party with all the victorious captors of the greatest fighter of all time, it all fell apart.

The temple came crashing down. Huge stones toppled and landed on the people inside. The laughter turned to terror. The grand scheme had turned into a disastrous catastrophe.

No one was unscathed. No one was untouched.

There is no happy ending to this story. Samson was crushed and killed. The Philistine leaders that paid for his betrayal were killed.

That’s how it goes with scheming and manipulation. It all looks great until it isn’t.

I can honestly say, not one single time in my long history of manipulation and self-serving use of others has things turned out well. There has always been damage, some of it still exists to this day. There are ruins that will never be rebuilt, hearts that will never mend and hurt that will never heal.

Oh, I’ve tried making amends but when it comes to getting someone over the damage I’ve done to them, there isn’t much I can do. I have to accept the fact that I have been the one that brought Samson into the temple to push it down all around me.

I have been the one who betrayed the one that loved me.

I have been the one that was foolish and gave so much away just so I could experience a few moments of what I thought was peace.

But, I am not crushed. I have not yet died and been buried by my actions. There is what is left of today to make a new start. There is a new day tomorrow to treat others the way God would desire me to.

I can be true and honest and accept the things I cannot change. I can live my life inside the bounds of honesty and integrity.

A Whole Bunch of Nothing

Do you ever wish you could just make that one person that stands between you and happiness change their mind and their will to match what you believe holds the key to making the world a better place?

I have, in the past, been a great proponent of maneuvering, talking, shouting, screaming and a whole bunch of other words ending in “ing” that represent some action on my part to manipulate te actions of others.

I will confess, I have been a master manipulator.

Now, nothing makes my blood boil more than seeing someone doing everything they can do to cause someone else to do what they know they shouldn’t do.

It happens every time I turn on the television. Just yesterday, I felt like a total jerk for a second there because I didn’t sit in the woods and pat myself on the back for driving a Lincoln Something-or-other.

After all, if Matthew McTell-me-what-I-need does it, shouldn’t I?

I read a “news” article last night that turned out to actually be propaganda for a political viewpoint that had maybe one fact buried inside all those opinions and hate. There’s no need to point out the offender or political party. As soon as something takes on the word “political” it becomes corrupt in some way and is used to sway me to one extreme or the other.

It is exhausting to just get through the day knowing what is right and what is wrong these days because someone out there, no matter what it is, is saying that what I think is right is wrong and what I think is wrong is right.

I read something yesterday that actually called me and anyone that agrees with me a bunch of pretty nasty things because I think girls should be able to compete against girls in sports. They said I was all these horrible things because I am “trans-phobic”.

I thought I was just fair. But these days, fairness is not really about fairness, it is about manipulating people to push your agenda.

I’m not going to chase nuts down the rabbit holes this morning because there are far too many and I don’t have time for that.

What I do have time for is some thoughts about manipulating other people.

Manipulation of others is wrong. Whether you are a preacher standing in the pulpit trying to save souls or a an activist out there trying to shame others into shutting up and letting you get your own way, it is wrong.

Manipulation destroys man’s trust in each other.

Even when it seems to work out beautifully, it fails.

I’m sorry, but if you wake up in the morning plotting to manipulate other people, welcome to the school of little Hitler.

I know about this stuff. I let it take over my life for a long time and, in the end, I did all that manipulating and scheming to get NOTHING, just like the guy with the funny little mustache and bad haircut over in Germany did.

Judges 16:4 Some time later Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek. 5 The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “Entice Samson to tell you what makes him so strong and how he can be overpowered and tied up securely. Then each of us will give you 1,100 pieces of silver.”

Maybe you have heard this story. Big strong Samson, the mighty invincible warrior for Israel fall for a woman. It isn’t his first rodeo. He may not have fell on the battlefield but he was a sucker for falling into the bedroom.

Well, some hotshots for the Philistines wanted Samson out of the way. So, they found something Delilah wanting that Samson wasn’t giving her. They offered money, lots of money.

She jumped on that offer like Tom pounced on Jerry.

Judges 16:15 Then Delilah pouted, “How can you tell me, ‘I love you,’ when you don’t share your secrets with me? You’ve made fun of me three times now, and you still haven’t told me what makes you so strong!” 16 She tormented him with her nagging day after day until he was sick to death of it.

So, Samson, who should have figured out something bad was up (read the story between these two sections of scripture…geez….dense!), told the secret he was supposed to keep quiet.

But Delilah was manipulating Samson to prove his love by telling his secret and Samson was manipulating Delilah to get her to just shut up.

Manipulation often turns into a war of manipulation with two parties launching volleys of deceit and false intentions to win the big prize of NOTHING!

I’ll go into the end of the story tomorrow.

But, for today, maybe we should stop right here and see an answer to one of life’s big questions.

Why doesn’t God just make us do right?

I think it is because he knows that gets the world nothing. People are these weird creatures that have to find their own way to right. They have to find God the way they have to find him.

Out of all the people in this great big world, not a single one has all the right answers. That’s why manipulation doesn’t work. It is an addictive drug that even if it helps us heal one time, it causes us to do severe damage most of the time.

That’s why when I write, I don’t expect to sway you to my point of view. I only hope to make you think. Perhaps, you will find yourself aiming more directly at truth after reading these messages. Perhaps not.

But, for now, I’ll just let go and let God. I hope to see you tomorrow.