Can God Trust You?

I hope you’ll take the time to listen to this one.  I think you will be encouraged.

We talk a lot about putting our trust in God, and we should. He is the only one who will never betray that trust. I should point out that may not mean He does what we think He should do, but that’s another topic for another time. We can trust in His character and in His love.

When I decided to frame the message this way, it felt a little awkward. After all, God knows us. He knows all of our shortcomings. How can we even ask if He can trust us? Granted, it’s not quite the same kind of relationship, but He has chosen to entrust each of us with qualities, abilities, and assets that He expects us to put to work for His kingdom. We’re going to look at two parables that Jesus used to illustrate this principle. You may be more familiar with the one in Matthew 25:14-30, but there is a similar story in Luke 19:11-27. You may want to read both of them before you listen and make your own notes about the similarities and differences in the stories. They seem like very harsh words, and in deed there is a strong warning in them, but I hope you will also see the grace and generosity of our Lord shining through by the time we are done.

Be Aware, and Be Warned

This is one of my earliest messages and the delivery is pretty rough, but I think the message is sound and I hope you’ll stick with me.  What follows is is excerpted from the introduction I wrote for the church web site.

I do not operate in the gift of prophecy.  I’m not even that much into studying prophecy.  I believe everything in the Bible was put there for our benefit.  That means we should study the prophecy scriptures, but those which tell of times beyond the one we live in make up a small part of the whole.  We should not focus on end times to the exclusion of the things that show us how to live in the present.  Yet I feel that we are being warned.  Whether this is the time for all of the future prophecies to be fulfilled I will not guess, but it seems that our nation continues to move away from God.  He will not allow our wickedness to continue forever.  Real persecution is on the rise in this country, and I believe it will increase dramatically as judgment falls.  If we will heed the warning and repent there is still hope, but I believe that we must endure a time of tribulation in order that we may turn back to Him.  This message is in part to make us aware of what is going on around the world and call us to action, but it is also to prepare us for what is coming.  God tells us clearly that the faithful should expect persecution.  Our faith is about to be put to the test.  Are you ready?

Tongue Twisted

If every word that has been written were written on the sky, would the world see the sun?  Man’s attempt to build the tower of Babel was thwarted by the Almighty.  Man thinks to build it again with bricks of glue, paper and bits.

If every word that man has spoken were spoken all at once, would the world be deafened by the noise?  Every man caries his soap box.  How often he fails to see that the contents of his platform would benefit from an application of the former contents of his platform,  but it is so much easier to carry when empty.

A word is an abstract thing.  When written, a mere collection of letters.  When spoken, a collection of sounds.  A word may be seen, heard, even felt, but of itself it has no substance.  Yet our world is defined by words.
What a paradox is the word.  Words in the mouth of one are priceless, while the same words in the mouth of another are worthless.  They carry the power of destruction and the power of creation.  They are a murderer’s knife and a surgeon’s scalpel.  They are a deadly poison and a healing tonic.

Oh that we would learn to give value to our words, for the power of the word is in the speaker.  How often we toss them around like refuse, taking no thought for where they may land.  We expect others to except them as truth, but fail to honor them ourselves.  In our anger we throw them at the ones we love, and then don’t understand why they throw them back at us.  We see our own bleeding and still fail to understand that the same thing that wounded us also wounded them.  We grow our thick skin, which, while it may be less easily damaged, is also less able to feel.

Where is the truth?  If we construct an understanding of ourselves and our world with words, where is the foundation that would support such a structure?  What an amazing thing, that the creator of the universe would choose as one way to define Himself, “The Word.”  The Word brought the earth into existence. The Word created man in His own image.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  The Word is life to us.  It is His power delivered to us through His words that provides a standard by which the value of all other words may be judged.  The paradoxical word, personified, purified and glorified, is Jesus Himself.

Read James 1:26, 3:1-12; Matt 12:33-37.  Explore the Word with me in this podcast.

May The Word be the master of your words from this day forward.

Blessed To Be A Blessing

This is the first recorded sermon I gave at our church.  I would be ordained there on August 1, 2010.

Here are some questions to ponder.  Do you think you are blessed?  If you know you are blessed, why do you think that is?  Could God have a greater purpose for what He has given you?  read Genesis 12:1-3.

Trying something new

I may regret this.  My delivery is terrible.  My sermons have been available as podcasts on our church site for years, but I rarely make a point of it.  With that admission I introduce the soon coming podcast on this blog.  In the past I have planned to turn each sermon into a written blog post.  I’ve managed to find the time to do that maybe twice.  There’s so much I would love to share with you.  I love God’s word!  I delight in discovering new (to me) things in it and sharing what I have found.  Since I can’t seem to make the time to turn my spoken words into written ones, I dare to let more of the world know that I should have stayed with Toastmasters a bit longer.  🙂  Hopefully you can get past the messenger and be blessed by the message.  If nothing else, it will give me the opportunity to experiment with podcasting from WordPress directly so that I will feel more confident in converting the church over from the clumsy way I’m doing it now.  Stay tuned.

This Morning’s Prayer

Indiana held its primary yesterday, and voted for Trump.  Cruz dropped out of the race.  I have never been so profoundly affected by the results of a political race.  I know that You are our only savior.  I know that our hearts must be saved before there can be hope for our nation.  Nevertheless, I had hope that there were enough of Your people left that we could still influence the political life of our nation in the right direction.  I’m no longer very hopeful about that.  My prayer now is only that in the coming judgment you give us the strength and wisdom to do what is necessary.  Our mission remains to bring people into Your kingdom.  If America must be brought to her knees the hard way, then so be it.  Only let it be so, for she could take the other path.  If she chooses to shake her fist instead, she will end up on her back, and there will be no deliverance.

To Boycott or Not

I confess. I have not signed my name to the Target boycott pledge sponsored by the American Family Association.  It’s not that I don’t agree with what they are trying to do.  In fact, it appears it may be having an effect.  I tend to doubt the value of boycotts generally.  Without sufficient momentum, they don’t really help and may actually hurt our cause.  This one, however, has struck a nerve.  People who might be fine with trans-gendered people being whatever they think they are have a very different view when a law or policy puts them or their children in potential danger.  The issue has now gone beyond what people believe about gender identity.

I’m in complete agreement, so why haven’t I signed?  Partly because I don’t shop there anyway.  Target has been on the wrong side of every moral issue for years.  I have thus been disinclined to go there, though I might have dropped in on occasion for the sake of convenience.  I have always preferred to shop at Wal-mart.  It too has drifted from its roots, but not so far and the prices are better.

The real reason is simply that I feel like a hypocrite doing it from my new Mac.  All this started with the North Carolina law recently passed that requires biological men and women to use their respective restrooms.  Apple and Paypal were among the corporations first to criticize the law.  I had already made the purchase when all this happened if I remember correctly.  I don’t know if it would have changed my mind because there is no viable alternative that allows me to support companies that don’t stand against morality.  Tell me that Microsoft is any better.  I did play around with Linux briefly, but it’s not a practical option for me.  We live in a fallen world.  It is not going to be possible nor would it be advisable to cut off all dealings with anyone we don’t agree with.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t make a stand.  This may be one of those times.  If we send a strong enough message to Target, others will watch and learn.  Therefore my name will go on that pledge.  We must act for the safety of our children, and we should not encourage life choices that ultimately harm those who make them.  This is not hate.  It is love.

Mac Attack

That’s where I’m going to place the blame for my long silence, but the truth has more to do with priorities. We do what is important to us, and this has never been more than a vanity for me, though I have tried to share things that will bless people. I do have something brewing, but I’m not ready to serve it just yet, so here is a bit of trivia that some may find interesting.

For some years I’ve been watching as Apple continued to improve its accessibility and more and more blind users seemed to be making the switch away from Windows. On my fortieth birthday my wife Linda took me to an Apple store, and I was tempted then but not convinced. A lot of time and money has gone into Windows applications over the years and I was comfortable with the way things worked.

But I kept watching and wondering, then Windows 10 came along. It’s not that it’s bad. Actually the transition from windows 7 was not that difficult. Some things I liked better, others not so much. It was the accessibility glitches combined with the age of my windows PC that finally convinced me to take the plunge.

I work from home and have my desktop and work laptop hooked to a KVM switch. I don’t really need a laptop. Anything I need on the road I can do with my iPhone. So I bought a Mac Mini, maxing out the processor options and adding some RAM.

The promise held true. I performed the initial setup without resort to sighted assistance or using a magnifier to try to make out the text on screens that didn’t talk. There were none of those. You can run a tutorial for Voiceover right away that gives you enough information to operate voiceover through the installation process. It did help that some concepts cary over from using the iPhone with a bluetooth keyboard and I had listened to a number of demonstrations wherein Voiceover was used.

There were a few things that took some adjustment. After all, its a different operating system and one can’t expect all of the Windows conventions to apply. That extends to the screen reader. Having to “interact” with things in some cases before you can work with them seems a cumbersome extra step, but in some cases it actually makes things go more quickly. It allows you to quickly skip over whole groups of things that you don’t need to bother with. Some things are taking longer to adjust to, especially since I still have to use Windows at work. For example, I can’t seem to train myself away from reaching for the Home and End keys to jump to the bottom or top of lists or the beginning and end of a line.

That said, the transition has not been that difficult, but it also is not complete. I use the Mac for simple daily activities, but still have to fire up Windows on the weekends. There are two crucial programs for me that I have no Mac alternative for. The first is for braille translation. I take the text from our church’s Power Point presentations and produce braille and large print handouts for those who need them. I also translate the notes I make when preparing for a sermon. Surprisingly there is no braille translator that works on the latest version of the Mac OS. Duxbury Systems, who makes the Windows braille translators hinted at a Mac version but doesn’t have one yet. Even if they do come out with one, it will cost me as much as another Mini, albeit with lower specs. I’ll be better off loading up a copy of Windows and bringing over my existing software.

The second actually does have a Mac version, but I have not been able to verify that it will work with Voiceover. That is Quicken, which I have used for financial management since the days of DOS. If I’m going to have to keep Windows around for a while, I might as well keep that one too.

Sadly, that does contribute to the conventional wisdom that says Macs are fine for play but not much good for work. Even so, I am pleased overall and don’t really want to go back. Windows will get more stable and the screen readers will get better, but right now it can be a frustrating experience that I am quite happy to avoid. I find that I rely on magnification less with the Mac, but when I need it, it works. I can’t say the same for the latest version of ZoomText. Cursor tracking flakes out almost immediately and has to be put right again by restarting the program. I’d almost rather use Windows’ native Magnifier app, except that it lacks center tracking of the mouse and I don’t like having to hunt for the pointer.

My favorite features are the unified inbox in Mail, and the seamless integration of all my day to day activities with the iPhone. It took some adjustment there too as I used to have a whole system that revolved around my Outlook inbox, but this is working out and I think it will lead to greater efficiency than I had before. My Outlook regime made it easy to put things off and move them down the list. I can still do that, but it’s easier just to do what needs doing.

I’m writing this with the aid of MarsEdit, a desktop blogging tool for the Mac. I’m just trying it out, but I think it will be a keeper. Working with WordPress is actually more efficient using Voiceover than it was using anything on the PC, but I like this better so far. So I guess you could say I’ve been converted. It is possible I’ve bought my last windows PC.

Conservative Hypocrisy

Remember the 2012 elections? Remember what was said by many about some of the candidates who ran in that election? Herman Cain was driven out with questionable allegations of sexual harassment. Newt Gingrich rightly faced tough questions about his divorce from his ailing first wife to marry a much younger woman. When Mitt Romney spoke at meetings people held up flip-flops in protest of his shifting positions.

Fast-forward to 2016 and none of that seems to matter. A sizable portion of the Republican base has selected as its champion a man who makes Romney look like Reagan and Gingrich like a saint. I won’t even go into the accusations against Democrats over the years that would apply equally to him. He has changed his political affiliation not once, but seven times. He has stated unashamedly that he donates to whomever will benefit him at the moment. He is on his third wife and has bragged about his sexual exploits. His holdings have included casinos and strip clubs. Four of his businesses have declared bankruptcy and he is openly unashamed. He has stated publicly that he doesn’t feel he needs to be forgiven for anything.

It is hypocrisy to get behind Donald Trump for president. It violates everything we have said we stand for and utterly destroys our credibility, particularly with respect to social issues. It breaks my heart to see so many of us flocking toward this bombastic, opportunistic narcissist. Did we learn nothing at all from the Obama presidency? We have truly lost our way.

Christian, I urge you to pray. Neither political party can produce a messiah. There is only one of those. We had better find our solution in Him. Our nation must turn its heart back to Him if we are to survive. That we may be presented with a choice between a godless socialist and an equally godless capitalist in November should make you shiver. Get involved now and help us choose a better candidate. There are several better choices.