That Is Not A Cat

If you were trying to teach someone to identify a cat, how would you do it?

Would you show them pictures of rabbits and aligators and dogs and whales and zebras and every other animal in creation and then tell them, “That is not a cat”?

or

Would you show them pictures of Maine Coons and Abyssianians and Himilayans and Manx and Persians and Russian Blues and Siamese and tell them, “This is a cat”?

The answer’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? If you want to teach someone to recognize a cat, you show them pictures of cats. You might give them a cat to touch, or take them someplace where they could watch cats. You might even flick on a video about cats for them to see, or give them a book about cats to read. Toy cats would help, too! The point is, to learn to recognize a cat, you study the real thing.

It’s the same with anything we are trying to learn. We don’t learn to play the saxophone, by learnig to play the trombone. We don’t learn to cook, by ordering take-away. We don’t learn the types of flowers in our garden, by studying what isn’t a flower.

When we study the authentic item, we recognize the inauthentic easily. Bank tellers now have high tech means for testing counterfeit money, but they used to learn to recognize the coutnerfeit by studying the authentic. They learned everything there was to learn about real money, so that the counterfeit would stand out a mile away.

THIS IS A CAT

We live in a time when false prophets, false religions, false doctrines, and false teachers are rampant. They have always been around, but their numbers are multiplying. Gaining an audience is easier than ever; so is earning a profit. And, just as God raises up His true servants, so does Satan. The Devil is very good at promoting his own, but he is even better at deceiving the seeker. Why, he’s been doing that since the Garden! Adam and Eve walked with God, yet they were deceived by that lying serpent.

Well, the protection we need from being deceived isn’t going to be found by acquainting ourselves with these lies and liars. There are videos on YouTube, blog posts everywhere, and articles and books enough to fill a library that are full of these false religions and false prophets and false teachers. And, there are just as many that tear them apart piece by piece, telling you how they are each wrong—according to whomever is doing the telling. One video title I just saw was something to the effect of “Different Kinds of Witchcraft Christians Need to Know!” No, thank you! I don’t need to know about witchcraft. I need to know more about Jesus!

If we claim to be Christ followers, than knowing Him more should be a pleasure. How do we get to know Him? By reading His Word. We need to know what the Bible says. We need to study the Word of God, so that when someone makes a false claim we’ll know immediately to turn a deaf ear to them. We have to become that kind of people, especially in the day in which we live. Studying the counterfeit won’t help us recognize the authentic. It is knowing God’s Word that will equip us.

Bear in mind: we don’t have to become biblical scholars. We don’t need to dissect the cat and discover what a cat liver looks like compared to a dog liver. However, we do have to open the book. Being in the Word daily—throughout the day—will cause it to become ingrained in us.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Could it be more clear? If you want to stay in the light of truth, if you do not want to stumble on this path you’re walking, know God’s Word.

I Think About Saul A Lot

Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has again refused to obey Me.” Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard what God was saying, that he cried to the Lord all night. (1 Samuel 15:10-11)

I wonder so much about why God condescended to the Isralites and allowed them a king. I wonder how God could say to Samuel that He regretted appointing Saul. Some might ask, “Didn’t God know Saul would turn away? How can He act like this was unexpected?” These are valid questions. I don’t know the answers, but I think about it and wonder.

And, I wonder at Samuel’s grief. After hearing God’s regret, he cries out to God all night long. What is he crying out? I don’t know. Why is he so troubled by this?

The Bible says that in the morning Samuel went to Saul. Saul is in high spirits and he announces to Samuel that he has done as God has told him. To celebrate his achievement, he has already erected a monument to himself on Mount Carmel!

Now, God’s instructions to Saul were to completely destroy the Amelekites, a judgment for thier mistreatment of the children of Israel. Samuel told Saul that God said nothing was to survive. Every one and every thing was to be destroyed. However, Saul disobeyed God. He and his men kept whatever appealed to them—the best of the livestock, in particular. So, when Saul brags to Samuel that he did all God had required, Samuel says, “Oh, really? So, why do I hear all these bleating sheep and lowing oxen?” (See verse 14.) This is Saul’s reply:

“It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep and oxen,” Saul admitted, “but they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God; and we have destroyed everything else.” (1 Samuel 15:15)

I don’t know about you, but that voice, that reply, sounds very familiar! It’s this idea that if we obey some of what God tells us, it’s good enough. And, if we can find any way at all to justify the part that was actually disobedience, we think God won’t notice or won’t mind. It’s like Adam and Eve explaining to God they were just covering up their nakedness. “See? We’re being good. Right, God? We didn’t want to be naked.” They hoped He wouldn’t notice the pile of apple* cores. Listen to Saul:

 “But I have obeyed the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I did what He told me to; and I brought King Agag but killed everyone else. And it was only when my troops demanded it that I let them keep the best of the sheep and oxen and loot to sacrifice to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 15:20-21)

We humans don’t change. Not from Adam to Saul, and not from Saul to Caroline. I mean, I get it. God’s expectation of absolute obedience feels a little intense. He’s expecting an awful lot of us! We are just dust, after all. Right?

No. God does not see us that way. He did not send Christ Jesus to die for dust. He did not choose a people, the people of Israel, to carry faith in Adonai into this world, because we are mere dust-lings. Do not forget that His divine breath of life animated that first man and first woman. He created us in His image. That He used dust, well, He made the dust! Of course, He did know we would fall. He knew we would fail. This is why He did send His only begotten Son, because He knew we would need the abundant grace and mercy that only can be found at the foot of the Cross. We are a dusty flesh enveloped around the eternal, a spirit that will abide forever. A flesh that will be tranformed in the twinkling of an eye into a glorified body!

Let’s get back to Saul. In the very next section, Samuel tells Saul that his offerings and sacrifices are nothing compared to his obedience. Can you imagine? He speaks of that disobedient heart in a way that makes an honest person shudder.

“For rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. And now because you have rejected the word of Jehovah, He has rejected you from being king.” (Verse 23)

Saul is devastated by this. He pleads and begs, but Samuel tells him it is too late. He lost it all, because of disobedience to a clear instruction from God. He tried to blame his men. He tried to say he did it for God Himself to be honored. God cannot be deceived or manipulated.

So, I think about Saul—his bloodlust for David; his calling forth the ghost of Samuel; his son, Jonathan; his spiritual demise—so much to think about Saul. So much to learn from his life. I am sad for how many Sauls I know.

If you are struggling to obey some instruction from the Lord—maybe, you rejected His word from the beginning; maybe, you think a partial obedience should be adequate; maybe, you say you’ll obey once this or that happens—it doesn’t matter what reason you may have, or what excuse you can conjure. Disobedience is rebellion against God. That stubborn will to have your way is a sin. You might take offense at being compared to a practioner of witchcraft or worshipper of idols, but the Word of God says it. Not me. If we don’t come into agreement with the Lord, my dear friend, we will lose that divine purpose He has given us. Does that mean a ministry calling, a talent that would bring you before world leaders, an opportunity to glorify God, the blessing of raising our family, our eternity in Heaven? I don’t know what divine purpose God has given you, but I know that it is worth much more than the cost of humbling yourself and repenting, and then obeying God without delay.

Please, turn away from disobedience. That is my sincere hope and prayer for you today.

*No, we don’t know if the fruit was an apple. It’s just a proxy.
This post is for Blogtober Day 13: Politics.

My Best Financial Advice

Blogtober Post #7. Theme: Money

I don’t want to say it, but I really don’t think we should expect much from our economy. In fact, considering the times in which we live, we should can expect things to get worse. I hate to write those words, but there are real problems ahead of us.

So, I’d like to share my best financial advice with you. No, I am not an economist. I am not in anyway involved in finance. However, I have learned a few tried and true financial habits that have served me well over the years. It’s simple advice.


MY BEST FINANCIAL ADVICE

  1. Tithe to your church.
    “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so that there will be food enough in my Temple; if you do, I will open up the windows of heaven for you and pour out a blessing so great you won’t have room enough to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!” Malachi 3:10

    I have never heard anyone other than myself say that this is an important reason to have a church home, but I do believe strongly it should be one of the primary reasons we go to church. Yes, we want to attend church for the good relationships and spiritual fellowship we can find there. We want to attend church for the opportunity to worship together and hear the Word of God preached. We want to attend church to find a place to serve, a place to be baptized in water, and a place to receive Holy Communion. However, the Lord’s directive above is very clear, and it comes with a vital promise that I count on. And, God has proven Himself, by the way—over and over!

  2. Give more than just your tithe to the Lord.
    “But remember this—if you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much.” 2 Corinthians 9:6

    When I say we should give more, I mean we should give more within the church (special offerings for the needy or sick, missions, homeless outreach, prison ministry, etc.), but also to other worthy and godly organizations outside of the church—for instance, Mercy Chefs or Samaritan’s Purse. They are being Christ’s hand extended to the needy, lost, and forgotten. They meet people in crisis with the love of Jesus, and vital help. Folks, entrusting your money into the hands of people doing God’s work is a great way reap much, because you can never out give God.

  3. Get out of debt. Stay out of debt.
    “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8

    I realize that there is some debt that we have to endure, like a car payment or mortgage. However, there is a lot of debt we don’t need to incur, like credit card debt. I encourage anyone with any debt to work to pay it off. There are some very smart strategies to help you pay down debts quicker. Find them, and follow them. Likewise, there smart strategies to help you resist impulse purchases, and learn money mismanagement skills that won’t leave you depending on your credit cards to get through the month. It may require you to tighten your belt for a few years, but it will be worth it.

Money troubles are the cause of many health and relationship problems. The worry and stress can really do a number us! That’s all the more reason to strive to get out of debt, and get your accounts right with God. The Lord will bless your efforts, and in time you will begin to reap the benefits.