I’ll Never Do It Again


How many times have you been been in a pickle, a jam, a rock in a hard place, a  real doozy?  No matter what we do we can’t move away from the problem we are facing.  We try every logical way to fix the problem and to no avail.  We look at and work every alternative but we find ourselves still stuck with the problem.  After we have used up our creativity, our skill set, our mind and our muscle with the same result of not having solved the dilemma, we finally look to the Lord and say, “If you get me out of this one I’ll never do it again.”

I was reading in a book that is familiar to us, but most of the time we focus on the main character of the book and not focus on his counterparts.  I’m referring to Jonah and the whale.  He was running from what God wanted him to do and finds a boat going in the opposite direction.  He is fast asleep in the bottom of the boat, as the sailors are experiencing a perfect storm.  They have been in a lot of storms before, but never one of this size.  They throw cargo off the ship but see the storm beginning to tear the ship apart.  They cry out to their gods.  They wake Jonah up.  It then says, “The men did their best to row back to land.  But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.  then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life.  Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord have done as you pleased.”  Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.  At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.” Jonah 1:13-16

They tried everything before calling on the Lord to fix the problem.  When all their effort failed, they turned to the Lord and He calmed the sea.  Paul, an apostle of Christ, said in Romans 1 the no one seeks the Lord.  We have the tendency to rely on our own human effort first before turning to Him.

On this journey trials that come our way are hidden road maps placed by God to get our attention.  The raging sea did it for the sailors.  Looking at trials as God’s alarm clocks for us can move us to a closer connection with the Master and Solver of lives problems.

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Sand and Fruit Snacks


Sand and Fruit Snacks.  Together.  In the Mouth.  Yummy.  At least that is what Keaton, my 1 1/2 year old experienced at the beach on Sunday a week ago.  We were having a great time in the sand when he got hungry.  He was a sand ball from head to toe.  No part of the body was clear of sand.  Victoria unwrapped the fruit snack plastic container and he went for it.  Sand and all.  I was cringing at the thought of biting down on the gummy fruit snack with sand.  But he never thought a thing about it.  He ate the mixture and wanted more.  I don’t have that picture, but took one of he and his older brother Brayden on a fire engine the day before.

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O if we could only experience life like that and not become negative regarding the things that so easily distract us.  The sand was a distraction for me, but not for him.  He never thought a second about what it might taste like.  He experienced life with the negative and positive and didn’t miss a beat.  How we might see life differently if we weren’t so distracted by the negative things that come into our lives and miss the positive along side the negative.

On this journey, enjoy the sweet things of life when they come and they will if you open your eyes and mouth to them.

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Mother Quail and Her Babies


 

 

 

 

 

 

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A couple of days ago I took this picture of a mother and father quail under a bush outside my office window.  If you look closely you will see the mother sitting on three babies to warm them from the rainy weather that was outside.  It reminds me of Jesus talking about his children in Jerusalem and says, “. . .how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37

What a great picture of what the Lord wants to do for you and me if we only crawl under His wings.

 

 

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Process of Forgiveness: Part V–Praying to the Lord Who Is Able


Prayer is an act of humbleness toward God.  It is in essence saying, “I can’t, but You can”.  Prayer is a weakness in my life and has been for many years.  I guess I was raised by parents who loved God, and taught self-reliance.  Dad and Mom worked hard at their professions of teacher, mail carrier and do-it-yourself mastery.  I learned so much from them and meditate often on what they gave to my life.  They worked for everything they got in life and taught me to do the same.

What was missing over the years was my limitations in life that came through various experiences I had.  It has been in those set-backs of life that have caused me to see my inadequacies and weaknesses and sinfulness.  Not that I didn’t have some of those thoughts over the years, but it has become more and more clear to me over the last few years of life.  I truly am a sinful person with thoughts and actions that are not pleasing to the Master.  As I read the Old Testament, I am more and more drawn to the passages where God is venting his anger toward those who are screwing up.  I guess that as I am trying to get closer to my Lord and Savior, I am seeing more and more of my foibles, my limitations, my weaknesses, my mistakes, my inabilities.

It’s because of these thoughts that I am drawn to Solomon in this passage in II Chronicles 2 when he said,  “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly’; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name;  (2 Chronicles 6:36-39 NIV)  “We have sinned!!!”  “We have done wrong!!!!”  (We have) acted wickedly!!!!”  I am more broken when I replace the “we” with “I”.

It’s in our brokenness that forgiveness comes.  It’s in our mindset of not being able to give direction to our lives that God comes to us and begins to direct our lives.  It’s a journey of BROKENNESS that God brings forgiveness and direction for the future.

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Process of Forgiveness: Part IV–Turning to the Lord


There are many voices out there today seeking to get our attention.  We are bombarded daily, hourly, every second of the day with messages that are trying to give us counsel.  “You deserve a break today (food).”  “You have worked long hours, You deserve it (luxurious car).”  “Just 15 minutes could save you hundreds (car insurance).”  From movies to watch to TV shows to turn to.  Our minds can be filled with noise constantly.  Things to buy.  Shows to watch.  Pills to take.  Cars to drive.  Insurance to buy.  You name it.  We are bombarded with it.  It can drowned out the important voices that can transform our lives.

When I was driving around frantically trying to find the airport (story from the previous blog entitled “Process of Forgiveness:  Part III Change of Heart”) the voices in my head caused confusion and misdirection.  Until I stopped and asked the person on the side of the road who knew where the airport was.  It was his wise counsel to turn left at the next corner and go 2 miles that changed everything.  When I turned toward the expert, all the voices stopped and I got back on the right path to get me to my destination.

Solomon knew where wisdom came from and where true counsel resided.  With the Lord as he continues his dialogue, “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, . . . and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken. . . (2 Chronicles 6:36-39 NIV)  The only council that is worth listening to is the counsel from the Lord when we have gone astray.

This bolded passage reminds me of the question that the pharisee asked Jesus what is the great commandment to follow.  Jesus responded to the man by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . .”(Matthew 22:36-37)  It’s only when we turn back with every part of our being that sends a message to the Master that we want only His guidance and direction.  It is an all in mindset to change the direction or our lives and surrender our lives over to the one who knows all.

On this journey turning away from our sin and turning toward the Master sets in motion a transformed live.

 

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Process of Forgiveness Part III: Change of Heart


I’ll never forget speaking in Pennsylvania a few years ago.  I flew into University Park Airport in State College, Penn on Friday afternoon.  It was a very small airport located next to Penn State University, but the closest airport to my speaking engagement in Bethlehem, PA, about an hour and fifteen minutes away.  I had no problem getting to my speaking engagement and presenting the seminar for parenting over the weekend.  It was on the way back on Sunday morning that the trouble developed.  My flight left at 6:35 a.m., so I decided to get up at 3:30 a.m. and leave at 4:00 to make it in plenty of time.  As I began to drive, I was hit with dense fog, but in my mind it was no big deal.  I took a left on state route 322 from I-80 and was sailing along, but what was supposed to be the airport never surfaced.  I kept on the directions and got farther and farther lost.  It was black out (fog out).  It was pea soup fog.  I was lost.

I realized I would miss my flight and would be staying in Pennsylvania for another day as this flight was the only one flying back to my home that day.  It was when I asked for directions from a man who was taking out his trash that I got on the right track.  Rather than relying on my directions to the airport, I asked for help.  My heart focused on seeking help instead of relying on myself and I made it to the airport.  I parked my rental in front of the airport, ran into the airport and someone said, “Dr. Gorton, we have been waiting for you.”  I got on the plane and the flight attendant said, “Good morning Mr. Gorton, we’ve been waiting for you and took off.”  A change of directions.  A change of heart.  A changed focus.

That’s what Solomon said in II Chronicles 6.  “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, (2 Chronicles 6:36-39 NIV)  This passage is a conditional statement that starts out with “IF”  If they have a change of heart.  It’s not a forgone conclusion that when we get off track and sin that we will have a change of heart.  I could have stayed with my original directions and never have made my flight.  I needed to recognize that I needed help by changing my heart to seek advice.  A changed heart is essential for forgiveness to truly take place.

There are three things that will stop change from taking place.

1.  Denial.  If I deny there is a problem, no change will take place

2.  Minimization.  If I minimize the problem and say it’s not that big of an issue, no change will happen

3.  Justification.  If I have reasons for what happened and seek to justify my actions, no change will happen.

On this journey of forgiveness, there needs to be a heart change.

 

 

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Process of Forgiveness: Part II–Consequences of Choices


I remember being mesmerized by the sight of fire at the age of 5.  I would watch the yellow, red and orange tips of the fire dance around the air and had a hard time taking my eyes off the flames.  Daily my dad and I would take the trash out of the house and would burn it in the fifty-gallon drums in back of our house.  We would also burn thistles that would blow into our backyard and wedge themselves into corners of bushes 6-10 feet high.  Those thistles when mixed with fire would burn incredibly hot but also fast and in a matter of minutes the pile would be down to nothing.

One day a friend of mine and I decided to take some matches and do some burning of our own.  We went out back of Boren’s barn where there were a couple of small weeds we decided to burn next to the barn.  We lit one match and then another and finally burned the weeds, but they were too small to sustain any fire, but the fire that came after is indelible in my mind to this day.

My dad found out what I had done and sat me down to talk about fire and the consequences of it.  He had me light a match and hold it until I could hold it no longer.  The fire hurt my finger and had to drop the match.  He had me light another and another to have me experience what I had done for the fun of it.  I never played with fire again and learned a valuable lesson about the effects of fire.  There was a consequence for my actions that I still remember to this day.

Sin in our lives carries a consequence as Solomon wrote in II Chronicles.  He was talking with God and said, “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; . . . (2 Chronicles 6:36-39 NIV)  God was angry with the nation of Israel because they had sinned.  He became angry with them.  I do remember the anger that my dad had when he found out what I had done.  He had a right to be angry because what I was doing was very dangerous and could have had major ramifications (burning up the barn).  God was not only angry with them but gave them over to those that took them away from their families of origin.

All sin separates us from God, but the consequences will vary depending on the severity of the sin.  I am reminded in Psalms 66:18 where the Psalmist says that if we have sin in our lives that we haven’t dealt with, the Lord will not hear us or hear our prayers.  God chooses to disconnect from us when we have sin in our lives and haven’t asked forgiveness for that sin.  This to me is the greatest consequence of our sin–DISCONNECTION FROM GOD.  It doesn’t me that he has left us, but that He chooses not to commune with us until our sin is dealt with.

On this journey, it is important to realize the symptoms of sin and it’s consequences so that we can take steps to reestablish connection with the Master of this journey.

 

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