We are All Theologians (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

For the most part, people can be divided into categories; male/female, Americans/ Europeans, tall/ short, rich/ poor, etc. There are extreme lines of delineation between the two categories. When it comes to theology, this doesn’t hold true. People cannot be divided into theologians and non-theologians; because, WE ARE ALL THEOLOGIANS. One way or another, everybody is seeking to identify who “god” is in his or her life. Everybody is in search of God, everybody.

Some will come to the conclusion that the God of the Bible exists. Some will conclude that their god is pantheism, meaning that god is in everything, trees, water, air, man, and animals. Still, some will come to the conclusion that they themselves are their own god. And finally, some will come to the understanding that there is no god to be found, atheism. Still, every one of these people has undertaken the challenge to study god; they are all theologians. Even if their study is only an attempt to prove that He doesn’t exist. And even if they conclude that no god truly exists, by default, they have concluded that they themselves are their own gods, that they live to serve themselves, that they themselves are their own authority.

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Anything Goes! (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

Recently, I was reading some words from an old song and I was amazed at how they speak to the state of the culture today.

Times have changed,
And we’ve often rewound the clock,
Since the Puritans got a shock,
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
In olden days, a glimpse of stocking,
Was looked on as something shocking,

But now, God knows. Anything goes.
Good authors too who once knew better words,
Now only use four-letter words,
Writing prose. Anything goes.

If driving fast cars you like,
If low bars you like,
If old hymns you like,
If bare limbs you like,
If Mae West you like,
Or me undressed you like,
Why, nobody will oppose…Anything goes.

The world has gone mad today
And good’s bad today,
And black’s white today,
And day’s night today, 

Anything goes.

Continue reading “Anything Goes! (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Rule of Faith (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

[This is a piece that I co-authored with my very dear friend, Ed Kruger who has gone home to be with the Lord – I praise the Lord for Ed’s example and heart for the Lord!]

I love working with wood… I remember working on a project with a friend. We were designing a very special piece made from very expensive clear, solid oak. Before I knew it he had glued a few of the pieces together and had them clamped up to dry. Come to find out he had failed to use a square. Anyone who has worked with wood knows if you begin with a project which is “out of square,” it will not be square in the end. Which means that each subsequent addition to the project needs to be individually custom fit costing valuable time and compromising the overall integrity of the effort. It will not be the desired masterpiece, but a hideous eyesore, and a very expensive piece of firewood.

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The Final Breath (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

As I inch ever closer to the end of my 6th decade on the face of the earth I realize with each passing week little reminders, new “bills” appear in my biological mailbox alerting me of some “overdue” malady. “You’re kidding me! I thought I paid that!”

My eyesight is a skosh dimmer. My hearing a tad bit duller. An aching awareness of many more muscles and joints than I thought I had is brought to mind. And my hair is a hint more “pastoral” platinum than it was 5 years ago. My abilities to live as a teenager are indeed fading, and though I may be growing older, and I may not be able to perform in the way I did at 30, I still have the choice to grow in my character and my integrity, in my resoluteness to live for Christ.

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Not to Us, O Lord! (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

After 70 long years in captivity, the people of God are allowed to return to Jerusalem. They were exiled many years before because of their dishonor of God; they had forsaken Him; they had worshipped other gods; they had defiled the Temple bringing other gods into it. Their hearts were rock-hard toward Yahweh–the consequence was many long years in a foreign land under pagan rule. But, after their divinely appointed “time-out” to think about what they had done, they are permitted to return to their own land.

However, it is indeed a different lot of people who find themselves freshly navigating the Promised Land. Many of those exiled have perished over the length of 70 years; it is a new generation, many of whom have never set eyes upon the city, which is in ruins. The many stories they have heard of the grandeur of Zion are amended as they witness the broken walls, the devastated infrastructure, and saddest of all, the iconic Temple which lies in ruins. Yes, it is a different lot.

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A Manner Worthy (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

In Matthew 16, Christ made the prophetic declaration, “Upon this rock I will be my church.” Upon what rock? Upon the statement just uttered by Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is upon this truth, this foundation that the Church would be constructed. In times of grace, and through difficult times, Christ has faithfully continued to fulfill that promise.

“I will build my church.” Christ was building it for a reason. Obviously, the Church had a mission; even today the Church still has a mission. So, what is that purpose?

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The Myth of Pastoral Authority (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

Buried deep within the pages of the letter to the Hebrews is a verse which is all too often overlooked in its significance…Yet, in its brevity, it describes the pastoral relationship between the shepherd and the sheep, the pastor and the congregants. At one extreme, it touches on pastoral authority, at the other, it affirms the sobering shepherding responsibility of the pastor.

The verse is Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

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Letters of Christ (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

Few if any will ever surpass the metaphoric and poetic genius of Paul in his masterful ability to paint a picture in the mind of another. Through his epistles, he draws upon and captures profound imagery to clarify the portrait of who we are in Christ. The letters to the Corinthians alone are loaded with them. The Body (1 Corinthians 12). Agrarianism (1 Corinthians 3). Architecture (1 Corinthians 3). Temple (1 Corinthians 3). Leven (1 Corinthians 5). Soldiering (1 Corinthians 9). Marriage (2 Corinthians 11). The Aroma of Christ (2 Corinthians 2). Stewards of the mysteries of Christ (2 Corinthians 4). Jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4). Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5). What beautiful illustrations of the intangible suspended upon the grid-work of our physical world.

Nowhere, is he more at the level of perfection than in the first verses of 2 Corinthians 3. The metaphor is the simple vision of quill and paper, upon which a letter is penned. Paul defines his mission as one of stewarding letters.

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3).

Some felt that Paul still owed them some measure of validation of his apostolic calling–proof that the hand of God was upon him. They desired tangible evidences of his ministry! Paul had led them to Christ, founded their church, and had continued to foster growth in their spiritual walks.

Paul communicates they had to look no further than their own lives for commendations of his ministry. To Paul, those in Corinth whose hearts had been written upon bear the witness of the Divine; they have become living epistles, living letters of truth as testimonies to the world, and thus, validating the ministry of Paul.

These “letters” were the fruit of Paul’s efforts to communicate the transformational presence of Christ in a person’s life. In that these letters were observed, or read by people, these “epistles” communicated the presence of God which they could enjoy as well.

In reality though, the credit of authorship is ascribed to Christ; Paul was simply the “mailman” so to speak who was caring for the delivery of such correspondence. Christ is, was, and always will be the author of such transformation in any person’s heart. Christ is the Author of such amazing grace who continues doing such a good work in those whom He has called.

The metaphor indelibly prints this picture upon our minds. It is not a mere quill and paper, but the tablet written upon is the heart of the person, the essence of being, the very soul of any given individual. Even better than that, the ink employed is the Spirit of the living God–Wow! Let that soak in! Christ works in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to scribe such great missives.

How had Christ written upon their hearts? Buy delivering them. Healing them of hurts. Rescuing them from their sinful ways. And giving them such a sure and certain hope for the future. These letters affirm God’s grace upon each one. Maturing Christians are the true credentials of a healthy ministry.

God is the supreme author of life and has allowed the powerful testimony of your life to be witnessed by all people. You are a letter to be read by the world for the glory of Christ.

Open up!

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

A Currency of Contrition (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

If there is one thing in which we as humans seem to excel, it is the ability to sabotage our relationships with God. The unimpeded intimacy mankind had in the Garden was brutally severed by sin. Through disobedience, Saul destroyed the relationship he had with God, and lost the anointing. David seemed to do this with regularity, and with efficiency. Israel got it down to a science; how to resist the grace of the Lord.  In fact, we have all tasted of the distance between us and God, all caused by a lack of our own faithfulness.

Back to David, the shepherd, who in Psalm 23, had enjoyed the anointing and nurturing of the Shepherd; I would guess few have savored that level of extended, fostered care from Yahweh. And yet, later, by the time of the 51st Psalm, it is a very different picture as David has just pronounced the words, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Indeed, he had.

Called to account by the prophet Nathan, David had no option but to recognize his own sin. But, it had taken him some time to get to that place.

From high atop his palace, he had eyed a beautiful woman. Desired her. Took her. Got her pregnant, and set in motion the elaborate plan of deception, betrayal, and murder. Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, returns from battle, refuses to go to his home preferring to be near his king. David seeks to send him home to his wife in order to cover the tracks of sin, but that was not to be; Uriah still remained at the palace. For his loyalty Uriah would receive a letter from the hand of the king, a death sentence, sending him to his death in the line of battle.

This man David had coveted another man’s wife, committed adultery, he had betrayed, placed Bathsheba, and indeed his own desires as a god before him. In all, he had in one fell swoop violated or broken a majority of the 10 Commandments, dishonoring God and man. So, how is it that David is considered a man after God’s own heart? How could these words be those which would describe one of the vilest offenders of grace in all of Scripture?

May I suggest the clearest answer is the way he sought restoration with God?

Psalm 51 indeed finds David in a very different place, as he confronts his sinful nature. He pleads forgiveness for his sin, and not only that, but for a total transformation of his heart.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

The word create is used only to speak of divine creation; only God is able to transform the darkened heart of man. But David also pleads for the continued desire to do that which is right in the eyes of God.

All this is good and necessary, yet I believe what really sets David apart is the gleaning of truth he reveals in verse 16-17 of this Psalm.

“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

David had vast amounts of wealth to bring to the altar. He had livestock to spare. At his disposal could have been hundreds or thousands of animals which could have been sacrificially used to “absolve” him of his sin…but that wasn’t the way God wanted it. God was not looking for trite displays of remorse. You see, David could have provided countless sacrifices which cost him nothing. No investment. No sorrow. No contrition. And David understands that; he knows that God wants more than a superficial demonstration of contrition; what God wants is an individual whose heart is rent at the thought of failing to walk faithfully in the grace of the Lord.

For all that David gets wrong, he gets this right. What God desires brought to the altar is a spirit which is broken at the thought of violating God – a heart which is repentant.

So, how do you approach God when sin has set a chasm between the two of you? (You didn’t think I was going to let you off the hook, did you?). A rote prayer? A glib confession? A bill casually tossed in the offering plate? A donation to a charity? Gracing a church with your presence every so often? Flat-out denial of any wrongdoing? Yeah, I know, huh? Ouch!

God wants your heart. Let me suggest the next time you seek to restore communion with the holy Sovereign, you bring your heart, your contrite heart as the perfect submission to our holy God.

That currency of contrition is redeemable 24/7.

The Shortest Prayers (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

“God Bless America.” How many times throughout the day is this phrase uttered in the nation? A sacred entreaty to the Sovereign of the universe, the Giver of life, the eternal God. It is a prayer pleading for God’s help, for His direction, for His protection. We are asking for Him to make His presence known through an affirmative response. Yet, action after action seeks to reject God and remove Him from the fabric of the United States, a nation founded upon the God and fundamentals of the Bible. We have driven prayer out of the schools, and wonder why God doesn’t seem to be there, and why discipline is such an issue. We insist on the removal of the Ten Commandments from courthouses and are amazed at the level of rebellion in the land. We abort millions of lives annually and still have the nerve to ask God to bless our lives. Our nation, founded by God-fearing people is quickly becoming a nation of atheists.

There is an old saying; “There are no atheists in a foxhole.” This was no more apparent than in 2001 after the World Trade Center bombings. The Sunday following and for several months, churches were filled with concerned, fearful and grieving congregants. They were seeking to be comforted, consoled, healed. They were looking for answers, and God seemed the only Person from whom to seek answers. Gradually, as confidence came back, those large numbers of attendees diminished until numbers were back to pre-911 “normal” levels. The strategy seemed to be the same, we ask for God’s help, but only until we think we can “handle it.” After we have things under control, we want God to be scarce.

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He Bought a Church (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

For those who may not yet have heard, we bought a church. By God’s grace Bishop Creek Community Church has finally been able to acquire a building to call “home.”  It is a beautiful building. Vintage church. Architecturally it is great; it was designed and made…well, to be a church. The cost of the church was…affordable. Well, affordable enough. And though many other parties were interested in this property, the Lord seemed to have it placed aside for continued ministry here in Bishop. So glad that this testament to the work of God remained in the community. Perhaps, the cherry on the top is that we have the blessing of St. Timothy’s Anglican Church, with whom we share the building.

To God be the glory!

Honestly, after having been nomadic for quite some time I was beginning to think a building was out of the question. The words, “We closed escrow today” were surreal. Yes, we were joyful. We announced that we had “bought a church.” And in those words, those very words, I was cautioned regarding ownership; I realized that the ownership had never really changed.

700 Hobson Street is still under the same ownership: God’s.

We stand in the footprint of those from St. Timothy’s who have pioneered before us. Who had the vision. Who bought the land. Who raised the funds. Who built the structure, and who have been stalwart stewards. And we are in gratitude for their efforts. It is a great building, but it is a Church building.

We realize that the church building is a place in which we meet; but, it was Christ who bought the Church.

Colossians 1:13-14 tells us how He did that: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” He paid a price I could not pay.

I remember, as a kid, playing Monopoly. The money inside the game was fascinating, yet in all truth, it was just play money. It really could not buy anything at all.

Can you imagine coming before the Lord of all creation with play money attempting to purchase your freedom from the domain of darkness? Of course not. No other medium of exchange would do. Not Chickens, yen, pesos, poker chips, or fur pelts. And, you can’t wash dishes in Heaven.

Cults promote many paths to God, to enlightenment. Satan loves confusing the one-and-only acceptable currency. Yet, there was only one currency which could purchase our redemption­–the blood of Christ.

Hebrews 9:11-15 communicates the value of that medium of exchange: “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”

Those words never get old! Christ paid for our redemption with the only acceptable currency: His blood.

He owns us, and has purchased our freedom to His glory. The ransom has been paid in full. We remember, we celebrate that action, and that currency so freely given.

We bought a Church building; Christ bought the Church!

Can I get an “Amen”?

GoodBye (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

Most of us speak it several times a day without ever thinking of the origin of the word. In an ever-so-casual demeanor we issue the greatest of divine blessing upon all those from whom we depart. We may issue it in a letter, or even in the course of terminating a conversation on the street. The word is the simple valediction of “Good-Bye”. Most of us may never even think about it, but the word is actually a contraction of the Middle English phrase God be with ye. It was originally shortened to Godbwye and subsequently evolved to the forms we know today as goodbye, or good-bye.

In any case we may never even have considered that we are casting upon that individual the greatest gift we could possibly proclaim for all of their lives, the presence of the living God. The entirety of Scripture communicates the greatest blessing in all of eternity is the enjoyment of God’s presence.  Bet you didn’t know you were invoking such a high blessing in that simple phrase, the intimate, personal, relational quality of the Living God.

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TheOreology (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

Oreos! One of life’s little indulgences. I mean, after all, there are worse things I could do right? Tell me if this sounds familiar. “Oooh, a bag of Oreos! I shouldn’t really but I will open it and have a few. Those were good, maybe just one more, or two, that couldn’t hurt anything, could it? Maybe three. Wow, I like those. Maybe I will have another four or five more, and just skip dinner. What is this stuff inside? Maybe I shoulda got the double-stuf. Where is the milk? These are good dunked. I will have another 5 or 6 and do a few extra sit-ups tonight before bed. Huh? There are only 7 more left in the bag; I guess I will finish those off. What’s the use of trying to save 7 cookies for later? That’s like saving one gulp of milk in the carton. Isn’t it?  Wow! I am full. Hey, who ate my bag of Oreos?”

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True North (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

Many people may say that science disproves the existence of God. Let me propose that science not only proves the existence of God, but if anything, science historically disproves itself. The ancient minds understood there to be only 1300 or so planets. Present knowledge has determined that there is somewhere around 21 billion trillion planets. Also, take for example the brilliant minds of the first fourteen centuries AD that insisted that the world was flat. It was not until the work of Columbus that scientist and the civilized world knew this was false. How about the scientific community that declared that the sun revolved around the earth? That wasn’t true either. It wasn’t until the work of Copernicus that the science reversed its position. And yet, how many other scientific assertions are being promoted as absolute truth?

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The Corpse Flower (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

There is a most unusual product of God’s creation, which grows only in the regions of Sumatra. It is known as the Amorphophallus Titanium. It is a single “flower” that blooms only so seldom. The lower casing of the flower is green on the outside and a deep dark burgundy on the inside. The “stamen” on the inside resembles a large loaf of French bread. It can grow up to 20 feet in height. This oddity of nature is most peculiar in that the odor that it emits is reminiscent to that of decomposing mammal. Hence, it’s more commonly called the “Corpse Flower.”

Why would a flower like this exist? You may ask. Why would something so beautiful have diabolical undertones? Well, here is the “gruesome” truth. The fragrance of the flower draws or lures carcass-eating insects such as beetles and flesh-eating flies that are attracted to the smell of rotting meat. It is these insects that walk on the plant picking up pollen and then carrying this pollen to other plants assisting in the process of pollination. Amazingly enough, when pollination occurs the tip of the flower is at human body temperature thus furthering to deceive the unsuspecting carcass-eating insects.

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Who Let the Dogma Out? (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

It’s rather interesting to me and yet, confusing at the same time how we seem to choose the “appropriate” church to attend. Maybe we go because the speaker is a great orator. Maybe we go because we particularly like the people there. Maybe it’s because the refreshments are the tastiest in town. Maybe it is a large church that allows you to be somewhat anonymous. Maybe it’s small enough to facilitate intimacy and accountability. Or perhaps it is because the building is so beautiful, or that church has an amazing children’s program.

Not to categorically discount those traits but I have to ask, “In selecting a church to attend, is it at all important to understand their particular beliefs?” These beliefs are their “teachings,” what have been historically referred to as dogma, dogmatics, or simply just doctrine. In essence, it is their understanding of truth.

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Tumbleweeds (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

The curse of sin in the garden launched a lot of adversity into the world. We know that Satan would get thumped in the end for his role in the catastrophe. We know that woman would suffer greatly in all things “childbirth”, and with repercussions in regards to her husband. We also know the great opponent the earth would become to man.

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you…”
(Genesis 3:17b-18a)

The ground itself is cursed because of the disobedience of Adam; as a result, it will begin to produce “thorns and thistles” which are contrary to his labors of gardening.

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Jenga Theology (Shepherd’s Echo)

I would imagine most of us are aware of the pastime game of Jenga. The name comes from the Swahili word meaning “to build.” It is the game that begins with 54 wooden tiles that are neatly stacked in levels of three to establish a stable tower. The object of the game is for players to knock out tiles from one level and place them in ever taller and increasingly unstable levels as the game progresses. The game ceases when the actions of one of the players, through the movement of a tile, causes the tower to collapse.

Perhaps in the realm of table games, this is a winner, but it doesn’t work so well in the world of theology. All too often I see people trying to poke holes in sound theology to come up with a “modified” and weakened form of theological understanding, “something not so restrictive.” The resultant effect is a monstrosity of structure that is unstable and filled with holes.

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Sweet Liberty (Shepherd’s Echo)

This is a little something that I wrote and recorded in the ’80s.

Click on the sound bar at top to listen.

Sweet Liberty

Now, She stands tall for all to see, watching over the Land of the Free,
Crowning us with glory sea to sea, God blessed us with our Sweet Liberty.

She cries with silent lips, from sea-washed, sunset gates,
“God will shed His grace on thee.”
Her mild eyes command, the keys to shackles worn.
Oh, she lights the way to opportunity!

Well, She stands tall for all to see, watching over the Land of the Free,
Crowning us with glory sea to sea, God blessed us with our Sweet Liberty.

She holds the word of truth, closely to her heart,
Her freedom rings forever through this land,
May her flame burn bright, from shore to shore.
Let the torch rise high evermore!

She stands tall for all to see, watching over the Land of the Free,
Crowning us with glory sea to sea, God blessed us with our Sweet Liberty.

She stands tall for all to see, watching over the Land of the Free,
Crowning us with glory sea to sea, God blessed us with our Sweet Liberty.

Chocolate Colored Sprinkles (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

Recently my wife pointed out to me a rather pathetic, but amusing example of how minimal our culture has become. She had received as a gift what we understood to be those great tasting little chocolate sprinkles that you put on top of ice cream or cakes or whatever. Now sometimes, as we all know, those splendid little morsels are not always pure chocolate; sometimes those rascals put mere chocolate flavoring in those things. Well, that’s okay for the most part, in fact, sometimes you cannot even tell the difference between artificial and the real stuff. But these things were simply brown colored grease that made the roof of my mouth slimy.

Come to find out, these are not chocolate sprinkles, or even chocolate flavored sprinkles, but these are chocolate colored sprinkles. You read that right. They were not bursting with real chocolate flavor, or even synthetic chocolate flavor. In fact, they had no flavor whatsoever. All they had to offer was the color of chocolate. This little rip-off in the cake decoration section was only a bottle of brown lard sprinkles. Someone at the corporate level had determined to cut costs, or hassles or whatever, and be so intentionally minimalistic, they offered nothing even close to the real thing. Continue reading “Chocolate Colored Sprinkles (Shepherd’s Echo)”

From Here to There (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

It seems like we spend generous amounts of our time and effort getting from one place to another, figuratively or otherwise. From one freeway to another. From one job to “a better” one. From one dwelling to the next. Maybe even from one emotional state to one that is more satisfying. Yet, often what inhibits us from achieving that goal is some sort of barrier that shuts us down, so we give up. After all, if it’s “impossible” or just too hard we re-evaluate the benefits and lose motivation.

 I can’t help but think of another situation where people are trying to get “from here to there.” It takes place in the book of Exodus. After being in slavery for 400-plus years the Israelites have been reminded that they would be given a land of their own – the Promised Land, originally promised to Abraham. The only problem is that they had to break away from Egypt to get there. Continue reading “From Here to There (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Legacy (Shepherd’s Echo)

What comes to mind when you hear the word “legacy”? Perhaps it is somebody’s reputation. Maybe it brings to mind the name of quality paint, or a good brand of windows for your home. Still, yet again it may simply bring to mind the image of a quality automobile. How about if you were to hear the word in the context of Father’s Day? Now what does it bring to mind? If you were like most men I would imagine that it means how people will remember you after you have departed from this world (This article just got sober, huh?). Continue reading “Legacy (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Mr. Potato Head (Shepherd’s Pen)

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

For those of us who grew up in the fifties and sixties we are well aware of that iconic toy, Mr. Potato Head. Hugely successful over the course of its sixty-year reign, it is a plastic-bodied potato into which various features could be stuck to characterize the object into various facial distinctions or personalities. Part of the fun is mischievously placing the parts in the wrong areas for amusement. The toy has gone through many iterations and characters as a result of its success.

Facial parts placed in the wrong areas on a potato can be amusing, and cause us to laugh when a nose is inserted where an eye should be, or an eye in place of a ear, but that sort of tomfoolery doesn’t bode well when applied to a church, the body of Christ. Continue reading “Mr. Potato Head (Shepherd’s Pen)”

The Last Bite (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

I remember the image well. The Tramp and Lady have tug-o-warred over a spaghetti noodle and at long last Tramp has conceded the final meatball on the plate. He gently rolls it over to her side of the plate with his nose, a certain sign of giving to one who he truly holds so dear. One of the most notable demonstrations of pasta chivalry imparted to celluloid. The scene is from the movie, “Lady and the Tramp,” though, his behavior is anything but trampish.

I must confess that that sort of chivalry has not been evidenced all too often in the Larson household, at least when there is food, and especially where desserts are involved. And when it comes to the sharing of Hula Pie at Duke’s all bets are off. Macadamia ice cream in an Oreo crust, topped with macadamias, fudge and whipped cream… Delectable. Continue reading “The Last Bite (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Honor Guard (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

What a blessing the Honor Guard is to those in military service! It demonstrates high standards of appearance and conduct. They provide funeral honors for fallen comrades, guard national monuments, and defend the flag. In effect they act as ambassadors, or sentinels of honor.  But what does it actually mean that they guard the honor, or protect the honor of the military? It means to guard or demonstrate respect, esteem, affirm, and even cherish those they hold to be of value. They get it! They realize the benefit of affirmation, and ascription of honor to individuals so deserving. But this is nothing new to the wisdom of God. Continue reading “Honor Guard (Shepherd’s Echo)”

God, or Something Like Him (Shepherd’s Echo)

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

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man, which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ”– So contends Blaise Pascal, the famous French theologian, and philosopher. Now, I am not aware of any such Scripture specifically affirming the statement, but Romans 2:15 speaks of the Law as being written upon the hearts of men. Though the metaphor may be limited in some capacities, the imagery is profound. Continue reading “God, or Something Like Him (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Love Leaves a Mark (Shepherd’s Echo)

January 6, 1971 began unlike any other day in my youthful life. It was very early in the morning, well before dawn. I was in bed dreaming when I was ushered into the day by screams of my mother. “Boys, boys! Get up!” Our house was engulfed in flames, due to an iron, or a dryer left on in the laundry room. My mother, who slept in an opposite end of the house had awakened to find the house swallowed in fire, and she attempted to make her way through the residence trying to awaken her four children who were held captive inside the flames, yet the intense heat restricted her from doing so. We were facing near-certain doom. Continue reading “Love Leaves a Mark (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Var står det skrivet? (Shepherd’s Echo)

The church with which I am affiliated (the Evangelical Free Church) has a rich heritage of tradition, as do many denominations. It is a “big tent” church that embraces the gospel. And, as such, it is very intentional to embrace the true Church of “Believers only, but all believers” as the body of Christ; that means we recognize the redeemed as greater than any one denomination.  And it believes in staunchly confirming the Word of God as the “Rule of Faith” for all things pertaining to faith, life and godliness; this is the doctrine of sola scriptura. Our predecessors had a saying in Swedish (from whom the denomination emanated), Var står det skrivet?” In English it means,”Where stands it written?” Continue reading “Var står det skrivet? (Shepherd’s Echo)”

Have Mercy Upon Me (Shepherd’s Echo)

Jesus is an absolute master of “Virtual Flannel Boards.” You remember those, perhaps from your childhood Sunday school classes. Flannel boards were those instructional visual aids to help in the telling of a story. With the props, and scenes, and figures, and such, they helped us grasp the Biblical narrative. Christ had the amazing ability to describe these flannel boards as though they were hovering in midair for all the people to see. It was in part this great skill which so allowed Him to effectively communicate powerful truths. I am sure the crowds could visualize the pictures which Christ presented. In so doing, these parables of Christ struck quickly, and they struck at the hearts of those listening. Continue reading “Have Mercy Upon Me (Shepherd’s Echo)”

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)”