Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ocean Depths Praise the Lord by Craig Hill

Ocean Depths Praise the Lord

Craig Hill

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths . . . Psalms 148: 7

When my home office, my laptop, my phone calls, my work get too much for me, one of my favorite things to do is to go see nature. You know, God’s creations. God’s creations are amazing.

I like to go canoeing on the White River down from 146th Street in Carmel. The river is always beautiful, barely touching civilization for the first 2 or 3 miles, which is a long canoe ride.

Putting in under the bridge at 5am on a cold winter day to go duck hunting with my Son Zach, Daughter Rachel, my Nephew Jacob, or my friend Fred Carter is something. You get all your gear in the canoe, tie it down in case you capsize, make sure your life vest is snug over your chest waders and heavy camo coat, and you push off. You push off with one foot and step in with the other, and into the current. It’s dark. The water envelops the canoe all around. The current takes you in and the flow laps on the side of the canoe about 8 inches down the gunwale. You know the river is in control now, and you are paddling at its behest. You are safe, dry, and warm, except your nose, which is cold. But you know the river can take you down if it wants to.

It’s not deep, like the ocean depths, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s still dangerous. At 24°F, your in chest waders and there’s rocks under the water big enough to tip you over if you hit them the wrong way, and it is 3 to 8 feet deep there. Over 6 feet it doesn’t matter, you can’t touch the bottom. Thrill seeker? Maybe, but I just do it to get away from the modern world and feel closer to God.

God is all around me. He’s all around me in my home office too, but on the river in these conditions (or any conditions for that matter) it is more apparent to my feeble mind that I am in God’s hands. If He wants me to stay dry, I will. If He wants me to get wet, I will get wet. If he wants me to almost die from hypothermia and have my paddling partner save me with a big roaring fire, then that will happen too. I know that I only pass through the 5am darkness down the gently flowing river at God’s discretion – you know with His grace.

It’s kind of a physical metaphor of God’s grace for my sins. He lets me have salvation despite my sins if I believe in Jesus. I feel more in touch with God, in His surroundings. Man made my home office, but God made the river!

And the river praises Him. It was made by God! The 3 foot long catfish that swim under it were made by God. The buck we saw when I asked Rachel to turn on the flood light to get a bearing – the buck is God’s creation. The barred owl that usually hoots at us nuts in the canoe in the dark – the owl is God’s creation. And the pack of coyotes that starts howling just before we get to our duck hunting island – the coyotes are God’s creations. They all praise out to God. They all are lifting their voices, their presence, their form, to praise God. And I see God in who these creations are.

And I see God in the river. The river praises God in how beautiful it is. The river praises God in how cold it is, in how massive the flowing water is all around me, in how gracious it is to gently let me pass, despite my fear and respect for it – just like God. He is strong, he is loving and gracious. He is dangerous, holding the key to life, the key to time, the key to everlasting life in His hands.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea creatures and all ocean depths, lighting and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and women, old men and children.

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. Praise the Lord.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What I learned While Driving (Only Briefly) Above My Pay Grade by Greg York

What I Learned While Driving (Only Briefly) Above My Pay Grade          


No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

–Jesus, in Matthew 6.24


A little over a month ago I stumbled into (was led into?) a very informative experience; here’s what happened:


The 1991 Nissan Maxima I drive seems to need something major done to keep it moving along once a year or so. That’s to be expected. And (so far) it is still less expensive than 12 months’ worth of car payments a year. It was leaking a couple of bodily fluids and the diagnosis indicated that it was going to require some parts that needed to be ordered and shipped in (I have no idea why so few places are not well-stocked with parts for vehicles twenty-five years old…). It was all going to take about three days and so I was going to need a rental vehicle.


As it happened, there were none available at the dealer, but they arranged for me to pick one up at a rental place up the street. Apparently, they wanted whatever vehicle I was given to be a Nissan. Advertising, I suppose.


At the rental place, apparently there was only one Nissan available at that time.


And that is how I came to spend three days tooling around in a 370z.



As fun as it was to drive such a vehicle (and it was, in fact, great fun!), it was the various reactions to Greg-in-a-370z that I found most thought-provoking.



Predictably, there was some gentle ribbing about my less-than-graceful entrances and exits from the car (although, in fairness to myself, I got better at it over the three days…). It was not designed with 55-year-old fat men in mind.



And, among those who assumed I had purchased the car, there were comments (only a couple of which seemed to have truly sharp edges to them) that clearly “we’re paying our preacher too much.”


(I have to admit, though, it felt pretty cool that anyone thought I might actually have taken leave of my senses long enough to purchase such a vehicle…)


Kaelan enjoyed riding around in it with me and we even took the long way home a couple of times just to do it. Maybe for a few moments (at least until he learned it was only a rental) I was actually a neat person to have as a dad, not the kind of guy who drives a car that will soon technically qualify as a “classic” (a car he probably fears he will “inherit”). He told me he thought I should keep the 370z. I told him that if we did, his brothers would have to come home from school and he might not be able to go to college at all. He may still be thinking it over.


I guess my own internal reactions, though, were the most instructive, the most revealing spiritually.


Why did it make me feel, well, younger, more alive, to be driving around in such a car? (Don’t suggest “mid-life crisis,” unless you think I’m living to 110…)


Why did I enjoy being seen driving it?


Why did it make me feel a little more “with it,” more special?


And, why did I like feeling that way so much?


Whatever else it might be, the 370z is just a car, a material object that will decay, rust, and eventually be no more. It will not last, and therefore any meaning I give it or any value I derive from it cannot be lasting.



Now, I know all that in my head. But behind the wheel of a 370z (mediocre gas mileage and all), it was so easy to forget.


And, why, by the way, do I not allow myself to feel all those things because I know that God loves me, Jesus died for me, and the Spirit lives within me? Really? I’ll let a car do that for me, but not God?


I’m not saying it’s a sin to own a nice vehicle or to derive pleasure from the things we possess or are fortunate enough to use. On the contrary: I believe God meant for us to enjoy things. (And my personal opinion is that sometimes the better part of stewardship is not to “go cheap,” but to pay on the front end for something that is of a quality that will have long-lasting usefulness.) But God is extremely clear that he does not want us to define our lives by material things. Again, God meant for us to enjoy things, but he did not mean for us to be controlled by them. So, we have to be vigilant. The material has such a powerful pull on our hearts. And if we are not careful, it can be bait concealing a hook that will get set in our hearts to pull us away from what is of lasting value, true value.


…we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen;

for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

 2 Corinthians 4.18

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Free Salvation? by Ron Peterson


By Ron Peterson

(Ron Peterson coordinates the Domestic Missions Ministry Support for the Southeastern Church of Christ)

I had the opportunity to listen to part of Mike Allen’s presentation at the Southeastern Church of Christ Men’s Advance. I was astonished at the insight of what it means to be saved and what Greg has been trying to share with us for the last year when we are together.


Salvation is not free, because you have to give up everything which is difficult, but Jesus said his burden is light compared to the Devil’s burden. David once said I will not sacrifice to my Lord what cost me nothing.


The Christian accepts the Holy Spirit to combine with his spirit, which puts God within you. Paul said everything you do is an act of service to God, which is worship. Worship is what you do 24/7. You do not come into the presence of God when going to the Church building, for He is already in you. He is always there. Thus, you attend Church to get together not to worship, but to build each other up by learning, encouraging, and helping others through study, interaction, and giving praises, funds, support, promises etc. so that your act of Worship (service) can have more influence.


The acceptance of Jesus as the Christ provides the gift of the Holy Spirit through Baptism, thus freeing the Christian from Sin, but it does not free us from the consequences of that sin. Sin diminishes our influence in the World. God is like an artist with paint brushes in His hand painting a portrait of your life. Sin is when you take a brush and paint something for yourself which makes a flaw in the portrait. God forgives that sin as we walk in the blood of Jesus, but He has to work it into picture which reduces the quality of the portrait. Paul is example of that flaw. He carried the burden of what he did to Jesus’s followers his whole life and knew it affected his service to God.


Let us praise God for the salvation through Jesus knowing our portrait will hang on God’s wall until we come to view what He has made for us to see. Fear not the flaws, for God is the expert and will make a beautiful portrait to be admired by all.


May we thank Jesus always for such a wonderful sacrifice for us!


Thoughts to remember,

Ron Peterson