THE HUMMINGBIRD CONTROVERSY

Throughout the summer there are various hummingbirds foraging among the blossoming bushes, flowers and trees in the yard. There are also two feeders hanging from the eave of the house available to these hummingbirds that are a part of this lovely habitat.  As long as their choices were between the flowering shrubs, plants and trees, there was no problem.  However, the feeders have created a problem. Some of hummingbirds have taken ownership of the feeders and stand daily protecting them from intruders (other hummingbirds).  All day long, their regimented routines have been adjusted to insure that no other hummingbirds gain access to rations from the free food bank.

Their daily routines are such that we may expect them during certain intervals of the day.  And, they follow through with their movements like clockwork.  Except now, with free food (at the food bank feeders), there is a problem.  There has been no problem over various roses and an assortment of blooming plants and shrubs all over the place.  They’re all rich with color and sustenance to satisfy any hummingbird’s desire and need.  There is no squabble over those flowers.  No chasing or guarding among them.  No confrontations, no scoping or surveillance over those flowers.

It seems that free food causes a problem in the Hummingbird Family!  They seem to fare better when working to retrieve from flowers their daily rations.  But ‘free’ seems to have a negative effect upon them that creates chaos and confusion among them.

There are certainly some strong implications for us of the human kind, considering that we are a part of the creation family.  And, it has been my observation that when men (the human family) come to rely upon handouts, it creates dependency and feelings of entitlement.  I know that it happens with the Canine Family!  Doonie and Berk (our dogs) never had problems with each other until feeding time.  Berk would insist upon eating his portion and Doonie’s.  They didn’t fight over toys or territory.  But free food was a problem.  Any bone that may have been dragged from the field somewhere could be shared and they would take turns with it . . . but not the free stuff!

It may be that the human family is also adversely affected when we don’t have to work, sweat, struggle, or endure challenge for the things needed in life.  Somehow, we appreciate things more when it is the product of our work, our hands, or ingenuity.  We feel better about ourselves and have a deeper feeling of gratitude when we have to work.  And we seem to function better with others when idleness doesn’t take possession of our time, initiative, or creativity.

Perhaps God knew that man’s adventures outside of Eden would need not only values and virtue, but something to do linked to his survival and self-concept.  The man would have to work as a foundation to everything that is good and productive.  And he would have to work in order to survive.

By the way, the hummingbirds are still at it outside.  Chasing, taking flight in a rush, standing guard, and eating incessantly. This is their present and all day routine in an attempt to keep other hummingbirds from sharing in the surplus.

But, isn’t that the order of the world, step up and grab all the gusto you can!  Never mind that there are others in need also.

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WHAT ABOUT RAY RICE?

He should never have hit her.  She should never have hit him.  And just because we all know it (or think we know all of the details) doesn’t justify our punitive condemnations.  It is personal and they must deal with it along with their families and inner circle of supporting allies.  We should consider ourselves, our own failures and disgusting sins and then offer prayer unto God for them, each other and ourselves!

Everybody has a word for Ray Rice.  Everyone has a criticism or some critique of his behavior.  Far too many have reached out to castigate him while others have written him off with their personal condemnations.  Concern is one thing while condemnation is another!  Enough already!

Why have we become so quick to condemn others when we ourselves live no better?  The onslaught of condemning opinions is the evidence.  “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”  James 1:26 NKJV  These rants of self-righteousness and utter disgust are the clues of our own deficiencies.  Every derogatory thought or penned reasoning reveals a deep flaw within.  We easily lose our objectivity as long as it is someone else that we focus upon with harsh scrutiny or close intricate inquiry.  The destructive and abusive behavior witnessed in a video is matched by the harsh and condemning responses of total strangers who are willing to destroy Rice’s reputation, his ability to continue in his livelihood, or hope of experiencing rehabilitation, restoration, or personal growth to deal with his anger and abuse issues.  Calling wrong what it is should be done, but condemning is not our business!  That belongs to God!  “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.”  Leviticus 19:16 NKJV

Is it better to condemn everyone that sins over the airwaves and through social media than to seek to give help, offer assistance, pray, support, find a means to amicable solutions, or options on how to discuss, agree or disagree?  Does everyone have to die when they mess up and not be afforded a chance to get better or do better?

I fear that we will destroy each other with our fingers over an ipad or iphone, a laptop, or by saying too much with our harsh insensitivity with disgust and disdain for others who fail or fall.  It is neither good for us or for those we aim our spewing toward.  It is easy to give aide to shrouding others with our self-righteousness and become an ally to parades of condemnation.  However, the truth will prevail that all of us are covered in shrouds of our own making.  And these self-created shrouds do little but deceive each of us into thinking that we’re better than others, especially those whose business is so obvious and found to be ”newsworthy” by people who are in the business of making money through what they deem as “news.”  

What helps us to come back to some sense of reality and decency, compassion and sensitivity is having our own names run along the news line or the subjects of “breaking news.”  What if your most recent improprieties were put on the airwaves?  And what if every mishap, mistake, or misspoken word was publicized for everyone to read and view?  What if your childhood sins were fodder for news commentators and analysts.  All of a sudden it makes sense that people shouldn’t be talking about this so harshly.  Now, where is prayer, sensitivity, mercy, and love?

Even more sobering for each of us is a personal encounter with God.  We all stand stall with grace and righteousness when we compare ourselves to one another.  However, Isaiah’s reality changed when he says “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne . . . So I said:  ‘Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.'” Isaiah 6:1, 5 NKJV

Ray, you messed up!  You were wrong to put your strength in a strike upon your ‘then-fiancé.’  You should never do that and you should be held accountable for your errant behavior.  You should also seek help to learn how to manage your anger and channel that energy into something positive.

But I have to apologize to you as well.  I apologize because too many of us are shredding you with such condemning declarations.  I apologize because too many of us want you to not only be held accountable for your actions, but also want to take everything from you and leave you with nothing.  I apologize because total strangers who know you not or have very little information about you have sized you up as an insensitive brut that deserves to be destroyed.  I apologize because too many of us don’t want you to have a chance to try harder, to do better, and to reach higher to the better man that lives within. I’m sorry that so many of us want vengeance without mercy!

Will we ever learn to show mercy toward others that sin grossly and publicly?  Come Lord swiftly, and help us to see and appreciate how You treat us with mercy daily so that we may show the same to others!  

Don’t add to what is already a burden for the Rice family . . . they are victims all over again every time we post our insensitive and condemning thoughts about them!

I will not join the slaughter . . . I will pray for you Ray Rice, your wife and family!  There is still hope for you and yours!!

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  Matthew 7:1-5 English Standard Version

WORKING THROUGH MINISTRY FRUSTRATION AND DISCOURAGEMENT

“Indeed we count them blessed who endure . . . the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”                                                                                                                    James 5:11 NKJV

INSTABILITY: “The tendency to change behavior quickly or to react to things in an extremely emotional way.” (Merriam-Webster)  It is the experience of running hot and cold, on or off, committed to no commitment, present to absent. Much like a roller coaster, many find themselves running betwixt and between emotions or spiritual highs and lows, frustrated, burned out, and considering quitting altogether! 

An element of the Greek word hypomenō means ‘to remain; to abide, not recede or flee. It is a reference to enduring hardship and persecution. However, it should be noted that much of the hardship is often self-inflicted and the instability comes from within.

Let’s face it. Sometimes we’re on or off, in or out, present or absent because of issues that are undercurrents (usually our own sins or distractions from others) in our lives that we fail to deal with properly.  Unfortunately, we’re influenced by others’ responses to our work or we seek validation from people who usually don’t understand our calling or our work.  Losing heart, frustration, no immediate or obvious growth or improvement, all of these and other experiences can discourage and distract us.  We become unstable because our focus is lost rendering us ineffective, reacting rather than responding, and changing our behavior to fit the scene or conditions that we face.

At some point, we must realize that excuses cannot justify mediocrity; complaining cannot explain away our non-achievement; blaming others will not exempt us from accountability; and settling will never reach a peak of fulfillment and ultimate joy.

The Apostle Paul’s advice to an unstable church was this: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” — I Corinthians 15:58 NKJV

Assess/Evaluate.  Being stable requires making an honest assessment of one’s own attitudes, work and commitments. You know! Really!  Be honest and confess before God. Instability is perpetrated by not confessing the truth. And the truth is that sin generates instability.  And, instability can be observed in our actions and measured by looking inwardly to assess and evaluate the quality of performance, participation, influence or motive.  We usually know when we’ve done our best or sought God’s guidance to reach deliverance, victory, or growth.  Being unfocused is sin . . . ask Elijah; Neglect is sin . . . ask Eli;  Idleness is sin . . . ask David;  Disrespect fueled by envy and jealousy is sin . . . ask Miriam.  On and on, there are too many examples of God’s people losing focus and not evaluating their own attitudes, motives, etc.  

Refocus.  An unstable reality can be altered by refocusing upon the Lord. (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus is always the standard for stability. Therefore, keep your eyes upon Him. Hit that refresh button often to stay current with God!

Faith.  At all times, we must walk by faith by trusting God’s word to do its work without our being able to see it.  “So is My word that goes out from My mouth:  It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11 NIV)  Don’t allow what you can see determine your passion or participation.  What we cannot see is usually powerful and purposeful behind the scenes.  Ask God for a discerning spirit and the strength to wait on Him, Wait for the Lordbe strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.“. (Psalm 27:14 NIV)

Don’t take on too many things! People who focus on a very few things tend to be more productive. Prioritize the important things! Delegate the lesser important things. And don’t allow others to get you out of focus (like Peter tried with Jesus in Matthew 16).  Remember that Jesus helped Martha with her sister Mary by saying to her, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” — Luke 10:41-42 NIV

And make your commitments to the Lord and not mere promises to people.  “As unto the Lord” means that our promises cannot be insignificant or neglected when He is the focus of our passion for service among the people of God.  Also, remember that people do matter and keeping our commitments to them is a part of our testimony!

Stop comparing yourself with others!  Other people cannot be your standard for excellence.  That has to come from God who guides us into the work of the kingdom with passion and high performance levels.  And our best comes from within, the desire to please Him to display and execute our labor in the Lord.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24 NKJV

PRIORITIES

Are you prioritizing blessings out of your life? Think about it for a moment.

Is it important for you to make sacrifices for the kingdom of God or your church . . . finance, time, gifts, skills, talents, presence or participation?

How “first” is God in your life? First at church, first at Sunday School, first to give, first to pray, first to bible study, first to volunteer, first to say yes to His will; first to humble down, first to help someone, first to share resources, first to fellowship?

Do the priorities you have reflect the nature, depth, and passion of your relationship with Christ?

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33 NIV

Your struggle for balance in life, stability in finances, structure to your journey, and fulfillment to your overall life and being may be related to the priorities that you have every day. Check your priorities to discover what is really important. Neglecting the most important things may be the cause of blessing and good missing from your life.

Don’t spend your life majoring in minor things!

THE BEAUTY OF THE ROSE

I don’t know which to choose . . . roses are so beautiful with layer after layer of color, character, and an appealing charm.

Consider the rose, which like the lily is arrayed well . . . Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? ” – Luke 12:27-28 NKJV

Oh, that God would clothe our souls with all that He places upon the rose!

CHOOSE YOUR DELIGHTS CAREFULLY

The tongue can mess you up with all of the flavors it can detect in the most delectable delights.  Sometimes our walk with God develops with the ‘O taste and see . . .’ (Psalm 34:8) and becomes perverted by our own desires.  Too often, we become focused upon a journey that may lead us down paths of material or fleshly pursuits.  In other words, be careful when considering matters tasteful to the ‘spiritual palate’ but perhaps outside of the will of God for our lives.  The Word, with the power of the Holy Spirit, should always be the foundation of what we believe and receive.

For instance, Eliphaz may not be the best candidate to reference as an authority on decrees over your life(Job 22:28).  And, before using the most common ideas about the power of your tongue, see exactly what the most quoted word says in context with the body of a text.  The New Living Translation helps: “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences,” (Proverbs 18:21).  Remember, the tongue is not more powerful than one’s own will which usually helps determine what happens in a person’s life.  Also, don’t forget that an unbridled tongue is dangerous without a commitment to serve the needs of others and avoid sin.  Be careful what is spoken but never executed (on both good and bad issues) – James 1:26-27.  Just like you talk your way into trouble, your ‘spiritual palate’ will have you entertaining nonspiritual and unbiblical pursuits.  And the Holy Spirit will guide you according to the promises of Jesus in John 14-16.

Consider this:   “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” – Psalm 37:4-5 NKJV.  Delighting in the Lord deliberately and definitively will work more in one’s favor than just speaking out decrees to name and claim what may or may not be in God’s plan for a person’s life.  And remember, delights are determined by one’s appetite, rendering one delightful.  This word is a real meal for the soul, when consumed (received) will render favor and blessing upon one’s life.

Finally, our delights weigh in heavily upon our commitments.  Much of the time, a person’s inability to commit to causes of the church, the cross, or Jesus Himself is due to the lack of appeal for divine matters.  Decreeing and declaring without serving and sacrifice is a problem.  They seem to be spoken of most often when referencing desires, mostly of a material or fleshly nature.  The desires of our hearts should always be measured by God’s purposes, plans, and consistent with His will for our lives.  They should be our delight and our delicacies!  And our decrees and declarations should be His and not ours!

Face it . . . failing to delight in Him without commitment, will leave one hungry with a desire for “. . . the sincere milk of the word” (I Peter 2:2 NKJV) and weak, needing strength for the journey.   

“Delight yourself . . . commit your way . . . He shall bring it to pass!” – Psalm 37:4-5 NKJV

 

ENDURING THE WAX COLD WAR

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  Matthew 24:12-13 NIV

The past winter was brutal in these parts.  It was cold!

Some of the plants and trees have been affected by its brutalities.  The lone elephant plant right under the eave of the house is half its size last year while another beautiful blooming plant is twice its size.  All of the fruit trees have been adversely affected with half the productivity of last year’s harvest.  The Bartlett Pear Trees are flourishing and loaded with their mini fruit.  And many of both plants and trees were off to a late start due to winter’s late linger.

These observations sparked some interest about how well we will fare during “The Wax Cold War.”  The nature of our times is such that people are fearful, and it renders them faithless.   Simple courtesies are no longer the norm, causing many to abandon their courtesies to be nice or kind to others?  Rudeness, insensitivity, callous behavior, all of these and more can be expected as a part of one’s daily routine.  How are you maintaining and how do you deal with non-caring attitudes and the loss of any notion of customer service everywhere?

But even deeper than that is the question of how productive are you in this wax cold environment?  Do you still do what you do with other ‘fair weather’ people or have you changed to accommodate others and their cold behaviors?  Do you speak or can you be nice when others seem to have chips on their shoulders?  And how many people do you regularly speak to about the Lord?  Is your light bright in this age of dark and cold times?

In other words, be one of those evergreen trees that can still bring forth fruit in season despite the cold conditions of life?

Whatever you do, don’t allow THE WAX COLD WAR freeze you out to become hard-hearted, unfeeling, and lacking productivity.  Stand and endure!

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then . . .” Ephesians 6:13-14a NIV

THINGS WE SEE AND HOPE

                 The depth of our fears or the range of our prejudices;

                 The focus of our biases or the passion of our hate;

                 Our dislikes of others or sin’s grip upon us;

                 All hidden from view; covered by deceit and wolves garb.

 

                 Smiles with backdrops of wrinkled faces,

                 Love expressed:  hollow, faulty, temporal, and untrustworthy;

                 Integrity often conditional, shrouded and unappealing.

                 Closed minds refusing consideration of truth and reason;

 

                 Thought and opinions, perspectives and ideals consistent    

                 With everyone to fit in, few stand alone.

                 Longings for new hearts filled with passion and electricity;

                 Looking for a new sanctity, rich and deep like a divine spirit.

                 Honest purity giving foundation to an otherwise unstable world

                 To offer comfort, calm, confidence.

 

                 Cries are echoing hopes of dreams unrealized or often deferred;

                 Vision yet to come to a vision-less people;

                 There has to be a deeper meaning to life with its value of man and

                 God.  Do we look for a better people in a better tomorrow?

 

                 There are possibilities deep somewhere in the soul of man;

                 Possibilities that originate from the depths of eternity,

                 Foreordained to be so despite the failure or faulty will of man;

                 They rise from chaos and confusion and abusive brutal realities.

 

                 They are new voices that speak truth where deceptions have

                 Been sanctioned and glorified, with new messages of hope to

                 Masses that long for something pure and real and sustaining.

 

                 These things we see and observe; these we long for from deep

                 Within.  But only God can know these things so passionately sought,

                 When they will be experience and not just thoughtful

                 Longings for today and every day, with every man.

 

                 Only God knows the depth of our deepest being, the soul that lives within.

                 We will have to wait on Him!  We will have to answer to Him!

                 We do not know how long it will be, nor what the future holds.

                 Nobody knows, but God!  But, we wait!

 

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;

Lord, hear my voice.

Let your ears be attentive

to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,

Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,

and in his word I put my hope.

I wait for the Lord

more than watchmen wait for the morning,

more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,

for with the Lord is unfailing love

and with him is full redemption.

He himself will redeem Israel

from all their sins.”

Psalm 130

OVERCOMING PRESIDENT OBAMA’S LIMITS

Our nation calls for leadership from President Obama in this latest social outcry from the shooting death of another young black man.  The situation and circumstances are still being examined and scrutinized to determine all that happened that fateful day in order to hold responsible the perpetrator(s) of yet another tragedy.  If it could have been avoided, it should have been avoided because life is valuable no matter to whom it belongs. 

People are calling the president out as though he was in the convenience store or stood nearby in the street.  His words of comfort to Michael Brown’s family were not good enough.  His calls for calm were ignored.  And his hope for a fair and objective investigation was overlooked.  I’m not sure what more he could have said, but I am sure that the harsh castigation he has faced is unwarranted.  That is, unless you are consumed by your own vehemence.

Only a Righteous Judge can examine our hearts in the face of all of our common beliefs, biases, prejudices, passions, ideologies, ideals and deceptions.  Too often we are moved by deceptive propaganda, hidden agendas, and evil motives from what are perceived as noble leaders.  Our pursuit for truth cannot be limited to evidentiary examinations, news reels, video, or a plethora of expert social commentators.  We will have to search our own hearts for what is right and truth!  And, that truth must come from beyond ourselves in our interactions with the Almighty!

President Obama cannot do it alone.  And, like most human beings, he does his best with what he has to work with.  Nobody agrees with everything that he says or does.  Nobody!  Most people understand that agreeing to disagree is a worthwhile and wholesome thing to do.  However, balancing between a far right with its deep rooted issues and the far left with its deep-seated issues may be impossible to do.  President Obama probably has a harder time than many of his predecessors because of the deep polarized nature of today’s world, the hidden agendas of so-called leaders, and the profound deceptions that are imposed upon the world daily from all sides.  Of course, he has his own personal issues to deal with! Don’t we all?  Trying to make sense of all of the issues that come into our own homes every day is a challenge for the most common of us.  Why can’t we understand that for a president . . . any president?

Is it possible that all of our frustration and vehemence could be channeled into leadership in the circle of life we dwell in?  Could we possibly offer better leadership to our families and homes wherein the youth of the land are growing up?  Anyone who is called mom or dad or grandma or granddad is asked to stand up and take your rightful position.

Our demands for President Obama to be presidential should be matched by our call and commitment to be patriarchal or matriarchal to our own families.  The patriarch or matriarch is in control and leadership of his/her family.  They offer leadership in maintaining the structure, values, spirituality, and traditions of their families.  They counsel, instruct, guide, correct, and hold accountable among the entire clan of relatives that belong to them by blood and marriage.  They invest in their children’s lives by telling their stories of struggle and triumph from days long past, but still relevant to their lives and future.  They offer hope to youth that are challenged at times beyond reason, a hope that can and will sustain them through a lifetime.  They set an example of wholesome living by focusing on the true issues of life, balancing work and family, reaching for that which is noble and good, and through tears reaching upward to God for His calming and guiding hand.

President Obama cannot do that for your family.  Every husband and father, every wife and mother, every parent, along with extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles must do this to reclaim a lost generation.  Because the people in the streets are the same people who live in our houses that unfortunately, are at times no longer homes.  The prowlers into the night are our own youth and family members that live among us, but in too many cases, they are not of us.  Too many of the perpetrators of lawlessness and wickedness live under our roofs and eat from our dinner tables.  Sadly, far too many financially benefit from the illicit activity that compromises our sense of community with the loss of safety and security.  And President Obama cannot fix that . . . moms and dads and grandmas and granddads will have to do that.

Most people want for the same things in life.  And, America’s hope has always been that it was a place where one can pursue their dreams.  That is being challenged everyday now!  But not only by the presence of military vehicles and sophisticated armor, civil liberties being taken away, or the bold display of hatred toward people that are different.  We face destruction because of neglect of family values from moms and dads and others that are leaders in the family.  We cannot restore the values and calm to our lives and neighborhoods that make America a place where dreams come alive by blaming a president or anything other than ourselves. 

Our rights are compromised the most when our families are their weakest.  Our children are vulnerable to destruction when they leave home without values and virtue.  And our houses, whether in the neighborhoods of suburbia or inner city housing, will only be an abode lacking real love that constrains and disciplines from deep within. The house becomes a home when values are emphasized.  And they are best exemplified by those at the top . . . moms and dads who take on their responsibilities to be matriarch and patriarch. 

It’s time to take our focus away from President Obama to blame him for everything that is wrong with America and the world. Let’s focus on our own families and homes to reclaim them from the destruction and judgment that we face.

“ . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  (Joshua 24:15c NIV)

DID YOU FORGET?

Larry W. Ware

Has everyone forgotten that “ . . . man reaps what he sows?” In fact, the entire verse says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked . . .” (Galatians 6:7 NIV) which simply means that men, even nations, cannot expect that their actions, all of them, will not return at a later time to render justice and vengeance. Just because you may get by with your injustices and evils toward others does not mean that you will get away. And that applies to all of us!

Don’t be fooled by the passing of time and your ability to maneuver your way around accountability or responsibility for acts, deeds, words, or even thoughts.  We will all have to face them, everyone of them.  

So, be careful what seeds are planted by your actions or words today. They will assuredly return . . . and the harvest will be…

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