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Gratifying Adversity

My son and I witnessed our first Bald Eagle of this year a week ago.  The stark white head and tail sandwiching the dark brown body was on full display in the sunlit afternoon sky as the eagle took wing from a copse of trees overlooking a small pond and marshy area adjacent to our subdivision.  We happened to be out for a walk to break up the monotony of the “stay home” order due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  The eagle’s majestic flight was just what we needed to ponder God’s plan in these adverse times.  (Pause for Thought:  “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”—Psalm 103:2-5  How has God’s Spirit captured your attention in these days?  What good things has He provided you to ponder?  How has He used you to be a “good thing”?  How has current adversity caused you to feel?)
 
The eagle is an animal familiar with adversity and acquainted with the pain and discomfort of life circumstances nature throws its way.  In a high, solitary nest, the eagle prepares a home for its eaglets.  The nest is extraordinarily large—sometimes 10 feet wide by 20 feet deep—because the eagle wants a clean, clear perch from which to survey its surroundings and launch its flight.  It will have to carry tens of thousands of sticks to provide such a sanctuary.  Because of its lofty, isolated establishment, it will have to be the umbrella for its young from the rain and wind, since no natural cover is afforded.  The high take-off point for the eaglets allows the parent eagle to swoop down and provide the up-draft from its own wings to keep the young ones aloft when their immature wings falter during flight instruction.  (Pause for Thought:  “In a desert land, he found him, in a barren and howling waste.  He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.  The Lord alone led him; no foreign God was with him.”—Deuteronomy 32:10-12  How would you measure your soul these days—Mature? Immature?  Growing?  Stagnant?  How has adversity shaped your relationship with God?  With yourself?  With others?)
 

The adult eagle knows how important it is for its young not to count on the sustenance the parent eagle provides.  If the eaglets become too comfortable in its solitary confines, the parent eagle will often deliver the food—sometimes a captured and killed lamb—to a nearby branch, forcing the baby to make a decision.  The young can rise and meet the parent at the offering—gaining faith and strength, or it can sit, emaciate, and die within its current circumstances.  I write this article on the heels of Easter; the celebration of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.  I consider Him my sacrificial lamb and the Father as the one saying arise and join my Son.  After all, it’s His Word that has taught me, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity”—Proverbs 17:17; “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes your will see them.”—Isaiah 30:20   (Pause for Thought:  “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”—Isaiah 40:29-31  Has Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection taught you about adversity?  What specific adverse event has shaped you into the person you are?  Have you taught the “weary” and “weak” through that experience?  What does Jesus want to teach you right now?  What does he want you to teach others?)


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Tents & Tabernacle

It was a strange sight that greeted my eyes as I peered through the coffee shop window that summer morning.  Coming from the distant trees, a lone figure of a man dragging some fabric and metal tubing across the expansive parking lot caused me to do a double-take.  The man, in his early twenties, kept approaching the coffee shop front door.  The only thing stopping his entrance into the shop was the fact the door was too narrow to fit, what I could now clearly see, what was a tent frame.  Much to the manager’s relief, I convinced the man he could leave his prized, and only, possession on the grass adjacent to the store entrance.  He complied reluctantly with the suggestion, and he told me he needed to keep watch on his tent because of the bad people looking to take it from him.    (Pause for Thought:  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 8:38-39  Have you ever lost someone or something that you loved?  What emotions developed your thoughts and actions during that time?  Have you ever lost the love of God?  If so, why and how?)
 
The young man obviously needed something to eat and drink, so I offered to buy him a coffee and sandwich.  Concerned he would have to leave sight of his tent, I assured him I would purchase the breakfast and deliver it to him, so he could keep watch.  After he had eaten some of the sandwich, I talked about his tent, and his passion for it.  I told him his tent reminded me of a tent, a tabernacle, of Bible times, and explained the tabernacle was a tent God used when he stayed among His people.  I then explained how Jesus, God’s only son, “camped out” with us that first Christmas, and His dwelling in our hearts and lives could never be stolen by “bad people”.  (Pause for Thought:  “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”—Matthew1:23; “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”—John 1:14  Why did Jesus, fully God and fully human, have to come for you that first Christmas?  How has He been living or trying to live with you ever since?)
 
The man was intrigued enough I felt I could pray for him and the restoration of his soul.  He wouldn’t allow me to pray for his salvation, but he did want me to pray that he could “get his life together”.  I prayed for his physical tent, and I prayed for his soulful tent.  I prayed the baby of that first Christmas would someday become the Lord and King of this man’s heart, and an abundant life, an eternal life, would someday be his through Christ Jesus.  (Pause for Thought:  Jesus said, “I am the vine you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.”—John 15:5 & 7  What have you wished for this Christmas?  How have you been remaining in Jesus?  How has he been remaining in you this Christmas?  Has there been a distraction in your life keeping you from remaining in Him?  What will you do about it?)
 

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Amazing Race, Amazing Grace

It looked hopeless.  The young man had never swum in a competition let alone a team relay.  By the time he touched the pool wall for the next swimmer to go, the relay was in last of the seven teams by a long ways.  But something began to change.  The next swimmer took off and managed to catch the field.  Though still in last, the relay team was still in the fight.  The third swimmer caught and overtook half the teams, and by the time the fourth and final swimmer finished his leg of the relay and the race, the team everyone thought would finish dead last ended up winning by a landslide…or waterslide.   (Pause for Thought:  “I have seen something else under the sun:  The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”—Ecclesiastes 9:11  Have you ever been asked to do something you felt you were not qualified to do?  Did you accept the challenge?  How did it turn out?)
 
My son was the second swimmer on the team that won the relay.  As a proud, and shocked, father, I can tell you watching this race was the highlight of my summer.  I asked my son about the thoughts going through his mind as he prepared to enter the water in a distant last place.  He replied, “Anthony (third swimmer) said he owed me if I got us back into the race.  I told him he didn’t owe me anything.  I’m swimming for first prize.”  His comment started me thinking about Jesus and His purpose on earth and how he handled it.  I can imagine him saying, “You don’t owe me anything (though we owe Him everything).  The debt will be paid.  I’m living and dying to the glory of the Father.”   (Pause for Thought:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Hebrews 12:1-2  What difficult, seemingly hopeless, circumstances are you facing?  How does knowing Jesus went through something as insurmountable as death help you in your struggle?  Is there someone with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings?)
 
The air became electric as the four boys received their first place awards.  Fans and spectators were still marveling at the tremendous comeback.  A jackhammer couldn’t remove the smile on the first swimmer’s face.  Only the coach stood in perfect confidence of what he just witnessed.  While people said they never thought the team would win the relay, he said he knew full well the outcome.  He knew the individual dynamic of all four swimmers, and how gracefully, under pressure, the entire team would finish first.   (Pause for Thought:  “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”—I Corinthians 9:24-25.  How does knowing that Jesus finished first in life-living and knowing how he accomplished this feat help us as believers run our races?  What, do you think, are key attributes for us as Christ’s brothers and sisters to train and perfect as we live to win the crown?  How does grace factor into your training?)
 

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Victory in Energy Conservation

On May 1, I saw my first hummingbird of 2019.  I witnessed this tiny creature staring at his reflection in our sliding-glass door, as I refreshed myself after mowing with an iced tea and tunes.  It pleased my heart to know this bird had successfully made his 500 mile non-stop journey across the Gulf of Mexico.   (Pause for Thought:  “I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.”—Psalm 55:6.  Is something causing you unrest in your soul, or body, or spirit right now?  What do you do to find rest and calm?  How effective and lasting is your prescription for rest?)
 
Weighing no more than a copper penny, the ruby-throated hummingbird has been designed by God to illustrate the victory in conserving time and energy to achieve life purposes.  The hummingbird is so tiny; it uses energy an exorbitant rate.  To make its non-stop flight migration from Central America, over the Gulf of Mexico, to the United States at the end of every winter, the hummingbird will take a rest…a Sabbath.  It does something most other birds don’t—it hibernates for a night or two before its journey.  This allows the bird to store its energy reserves for the long flight.  Without this energy, the hummingbird will plummet into the Gulf of Mexico.   (Pause for Thought:  “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my Holy Day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s Holy Day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”—Isaiah 58:13-14.  What causes your “feet” from honoring God and His day?  What have been the results in relationship to Jesus, others, and you?  What does calling the Sabbath a “delight” mean to you?)
 
A German proverb states, “What is the use of running when we are not on the right road?”  Even the hummingbird will exhaust itself in an attempt to use the exact perch hundreds of times after it has fallen or been removed.  Eventually, the bird will come to its senses and find another perch to start its seasonal rhythms for its life purpose of survival.  God took a rest after completing His goal and before continuing His present day purposes.  Shouldn’t we measure our ways of efficiency based on how our Lord efficiently completes His purposes?  Our Father knows how to work smarter instead of working harder.  Even the tiny hummingbird, whose wings provide lift and propulsion during downward and upward thrusts, is a reminder of God’s efficiency in and through us if we but wait on Him.   (Pause for Thought:  “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”—Psalm 37:7.  Is there a difference in how the world obtains success and how God wants us to obtain success?  Is there a difference in the pace between the world’s way and God’s way?  Give an example as to why or why you don’t think there is a difference.)
 

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The Advocate

Spring has arrived, and with it, the nation’s pastime…Baseball.  In my youth, the baseball season-opener marked the beginning of five months of opportunity, revelry, and comradery.  It has been over fifteen years since I’ve played a game of baseball or softball, but my mind and soul still wander to the green fields of yesteryear and the names with faces of those who accompanied me in my athletic pursuits on the ball diamond.   (Pause for Thought:  “All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”—John 14:25-26.  What times or places remind you of people you have not seen for a while?  How did these people (or this person) influence you to the point of remembrance?)
 
I’ve lately been thinking of a circumstance that happened when I was thirteen years-old playing catcher for a baseball team who’d drafted me quite unexpectedly.  The team had been together for two or three years.  The coach selected me from my old team to replace the catcher on his team.  He moved his regular catcher to second base to make room for me as the everyday catcher.
 
I played well for the team until one play at a key moment in a game against my new team’s arch rival.  With the winning run on third base, the hitter bunted the ball.  From my catcher’s position, I lost sight of the ball; looking for it on the ground at my feet, the air over my head, and the fence at the backstop.  While frantically searching, the winning run for the other team crossed home plate.  To my dismay, the third baseman had the ball all the time, and I failed to notice.  (Pause for Thought:  “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the FatherJesus Christ, the righteous one.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”—I John 2:1-2.  Have you ever felt like the “weakest link” in a family, community, or group?  How did you deal with these feelings?  Have you ever felt like you were a “spiritual weak link”?  Who did you turn to?)
 
The damage had been done.  The coach worked us hard and silently the first part of the following practice.  After about an hour, he made us sit on the bleachers.  He began to voice his displeasure with me in no uncertain terms.  The coach even did his best whirling dervish imitation to mock my failed attempt to locate the bunted ball.
 

Then something happened out of nowhere.  As I sat alone at the end of the bleachers, covered in my sweat and the dust from the field, Charlie, our centerfielder stood up and interrupted the coach’s mocking.  Charlie was a few years older than me and the brother of the boy I had replaced as catcher.  He said to the coach he was wrong to single me out for the loss, and he pointed to the team’s inability to win the game.  Charlie came over to me and shook my hand, and all my teammates surrounded me.  I saw Jesus in Charlie that day, and I can’t help but remember both of them every Spring.  (Pause for Thought:  “Even now my witness is in Heaven; my advocate is on high.  My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.”—Job 16:19-21.  When has someone stood up for you?  How does knowing Jesus stands at the right hand of God vouching for your body, soul, and spirit change the way you look at living life and taking risks for the Kingdom?)


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Remember Me

“Remember me?” the gentleman asked as he plopped down into the vacant seat next to me while I drank my coffee in my favorite haunt.  The answer to his questions was, “No.”  He stated his name in a slur-mumble, combination, and I shook my head in unrecognition and doubt.  Our common ground was supposedly high school until he dropped out to become a professional boxer.  His story rang a bell in my sub-conscious, but I still couldn’t place him.     (Pause for Thought:  “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other.  A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name.”—Malachi 3:16.  Have you been recognized by someone you didn’t remember?  How did it make you feel?  Have you recognized someone who didn’t remember you?  What thoughts came to mind?)
 
He said he’d fallen on hard times, and he looked it.  His hand was poorly bandaged, and his clothes had seen better days.  He asked me for some money, but I had no cash or change.  Instead, I offered to buy him some food or drink from the coffee bar, and he determined an orange juice would suit him.  While we waited in line, he spoke of my hometown and the high school I went to; even mentioning names of people I was acquainted with over 30 years ago.  We had trod the same ground.  (Pause for Thought:  “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’.”—Luke 22:19; “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”—Luke 24:30-31  What strong memories do you have of certain meals?  Are they fond memories or hurt-filled ones?  Have you ever considered Christ eating a meal with you?  What do you imagine mealtime with Jesus looks and sounds like?)
 

He guzzled his orange juice in a minute and gave me a large, appreciative, smile.  He shook my hand and left the shop waving good-bye through the window.  My spirit was immediately filled with the image of the scripture, “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?’  The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’.”    (Pause for Thought:  “On the day I shall act’, says the Lord Almighty, ‘They will be my treasured possession.  I will spare them, just as the father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.  And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not’.”—Malachi 3:17-18  How important is it, for us, to remember and recognize God?  How do you remember and recognize Him?  How often do you do so?  How important, to you, is it for God to remember and recognize you?  What will He remember you for thinking and doing?)


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Cravings

The craving arrived right on time as it does every year.  Immediately after the holidays end and the excitement of football subsides, my ravenous appetite for fishing begins.  I start snacking on the new year’s fishing shows, pouring over fishing lure recipes, chewing on new lake maps, and feasting on new and old fishing dvd’s and encyclopedias. I seek out others with similar cravings to discuss new fishing lures, propose new fishing techniques and consider fish specifies left untouched by us in past ventures.   (Pause for Thought:  “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”—I Peter 2:2-3.   What are you passionate about?  How has your passions changed your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors?  How passionate are you about living for and with Jesus?)
 
Without question, the season’s best fishing information comes from Linder Media; specifically, the show and video library called Angling Edge.  The fishermen of this series are entertaining and informative.  They fish the same Mid-Western waters I do for common and uncommon freshwater fish species.  At the end of the shows, Al Linder, founder and hall of fame fisherman, hosts a small inspirational segment.  In the segment, Mr. Linder will discuss how his faith and relationship with Jesus has changed and continues to change his life.  Between the fishing information and the spiritual passion of Al Linder, it is no wonder I’m drawn to the series.  (Pause for Thought:  “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water’.”—John 4:10.  How do you quench your passionate thirst for God?  Do you try pursuing Him without asking His advice?  What would you ask Him for to quench your cravings?  Have you ever asked God, through Jesus, to be filled with the Holy Spirit?)
 
I’m grateful Jesus had, and still has, a passion for fishermen and fishing (see Luke 5:1-7).  I have a passion to be where His spirit is, and he meets my spirit when I’m fishing–along with other times, places, and situations.  Through savory prayer and feeding on His Word, I can hear His voice and gather strength and instruction from His spirit.  Sunday worship in His house satisfies my spiritual appetite with awe and wonder as I digest the fact His kingdom is on earth and in heaven.
 
The purest form of interaction with Christ, and the one my soul craves the most, is when I engage (talk, listen, observe, work alongside, etc.) someone filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus becomes very real when I encounter a person who loves the Lord enough to ask to be like Him.  The Holy Spirit enables us to be like Jesus and enables us to be with Jesus.  Will you ask the Lord to fill you with His spirit and satisfy your cravings?  (Pause for Thought:  “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?”—Psalms 42:1-2.  “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I (Jesus) with them.”—Matthew 18:20.  Who do you know that is filled with the Holy Spirit?  How often do you spend time with them?  How do you know they are filled?  Will you ask them what it is like to be filled with the Spirit?)
 

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Sincere Flattery

To my four year-old mind, the greatest people living were my dad and cowboys.  Now I didn’t exactly understand what a plumber did, though I knew because my dad was one, we got to eat and live in a nice house. I knew cowboys punched cattle, ate outside, and shot pistols because I saw them do these things on TV.  The thing that brought these two icons together for me in my evaluation of greatness was shaving.  That’s right, shaving whiskers with a razor.  The great people in my life shaved.  I wanted to be great.  Therefore, I wanted a razor and shave, so I could be great too.   (Pause for Thought:  “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”—Ephesians 5:1-2.   Who did you imitate as a child?  Why?  Who do you imitate now?  Why?)
 
Oscar Wilde said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”  As I finish these little articles regarding “living up” to God’s grace filled majesty through appreciation, devotion, and imitation, I realize I can never earn the place (Heaven) or position (Royal Priest) He has given me, but I look the part and give glory to God by being like His son, Jesus Christ, who GAVE.  Being who I am in Christ will result in my giving ME as a forGIVER, GIVER of tithes and offerings, GIVER of talents and abilities, GIVER of time and energy, GIVER of attention and encouragement, and so on.  Paul calls this living a life of sacrifice.  (Pause for Thought:  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship”—Romans 12:1.  How have you consciously tried to imitate Jesus this week?  What were the results?  Were the results consistent with the results Jesus received?  How do you/can you know?)
 

I often ask my wife and son if I look like Jesus to them.  I don’t mean in physical appearance, and they don’t think as such.  If I have looked like Jesus to them, it’s been in the way I gave.  They don’t say I look like Jesus because I did my devotions, or taught a Sunday School class, or wrote an article.  They say I look like Jesus if I gave encouragement to them or someone else, or if I gave to someone in ministry out of my pocket, or if I gave love and attention to an unlovable/unnoticeable, or even if I gave my story (testimony) to someone who didn’t know Jesus the way I do. Cowboys gave, and still give, me great pleasure to watch.  My dad gave me a place (house) and position (physical) being on this earth.  My heavenly Father gave me completeness in everything, including all time (eternity), to share it with Him.  I think He is worth imitating.  (Pause for Thought:  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 2:5.  How do you feel, emotionally, about living a life of sacrifice?  How is Paul’s instruction to us in Romans different than the world’s instruction to us?  What is happening and has happened when the world’s way is followed?  What happened to you because Jesus lived a sacrificial life?  Who will you imitate?)


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Bearing Devotion

“Don’t come between momma bear and her cub,” were the words from my Dad as he witnessed someone taking responsibility for my son in the presence of my wife.  My dad often refers to my wife as “momma bear”.  It stands to reason since female grizzly bears are quite possessive of their responsibility for raising their offspring, and they demand intense devotion from the cubs while instructing them on the course of survival.  I’ve seen the Ursus arctos Horribilis (Latin for Mainland Grizzly Bear) manifest in my wife and dish out quite the scolding to perpetrator and son alike.  Jesus takes his responsibility for his children very seriously too.   (Pause for Thought:  “Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly”—Proverbs 17:12.  “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to the person through whom they come.  It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin’.”—Luke 17:1-2. What emotions do you feel when you think Jesus is responsible for your completeness in body, soul, and spirit?  What questions do you have in regards to His and your responsibility in your relationship with Him?  If you are a parent, how do you want your children to view and feel about your responsibility to them?  Should/Do you feel the same way towards God since He is your heavenly Father?)
 
I’ve just finished a book on the history of grizzly bear encounters in North America.  It’s amazing how many human-bear interactions are the results of the protectiveness of a she-bear for her cubs.  Cubs have no fear of humans, and the she-grizzly is quit relentless in her efforts to keep people from hurting her cubs.  Many accounts documenting a grizzly’s mauling and/or killing of a person, even after she has been mortally wounded, illustrate her tenacity and relentless effort to responsibly care for her cubs.
 
A mother grizzly will teach her cubs to avoid not only people, but also male grizzly bears.  A male grizzly will kill cubs, so the mothers will go into season for mating.  Many are the times, a sow grizzly will attack a boar grizzly larger than her to insure the cubs survive and avoid serious threat.
 
She is responsible to show her little ones where, what, and when to eat.  Contrary to popular thought, grizzly bears don’t eat everything all the time.  A grizzly will steer clear of a lowly skunk, and if they obey, cubs will not eat a porcupine because of the mother’s instruction.  The quills will cover the cubs’ mouth, so they cannot eat the foods the mother shows her cubs, thus making the threat of starvation a reality.  The mother will instruct the bear cubs to not eat and slow down during the winter, so as to reserve their energy (Sabbath?).  A cub or young adult grizzly that tries to forage through winter, instead of hibernating, will starve to death.  (Pause for Thought:  “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’.”—Matthew 26:26-28.  In what ways has Jesus cared for you?  Your family?  Has He let you down?  In what area of your life do you want to trust Him more?)
 
Like my wife feels her reputation as a mother is on the line when people, including my son, see her taking responsibility for my son’s upbringing, Jesus’ feels His reputation is on the line, as our Savior, for His taking responsibility for establishing us with a place and position within His kingdom.  The least we can do as His disciples (devoted ones) is obey Him.  (Pause for Thought:  “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”—John 15:10-11)
 

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Living Up

I’m always fascinated when I meet someone who reads the last chapter of a book first.  I’ve been told knowing the outcome allows for a more fulfilling reading experience.  I suppose once the uncertainty of the ending is known, the means to the end is better understood and more appreciated.  Maybe that is why Jesus took care of humanity’s most uncertain aspects to living—“What happens when I die, and who am I?”—when He arrived, lived, died, rose, and ascended.  The last chapter is a foregone conclusion.  (Pause for Thought:  “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again, so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.”—I Thessalonians 4:13-14.  What uncertainties are you and your family facing this year?  How does knowing death is nothing but a short sleep with Jesus help you face these uncertainties?  Remember, when you fall asleep at night, you don’t cease to be who you were when you awake.  Since this is so, what do you suppose we carry with us into Heaven?  What do you suppose is left behind?)
 
My wife, son, and I always pray before we part for work and school in the mornings.  The first school day of this year, I asked my son what he wanted to work on and perfect this semester.  I was thinking he would request prayer for an academic or intellectual pursuit, but instead, he said he wanted to know more about what a Christian does and who a Christian is.  His request exuded uncertainty.  He is currently living in an “earn it or lose it” state of being.  (Pause for Thought:  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”—I Peter 2:9-10.  How does a royal priesthood look and act?  Are you basing your response on Jesus’s example or the world’s?  What, if any, difference is there between Jesus’s example of royalty and priesthood and the world’s?  What “certainties” does Jesus’s example bring with it?)
 

I want my son to understand a Christian (Jesus Christ Follower) doesn’t try to earn the places, rights, and privileges given to him, but focuses on living up to these gifts given freely by his heavenly Father.  My son’s eventual physical death is just falling asleep and waking up with Jesus—again.  Nothing can stop that from happening.  My son is a king in the order of Jesus—no one can take that away.  I want these grace-filled certainties to be the basis for his living and wisdom.  His place, my place, is guaranteed always—now and forever—at our Father’s table.  Our earthly failures will not be a reason for our removal from our place at His table, but an opportunity for us to live up to the gracious gift and accompanying responsibilities from our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Pause for Thought:  “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.  And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”—Luke 22:28-30.  What is the basis for being a Christ follower?  How do you view trials when they appear?  Do you try to earn your way closer to the King?  Do you believe the trial has come as a punishment for something you did or didn’t do?  How do you view Jesus’ authority and yours when these trials arrive?  If you will allow me, I would like to speak more to the subject of “living up” in next week’s article.)


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