Faith – Heritage and Legacy

In the picture below, are Bibles and a worship book. The worship book (bottom) belonged to my great grandmother and dates back to 1873. Of the four Bibles, the top one belonged 20150720_213816-2to my grandfather, the ¬†next two to my father, and the fourth one down was mine. Naturally, there are stories that go with each of these Bibles, but the important point for this article is that they are symbols of the past, present and future. You see, the Bibles and the worship book were carried by men and women who were people of faith. The Bible that is the second from the bottom was given to me by my parents as a Christmas present when I was 12 (ok, 1958 so you don’t have to do the math). This Bible represents one of the ways that my parents delivered to me a heritage of faith. They put me in a position to make my faith my own by giving me a resource for use in church, yes, but their intent was that I would study God’s word for myself. As you can see by the worn cover, I took them up on the challenge to learn to apply God’s word to my own life. It was with this Bible that I developed my views on the church’s position on serving in the military during the season that I was being drafted for military service. It was with this Bible that I learned the intent of baptism and why I should be baptized. It was with this Bible that I engaged in numerous Bible drills, a competition to see who could find a particular passage first. I actually got pretty good at it because I knew my Bible and where the different books would be just by looking at the closed book. Most importantly, this Bible served me well as I built a platform for my faith and theology, those thoughts of God that determined how I would view life on this earth.

So what is the title all about? The title, “Faith – Heritage and Legacy” means that we learn about faith from our parents and grandparents. We have a choice whether to adopt their faith or become convinced of our own faith. But here is the key, (1) we all have a view of God (faith) whether it is right or wrong, and (2) we will all leave traces of our faith with family, friends, and others in our sphere of influence. Thus, we will all have a legacy which we will leave behind. I can hear some saying now, that their legacy will be completely neutral permitting others to conclude truth for themselves. Any of us who interact with other people (human beings) leave an imprint, a fingerprint that is uniquely ours. After each interaction, people decide (a) whether they like us or not, (b) whether they agree with us or not, (c) whether they care to see us again, or not, (d) and the list goes on and on.

The human mind is a fascinating thing and is able to make value judgements while interacting with another person. We all do it without even trying to be judgmental. We get down on people who are judgmental. We like people who make us laugh. We tend to like people who see society and matters of faith very much as we see them. Whether we want to admit it or not, we will leave an impression, a legacy, that encourages people to see things as we saw them or they may be so disenchanted by us that they will avoid adopting any similarities to us. Either way, it is a legacy. It should come as no surprise to you that my view of God (faith) played a significant role in my life, my work, and my interactions with family, friends, and business associates. I pray that my life has had a positive influence that invited others to examine their relationship with their Creator.

The book of Proverbs is filled with exhortations to a son to heed the instruction of his father and mother. Chapter 1:8 says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” This theme is repeated over and over again. The Ten Commandments tell us to honor our father and mother so that our days may be long in the land that God is giving to us. Paul says to Timothy (2 Tim 1:5) I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” The role of the parent and grandparent in encouraging the next generations in the faith is clear. So many of us have heard the testimony of Rachel Scott who was killed in the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. Still today, after being killed at age 17, her testimony is being told.

My friend, Crawford Loritts, pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, GA, said in his book “Unshaken,” “Faith is both our heritage and our legacy.” We may have received a strong faith passed down from our parents, or we may have received a confusing set of theologically conflicting concepts. In the scriptures, Hebrews 11 gives us a list of people and how they expressed their faith. The scriptures are a resource to help you define and declare a true faith in God. The major point, however, is that we are and will be held responsible for that faith which we pass along to those who follow us. Think about how you build your reputation. Think about how you are known.

A distant relative recently passed and someone close attended the man’s funeral. As the event was being described to me today the comment was made that much was made about the man’s work accomplishments and his hobbies. While that is not bad, the next words of the story were troubling. They said, this was so different from this man’s dad’s funeral where his dad was described as a man who loved God and recollections were made of that man’s walk with the Lord. As for the man who was just buried, there was passing mention that he had placed his faith in Jesus Christ. The contrast between the two was striking. How will you be remembered? About what things were you most passionate?

Significant to My Faith Journey

This morning I posted three Bible verses written in my mother’s Mom's Verseshandwriting. The three verses were Luke 6:31, James 5:16 and 1 Corinthians 6:20. Obviously, the fact that these are in Mom’s handwriting brings back a lot of memories. Memories of her notes all around the house. I always admired the artistry of her handwriting. I thought is was delicately feminine and elegant at the same time. But beyond all that, the fact that she chose not to memorize from her Bible, and rather to sear these words in her mind by writing them first and then committing them to memory. This was a habit she continued until the day she went into the hospital where she transitioned into heaven two weeks later. As the years wore on, she took to memorizing chapters and then entire books of the Bible. She hid God’s word in her heart, she meditated on God’s wisdom day and night. When one of us would be feeling down, or acting up, she could draw from memory a verse that aptly applied to the situation on our minds or that would have the effect of easing the tension in our home.

She encouraged us to memorize as well. In our small town in Manitoba, there was someone who was impassioned about children’s need to learn the scriptures. So he made an offer to anyone who wanted to go to summer camp. For anyone who would memorize 100 verses, he would pay their camp fees. This prompted my parents to encourage me to take up the challenge, which I did! I remember to this day, saying the last 5 verses to the person in charge, as we were literally loading the kids onto the truck. I had made it! I had memorized 100 verses and earned a free week at camp! I jumped onto that truck feeling as high as the sky! Many, if not most, of those verses still stick with me and I can recall them when I hear the reference or am able to finish them when I hear the pastor begin to cite a verse. Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11.

All this memorization was done in the King James version in those days, so quite frequently when I think of a verse that applies in a current situation, but can’t remember the reference (address), I’ll have to look in the King James version of my electronic Bible to find it. What a boon to my faith and to my grounding in the faith. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Jeremiah 17:9 is one of those passages that has regularly provided a word of caution in assessing my own motives and desires.

A quick word about the truck mentioned above. In those days we didn’t have the luxury of things such as school buses. While this will horrify moms and dads today, we would get probably 30 kids up on the back of an open box 5-ton truck, and ride the 93 miles to the camp in a standing position. Great times were had in those trucks and we thought nothing of the safety aspects. This was the transportation available to go to camp! Another truck followed behind with our bags containing a couple of changes of clothes and swim suits for the week.

The teachings we had at those camps were often times evangelistic, but also instructional for spiritual growth most often. It was in the woods of that camp where I would go to reflect and think about what God wanted with me. I wasn’t worried about my friends, but I sensed from those early days that God had His hand on me. All part of the journey. God wants to have His hand on you as well, if you’ll invite Him to lead you in the way that you should go.

Just a brief reflection in the rear view mirror …

The Path of Faith is Smooth Sailing (Not!)

Despite what some people may want you to believe, the path of faith doesn’t always come with a smooth ride. You may hear things like “Ever since I gave my life to Jesus, life has been wonderful!” Folks, the Bible tells us that we are aliens and strangers in this world (1 Peter 2:11). The ESV calls us sojourners and exiles. That same passage tells us we live in an evil world that wages war against our souls. In addition to the spiritual warfare that is going on in this world these days that includes things like abortions, men and women pursuing unnatural relations with one another, a society in which over half the country is on the government dole, and so on, we have the daily stuff of life. The need to work to provide for one’s family, the beautiful thing that is called marriage where two distinct individuals are to become one flesh, raising children in the way they should go and all that is entailed in these endeavors is enough to make some days feel pretty daunting.

I’m reminded of the days early on in our marriage when the manufacturing world seemed to have a limited future. After praying together about what God might have for us, we were led to an opportunity at IBM. Interestingly, the IBM opportunity called for a 25% cut in pay. This caused us to pray more earnestly about what God wanted us to do as we had a 2 year old daughter, a new home and a new car. Yet, in faith, we felt God was leading to this new job. I was attending the University of Omaha at the time which placed additional demands on my time available with the family. But we were convinced in our hearts and minds that God had led us to the IBM opportunity and that He would provide. Little did we know that His provision and the path ahead would include taking on two additional jobs and dropping out of college to make the financial pieces fit and family life work.

You know, Abraham’s journey from the land of Haran and his father’s people to another land he didn’t know, was based on a promise from God. Rom 4:20ff says “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” In the same way, we were convinced that God had taken us to IBM. This next bit will give you pause about my maturity, experience, and wisdom in those days. To be perfectly honest with you, I did not know that IBM made office equipment. That was the division where I had my first jobs in IBM. God literally led me to a place in which I had no idea what God would do with me there. I only knew that He had led us to this place. Even, after the first 90 days when my manager told me I would never amount to anything at IBM, I knew God had brought us there and would see us through. I had no idea what this was going to look like. I only knew what faith in God had brought about in our lives and I knew that He was faithful! When the Bible says He uses the simple things of this world, I was and still am a living example of that truth!

But God, brought us through those days and blessed us. But God put people into my path and took a few out as well, to accomplish His work in and through my life. My story never ceases to amaze me. When we sing the song “Amazing Grace” my mind begins to wander over the years to see his grace at work in my life and I am left in tears of gratitude, crushing humility, and just falling at His feet in adoration for the great things He has done. Hallelujah!

In the walk of faith, there are many challenges, both from inside and outside the faith. As Paul says in Romans 14:5, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Everything we do should be to honor the Lord. Being fully convinced means that we have been Bereans (Acts 10) looking into the word of God to see what He says to us. Only by prayer and searching God’s word can we walk confidently in faith. When we are challenged, we go back to God’s word as our consistent source of strength and truth. Then we can put on the full armor of God and are prepared to do battle with a world that rages against the truths of God.

As we navigate this world in which we are aliens and strangers, Philippians says, “with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Does the path guarantee smooth sailing? No, because the world is filled with trouble and we, ourselves, are not sin free. But if we lean in to God and throw our cares on Him, by making our requests known to Him, He will give us peace in the midst of the storm.

Growing and Getting the Idea

In the previous post, I shared about my beginnings on the journey of faith. Based on my understanding of scripture, there is no doubt that in spite of my herky-jerky beginnings (think albatross, think gooney bird) that I was, in fact, completely and totally covered by the blood of Christ and my sins, past and future, were washed away. I had the behavior patterns of a young boy growing into his teen years with all that entails. But as I grew older, I was also growing in the knowledge of God. When I was 16, I attended a series of meetings (known in those days as Deeper Life evangelistic meetings) in Meade, Kansas. It was during those meetings that I was gripped with the need to make my faith my own. To own my faith meant to me that I needed to rely less on what my parents thought and more on what God would teach me through His word, the Bible.

A few years later, I would undergo a significant test. Part of being Mennonite, also meant that I was taught that war and the killing that was part of war was not for Christians. There came the time after registering with the Selective Service System (SSS) as a conscientious objector (one who was willing to serve, but in non-military capacities) that I felt I needed to come to my own conclusions in this matter. I studied and prayed and studied some more and prayed some more. After searching the scriptures that were held by the church to lead one to the conscientious objector conclusion, and various other passages that also provided insight and instruction in my search, I came to a conclusion that was different from the view held by my church and my parents and would have to be communicated to my father. While it was a dramatic setting that I’ll share more about later, I was proud of my father as he listened to my heartfelt confession of the soul. He knew that I had been searching the scriptures out for quite some time and that this was not from a rebellious heart, nor was it an arbitrary decision. Effectively, the result of my decision would cause me to be drafted (twice) for the Vietnam war so this was not a decision without consequence.

From my childhood days I had heard the stories of Solomon and how he gained his wisdom. What grabbed my heart was that God was pleased with this request. So, I too, because this pleased God, began praying for wisdom. At the same time, my mother had been praying Colossians 1:9-12 over me nearly every day. Among the many aspects of that prayer, a couple of parts were that I would grow in the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and knowledge and that I would grow in the knowledge of God. Without being prideful, I believe that God has honored those prayers. He has put me into situations for leading churches in seasons when He knew I needed a growth spurt, when I needed to learn what it was like to depend on Him. At times my learning was by observing how men of God walked by faith and at other times, I was in situations where I literally made sure the passenger seat in the car was empty so that He could be there with me and we would talk about things that were heavy on my heart.

I’ve found it interesting how He has insisted on using this ragamuffin guy with all his imperfections (just ask my wife) to carry the good news and to be a voice both inside the church and outside. I’m reminded of Samson and Peter as I think about my journey. I also think of David too. Now that I’m approaching my 69th birthday (in two weeks) I wish I could say that I’d figured out the air pockets and downdrafts in this walk of faith. But God is my source and my strength. He gives me a word for this person and that person who know me and my imperfections. Yet His word is true and when He gives us a word, it will strike the chord that God wants to be struck in another person’s heart and mind. Paul’s second letter to Timothy chapter 4 comes to mind where he says, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season, correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine, instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Paul goes on from there to tell how men will turn aside to myths and false teachings.

Our task is to be like the Bereans (Acts 10) who tested everything they heard against the scriptures. Even the things that Paul taught them were tested. They made their faith their own and they learned to grow in the knowledge of God as a result.

God grant us steadfast hearts that pine for You and You alone!

Starting the Journey of Faith

In my last post I commented that some of us grow up in a Christ-centered home and others grow up in homes that are almost the antithesis of that Christ-centered home. Those who actually go to the point of professing belief in the salvation that comes from Christ alone, however, set out on the same journey of faith. For some the embarkation on that journey is indiscernible and for others the transition is a marked transformation as the Holy Spirit begins to shape our minds to be more Christ-like. The degree of change seemingly has little to do with our upbringing. It has more to do with behavioral modification brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.

The interesting piece of this is that while changes may be less or more noticeable by others, the real change and the change that matters is what God sees in the heart. Our behavior and speech patterns are driven by the heart. So to some degree, the heart change is seen by others, but we must acknowledge that some of us have inherited mountains of pain, of degradation, and violation. It’s what we call baggage. Just like the picture above, we bring that baggage into our relationship with Jesus. It has often been said that our relationships with our earthly fathers will influence how we are able to relate to our Heavenly Father. It is also true that troubled homes, bad marriages, dysfunctional churches and all the rest weigh heavily in our journey of faith.

These things are all part of our complex personalities and broken lives that we bring to Jesus when we come to faith. He understands all that. He knows where you’ve been. He can redeem the most desperate sinner who comes to Him in simple faith. I’m reminded of Rahab, the prostitute, who let the Israelite spies down in a basket from the wall of Jericho. God not only spared her, but gave her a place in the lineage (genealogy) of Christ. She was the mother of Boaz who married Ruth! Talk about redemption! That simple act of putting herself at risk to save the spies who came from God’s people, showed us that her heart was faithful to Jehovah God. He knew her heart and not only spared her miraculously when He brought down the wall of Jericho, but gave her an honored place in the line from which Christ would be born.

So how does it look when one embarks on this journey? For me, it was praying to receive Christ at my mother’s bedside at the age of 7, and then not living a perfect life from that point on. Rather, because I grew up in a legalistic setting, it was a life filled with rules and judging people who played by the rules and those who did not. In retrospect, I became really good at judging people by their merits or sins for standards that were not consistently applied to myself.

There was a saying among the young girls in our church circles that said, “I don’t smoke, I don’t chew, and I don’t go with¬† boys that do.” Interestingly, in the middle of all this judging and my private life, God had my heart. I always pined for God. I wanted to be like David, a man after God’s own heart. In my private moments, While I wanted to live by the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, I didn’t play so well at the stuff like judging and trying to get away with things, for example, smoking. Smoking wasn’t the real issue. The real issue that I had to resolve was this deep seated rebellious heart. The smoking was only a symptom of the rebellious heart. While in many ways I sought God’s counsel on matters of life’s decisions, I was a classic example of a young man committed to being in control and no rules or authority was going to tell me otherwise. To some degree, I was blind to that control or authority issue. Today, my wife calls it a stubborn streak. As has been passed down by the women in our family, they say that I inherited that from my dad. Dad is with Jesus now but he probably would have denied having that stubborn streak, just like me!

Suffice it to say that the word picture I would use is that of an albatross learning to fly or then learning to land. The beginning of my faith walk bore a striking resemblance to these feeble attempts. Check this out. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVmoYVTZTXU)

I hope this doesn’t discourage you from attempting to fly. One parting thought for this leg of the journey. God loved you before your were conceived, at which time, He formed you in your mother’s womb. He knew what would happen with each of your days before one of them came to be. He knew how each day would effect you and guess what? He has a plan for you as a person that will cause you to flourish to be a light and a help to others trying to find their wings. But you must take the step of faith, like Abraham had to take the first step to start the journey. The writer of Hebrews tells us that, “without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (11:6)

Until next time …

Standing Amazed

The old hymn says, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene…” That pretty much describes me right now. I am standing amazed at how God is working in the lives of many of my friends. While I’ve operated from an understanding that no one comes to the Father except that the Father draws them, I’ve been amazed to see that drawing at work. I’ve been praying for some of the people in my life and hoping I stay out of God’s way so that He can do His work of drawing. Guess what? He’s doing it!

Why are we amazed when God does what He says He will do? I was reading again this morning in John 6:44 and went from there to Ephesians, 1st and 2nd chapters and then to Romans chapter 8 where Paul talks about how God foreknew those who would believe in Him. We all have different journeys to arrive in the place of faith. I shared a post from Billy Graham a few days ago about faith being the thing that pleases God the most. Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness. Follow Hebrews chapter 11, often referred to as the faith’s hall of fame.

Faith is something that we all need to wrestle with. Do we believe God? Do we believe that God will keep His word and carry out His promises? One man’s journey begins in a Christian home and his transition to faith is barely discernible. Another grows up in a world of abuse and anger, yet, when the God of eternity touches him and draws him to faith, his life is dramatically changed. But what is that journey? I want to pursue that topic in the next few blogs.

Christ died for the sins of the whole world so that whoever believes in Him will not perish (in hell) but have eternal life. It is by grace that we have been saved, through faith, and that faith not attained under our own strength, it is a gift from God Himself. Not accomplished by works so that none of us can boast in how we found our way to faith in Christ.

Until next time, try standing amazed at how He is working in this world in the lives of men!

What’s Papa Thinking?

For some time now, I’ve been living in a world that (a) twists the truth to suit their own fancies, or (b) refuses to even acknowledge that we can know truth. Up until now, I’ve been writing the Ponderosa Perspectives blog which is an attempt to share a few thoughts from my perspective. The audience for that blog is broad and includes followers of Christ and those who aren’t so wild about the person of Jesus Christ. That blog will continue to serve a purpose and will continue to be populated and grow.

What’s Papa Thinking is intended to be a reflection of what the triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is doing in my heart through His word as I understand the scriptures. Paul says in Romans 14:5 that “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” The things you’ll see written here are topics that come to mind through daily life that will be shared in light of those things of which I am convinced the scriptures have to say on the particular topic.

So I am very comfortable that this blog may not have a broad following, but it will be a collection of those things that matter most to me which, then, are those thoughts that I want to leave behind for my children, grandchildren and their children after them.

A pastor that I follow on Instagram, Ray Ortlund, today quoted Horatius Bonar, a Scottish pastor of the 19th century, in this way, “Man is now thinking out a Bible for himself; framing a religion in harmony with the development of liberal thought; constructing a worship on the principles of taste and culture; shaping a god to suit the expanding aspirations of the age. The extent of the mischief no one can calculate. A soul without faith, a church without faith, a nation without faith, a world without faith – what is to be their future? What is their present? When faith goes, all good things go. When unbelief comes in, all evil things follow.”

If this was true in the 19th century, it has greater applicability today. I do not intend for this blog to be fear mongering or seeing demons behind every world event. The purpose of this blog is to serve as a reminder for my family to be called back to the truth of scripture as they work diligently to be the salt and light of the gospel in the world around them. The truth of scripture is the story of God’s design and love for man and how man should first of all love God in response and love his neighbor as much as he loves himself. If we get these things right, the world will know that we are not of this world. We are children of the most high God.

One final thought in this opening entry … well two … first, I may not say everything correctly and so am open to correction and reproof that is based on scripture. Secondly, I acknowledge that the world will not broadly embrace the truths shared here, but there are also those in the church who will differ. I pray that the tone of what is written demonstrates the words of A. W. Tozer from his “Knowledge of the Holy” where he says, “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.” Blessings and love to you all.

%d bloggers like this: