After “Ever After” (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

And they lived…“Happily ever after.” How many times we have read those all too familiar words as the iconic fairy-tale ending? As the newly crowned king ascends to his throne, as the beautiful princess finds true love, as the newlywed sovereigns begin their journey of ever-after blissfulness. These words flow well off the tongue and work well in a fairy tale, but sadly enough they cannot sustain the weight of reality.

The truth is these words truncate the story of real-life much too soon. For, at some point in the near future of our fictional character’s lives, “until” will come.  You see, in the very real world is the word, “until.” Until changes the course of action as it implies “up to a certain point in time.” Until suggests that a particular state of being is about to shift.   Continue reading “After “Ever After” (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Shadow of Christ (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Shadows are funny things. They are visually there, but they are not substantively there. A shadow can arrive before a person does, or it can remain behind for a bit after the person leaves. In either case, it is not the actual person, but a silhouette, so to speak, of that person. In that respect, Biblical prophecy actually casts a shadow on history, as events can precede an event, or leave a shadow behind.

It should be no surprise to us that our week of Easter generally coincides with the Passover celebration. If we look at Scripture closely, that is what has been predicted all along. In other words, it was no coincidence that Christ fulfilled His Messianic prophecy at the time of Passover. The Old Testament had long predicted the coming of a Messiah to bring salvation. In fact, Genesis 3:15 announces this coming of the Messiah that would eradicate the effects of sin, and “crush” the head of Satan. Continue reading “The Shadow of Christ (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Bovine Scrabble (Shepherd’s Echo)

Image courtesy of The R. A. Fox Society

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

S-O-L-A-T-I-N-G: the act of transforming a gelatinous substance into one of a liquefied, soluble state. How Cool! Two triple-word scores, one double-letter score and 50 bonus points for using all seven tiles – BINGO. 131 Points! I was King of the Scrabble board. No way was my opponent (my iPhone) going to touch me, as I was now some 150 points ahead. The game was all but over.

Next thing I knew there I was, staring at a herd of cows in a corral. And they were all challenging me, speaking to me, “Mooo.” I remember thinking, “There is no way you guys could beat me in Scrabble…I am King of the Board.” How could you beat me with only one word? They kept trying to persuade me but they could come up with nothing better than “moo,” a mere 6 points. I did hear one offer up, “MmooO!,” but even with the right place to play it, and a triple-word score value the best she would have merited is 27 points, “Ha!, a far cry from 131 points.” Make your best moooove, cow. Continue reading “Bovine Scrabble (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Pane of Deception (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

As we approached the doorstep of our friend’s house we noticed there upon the deck, beneath the window the body of a beautiful bird. Its breast was a brilliant yellow and its feathers of a rich green-brown tone. It was beautiful, still it was dead, and its limp and lifeless body told the all too familiar story that occurs each, and every day.

While in flight this creature had come down to the level of the window and perceived open skies as far as he could see but he was deceived. Flying at full speed the last thing it had seen was the reflection of unending skies in the window that were actually behind him. And then…snap, instant death. Life for him was over, and now he lay motionless on the deck, another casualty of deception. The window had revealed the promise of vast eternal horizons but in the end delivered a quick and brutal death to the unsuspecting victim. Continue reading “The Pane of Deception (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Stolen Grace (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Even in the “on demand” society in which we live, most of us understand that there is a protocol to the acquisition of our desires. We do not visit a store and simply take what we want; we realize there is a need abide by socially acceptable norms. We need to pay for it. At times we may be the recipients of items for which we have not been required to pay – those are called gifts. And even in those cases we don’t determine when we take ownership of them, we must wait for the giver to make that decision. We all “get that.” We understand that in the realm of the world, but we have difficulty at times grasping that in the context of God’s economy.

How many of us are willing to run to our favorite sin knowing full well it is offensive to God, yet expecting to be completely forgiven of it by playing the grace card? “It doesn’t really matter that much, cause I am saved. Christ paid for that sin.” I think we all do that to some degree whether or not we see it in our own lives. And though it is true that the blood of Christ paid for our sins, should we be so presumptuous, so careless as to toss grace around like a borrowed credit card?  … If we are so quick to do that, what does that say about our hearts? Continue reading “Stolen Grace (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Moral Cliff (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Much concern has been drawing the attention and ire of politicians and the American public in recent weeks – it is the fiscal cliff. It is the very possible prospect of “not being able to pay our bills” and recognizing that on a national level (Can you say, “Hello austerity measures and the European economy?”). The implication is that once we go over the edge there is no point of return. We sail to the bottom only to be dashed on the rocky landscape of failure below.

While this looming scenario is dire, it is only one of the threats to our society, as we know it. We have seen an unprecedented erosion of ethics, economics, spirituality, accountability and financial responsibility in recent years. It has been a mad dash to see who could bankrupt their cache of inalienable rights the fastest as though insolvency, economic or otherwise was the noble ideal.

Perhaps, the one I see as the most daunting, yet clearly minimalized, is our moral decay. The moral fortitude of this country when we began is a far cry from the picture we face now, and no doubt would be unrecognizable to the founders of this country. Yet for hundreds of years now we have been gleefully plunging into the dark abyss of moral corrosion and self-absorption.

We went over the “moral” cliff long ago and have been in freefall for centuries. If any given behavior was wrong thirty years ago, then it is still wrong. There is not a sliding scale that ebbs and flows according to the whimsical morality of a waning value system. Morals do not change with time as though our nation’s values expired or went through a time of obsolescence.

Yet we continue our downward spiral, smacking against protruding rocks and crashing through jutting branches toward our appointment with a rapidly approaching and abrupt “stop.”

If you’re still reading this sobering indictment, more power too ya; it is dismal. Here’s where we turn the corner. Can we change? Maybe, maybe not. Is there any hope? Yes, there is always hope when God is involved.

I think of the Biblical story of Jonah. God had decided to judge the land of Nineveh because of their evil. Jonah was an unwilling, yet obedient agent sent to communicate the impending doom upon the land. The Ninevites repented and turned from their abominable acts.

Jonah 3:5-6 says, “Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes.” As a result the Lord relented from the calamity, which He was about to send.

Is it even conceivable for a nation to radically change direction in this day and age? Yes. President Yoweri Museveni celebrated Uganda’s 50th anniversary of independence a few years back, calling for national repentance from sins, including his own. “Forgive us of sins of pride, tribalism and sectarianism; sins of laziness, indifference and irresponsibility; sins of corruption and bribery that have eroded our national resources; sins of sexual immorality, drunkenness and debauchery; sins of unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred and revenge; sins of injustice, oppression and exploitation; sins of rebellion, insubordination, strife and conflict.” Shades of Daniel 9 for sure. Pretty well covers it I would say, and pretty well identifies our sins as well.

I can’t help but believe that God will honor these requests if they are embraced by the nation. From my fencepost the answer is simple. Turn back to God, the God of the Bible and everything else will work itself out. Will it take time? You bet. We have built up quite a lot of momentum heading in the wrong direction, but God is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

“Wise men still seek Him.”

Are You Ready? (Shepherd’s Echo)

Few of the parables of Christ have sparked such debate as that of the ten virgins and their lamps. Though it is pretty well accepted that Christ is the bridegroom much else seems to be up for debate. Questions prompted are: Who are the virgins? What is their role? What are the lamps and what is the oil all about?  Some of the theories can get pretty complicated, and in my opinion, convoluted to the point where the parable is reduced to minimal importance.

Allow me to weigh in with just a few observations. The parable is found in the first 13 verses of Matthew 25. It is set amongst other parables relating to the end times, specifically the return of Christ, and how people are to be living life in anticipation of that day. Continue reading “Are You Ready? (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Liar, Liar (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

Many of us are familiar with some form of the child-hood rhyme: “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!” The complete version I learned was, “Liar, Liar, pants on fire, nose as long as a telephone wire!”

Though there are several iterations, and there are multiple “explanations” as to what this really means, it does seem to be universally accepted as a taunting indictment, which is cast toward someone who has been caught in a lie. It would appear that the garment on fire is a judgment of sorts, and the elongated nose even a reference to Pinocchio’s nose when he lied.

My mind wonders how interesting it would be if all such vile actions were revealed and judged this way. Hmmm? Self-igniting attire? And incriminating bodily contortions?…Wouldn’t it be convenient if other pieces of apparel spontaneously combusted so as to judge the inappropriate presence of gossip, slander, or wickedness? What if flapping ears, bubbling lips, and twisting eye-lids heralded that something was awry?

It would sure make it a lot easier to know what kind of character your friends had, and with whom you should choose to be hanging out. I imagine it would make it easier to figure out whom to hire, with whom you should do your banking, or who to put on the witness stand.

Yet, were that true, we would likely all be a poorly dressed, and distorted lot.

Proverbs 6:16-19 gives a pretty depressing cache of deplorable behaviors of mankind.

“There are six things which the Lord hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
A false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.”

The eyes, the tongue, the hands, the heart, the feet, the false witness, and the one who fosters dissention; these actions of such are abominable to the Lord. Abominable: detestable, repulsive!

Now, I’d like to think that these behaviors were relegated to the unbelieving of a depraved society, but to my chagrin, I have witnessed these abundantly within the walls of the Church. And yet, if they are so repulsive to the Lord, then why on Earth do we so readily embrace them? Oh, the evil that lurks in the darkness of every human soul!

Obviously, we are steeped in our sinful nature, so perhaps we do it simply because we can “get away with it”, or perhaps because we are not immediately judged for such conduct. My guess though is, that we comfortably engage in such atrocities after we have sufficiently “sanctified” them. After we have justified this behavior in our minds as being “necessary” then we are free (in our own minds) to do that which is expressly forbidden or despised of God. Actually, I think we do this with most sin.

“It’s for the greater good.” “It’s only because I am concerned.” “I only say this because I am hurt.” As though any of these conveniences of conscience would absolve one from guilt.

Well…it doesn’t appear that tormenting clothing and telling physical anomalies will be coming anytime soon to help us discern the spiritual integrity of others. But I would suggest that Proverbs cautions us to be on the alert, and to scrutinize our own actions. Though our bodies may not indict us, nor our clothing adjudicate us, God knows the heart of man; He knows what is done in the shadows, and He knows when we are doing wrong – at some point there will be a reckoning.

Neither asbestos threads, nor plastic surgery will be of any value; the answer is internal. “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man” (Matthew 15:18). So, the answer lies in the heart; but it needs to be a heart of right character; a heart that is fostered in step with the will of God. They can be little factories of sin, or they can be measures of glory to honor our Father in heaven. Of utmost importance then is the stewardship, the protection of a right heart.

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

God sees. God knows. God honors.

“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Find us Lord!

And may our hearts be truly, completely Yours!

The Smell of Knowledge (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

When I think of knowledge I think of books. When I think of books I think of the fragrance of books, and books come in two “flavors.” The first one is the smell that hits you when you open up a brand-new book; it is the overwhelming aroma of fresh ink and paper. I associate that smell with the pleasurable experience of buying a brand-new book and the anticipation of soaking up its contents. Mmmm. The second aroma is that of Grandma’s basement, yes, Grandma’s basement, that musty damp smell that meant you are lost in the midst of antiquities. Books that smell like this are old and often frail but offer the promise of a treasure trove of ancient knowledge. I love it.

What can I say? I love books. I love the smells. I love the tactile experience of the pages between the fingers. I enjoy sneaking ahead to see how many pages are left, or just finding out how the book will end. So, when it comes to the newfangled digital books on Kindles and iPads I am sort of in a quandary. I am between generations. You see, I do love technology, but I love good old-fashioned books. Did I say that already? Nothing can replace that experience. Perhaps, it would be a good idea to place a scented sticker at the top of the Kindle which smells like a new book or musty pages to simulate the true paper experience, sort of like that “new car smell,” but alas, even that would fall short; the event just cannot be synthesized. Yes, the smell of books signifies knowledge. Continue reading “The Smell of Knowledge (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Pillar of Truth (Shepherd’s Echo)

In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul writes to his protégé, “but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”

Paul’s intent is to visit Timothy in person, but in the event that he is delayed, he desires to remind Timothy in this letter of the privileged position of the Church.

Paul makes an incredible assertion regarding the mission of the Church; it is to be “a pillar and support of the truth.” A pillar is something which elevates, or holds high for all the world to see something which is on top. To support is to be a rock-solid foundation of those truths. Continue reading “The Pillar of Truth (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Abyss of Accountability (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

For better or worse, one of the identifying characteristics of Americans is our rogue independent spirit. We pride ourselves on migrating across the sea, establishing our own country, pioneering west and conquering the elements with no one to thank but our humble little old selves (thank you very much). A little arrogant to say the least, and we continue to wave that banner of self-reliance to the world, refusing to be conquered by any, and accountable to no one; my heart grieves to suggest this takes place in the Christian realm as well. Continue reading “Abyss of Accountability (Shepherd’s Echo)”

“Bobble-Head” Christians (Shepherd’s Echo)

It seems somewhere along the way, that the prevalent worldview of the last 2 thousand years has taken a hit, especially over the last 150 years. Time was when the dominant respecters of higher education were those who embraced the Christian faith. Did you know that Princeton (1812), Harvard (1636) and Yale (1701) all began as Christian seminaries? Those that were champions of higher education were those who embraced the Bible. Wow! Where have those days gone? Today, in the arena of higher education, Christians are often viewed as the naïve, simpletons, bobble heads on campus, merely nodding in agreement to a “ridiculous” way of understanding. Now, Christians are ridiculed for holding to a worldview many believe is irrational and illogical. Today we are judged to be intellectually inferior. So much for “tolerance”! Continue reading ““Bobble-Head” Christians (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Veneer (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

I love the beauty of wood. The providential symphony of rich textures. The divinely choreographed grains.  The celestial concert of variegated colors. What a privilege for the woodworker to take a solid chunk of this great material and turn it into a work of art, to sculpt from the palette of the Creator! What a pleasure it is for me to gaze upon furniture or cabinets that are demonstrations of God’s incredible creativity in the measure of wood.

Unfortunately the demand upon this beautiful resource has made these materials more and more scarce, and thus they are used more seldom. The solution has been to take a thin sheet, a veneer of this attractive wood and laminate it over a much less expensive base layer. The end result is a product, which on the surface appears to have the integrity of this valuable material through and through when it is in fact, only a façade.   Continue reading “Veneer (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Two Dollars Worth of God (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen.]

I remember hearing a story as a young man. It was about a man who desired to buy two dollars worth of God. “I would like to buy two dollars worth of God, please. Not enough to disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk, or a snooze in the sunshine. I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy two dollars worth of God.” Unfortunately, this is a widely held desire. People want just enough of God to feel good. They want enough of God to “make it into Heaven.” They just don’t want too much of God, at least not so much that they need to change their beliefs or their behavior.

Truth is, God is an all or nothing offer. It is like marriage, pregnancy or life itself. You’re either all in or you’re not. You’re married or you’re not. You’re pregnant or you’re not. You are alive or you’re not. Continue reading “Two Dollars Worth of God (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Quasimodo Bride (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen].

Many of us have read Victor Hugo’s, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a classic, yet dark depiction of a physically deformed, socially rejected “orphan” whose name is Quasimodo. He is a grotesquely malformed person who has been relegated by society to merely ringing the bell at the great cathedral of Notre Dame, which subsequently caused his deafness. Of minimal verbal abilities, facial deformities, partial paralysis in his limbs and yes, the hunch in his back, he was abandoned as a baby, and lived out his days in the cathedral, as the public shunned him for his appearance. One of the rare excursions outside was to the Festival of Fools where he was elected Pope of Fools because of his perfect hideous “disguise,” a rare time of “acceptance” by the community.

Long etched upon my brain is the way a squinting Quasimodo holds his disobliging arm and drags his lifeless leg along behind him in an effort to ambulate an uncooperative body through a hostile environment. Physical disabilities of any nature are heartbreaking for sure, and yet a consequence to living in a fallen world, still it is hard to believe someone would choose to be that way. Continue reading “Quasimodo Bride (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Fixing Broken (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen].

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the King’s horses, and all the King’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

This odd little nursery rhyme is embedded in most of our minds, and yet most have no idea to what it refers. I would surmise that most of us imagine an odd egg-sort of fellow who reclines on a wall only to fall off into a broken yolky mess, though actually, nowhere in the original story is there any indication that Humpty was truly an egg. Continue reading “Fixing Broken (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Secret Things (Shepherd’s Echo)

Right down the middle! I had hit my golf ball right down the center of the fairway, and now I couldn’t find it. We had all seen it bounding toward the flagstick and to glory but, alas, it was nowhere to be found. After due time, I had to abandon the effort and concede the ball as lost to the fate shared by multitudes of socks surrendered in scandalous pirate dryers throughout the course of history.

As I ponder the fate of my golf ball, and the millions of other golf balls lost to the mystery of logic, I am reminded that there are questions to which we may never know the answers; is there formidable life beyond our solar system? Does Pi have a terminus? Who killed J.R.? And, of course, where do all those orphaned socks go? Continue reading “The Secret Things (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Ticking Towards Eternity (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen].

Many people may not remember the old TV commercial about the Timex watch that was tied to a boat or car tire and taken for a ride after which a spokesperson would pronounce, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” It was amazing. Still more amazing is the universes’ oldest chronograph – the Earth. Genesis tells us that the earth was the first planetary orb created. It was around before the sun. Time was being measured in days before the Sun helped us out.

God created the entire universe to attest to His glory. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork” – Psalm 19:1. What is interesting to contemplate is that time was not existent until God created it for the benefit of mankind. God is eternal, both in the past and the future. He had no need of time. On the fourth day, God created the sun, and the ultimate ‘timepiece’ was created. The earth rotated each day, clicking off the universal “minutes.” The Earth revolved around the sun clicking off the universal “hours.” And, as they say, it has never been the same. Continue reading “Ticking Towards Eternity (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Peace On Earth (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen].

As the legend goes, during the winter of 1914 in the midst of World War 1, along the Western Front on a battlefield in Flanders (Ypres, Belgium), the war raged on from the depths of the wet, muddy, cold trenches that extended for miles.  The Germans were engaged in battle against the British and the French, when at some point during the evening hours of December 24th the shooting ceased. Germans began placing Christmas trees on the ground outside their trenches, illuminating them with candles. The wintery air was still. Gradually the words, “Stille nacht, heilige nacht” (Silent night, holy night) rose softly from the trenches floating across “No Man’s Land” to the ears of the “enemies” some 100 yards away. In turn, the British responded with “O Come all ye Faithful.” Continue reading “Peace On Earth (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Politically Correct (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen].

Well, it’s that time of year again when we get caught up in the realm of political correctness.  In order for the general populace not to be offended, we need to use terms such as, “Turkey Day,” or “Harvest Dinner” instead of “Thanksgiving.” We must say, “Season Greetings,” or “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” We can say “Winter Break,” or “Spring Break,” but my goodness, we’re not allowed to say, “Christmas Break,” or “Easter Break.” Far be it to recognize a holiday honoring God the Creator of all. Incidentally, has anyone considered the fact that we are offending God by nudging Him out of the spotlight. Frankly, succumbing to this cultural tomfoolery is downright offensive. It is obvious that the culture wants to shove God aside because it is easier to assert that God does not exist if we don’t use words and phrases which point to Him. Continue reading “Politically Correct (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Best News Ever (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen]

What is the best news you have ever received? Was it the fact that you got the job? Or what is a call from your realtor telling you the escrow closed? Was it him telling you that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with you? Or her communicating that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with you? Maybe it was when you found out you were pregnant, or when a doctor called to tell you that the surgery was a total success.

All of these are incredible pieces of news, but none of them even comes close to the great news that God had sent a Savior for our benefit. Luke 2: 10-11 says, “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’”  The pinnacle of all redemptive history is when God sent His Son into the world to save fallen man. It is what is called the Incarnation – when God took on flesh. That is good news. Continue reading “Best News Ever (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Labor Ward (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen]

The labor ward – where the working of birthing takes place, a mother-to-be strains in agony to foster new life. And we have all seen those depictions of a man in the waiting room, outside the labor ward at the hospital where a father waits “patiently” for the birth of his child. He paces the floor anxiously awaiting the arrival of the offspring whom he has had the honor to sire. Nine months he has wondered. Nine months he has prepared. Nine months the growing excitement and love has captured his heart…And now after nine months the moment of truth has arrived.  His contemplation is broken with a cry.

Rewind to a labor ward in the southern portion of Palestine, in a small stable of a small town called Bethlehem. This would be the most obscure labor ward of the first century, perhaps of all time. The on-looking paternal unit is not a mere man but the Creator of the universe.  The long-awaited-for-child is not just any child of the day, but the long-promised Christ-child sent to heal mankind from their sins. Yet, there are no paparazzi to cover the affair. No pomp and circumstance. There is not even a coffee machine in a nearby lounge. No sterile white linens or medical aid. Perhaps, the musty smell of manure and straw sate the air – the most humble of circumstances. Continue reading “The Labor Ward (Shepherd’s Echo)”

The Arrival (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen]

Upon arrival to the airport, I was informed that I would be doing well if my flight were to leave on time. It seemed that everything was quite a stir around the airport as it was expected that the president of the United States would be arriving shortly. There were the warnings that flights would be pushed, that no landings would be allowed for a time, and therefore, connections would be missed.

Outside of our terminal was an army cargo plane which had ferried the presidential vehicles in from D.C. Security was increased. A Helicopter was hovering about. People were nervous about the thought of being stuck on planes, yet there was expectancy in the air as everyone anticipated the arrival of Air Force One and its occupant. Eventually, the motorcade (some 24 vehicles in all) whisked the president and his entourage to those awaiting his appearance at some distant location. Word had it that he was going to a university to participate in a graduation ceremony, presumably as an esteemed speaker with an important message to deliver. Continue reading “The Arrival (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Figgy Pudding and the World of Entitlements (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen]

Ah, the Christmas season is upon us and we can anticipate the celebration the birth of Christ, often times with the benefit of those great, meaningful carols of old. O Come, Let us Adore Him. Silent night. The First Noel. And, of course, Away in a Manger. Songs of deep reflection and encouragement. It seems like we just can’t get enough of them. But then there are those “other” songs that cause us to wonder how they ever made it into the cache of celebratory carols. The one that really gets me is, We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

It is a popular secular sixteenth-century English Christmas carol whose origin lies in the tradition that the wealthy people of the community would generously provide Christmas treats to the carolers such as figgy pudding- a custard-like pudding containing figs that may be baked, steamed in the oven, boiled or fried.  Yum! Continue reading “Figgy Pudding and the World of Entitlements (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Apposite Thanks (Shepherd’s Echo)

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen]

If any culinary presentation is deserving of a blue ribbon, none is more so than the Thanksgiving Feast. Not the burger, shake and fries. Not a steak dinner. No sir. Art has its Mona Lisa. Auto racing has its Indy 500. Music has Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. And Hollywood the Oscars, but far and away the grand champion in food to be had is our Thanksgiving Meal. A Masterpiece. Turkey done just right. Mashed potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce, rolls and green beans; it may just be the meal of perfection.  Subtract one element, it would be incomplete. One additional element may just tip the scales to disaster, like an extra quart of fuchsia on the Mona Lisa, or 3 more miles on the Indy 500 (“The Indy 503”?). Surely the clear and distinct winner among rationally minded carnivores is this traditional holiday fare. Right? Continue reading “Apposite Thanks (Shepherd’s Echo)”

#AlwaysChrist (Shepherd’s Echo)

 

[The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen- An article I wrote concerning the 2016 election]

Across the landscape of humanity one would expect perhaps to see the depths of depravity in many areas of life, in the media, arts, in law, even in politics, but when the depths have so risen to the top it causes great concern and despair. We see that today America is at one of those points. The “options” for the chief office of the land did not affirm what they would, could do or should do, but only how their opponent failed, and how they did not. Sadly, the character of the candidates is disheartening. And so we stand looking anxiously into the murky abyss of future despair. And yet we seem to be slightly surprised that the depravity and hopelessness could have somehow crept its way into our country – depravity and corruption that would usually be reserved for third-world country dictatorships (no offense to third-world countries). How in the world did we find ourselves here?

This toxic porridge, this level of concern has bred much divide, divide among families, divide in households, in parties, marriages, schools, and even within the walls of the church. Somehow it seems that our foundations have been shaken to the core–there is an angst and uncertainly regarding our future. And yet, this age-old familiar pattern of failed leadership is endemic to mankind. The all too familiar words found in Scripture…“They did evil in the sight of the Lord.”

Look at a few examples…

“So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.” 1 Kings 11:6

 “Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than those who were before them had done.” 1 Kings 14:22

“But Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him.” 1 Kings 16:25

You get the point! At least 20 other times that phrase is used. Yet, God executed His will; did he not?

I believe it is important to RE-calibrate the importance or magnitude of this election, even the entire political condition of the US. Not to heighten it but to put it into perspective with God’s plan and what he has already done. You see, many nations have risen, many have fallen and not once was God concerned about his sovereign will being done. God has worked out his sovereign will in spite of people a lot more depraved than any of the candidates. Not once was his plan in jeopardy, in question. Fall of the Roman Empire – No. Atilla the Hun – No. Black Plague – No. Civil War – No. WWI, the Great Depression. WWII-No, No, No.  And His sovereign plan was not successfully challenged on November 8th, 2016.

In Matthew 16, Christ says, “I will build my Church”. He will build His Church. The Kingdom of God is in no way dependant upon the United States, its political system or even the American Church for that matter. But He privileges us to partner with him in the Gospel; the Gospel’s success was based upon nothing less than the blood of Christ and His righteousness.

You see it is not about any candidate or sovereign other than Jesus Christ. It’s not about a better form of government. It’s about Christ…Always Christ! The Greatest Kingdom is not the United States of America, Rome, Britain or any other manmade kingdom. Without question, the greatest kingdom is the Kingdom of God – The Kingdom of His beloved Son.

When it comes to Election 2016 we obviously did not know who would win or lose. Likely the greatest loser of this election will be our nation, as we continue to lose the favor of God. So, in that respect maybe a winner is Satan in his plan to foster chaos. But don’t forget, God has used a lot worse people than these two to build his kingdom. God is going to use the outcome to build his kingdom, one way or another.

Election 2016 is still about the mission of Christ- His agenda. John 18:36-37 reminds us, “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.’ Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’” What a simple yet, powerful purpose statement!

The Person through whom God looked to redeem the world is Christ. Not any man or woman!

The US has been influential along the way, but our citizenship, and our identity is in the Kingdom of Christ.

The agenda we embrace is truth, God’s truth. We are indeed privileged to be a part of that promotional process.

God’s agenda is unchanging.

God’s agenda is irrevocable.

God’s agenda is trustworthy.

God’s agenda is sure and certain.

A Church that will thrive:

Focuses on God and realizes the true implications of His sovereignty.

Is a people of God who are focused the work and mission of Christ!

It is about the magnitude and totality of the work of Christ…the primacy of Christ!

Seeks to love God entirely.

Seeks to love his neighbor.

AlwaysChrist. Always Christ!

May God Bless You (Shepherd’s Echo)

(The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen)

We are indeed blessed. Minimally, we are all blessed with common grace, and the gift of life. To those of us who are walking in relationship with God, we know that we are ultimately and supremely blessed, and blessed for eternity. Only people who are washed in the blood of Christ are able to accurately claim this redemption. So, my guess is that it is not by accident that when the Hebrew words for bless were being translated into the English language that such a powerful and descriptive expression was selected.

One of my books says that it is a “bloody” word, because in the English language for us to capture that idea of blessed, the word which was harvested was the Old English word bledsian. What it meant was to be “reddened with blood,” “to be consecrated with blood, as in sacrifices.”

Over the years the word morphed into blessen, blessed, and ultimately bless, but it still meant to be consecrated by blood. When we add God to the equation, as in “God bless you,” it means, “God bathe you in blood.” “Be consecrated in blood.” “Be made righteous in blood.”

When we say “God bless you” in the English language then, what we’re really communicating is “would that you be reddened with blood.” And in the most Christian sense we are saying, “would you be consecrated, would that you would be among the redeemed!” When we place all the elements together in this phrase it becomes a beautiful prayer to the divine…” May you be consecrated by God in the blood of Christ! May God Bless You!”

It is this blood, and only this blood of Christ which is the agent that places us in right standing before God. This picture is vividly painted for us in Romans 6:3-7:

“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”

The person brought forth from this baptism is washed, reddened with the blood of Christ and freed from the eternal consequences of sin.

This simple phrase, “God bless you” is an invocation to the God of all life that the person of whom this divine solicitation is said would be cleansed of their sin and brought into right relationship with God through the sacrificial atonement of Christ. When we see someone, when we say goodbye to someone, even when somebody sneezes we plead divine redemption, salvation, restoration and peace.

Who would have thought that such a statement would be so infused with meaning? Now I am sure there are those who will charge me with romanticizing this for the sake of an article, but, check it out for yourself. I’ll admit, I am having fun with this, but hey! You gotta love this!

The question at hand then is for everyone…, “are you reddened with the blood of Christ?”

Perhaps, the song asks it best.

Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

There is a lot going on in our lives – a lot of things to address every day. But none is more important than this question. My prayer is that you face this issue head on and are absolutely certain today, that you stand before God, washed in the blood of Christ.

And for the record, one more time: May God Bless You!

A Convenient Christ (Shepherd’s Echo)

(The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen)

Somewhere stuffed in the recesses of my closet is wad of keys dangling at the end of a brightly colored key fob. I see it every now and again, and am reminded of the hectic pace at which we do life. The keys are many, and of many sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are rusty, some shiny. Some have names on them; some have numbers – all reminders of days gone by. Pretty much all different, but what unifies them is that they are for the most part unidentifiable; I don’t know what they go to. Keys are given, or identify authority over some area; all of them used to unlock, activate, or grant access…to something.

Somewhere over the course of time, they have lost their identity. There is a lock out there…somewhere, but the answer is now unknown to me, and seemingly lost to time. With each passing year this mass of potential continues to grow, after all, the key is valuable, right? And you can’t just throw them away. Who knows? I just may come across some desperate lock that may be able to be heroically released due to the meticulous stewardship of my cache of keys. Continue reading “A Convenient Christ (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Yeah…Not So Much (Shepherd’s Echo)

(The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen)

Is just me or has anyone else noticed that commodities at the super market are shrinking? I don’t mean the amounts that are made available overall; I mean the portions which are being sold. I mean, take for instance the coffee. What was sold as a “3 Pound” can of coffee years ago has been selling as a mere 33 ounces. And now it has been reduced to a 29 ounce size plastic container, but apparently I have gained a “Flavor lock Lid” or an “Easy Grip Handle” as though I had a problem with my can of coffee launching out of my hand and spilling all over the floor. Easy Grip? This thing is not a power tool or a repelling line- it’s a can for crying out loud. I guess they figured I would be better-off having an ironclad grip on the container and they would have an ironclad grip on my 4 ounces of coffee. Quite a trade-off, huh?

But, coffee is not the only culprit; diminished portions are pandemic. I bought a “gallon” container of milk that turned out to be 3 quarts! The revamped cereal boxes are the same size from the front but only about half as deep from front to back. There are less Oreos in the package than years ago but now the wrappers are not see-through so you can’t count ‘em as easily. Ice cream is now sold in 1.5 quarts rather than a half-gallon and candy wrappers weigh as much as the candy itself. What is up? I am wondering what they will do with eggs. Will 6 become the new dozen? What makes it even worse is that the prices if anything have risen.   Continue reading “Yeah…Not So Much (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Scribbles in the Hymnal (Shepherd’s Echo)

(The Shepherd’s Echo is a reposting of a previously published TheShepherdsPen)

Oh the signs of youth! They do leave a wake of destruction in their path, but such are the signs of exuberant life. Even around a church one can see the evidences of tiny hands: candy wrappers, fingerprints on walls, stains on the carpet, broken crayons and scribbles in the hymnals. Some may contest these disturbances in the sanctuary but I suggest they are precious and valued in the eyes of the Lord. When these indications of a youthful presence are undervalued, it is then that a church is in trouble.

It took less than a generation for a Christian nation such as England to be so secularized. From a nation which boasted the likes of John Wesley, JB Lightfoot, Charles Wesley, and C.S. Lewis, all it took was one generation in the latter part of the 20th century for that heritage to dissipate into secular humanism; the baton of Christ failed to be passed from one generation to the next. Continue reading “Scribbles in the Hymnal (Shepherd’s Echo)”