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The Lion’s Roar

Hi Friends, I know it’s been a while since I have posted here.  I’ve concentrated on daily scripture posts in Facebook for the past few months.  Recently I’ve decided to answer a tug on my heart to go help some friends reopening an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya.  I make that trip later this spring. Over the coming weeks I will post here about the work in Kenya and my trip.  Today, I thought I would share a journal entry I made recently.  It just so happens to be about lions and zebras, which if we are fortunate, we may get to see on the visit to Kenya.

I recently read an article about the behavior of Lions and Zebras that sparked several thoughts of a more spiritual nature.

It seems Lions have a strategy that makes them particularly effective hunters. They are known as the “King of the Jungle”, but when that moniker is used it usually conjures up a picture of a fierce looking Male lion with a huge mane and a loud roar. But the truth is the female lions do the bulk of the work and are more often responsible for bringing home the bacon… or in this case the zebra. When their prey, zebras being a favorite, come into their hunting grounds, the female lions spread out and encircle the zebras at a distance slipping into hiding to wait. When the females have had time to get into position the male lion rouses himself from his usual position of lounging and trots out into the midst of the zebras. The zebras begin to notice the lion and are wary. They know to keep their distance from the danger so they become nervous. Once he is in the midst of the zebras the male lion lets out the loud roar he is famous for and chaos ensues. Zebras sprint in all directions in a mad dash to escape the roaring lion. And some of those zebras run right into the paws and jaws of the waiting female lions.

Now most of us looking at this example can probably identify with the zebras rather than the lions. We want to mind our own business, live well, and just live a safe life. Hopefully none of us are the predator stalking our food. So, let’s use our God-given ability to think and plan a better response than the zebras because there ARE predators out there – some looking like people and others not so visible. Peter says this about our most significant enemy. ‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. ‘ 1 Peter 5:8

When I read this article I immediately thought of this verse. There are three possible responses when we are threatened – flight, fight, or freeze.

The zebras are not equipped to fight the lions, or at least they are at a great disadvantage if they do, so flight is their typical response. As we see from this article, flight is exactly what the lions are counting on. We often respond with random flight ourselves when we feel threatened. Flight is not always wrong, but informed flight is so much better.

Alternately we can freeze. In the case of dealing with the lions, freezing is as bad or worse than haphazard flight. Switching to some real-life situations, many of the victims in terrorist activities are people who freeze and don’t flee or fight. The term “sitting ducks” is a sad but true expression for someone who freezes in the moment of attack.

So, what about the final response – to fight. As in the case of informed flight, if we are to fight it is imperative that we are equipped, prepared, and trained to fight effectively. Like the zebras, fighting isn’t something we go looking for. But unlike the zebras, we are not defenseless. God has given His people access to the necessary weapons to protect themselves from the devil’s attacks. And through attention to the Holy Spirit’s leading we can be trained to fight the good fight when and where it may occur.

The verse above says “the devil prowls like a roaring lion”. Satan is a big imposter. He is the Father of Lies. Illusion, deception, and lies are his trademark. When he speaks he may use a little truth to gain our attention, but what he says is always ultimately a lie. Looking at this verse, it does not say the devil is a lion, but that he seeks to appear like a lion. He roars loudly in an attempt to scare us, to terrify us into rash action, to cause us to run into the waiting snare of sin. But he is not a lion.

There is one though who is known as the Lion of Judah. He is not only the King of the jungle, but He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is our shield, protector, and savior – Jesus. When the lion roars we are to look to the true Lion to know what a real lion looks like. In this case, He looks like love divine. So when the enemy attacks and tries to convince us he is a lion who can and will overpower us, our first response should be to remember and call upon the true lion, Jesus. Do not fear, the Lion of Judah is by your side and lives within all who call upon His name. Greater is He that is within you than he that is in the world.

Background on the Davis’ Mission in Kenya in the next post.  Blessings to you this fine day.

REST

Rest is a practical need and a divine gift.  The pace of life seemingly screams “hurry”, “speed up”, “get ‘er done”, “go, go, GO!”  In such an environment it is not surprising so many suffer the consequences of such a hectic pace – disconnectedness, shallowness in relationships, anxieties, high blood pressure, and a plethora of other maladies related to living life too fast.

Admittedly, I am a busy person who often struggles to slow down.  The fact that I have not posted in several months is an example of this busyness.  Between work, family travel, and essential chores in the limited time when I am home, I find making time to rest and then blog hard to come by.  Yet, the Spirit inside me whispers, “Rest, my son.”  “Come spend time with me in holy quiet.”  When I slow down and obey, what a blessing I receive.

As my first post in almost 3 months, the point is short and simple.  Rest is good for the soul and worth carving out the time to do.  God modeled it in His act of creation when He rested on the 7th day.  He inscribed it into the Law He gave Moses on Mount Sinai.  The Jewish people practice it with religious devotion.  Jesus affirmed the importance of the Sabbath rest, although He made it clear that the Sabbath was created FOR mankind.  It is a divine blessing to be received with thankfulness.

As I think about the divine nature of rest, I realize that slowing down, ceasing strenuous activity, and letting our mind and body recover is the visible manifestation of rest, but it is not the whole or necessarily the most important part.  The divine rest God calls us to is about connecting with Him.  This rest will align body, soul, AND spirit with God and His renewing life.  The rest God desires us to experience is not empty, but rather full of communion with Him.

For me it begins in the early morning quiet.  Inviting Him in to speak to the deepest part of me.  Listening for His still, small voice.  He is there and He is not silent.  It’s just that He seldom shouts.  He desires that we intentionally seek Him and spend time with Him.  My experience is that He blesses me with peace and renewed strength when I quietly read and meditate on His Word.  Often He will nudge my heart to pray for someone during this time.  A blessed morning quiet time is rest that establishes the foundation for the day.

The verse that is running through my mind is a familiar one.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’   Psalm 23:1-6

I pray that wherever you are, today you will experience rest that refreshes your soul and draws you close to Him Who loves you more than you can imagine.

Blessings!

I experienced one of those “ah ha” moments this weekend.  I was speaking with a new friend about God’s goodness and blessings.  We had taken turns sharing how God had, in His grace, provided healing and protection at different points in our life. It is good to take time to remember God’s faithfulness in the past because it is a helpful reminder that when we face a trial of any kind, that God, Who has been faithful before, will be faithful in the future.

My eyes were opened to a new perspective when she shared about praying for a woman for healing on multiple occasions.  The person was very vocal about her need.  She carried her pain and woundedness around constantly asking for prayer and comfort.  My friend had prayed for her and had even gathered a group together to pray for the woman.  After some time of praying though my friend sensed the Holy Spirit tell her that it was time to stop praying.  That the woman being prayed for didn’t really desire to be healed, but rather she wanted the attention and sympathy her illness brought her.

When she said that I suddenly realized what a big truth that is.  ‘When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. ‘  James 4:3  What pleased this woman more than receiving God’s healing was being the center of attention.  She had become comfortable in her condition and was satisfied with the sympathy of others.

The picture that came into my mind was of a person lifting their hands to God in supplication asking for a gift from Him, but their hands were full of tightly clenched “other stuff”.  Even if God offered to give what was requested they would have to release what they currently had to receive the gift from the Lord.  And many are not willing.

Lest you mistakenly think I am condescending in this, please know that the hands I am seeing are my own.  This is not simply a believer versus non-believer issue.  This is true of all gifts and all growth in faith.  As a believer I have grown by steps and stalls.  I can see that some of the stalls have been when I have tightly held onto a thing, a desire, a belief, that the Lord wanted me to lay down.  And the steps have been when in obedient trust I have released and lifted open hands to Him for whatever He has in store.  In some cases it was a blessing pure and simple.  In others it was a blessing disguised as a trial, but a blessing none-the-less.

For the person who does not yet know the Lord, the things they hold onto can cause them to miss out on the greatest gift of all, a relationship with the living Lord.  Holding onto pain from the past, unforgiveness toward someone, lifestyle choices contrary to God’s plan are all abundant life limiters.  The Lord is a good, good Father.  He is perfect in how He parents.  He is neither over-indulgent nor overly stern.  And like any good Father, He enjoys blessing His children.

Today, I encourage you to ask the Lord, “What is it I’m holding onto that I need to release?”  And then listen… and obey.  The second question is then totally appropriate.  “Lord, what do you want me to receive?”  The follow up to this question is a bit more open-ended.  He may answer that long requested prayer… or put a new desire in your heart… or simply bless you with His overwhelming peace.  Regardless, you can know that in releasing what’s in your hand, you make room for God’s “something better” in your life.  And that’s the path to the abundant life He desires each of us to experience.

As Jesus followers we have access to the most powerful force in the universe.  Paul writes about it in his salutation to the church in Ephesus.

‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, ‘   Ephesians 1:18-20

My last post discussed how our emotions can lead us to believe a lie.  There is so much information being disseminated that is not accurate, whether intentionally or simply in error, that it is easy to absorb, believe, and emote based upon untruth.  Once we have believed a lie, especially when it has evoked strong emotion, it becomes easier to believe supporting lies and harder to discern the truth from the lie.

I do not believe it coincidental that the word in my quiet and prayer following that post was power.  Repeatedly yesterday the reality of God’s power was emphasized… beginning with God’s power demonstrated in raising Jesus from the dead, continuing with the power Jesus exhibited in healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, and ministering to the humble and meek.  That power was then compared to our sun which provides our light, warmth, and sufficient energy to sustain life on this big, blue ball we call home even though it is over 93 million miles away.  While the sun in powerful, the One who created it had to be even more powerful to create it and all that is.

Finally, I saw the power of God in the ability to change a mind… to direct us onto the right course… to deliver the opioid-addict and bring them to health and wholeness… to turn a prodigal toward home… to open our eyes to the lies and half-truths we have embraced and to see and seek truth… to bring us ever closer to Him Who is the Lover of our souls.

That same power is continually available to us as Jesus’ followers.  We are encouraged to embrace that truth and to allow Him to guide us into how He wants to make that real in us and through us.  You are saved for a reason – to know Him and to make Him known.  The Holy Spirit living within the believer is the direct connection to God’s power.  In Jesus’ last recorded words before His ascension into heaven He said,  ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ‘ Acts 1:8

I encourage you this morning to lean into Jesus more and more.  Trust in His power which saved you, sustains you, and guides you.  Read the Word and allow the truth of it to saturate your mind and spirit.  As you do so, you will become more aware and dependent upon His wisdom, His grace, and His strength to live the life He has called you to.  You will learn to discern His promptings and respond to them.  I have been fortunate to participate in miracles He has brought about.  My role was 1% of the work which was accomplished simply by being obedient to what I sensed the Holy Spirit wanted me to do.  It was God’s power that did the work – healing in some cases, deliverance in others, salvation at times. In every case God was glorified and people were blessed.

Wherever you are in your faith walk, God has next steps for you which are for your good and His glory.  He will not leave or abandon you, but rather He is right there with you encouraging you to take that next step.  I don’t know exactly what your next step is, but I know God is cheering you on, whispering words of peace, hope, and guidance.  Let today be the day you take that next step in faith.  Let today be the day you take hold of the power Paul said is available.  Let today be the day you experience joy in a new and exhilarating way.  Seize the day my friend by saying yes to Jesus and stepping out in faith.

If you are interested in watching some excellent sermons, our church broadcasts the services on Sunday and they are also saved and accessible free online.  Just go to newspring.cc/sermons.  We are in a series on the Holy Spirit right now which is very balanced and biblically accurate.  Check it out.

With the benediction today, I think I will do a throw-back to the 1970’s and say:

“More power to you!”

Emotions Can Lie

I am not a fan of politics.  In fact I am quite disturbed by the shenanigans taking place in the world of politics these days.  But I realize I must not let what I read and what I hear stir me to such a state that I act purely based upon emotion and the sliver of information that has caused the emotion.  Why?  Because in most cases there is more to the story than initial reporting would lead us to believe.

Working in the industrial environment for over 35 years, with much of that being in roles handling problem-solving and root cause analysis, I’ve learned the importance of gathering data in a prompt and thorough manner.  A benefit in the industrial setting is that the equipment failure information is generally less influenced by personal bias and agendas.  There are a few instances where persons may lie to try and save themselves from perceived negative consequences of their actions, but this is far from the norm.  And it is usually easy to ferret out when the lie does not square with the rest of the evidence.

When I train persons in performing Root Cause Analysis a fundamental principle is to lay aside emotion, bias, and preconceived ideas and let the evidence guide the analysis.  Excellence in evidence collection is essential.  Excellence is not achievable if we perform our data collection with a strong belief in what the end result should be guiding our data collection and analysis.  In an equipment failure investigation, a true failure path exists with real reasons that connect together form the root causes to ultimate failure.  By gathering the evidence without regard to final remedial action steps, we enable ourselves to concentrate solely upon the accuracy of the data.  Once the data is gathered it becomes much simpler to analyze the information and read the story the evidence tells.

I was speaking with a friend last night and he made the statement that he wished there were investigative journalists who were able to dig to uncover the facts without bias.  It is discouragingly rare these days.  We both feel that for the most part bias. or worse, a hidden agenda, either in the investigative process, the analysis, or the communication, dictates the majority of what is reported.  Watching competing news networks gives the impression they are reporting upon two radically different events when at the end of the story we realize they are talking about the same thing.  When a person watches this style of reporting which is often more inflammatory rhetoric than good journalism, it is easy to get emotionally stirred, even when the evidence is thin and the analysis is poorly done.

To their defense, news outlets are in the business of reporting news as soon as it is breaking.  This necessitates early communication even before any real evidence is gathered.  This is one of the reasons law enforcement doesn’t speak freely about on-going investigations – all the data has not been gathered and the analysis hasn’t been performed.  Having been involved in well over 400 failure investigations there have been a number of times (I estimate 10 – 15%) that the initial beliefs about why a failure occurred have been flat wrong.  Additionally, the number of times the initial belief ended up being only a factor is probably about the same 10 – 15%.  Putting this in terms of a criminal court case, if we moved on the initial evidence we would send the wrong person to jail 20 – 30% of the time.

So in news reporting, if we take the first blush of information and the hypothesis we make, we can expect to be wrong at least 20 – 30% of the time.  And this is if they are giving us solid facts from the beginning.  Sadly, this is where news reporting today now gets worse rather than better.  If bias and agenda plays into the data collection, analysis, and reporting, then you can reasonably expect that the majority of the news reporting is inaccurate.  Since I make it a practice to routinely check news from three sources – NBC, CNN, and FOX, I can see this at work.  I have back-checked the record at times and the results are disturbing to say the least.  The number of major stories reported as certainties that have later been debunked is alarmingly high.  (And, yes, certain networks are definitely worse than the other, but they all have moments of getting it wrong in their rush to be first.)  Plus, the lack of correction and admission of error is astounding.  While I wish the term Fake News had died a quick death, it hasn’t.  The reason it hasn’t is because it is true enough times that the moniker finds ample opportunities to stick.

Looping back to the premise of this post, if we are not careful our emotions can be stirred to the point that we believe a lie.  Confirmation bias is a subject I have read about recently and it is one of the reasons I routinely take a look at three different networks to see not just what, but how they are reporting.  I compare what I see from these three and what I read from other sources to try and uncover what’s true.

I realize I have certain beliefs and biases myself.  I am inclined to put more weight on certain points of evidence because of those beliefs.  But even in this, I understand that more evidence is likely to come out so I try not to become emotionally stirred.  I make it my goal to gather ALL the available evidence before coming to a judgement.  Also, it is appropriate to weigh the biases of the person(s) and group providing the information.  Just like in my root cause investigations where I have to determine whether an eye witness might be misrepresenting their testimony to protect themselves from discipline, I weigh the source of the information to determine how credible it might be.  Above all I strive to remember that I can be wrong.  For a fairly confident person who prides themselves on being true, accurate, and honest this is something I strongly want to avoid.  So I try to be cautious in weighing the information and making a decisions.  And guarding my emotions is a crucial element in that process.

Now living in this place that is not always comfortable.  It would be easy to decide on what I have read and heard thus far and simply take a stand.  From that point I could then look to around to see who agrees with me and accept them as my new friends and I could even stoop to pick up rocks to hurl at the folks who believe the opposite… and I would become one more person perpetuating the problems that threaten to tear this nation apart.

But this morning I renew my intention of remaining an observer and searcher for the truth.  I may have an opinion based upon the evidence thus far, but I cannot let it dictate my emotions or even what evidence I hold onto and what evidence I discard.  At some point we will have the body of evidence and then we will see what the verdict is.  Will it be “evidentially sufficient” (J. Warner Wallace author of “Cold Case Christianity”) to make a decision?  I expect so.  Will some still clamor for the opposite opinion?  Definitely.  Will I then be able to let my emotions dictate what I believe and do?  Nope.  You see, I want to remain logical and clear-minded so I can weigh new evidence that comes forth.  I may get emotional and that’s okay.  Perhaps I’ll even experience righteous anger, which is not a bad thing so long as the anger part is properly vented.

As I’ve written this, I have wondered and prayed because this is much different than the majority of my posts.  Yet I have felt compelled to write.  The thought has rumbled around in my head for awhile, but only last night did the compulsion to blog it come about.  As I paused in writing a few moments ago to pray, Jesus words came through loud and clear.

‘To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. ‘ John 8:31-32
https://www.bible.com/bible/111/JHN.8.31-32

What Jesus said to the Jews who were following Him then, He says to us today.  If we hold on tightly to Jesus and His teaching we will know Him Who is Truth incarnate.  If we are His, then He has placed the Holy Spirit within us.  If we listen to the Holy Spirit we will be able to discern truth from error.  We will love and be lifted when we hear truth.  And we will be able to clearly see lies for what they are.  It greatly simplifies life.  With a part of my mind I will listen, observe, and consider the inputs coming in.  With my spirit I am listening, observing, and considering where the Holy Spirit is leading.  While I still fail to fully tune in at times, when I do, He is always, always there to lead and help me.  I try not to let my emotions get riled because of the news (or many other igniters of passion), but I try to hear and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  He is the Spirit of Truth.  And in Truth we can trust.

More ramble than usual, but something I had to get off my chest.  I hope this gives you points to ponder and pray about.

Have a blessed day my friend and be a blessing!

Kauai

I wanted to finish posting pics from our anniversary get-away.  It was a fun way to celebrate 33 years of being married to a wonderful woman who is simply a beautiful person through and through.  Heading to a tropical paradise just as the grip of winter seems to finally be slipping seemed like a good idea and the following pics show off the beautiful island of Kauai where we visited for 2 days at the end of our vacation.

I experienced a downside to this though.  My work travels the next week took me to western New York where the temperature never got above 40 F and it snowed almost every day.  My blood had gotten used to the tropics so I think my suffering (and whining and complaining) were justified and I guess maybe a little amplified.  And my wonderful wife that enjoyed our get-away so much… yeah, all she could do was laugh when I would talk to her on the phone from NY.

Did I ever mention that 34 years ago I prayed for humility right before I met my wife….

Enjoy the pics.