Playing the “Who Am I?” Game

You’ve probably played the party game: Somebody tapes a name of some famous person to your back and you mingle around asking questions as you try to figure out who you are. I’m embarrassed to say I never figured mine out before I got too sore from all the partygoers kicking me!

But if you’d like to play, imagine that God has placed a name on your back. Now go on wandering about in your daily existence and ask questions to deduce who you are.

1.  “Am I an animal?”

Nope.  After God finished creating the animals after the animal kind, “Then God [Elohim in Hebrew] said, Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness … male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).  This says “Our” because God before He became the Father—when Jesus was born—and The Word which was Jesus before He became the Son (John 1), were creating humans to become part of their family.  Jesus quoted “You are gods [Elohim], And all of you are children of the Most High” (Psalm 82:6, John 10:34).   Your destiny is to be born at the resurrection into the God family!

2.  “Do I have an immortal soul?”

Plato and other philosophers influenced everybody to think so, but the Bible says you became a soul rather than you have a soul (Genesis 2:7) and the soul that sins will die (Ezekiel 18:4).

3.  “Am I just physical then?”

Nope.  You have a “spirit in man”—what puts you on a higher plane than animals—which is meant to be united with God’s Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:11) when the Father chooses that the time is right to call you (John 6:44).

4.  “Am I called now?”

If you understand such spiritual concepts, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

5.  “Am I just the nobody I feel like?”

God the Father did not spare His own Son for you and He plans to freely give you all things (Romans 8:32).  He is ready to share His divine nature with you (2 Peter 1:4).

6.  “Am I just going to end up failing such a wondrous purpose for living?”

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:6).   Maybe you don’t want to let me get started with you, but please let God!

7.  “Wow!  But what’s the name I’m supposed to deduce?”

“He who overcomes … I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem … And I will write on him my new name” (Revelation 3:12).

Then you will know who you are!  For now it’s pretty good being God’s son or daughter with such a future!

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Jesus Said “When You Pray” But He Didn’t Say When

“When you pray,” Jesus said to his disciples, and He went on to give some instructions about how to do it including His model prayer (Matthew 6:5-13). But He didn’t say when we should pray.

David, a man after God’s own heart who is credited with writing 73 of the 150 Psalms, tells us when to pray.

“My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; In the morning I will direct it to You and I will look up” (Psalm 5:3).

But in Psalm 55:17, David went further: “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray …”

This example was matched by Daniel, the “greatly beloved” prophet. “He knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10). For such daily spiritual habit, he was thrown into the lion’s den where he no doubt maintained his diligence in prayer!

In Psalm 119:164 David wrote “Seven times a day I praise You.”  Did he literally pray every 3.4285714 hours? Or, if you take out eight hours for sleeping, every 2.287142 hours? Seven in the Bible is the number of completeness and perfection.   Of course we would all have more successful days if we regularly pray throughout the entire day—and have our minds constantly on things above, walking after the spirit not the flesh, and striving to bring every thought into subjection to the obedience of Jesus Christ.

And that’s what 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 is getting at: “Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.”  A 24/7 mindset of oneness and unity with God the Father and Jesus Christ our Brother through the Holy Spirit.

When should we pray?  Don’t let me interrupt you!

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“Would You Like Flies with That?”

No thanks, just the wonderful sizzling summer burger and cool breeze shake!  Without squadrons of disgusting hairy creatures buzzing my head and darting all about the computer room nonstop. I’m sorry, their maneuverability is utterly amazing but I can only appreciate the Blue Angels when they’re flying over the Air Force Academy. I wish I could whack the whole annoying formation right out of the sky!

Yesterday I finally figured out what is bothering me about this year’s crop of annoying flies: They don’t land! They just keep buzzing me while I’m trying to write a post and distract me so badly that I have to stop, grab the swatter and look for something to kill! And I’ll just be sitting there poised and tense because I’m not a good-enough jedi to be able to swat one right out of its dives and darts. And my futile swings don’t generate enough air conditioning to be worth all the effort. So I eventually give up and go back to trying to ignore the incessant buzz.

The flies I remember used to land and were easy killing. What have we done?  What are these guys on?

My solution is to close the back door which allows them entry. But everyone else in the family wants the door open so the dogs can let themselves in and out and so the nice breeze wafts in.   So the door is mostly open and the annoying flights nonstop.

Hey, let’s put up a screen door! Do they make them with doggy door to match the one in the door? The three dogs definitely need to be able to get in and out. I have never had good luck putting up screen doors and getting the automatic door closers to work smoothly. I probably won’t overcome inertia to put up a screendoor until the buzzards start ramming into me!

The creation is too amazing and mind-boggling for words to give adequate appreciation to our Creator, but it “was subjected to futility, not willingly but because of Him who subjected it in hope” (Romans 8:20). Something more glorious is coming where Satan and the annoying creatures he probably created when he was in charge of preparing the earth for the creation of man won’t be there to offend!   For the new heaven and new earth, please, definitely no flies with that!

So hey, it’s almost August. The good things of summer will soon be gone. And so will the bad things! If you would just land …

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On the Porch

Andy sitting on the front porch, strumming his guitar and softly singing a quiet ballad. Aunt Bee knitting. Opie playing on the floor. Barney sharing his ambitions: “Yep, you know what I just might do? Go over to Goob’s and get a pop.” An hour later he’s still thinking about such an ambitious trip.

And our fast-paced 24-7 world yearns to get back to Mayberry. Rascal Flats sings about it!

And the great American porch is experiencing a resurgence of popularity. Back into style by being upfront!  In 1995 only 42% of new homes were built with porches; in 2011, 65%! The statistic that matters is that our 1900-built Victorian home has one! It may well be its most cherished feature.

So Mary and I find some time each day to go sit on the porch. Heaven on earth is when a cool breeze keeps the mosquitos in flight elsewhere.   Thanks to those pests people today opt for closed-in porches.

That would ruin it for me. Not the same. A house we flipped had a closed-in porch so we installed a porch swing in it. Years later I see that the swing is gone. So are the owners and it’s in foreclosure.

No, a porch needs to be open to the street and to the world! A bridge to the outside!

I love to look at the front yard we restored this spring with new sod and all the beautiful flowers Mary has planted. I love to watch the neighbors across the street, whom we don’t really know that well, but sitting on the front porch says that we’re open to the possibilities, and sooner or later we briefly chat about something. And sociologists say the lure of a front porch is a desire for community.

Probably, but the peaceful solitude punctuated by various birds sharing their happiness is reason enough for me to cherish venturing out all by myself.

But the best reason is the wonderful sharing time with Mary. When we recently took Gary Campbell’s 5 Love Languages test, Mary scored highest for Quality Time. When we step out onto the porch, one of us chooses the recliner on the left and the other takes the one on the right. We don’t always sit in the same one. Our beloved dog Dutchess, a 14-year-old golden retriever, lays between us on the cool cement. She gets the privilege over our other 2 yappy dogs because she ignores any cars, people and even dogs that pass by.

Probably looks like the set of Hee-Haw but there’s no gloom, despair and misery on me here!

So far I haven’t tried to be like Andy and play the new banjo my youngest daughter gave me for Father’s Day. That would probably ruin the front porch experience for everybody for all time! But my best number so far is a 3-chord rendition of “You get a line and I’ll get a pole, and we’ll all go down to the crawdad hole.” Andy would probably tear up.

Mary reads when she goes out by herself. But this summer we have been enjoying the porch as a special quality time to share just the two of us. Almost 26 years together but right now our best celebration comes out on the porch.

That said, if you happen to pass by, come on up!

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The Most Important Number in the 144,000

Who are the 144,000? The joke is that’s how many people have differing ideas about who they are!

I remember the first time I heard about the 144,000, it was by a church who had about 8 million adherents around the world! Later when the church I believed had the truth about the 144,000 actually looked like it would soon have about that many men, women and children, before I could get worried, it was pruned down to about 25,000.

Back in the ‘70s, I thought I knew everything about the 144,000. Today I just hold onto exactly what the Bible says and assume no more than that until more is revealed, which God says He will do for His servants when the time is right (Amos 3:7).

Because Revelation 7 and 14 each mention the 144,000, some think there are 288,000!

Revelation 7 talks about 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel—except Dan, which appears to be bad news for those from Ireland and Denmark. This 144,000 is sealed in Chapter 7, which some see as an important detail since Christians have already been sealed by the Holy Spirit when they receive it after baptism and the laying on of hands (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Some see this 144,000 as involving the 12 tribes of Israel that will be regathered to the Holy Land at Christ’s return—the Second Exodus that will make everyone forget the first one in comparison—to become the model for the Gentiles that they were intended to be.

So while the 144,000 of Revelation 7 talks about nationality, the 144,000 of Revelation 14 clearly talks about spirituality. These are not defiled spiritually. They follow Christ wherever He goes. And they are “the first fruits.”

Those who observe God’s Holy Day of Pentecost know that God is only calling a small harvest of “first fruits” from Abel to the return of His Son. First fruits of 144,000 would be a very small harvest of the perhaps 50 billion people who have ever lived. Those billions will have their chance at salvation in the Millennium but primarily in the Great White Throne Judgment.

So 288,000? More likely is that “the 144,000” of both chapters is the same group rather than “this 144,000 and that 144,000.”

Josephus knew where the “lost tribes of Israel” were in the first century, Hebrews was addressed to them, Church of God groups know where they have migrated and settled, and God knows the heritage of Christians He has called.

But then, what tribe was Abel? Noah? Abraham and Sarah?

Some believe the 12 tribes of 12,000 each in Revelation 7 is symbolic—12 being the Bible number of organization. Otherwise, why would tiny Issachar (Finland) have the same number of people as the United States and Great Britain (Joseph)? Some think all true Christians down through time would be way more than 144,000 so the number must be symbolic.

Others counter that “God Who knows the number of hairs on a head can surely count! If He says there are 144,000, then I believe Him!”

What’s important is that “the first fruits” have the hope of being the Bride of Christ!  The Bible says the first resurrection is “a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35). The firstborn is given double portion (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). Apparently those converted in the Millennium and Great White Throne Judgment will be sons and daughters of the union of Christ and the Bride. They don’t face Satan until he is released at the end of the Millennium. They won’t face a society seeped in Satan’s way.

So here’s the most important number in “the 144,000”: the 1.

You! Me! God help us to respond to His calling to be one of the first fruits who are no longer defiled spiritually and who follow Christ wherever He goes including down the altar!

“You Can Make the Bible Say Anything You Want”

People say that when they want to discredit it and not obey it.  But the Bible is truth (John 17:17).

The amazing fact is that God wrote His instruction book on life so that people not only could make it say anything they want but that they would.

Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, inspired every word of His written Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) to be like a puzzle—here a little, there a little, line upon line (Isaiah 28:13).  Why?  “That they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught.”

So open the Bible to Matthew 27:5 where “Judas went out and hanged himself” and then open again to Luke 10:37—“Go and do likewise.”  See, the Bible says you should hang yourself, so why pay attention to a suicidal book!

When you’re working a puzzle, it’s a big help to have the beautiful picture on the box to guide you in finding the pieces and putting them together properly.  Thanks to Plato and the Greek philosophers and to Dante Alighieri, people interpret Bible passages to soulful images instead of to Christ’s glorious Kingdom of God He is going to establish here on earth which He says we should seek first above all else.

Also people find a pet proof text scripture instead of carefully studying all the scriptures on a subject.  Perhaps they even spiff up their pet, like when Martin Luther penned in “alone” after “saved by grace.”

And people say Jesus talked in parables so people would understand the folksy stories.  Why bother reading that Jesus said he spoke that way so those beside His disciples would not understand at that time (Matthew 13:11).

So people say Paul changed everything.  Peter says that people twist what Paul wrote to their own destruction—“as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).  So people say Paul did away with the law and the Commandments though he said they were “holy, just and good” (Rom. 7:12).

As one who has done editing and proofreading all my life, how badly I wish God would let me take out all the ambiguous words that allow people to twist what the Bible says.  And let me make some inserts that would make a verse crystal clear.

But better not because I don’t want plagues for adding to this Book or removal from the Book of Life for taking away (Revelation 22:18-19).

The simple truth is that until God the Father calls us (John 6:44) and Jesus Christ opens our minds that we might understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45)—which They will do when the time is best for us, when we will be able to understand and respond correctly—then God allows us to make the Bible say anything we want.

Oh God, help us to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Slaying the Giant Dailyness of Life

In 1982 while touring Israel, we visited the Valley of Elah. We tried to imagine Saul’s Camp of Israelites on the north ridge facing the Philistine camp to the south. We carefully selected 5 smooth stones from the Brook Elah and then fantasized slinging one into the forehead of Goliath for rumbling out in front and taunting Israel for 40 days morning and night to send a champion to fight him.

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Goliath from Gath terrified everyone as a fighting hulk “6 cubits and a span” (I Sam. 17:4). Depending on the length of cubit, and the one telling the story, Goliath towered anywhere from 9 to 13 feet tall! The word span is appropriate because he looked as big as a bridge you didn’t want to cross! His spear had a shaft like a weaver’s beam and an iron point weighing 15 pounds! He left the Israelites muttering “Gathly!”

Would you have stepped up? Would I? Not unless God miraculously prodded me. The only experience I’ve had at slinging is with insults and I’m not even good at that. I only think of something zingy to say after all parties have parted. “Your momma’s a Philistine!” probably wouldn’t have broken any giant bones.

My best contribution would be to pray that God inspires the right man. One who thinks a bear or lion was a bigger challenge and He knew God delivered him.   And one who thinks Goliath was too big to miss!

It might have seemed like King Saul should have been the one to face Goliath. He was head and shoulders above everybody but kind of flaky. And remember the times he hurled spears at David and his own son Jonathan and succeeded only at keeping the palace remodelers busy.

One of the most memorable life lessons I received in a Bible class was that it is more challenging facing the dailyness of life than a giant. Another way to put it would be that it can be tougher facing the drip-drip-drips of life than a busted out pipe.

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The busted pipe demands no-brainer all-out adrenaline action no matter the cost or time. The drip-drip-drips demand figuring out if it’s really something that has to be dealt with at the moment, debating whether you can stand taking on the plumbing yourself or determining whether you can afford to call anybody. The busted pipe is soon solved or you just charge admission for your new swimming pool. But the drip-drip-drips can keep on eroding you forever if you can figure out how to keep putting them off!

Our relationships, habits and attitudes—are they drip-drip-drips? Goliaths? God has called us to the battle. We can win with His giant help daily.

__________
FUN FACT: Compared to you, I might look like Goliath. My shoulder height is 6-7 feet. My 1,545 pound frame looks even more imposing with its rack spanning 6 feet! An Antler Moose is the longest frame at 81 inches. But put away your slingshot, David, any perceived threat is Saul in your imagination.

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