“Inactivity” Update

While I have been “inactive” on this blog, I have been quite active otherwise. As I mentioned in my update April 4th, my mom went home to be with the Lord at 2:00 am the morning of April 4th, 2017. Her last wishes were that her body be cremated, and that we would hold a simple Memorial Service at her home church, Rainbow Springs Village Church. I honored her final wishes, and we had a beautiful, but simple, Memorial Service April 28th at her home church. Needless to say, I pretty much “lost” the month of April.

As I started contemplating what to do with her property, I became aware of a desperate need for a home in Florida for my brother and his family, close to SHANDS Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. Mom’s place seemed to be the perfect solution to their housing needs, combined with the reality that I don’t “need” to sell that property.

A bit about my brother, Steve Melton: For starters, I have no biological siblings, so Steve and I are not “blood-relatives“, which is how we can share the same first name. God, in His infinite wisdom, sometimes brings people into our lives for some yet-unknown reason, or reasons, and those people become “family” to us. Thus it was with Steve Melton his wife Karen, and their daughter, Allison, or Allie.

I joined Rainbow Lakes Fire Department in 2002, and not long thereafter, several of us from RLFD went to Williston Fire Department, where Steve was an Officer, for some training. Steve joined us at RLFD in 2004, and while I was still pretty “green“, not much more than a Rookie, he was a seasoned pro who had risen through the ranks in several other Fire Departments, including all the way to Chief – at the tender age of 27. He was, and still is, one of the finest Fire Officers I have had the privilege of serving under. He is also an EXCELLENT Instructor, one of the best. Even though I was still pretty “green” as a Firefighter, I am also thirteen years his senior, kind of a “big-brother“, so we hit it off immediately. Our relationship has grown stronger through the years.

How is Steve my brother? We are both Veterans, so regardless of branch of service; ALL Veterans are brothers and sisters. We both served in the Army. The Fire Service is a FAMILY, regardless of whether a person is a career (paid) Firefighter or a Volunteer Firefighter. The “red-stuff” (fire) doesn’t who is on the other end of the nozzle applying the “wet-stuff” (water). Steve is also a Brother in Christ, so in that we AREblood-brothers“. Last, but certainly not least, we have “adopted” each other as “family“. Yes, Steve IS my brother, and I love him and his family like my own.

Steve and his family have been living just south of Greenville, South Carolina for several years, where they moved to be closer to his mother and some of Karen’s family. We almost lost Steve in 2012 after he was bitten by a brown-recluse (fiddle back) spider. Poor health care in Greenville allowed his foot to become VERY infected. Steve is also diabetic, so he doesn’t heal all that well anyway. The super-industrial-strength antibiotics which were necessary to finally subdue the infection destroyed his kidneys, so he is in end-stage renal failure. During a bariatric chamber treatment to help heal his foot, he suffered a massive heart attack, and almost died. Five bypasses later, he was back on the mend. Even though he has been cared for in Greenville, his care is far below the level of care that he needs, including ultimately a kidney transplant. Enter SHANDS Hospital. They have a world-class kidney-transplant team AND a philosophy of “integrated-care“, which means that his care-team will all be coordinated by one “quarterback” doctor. No more “Doctor A” doesn’t know what “Doctor B” is doing, and so on down the list.

Steve was able to get an appointment at SHANDS on May 8th to start getting his health care moving forward at SHANDS. Another friend offered him a place to crash near my mom’s place, but it would have been a less-than-ideal situation. Opening mom’s home up to him was a much better way to go, so I welcomed him “home” to mom’s (now my place) in time for him to rest up a bit before he went to his appointment at SHANDS. His initial visit to SHANDS turned out to be almost a week long, because he had a mild heart-attack during his first appointment and was rushed immediately to the ER. He spent most of the time in the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU).

I spent a lot of time going back and forth from where I live in the Orlando area to Dunnellon, where my other home is, to take care of Steve, so most of May went to that endeavor.

Yes, June has arrived, and it is June 15th as I write this update. I have been busy preparing to speak at the CNA Conference at Rock Haven Lodge in Tennessee June 24th and 25th, so yes; I am getting ready to travel. After the Conference, I am driving down to where Steve and his family live in South Carolina to visit them and help them get ready to move back to Florida. Call it a “vacation”, and it will be – sort of. More like, as my Urologist put it, a “workation“, but I am sure that even as I help them get ready to move, there will be some “fun” times along the way. The last weekend I am out of town, I will be at the Christian Naturist Festival at Lake Como Resort in the Tampa area. I pull out for Tennessee this coming Monday (6/19), with a stop at my other place to take care of some business,

SO, unless I have some “spare” time, and am feeling creative, I will be absent from this blog until the latter part of July. Please keep me in your prayers as I travel, serve the Lord, and serve His people.

God bless!
Steve

Inactivity

I lament that I have been unable to post anything to this blog in over a month. Part of that was due to the intense-preparation I had to put into getting ready for the CNA Spring Conference, which was February 24-26. I spent over six weeks getting ready to speak during the Sunday morning service, and then just a week before the event, I was asked to also speak on Saturday morning. That last one had me scrambling for material. Thankfully I had plenty of material at my finger-tips.

I went into the Conference already dog-tired, and the Conference didn’t help matters in that regard. Between being sick for the first two weeks after the Conference, and having family (mom was hospitalized for a week) and personal emergencies (my refrigerator died) to deal with, I have “lost” three weeks since the Conference. I finally had to go to VA Urgent Care on March 10th if I was going to have any chance of getting well anytime soon. IV fluids, IV antibiotics and a prescription for more antibiotics have slowly done their job. I am finally “on-the-mend” and starting to feel like a human-being for a change.

In addition to my personal-issues, a close friend lost both her dad and her best-friend this week, and I am about the only “support-system” she has. She also lost her mom about eighteen-months ago, so she has taken a huge emotional-toll.

My mom has now been put in a Hospice House, and she is dyeing by inches. She has a whole host of health problems, probably including cancer, and she is also 86 years old. She is my only remaining blood-relative since I also lost my dad 3 1/2 years ago. This is taking a huge emotional and physical toll on me, so I am pretty much a “basket-case“.

Hopefully I can get back “on-track” in the coming weeks and get back to writing and posting regularly. I will be posting my material for both Saturday and Sunday shortly. Until then, please keep me and mom in your prayers.

Update 4/4/17:

My beloved mom went to be with the Lord this morning at 2:00 after a long illness. She passed peacefully in her sleep at one of the Hospice facilities in Ocala, Florida. I am already badly missing her. Please continue to keep me in your prayers.

In Christ,
Steve

Living-Small

There is a huge movement today to minimize our impact on our environment, and part of it is about learning to live with less, “down-sizing“, but how “small” are you willing to go, when the dominant-symbol of affluence is “ever-bigger“? Cities have become “concrete-jungles” with nary a “green-space” in sight, and even suburban-developments pack the homes in like sardines with “postage-stamp” yards. The problem is that, rather than learning to live with “less“, people are insisting on putting MORE in tighter-quarters.

We have seen the recent advent of “tiny-homes“, and several designers and manufacturers have responded with a wide variety of very cute, practical, tiny-homes. They are towed to the home-site and set-up just like a mobile-home. I could imagine myself living in one, as long as everything was on one level. No “loft” bedroom! That begs the question: “Can we really “live-small” comfortably?

I believe the answer is a resounding YES, because I do “live-small“.

In 2008, after losing everything in a divorce, the only “home” I could afford to buy was a travel-trailer. I was “down-sizing” from a 1500 sf home to a 300 sf home, and yes, I had to adjust, but I did adjust. I quickly learned what I actually “needed” and what was “excess“. Yes, some of the “excess” is in storage, but because it is at my mom’s place, it isn’t costing me anything to store it. Some of that could easily be discarded because I doubt that I will ever use it again.

After over six years of living in my trailer, I don’t have anything that isn’t “necessary” here. So, what does 300 square-feet of total-space give me?

An amazing-amount of well-thought-out storage, including storage under the front-third of the trailer (right behind the 5th-wheel).

An 8′ X 8′ bedroom with a queen-size bed, overhead and under-bed storage, a night-stand with two drawers, and two 18″ closets. By-bye bulky dresser and chest-of-drawers. After all, all I do in the bedroom is sleep and dress or undress. It is “couple-adequate“.

A 5′ X 8′ bathroom, which, believe it or not, three people could be in at the same time. The shower is a bit small to suit me, but I make do. Oh, and there is another 18″ closet and a 12″ linen-closet. Both are 26” deep. Sink/vanity and two medicine-cabinets are built-in.

A 4′ X 7′ dining-room, with a free-standing oak table and four upholstered chairs. Yes, four people can eat there comfortably.

A built-in china-cabinet between the dining-room and the office.

A 4′ X 6′ office. Both the dining-room and the office are in the street-side slide-out.

A wall-to-wall entertainment-center and bookcase across the back of the living-room.

An 8′ X 8′ living-room with an oversize recliner, and 6′ hide-a-bed sofa which is recessed in the curb-side slide-out.

Last, but not least, an 8′ island-kitchen, with stove, sink and counter-top in the island, and the pantry, refrigerator, microwave and small-appliances area in the curb-side slide-out. It could be a “two-butt” kitchen. There is dish and glassware storage above the island, with decorative-glass-centered doors on both sides.

Reducing my utility-bills:
I use fans instead of AC as much as possible, and because I live clothes-free, it is much easier for me to stay comfortable.

Low-voltage and LED lighting, as much as possible. There is only one regular 110v light.

In the winter, I only heat the space I am in. Bedroom/bathroom at night, kitchen/living-room/office during the day. I also have storm-windows and window-insulators for all the windows.

Conclusions:
Now, if my trailer was on my own secluded-property, I could live even more clothes-free than I do now, in a textile RV Park. That would be as close to “paradise” as it gets in this life. I know quite a few people who “live-small“, and some have “lived-small” for over twenty-years. “Living-small” isn’t for everybody, but it certainly suits me to a “T“. It really depends on much much a person is willing to give-up in order to “live-small“, but I am doing just fine.

Cheers!
Steve

It Is All About The Title…

Most Americans, and particularly Christians, have a very strong “modesty-ethic“. From a very young age, children are taught that there are certain parts of their bodies which must NOT be seen by anyone of the opposite sex. Those “boy-parts” and “girl-parts” are often called “privates“.

This brief essay isn’t about “body-shame“, because I have already covered that topic. Instead, it is about those “exceptions” to that rule, because we all know that there are certain “acceptable-exceptions“.

The first “exception” is parents, but only to a point. While a mother may see her girls naked virtually anytime, even after they are grown up and go out on their own, a father may only see his girls naked until they reach a certain age…often first grade. A father may see his sons naked off and on until they are likewise out of the nest, while their mother may never see them naked after they hit puberty. What is interesting to me is that both parents were “allowed” to see their children naked when they were quite young, but the rules changed beyond a certain age. Same parents and same children, but different rules…what is wrong with this picture? For the record, neither of my parents saw me naked after I hit puberty…

The next notable “exception” is baby-sitters – FEMALE babysitters, that is. It appears that it acceptable for parents to delegate their “exception” to a babysitter, but only if the babysitter is a girl. The same is NOT true with MALE babysitters. Is babysitting considered to be “preparation for motherhood“?

Another notable “exception” is teachers…that is, as long as they are FEMALE. Are teachers considered “surrogate-parents“? That seems to be the case for elementary school teachers. Male teachers are frequent in the upper grades, but NOT in elementary school. That profession is dominated by women. A female teacher is allowed to take either little “Suzie” or little “Johnny” to the restroom, but heaven-forbid allowing a male teacher to take either to the restroom. Don’t men have what it takes to be good elementary school teachers? Sorry, but men have the “wrong plumbing“. Men can’t be “surrogate-mothers“…

Do you see some common threads here?
Another notable “exception” is one’s spouse…husband or wife. It is almost universally accepted that it is okay to be naked in their presence. I say “almost“, because pastors and marriage counselors see an occasional couple who have not, even after a year or more, consummated their marriage, because one of the spouses hasn’t been able to bring himself/herself to get undressed in the presence of the other, even to consummate the marriage. Failure or refusal to consummate the marriage is against God’s Word, and an extreme case of prudishness. A person’s spouse should be the one person they can be most comfortable with. In some states, inability or failure to consummate a marriage is adequate grounds for an annulment.

The final notable “exception” is medical care-providers, doctors and nurses, and by extension, certain medical technologists are also “exceptions” to the rule. What amazes me is that we not only pay them to tell us to disrobe, but we do so more or less willingly. It is a “given” that a person must check their “modesty” at the door of a health-care facility, particularly at a hospital. While some think nothing of going to an opposite-gender health-care provider even for “intimate” exams, there are some who absolutely refuse to be seen by anyone of the opposite gender.

I used to be in the latter category, and my rants and raves in a “Physical Exam” forum were legendary. I absolutely hated being seen by an opposite-gender health-care provider, and was that way for over fifty years. My own attitudes have changed significantly in the last few years.

What would cause a “modest” lady, who wouldn’t be caught dead even being seen in only her underwear by any man other than her husband, to allow herself to be examined by a male doctor? What would cause a “modest” man, who likewise wouldn’t be caught dead being seen in only his underwear by any other woman other than his wife, to allow himself to be examined nude during a head-to-toe skin exam by a female doctor?

Why these “exceptions”?
I believe this health-care provider “exception” may be prompted by how we perceive doctors and nurses, and I believe that it is a combination of:

1) We perceive doctors to have a certain “authority” over us, because they have a TITLEdoctor.

2) We perceive nurses to also have a certain “authority” over us, because they have a TITLEnurse.

3) It all goes back to who had “authority” over us when we were young…our PARENTS, and they have TITLESfather and mother.

4) Parents, because they have that “authority“, also have the privilege of delegating their “authority” to others, such as baby-sitters, teachers and health-care providers.

Our role…
As adults, we have “authority” over our own bodies, and I believe that we do a “cost-versus benefit” analysis, even if it is subconsciously. Once we get past the marriage-nudity hurdle, our only “exception” is health-care providers, but we must be convinced that the “cost“…nudity, is worth the “benefit“…health-care. Thus, if we want or need a certain kind of health-care which requires nudity, we will “allow” that “exception” to certain health-care providers.

Examples…
I have ongoing urinary-tract issues, which require both frequent monitoring and occasional treatment, so I “allow” my urologists to see, examine, and occasionally treat me. I also have a history of skin-cancer, so it is very prudent for me to get examined by a dermatologist regularly. If I were to hesitate, something might get out of hand, and become full-blown skin-cancer…the nasty kind. My “benefit“…good health-care…is worth the “cost“…occasional nudity.

I also need to mention that all of my health-care providers genuinely care about me and my health and treat me with the utmost of respect. On the scales, the “benefit” is great, and the “cost” is small.

Final thoughts…
I believe that if we have to grant “exceptions” to our “modesty-rules” based on the person’s TITLE, we have the wrong concept of MODESTY. We have equated clothing with MODESTY, and certain garments are more MODEST than others, but that is patently-false. MODESTY is about DEMEANOR, not whether a person is clothed or not. We have also placed a false SHAME on certain body-parts, which is also patently-false, because God created ALL of our parts.

What we do with some of those body-parts may need to be hidden from public-view, namely having sex and using the restroom, but even then, neither the parts nor what we do with them is shameful. Those are simply “private” actions.

Once I got past that false notion of clothes-based “modesty“, I have been able to dress up or completely-undress based on the place and situation without any concern about whether I was “modest“. When I got to a health-care appointment, I am often far less concerned about my “modesty” than the care-provider is.

I spent two days with about two-dozen other naturists, and even though none of them wore any more than a grin, they were entirely-modest. I was also around another couple of hundred other naturists on and off during that weekend, but I didn’t see anyone behaving “immodestly“, even though they were also not wearing much more than a grin.

I have also spent many “mental-health” days at Cypress Cove, and even though I have gotten to know quite a few people at the Cove, there are always people who I don’t know. As a result, I have been “seen” by hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people, most of whom were also nude. I have even led Cypress Cove Bible Fellowship clothes-free. We are just human-beings, so there is nothing “weird” or “strange” about any of us. I enjoy being clothes-free.

A grin is the only “clothes” you need!

Are You Ready?

Time marches onward and waits for no-one, and yet we get caught off-guard, and may not be ready for what may happen next. Have you ever been “caught with your pants down” unprepared for what you know is going to happen? I have, and it wasn’t any fun.

Jesus told a parable about being ready, about being prepared, so we will look at that in a few moments. In the meantime, I am going to tell you about my own preparedness, or lack thereof.

Be prepared…
Many moons ago, when I was in fourth-grade, I was in Cub Scouts for a while, and even though I have forgotten most of what I learned back them, I still remember the Scout Motto, “Be Prepared“. Through the years, I have tried to “Be Prepared“, at least in some ways. I took Red Cross Advanced First Aid and CPR back in 1976-1977, and because Ambulances were few and far between, and EMT’s were rarer than hen’s teeth, I put a “jump-kit” together and started carrying it in my vehicle. I have had a “jump-kit” in my vehicle ever-since. Even though I haven’t had to use it – so far, it is still there, and still well-stocked. Because I am a retired Volunteer-Firefighter and First Responder, I also have a “duty to act“. Thankfully, Emergency Medicine has come a very long way in the last forty-years so a Rescue-Squad with an Ambulance is rarely more than ten-minutes away.

I haven’t always been quite as well-prepared in another critical-area, and it has bitten me – hard – a few times. I am catheter-dependent, so I have to have “supplies” with me at all times, BUT, I have been caught without “supplies” a few times, and it wasn’t any fun. When I need to “go“, I NEED to “go” – NOW. I can get very-uncomfortable very-quickly! Now, I carry a “go-kit” in my vehicle at all times, and replenish it as-needed. What if I am NOT near my vehicle? Yes, I have been caught out without “supplies” while riding in someone else’s vehicle because I had forgotten to grab my “go-kit” before we left the house. That wasn’t very pleasant….

As important as it is for me to “be prepared” in the here-and-now, Jesus calls us to “be prepared” for a far more important appointment that we all will face some day, when we will meet our Maker. Will we meet Him in peace, or will we dread that meeting?

Parable of Ten Virgins
25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5 Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)

Are YOU ready?
How many people have you known who had been “healthy-as-a-horse” when they dropped dead of a heart attack? How many people die in motor-vehicle accidents every year? They certainly didn’t leave home expecting to never return. Are you one of the “wise-virgins“, or are you one of the “foolish-virgins“? We DON’T know when that moment will be.

If you don’t want to hear “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.”, now is the time to make your peace with God. Heed Jesus’ closing admonition before it is too late.

Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

In Christ,
Steve

Judas-Kisses…

Have you ever been betrayed? Betrayal comes in many forms, but the common-thread which runs through all of them is the destruction of trust. Whether it is something as “simple” as being tattled-on when you were a child, or as life-shattering as a lover or spouse going to live with someone else, they all have destroyed your trust in that person. I wish that I could say that betrayal is rare, but it is far too common.

What originally brought this topic to mind was reading a post by a young lady whose blog I follow entitled “Blueberry Kisses“. Her little daughter had woken her earlier one morning than she was prepared to face the day, so she gave her little girl a Pop-Tart, a Blueberry Pop-Tart, for breakfast while she settled on the sofa to try to catch a few more winks of sleep. When her little daughter finished eating, she climbed up on the sofa and gave her mom a kiss, a “Blueberry Kiss“. As I thought about that, that image struck me as being one of the most beautiful pictures of pure, innocent love, and how great the privilege is to be able to enjoy that kind of love. As pure and innocent as that child’s love is now, she will grow up to experience far less innocent “love“, and maybe even betrayal.

I have experienced betrayal far too many times, but this isn’t about me. Jesus Christ was betrayed by Judas, with a kiss, hence “Judas-kisses“, and that betrayal resulted in Jesus being tortured and crucified on a cross. A kiss was a common form of greeting at that time, so betraying Jesus with a kiss was the ultimate in betrayal. Even though we know that Judas’s betrayal was part of God’s master-plan, that doesn’t make it any more excusable.

Lest we think that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was a “quirk of fate” or an “unfortunate circumstance“, David had foretold this event many centuries before in Psalm 41:9:
Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. (Matthew 26:47-50)

Judas greeted Jesus with “Rabbi“, which was a greeting of respect, and then the KISS, the kiss of betrayal, because Judas had arranged that as the signal to point Jesus out as the person to arrest. Maybe Judas had snarled “Rabbi” before the coup de gras, the KISS.

Traitors in the military are tried for treason and hung, but we have no such recourse. We are left to pick up the pieces of our shattered-lives and try to move on, asking “WHY?” Will our traitor ever get their comeuppance? Will they really ever understand the magnitude of the damage they caused? Will they even feel “remorse“?

Even though we may not get “justice” in this life, and they may never acknowledge the hurt they caused, Judas certainly did.

3 Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” 5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

What did Judas think would actually happen after Jesus got arrested? Did he think that he could “force” Jesus’ hand and use this to start a “revolution“? Judas, as had all the other disciples, had been “schooled” in the prevailing-view” of what the Messiah was going to do. Jesus certainly DID become a King; King of kings and Lord of lords, but it was by way of the Cross, not an earthly-revolution.

Betrayal will affect ALL of our lives, sooner or late, even if you haven’t felt the sting of betrayal, it is incumbent on you that YOU do not betray someone else. I have that same obligation, and I take it seriously. We can never “earn” the “right” to betray someone.

May our next kiss NOT be a “Judas-kiss”.

In Christ,
Steve

On A Hill Far Away…Take Two

I originally posted this article about a year ago, but I have been reading “Counter Culture“, by David Platt, and he pointed out something in the story of Abraham and Isaac which I hadn’t recognized before. So, with that in mind, I am going to update and revise this article and reissue it.

Two hills… Two fathers… Two sons… Two sacrifices… The first sacrifice was a foreshadowing and promise of the second sacrifice… The second son was descended from the first father and the first son… The first son didn’t die, but the second son did…

The Offering of Isaac
22 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba. (Genesis 22:1-19)

The test…
God challenged Abraham to give up his only son, the son of promise, by sacrificing him to the Lord. Either Abraham was a blithering idiot, or he had a faith in God that was unshakable. God had promised that Abraham’s children would be descended from Isaac…

Notice how God said, “your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac“. Had Abraham quit trusting in God and His promises, and started trusting in Isaac, his son, as his hope for the future? Did Abraham “idolize” Isaac, putting Isaac in the place of God?

In that patriarchal-society, it was extremely-important to have a son, an heir, to inherit the wealth of the family and carry the family-name. It was so important to the children of Israel that God instituted the kinsman-redeemer model, which is the primary-theme of the book of Ruth, to make sure that families continued to flourish. Boaz, Naomi and Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer, was a type of Jesus Christ, our kinsman-redeemer. We see this also in the case of Judah, Tamar’s father-in-law, in Genesis 38.

Things really haven’t changed today, even though our daughters now get their share of the inheritance. Our family-name is still carried by our sons, because our daughters usually take the family-name of their husband. Yes, some women keep their maiden-name and tack their husband’s name onto it, as in Marge Bobo-Smith. Marge’s maiden-name was Bobo, and Moe’s family-name is Smith.

Back to those two questions… “Had Abraham quite trusting in God and His promises, and started trusting in Isaac, his son for his future?“, and “Did Abraham “idolize” Isaac, putting Isaac in the place of God?“. Lest we think that this is unlikely, we must remember that this event took place only a few years after God called Abraham to leave his ancestral-home. Abraham was born and raised in idolatry, so even though God had called him to worship Him alone, idolatry was still almost “instinctive” in Abraham. If Abraham did “idolize” Isaac, putting him in the place of God, that was sinful, and required an “atoning-sacrifice“, so to teach Abraham a lesson AND atone for his sin, he commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. He would be “killing two birds with one stone“.

Things haven’t changed much concerning “idolatry“. Some parents still “idolize” their “high-achieving” children, whether they are academically-gifted, musically-gifted, or talented-athletes. We live in a world where “who” you are is less-important than your “titles” and “achievements“, a world of “stars“, “heroes” and “idols“. I am blessed AND thankful to be past that “achievement-driven” ideal.

Gut-wrenching decision…
I doubt that Abraham slept very much that night, because there were nagging questions in his mind, such as: “What if God does take my only son?“, or “How can I ever come back home without Isaac?“, and maybe “Is this God for real?“, and “Does He actually keep His promises?” If everything went horribly wrong, Abraham would be left without an heir, and this would be the last night Sarah would ever see Isaac, her only child, again. How could he ever face Sarah again?

Abraham’s confidence…
Isaac was a child of promise, a miracle-baby, because Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah, Isaac’s mother, was 90 years old. Sarah was barren, and well past the age of child-bearing, but Isaac came along anyway. God had also promised that Isaac would be Abraham’s heir, that Abraham’s family would be descended from Isaac. If Isaac died, Abraham would have no heir and no descendants.

5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”

Notice that Abraham DIDN’T say “We will worship and I will return to you…” Abraham had every expectation that they would both return.

7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

The altar…
Abraham built an altar as God had instructed. He also prepared to sacrifice his own son.

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

I’ll bet Abraham was sweating-bullets as he bound Isaac, laid him on the altar, and raised the knife to kill his son. He had sacrificed many animals before, but this was his son, his ONLY son, the son whom he loved. Was God crazy? This was insane, but he still raised the knife… In a few more moments, his son would be dead, and all his hopes would be dashed…

Was Isaac terrified? The air was electric, and he had never seen that look of steely-determination in his father’s eyes before. Isaac had no doubt seen his father sacrifice many animals before, but it was his own life that would soon be snuffed out. Then…

Abraham, Abraham…
Abraham’s heart was already racing, and then… “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Did it take a few minutes for Abraham to recover? I am sure that his hands trembled as he untied Isaac.

Substitute sacrifice…
God did provide a substitute-sacrifice, in the form of a ram. Isaac was spared, and that is a foreshadowing of our own substitute-sacrifice, Jesus Christ.

13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.

God provides…
14 Abraham called the name of that place “The Lord Will Provide”, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”

God renews His promises to Abraham…
15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

God gave an incredible promise to Abraham, a promise that we are still seeing fulfilled today. “In your seed ALL the nations of the earth shall be blessed“. Who is that Seed that will bless all the nations? That promised seed was none other than Jesus Christ.

The other Father…
God didn’t have to offer His only Son for my sins and for yours, but He did. Was it a gut-wrenching decision for God the Father to ordain that His only Son would die on our behalf? We may never know, but this we DO know, that God the Father carried out that plan to the letter.

The other Son…
Jesus was the only Son of God, and He became the second sacrifice.

The promised Lamb…
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Jesus was the promised Lamb, the Lamb of God. He was born to die, born to give Himself for us. A cross-shaped shadow hung over Him from the moment He was conceived in His mother’s womb until He was hung on that cross.

Unlike Isaac, who was kept in the dark until the moment he was bound on that altar, Jesus was fully-aware of His mission. He told His disciples beforehand, but the reality didn’t sink in until they saw Him on the cross.

Leaps of faith…
God doesn’t call us to physically sacrifice our children, but sometimes He does call us to step out, to move out of our comfort-zone for our good and His glory. When I got married and moved to the Orlando area, I had no idea that my wife would abandon me less than six weeks later, but God knew. I didn’t know that I would have to step totally out of my comfort-zone and take on missions for which I feel totally-unequipped, but God knew. If God had told me the details, would I have moved anyway?

God needed for me to get out of my comfort-zone so that He could do some hard work on me, because I was too comfortable where I was for God to do what needed to be done. I also couldn’t take on the new missions He had for me while living where I was. Was a “wife” merely the “bait” to get me to move? Perhaps, but she is also totally-responsible for her actions.

God doesn’t call us to hike for three days into the wilderness to sacrifice our child on an altar on top of a mountain, but sometimes He does call us to make leaps of faith that are equally life-changing.

On a hill far away…
On a hill, far away, stood an old, rugged cross…

Because of that old rugged cross, your debt is paid. You may still have mountains to climb and sacrifices to make, and you may face tests of faith, but they are for your good and God’s glory. You will never be called to sacrifice your own flesh and blood, as Abraham was, and as God did, but you can rest assured that you aren’t going anywhere God hasn’t already gone. He understands, and His promises are sure, so whatever leap of faith you are called to make, you won’t make alone.

Are you ready?
Steve

Blessings!

The day dawned gloomy, which matched my gloomy-mood. It was Father’s Day, my least-favorite holiday. I dread Father’s Day because it reminds me of the dysfunction and bad-events during my years on this earth. When I should be celebrating, I am reminded of why I am NOT celebrating. Yes, I had planned another “Thoughts On Father’s Day“, but my train of thought got interrupted by a series of blessings which could have only come from the Lord. SO, instead of gloom, I am going to celebrate for a different reason.

At the gate…
When I got to the gate at Cypress Cove, I was greeted by Connie, my favorite gate-attendant. She knows me by name, so she automatically checks me in. Connie is a sweet Christian, and we have formed a bond which only Believers can understand. If there is not another vehicle behind me waiting to get in, we usually talk for a few minutes. Today was no different. I poured out my hurting-heart to her, and she said something to me that I will never forget. She said “What you are doing now is far more important than everything in your past.” I need to hear that!

I will never forget the first time I told her I was leading a ministry at the Cove. Her face lit up like a light-bulb! It was then that I discovered that she is a Sister in Christ. We have shared our faith many times since then, and I count her as one of my true friends. As I was leaving the gate this afternoon, she said “Smile, and have a better day.” That was what I needed to start breaking my gloom.

Regis…
Regis is the Activities and Entertainment Director for Cypress Cove, and he championed the effort to get our Bible Study recognized as an official group. We have talked several times over the past several months, and I was privileged to be there for him when his young son was seriously-sick a few weeks ago. We have become friends, and I cherish that relationship.

I stopped by his office to see how he is doing, and he gave me the great news that the name-change for our Bible Study is official. We are no longer simply “Bible Study“; we are now “Cypress Cove Bible Fellowship“. Visiting with him and that great news lightened my mood even more.

A hug…
Does a simple hug tend to brighten your day? I hug can certainly help brighten my day, and today was no exception. As I was getting ready to go into the office at the Cove this afternoon, a lady, who I only know by face, walked up to me and gave me a hug. I NEEDED that hug! Why don’t I know her name after seeing her many times? Because I am absolutely-horrible at remembering names. I need to make it a point to learn her name sometime soon. She had a hug for me when I badly-needed one, and her hug did its job, lightening my mood even more.

George…
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my faithful friend, George. I began the Bible Study with him last November, and he has been a faithful attender ever since. George makes it worthwhile for me to spend the time and effort necessary to prepare a lesson each week. Many people have come and gone, but George is always there unless he is out of town. His attendance has been vital to the continuation to this ministry. George needs a lot of “feeding” because he was never taught the Word earlier in his life. “Feeding the flock” is a vital-part of being a pastor.

Relationships…
Ministry is about relationships – PERIOD. As a pastor, our primary-relationship must be with God through Jesus Christ, and then our commission is to lead others to a deeper-relationship with God also, but to do that, we must form relationships with those around us, particularly those in our flock. I have been blessed to start forming relationships with many people at Cypress Cove, including both staff and permanent residents. I don’t take those relationships for granted, but try to nurture them every chance I get. Only God knows when I am going to be given the privilege of coming-alongside one of those people when they need someone to talk to.

Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote; “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;(1 Peter 3:15) We are called to be prepared to share the Gospel when and where we can, and that includes to those who are hurting from some situation or event in their life. That is part of ministry.

Gloom to blessings…
From gloom to counting blessings, all in one day. How awesome is that? We serve an awesome God and He knows what we need. God is good, and He is good ALL of the time! This reminds me of a song which I sang MANY years ago:

Count Your Many Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

Refrain
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

Refrain
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Refrain
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
(Johnson Oatman, Jr.)

Final thoughts…
God knew my mood this morning, but He wasn’t going to leave me that way, so He had some surprises along the way. I AM counting my blessings, because I am richly-blessed.

In Christ,
Pastor Steve

The Orlando Massacre

I was shocked and deeply-saddened when I opened my news-feed on Facebook this last Sunday morning, June 12, 2016, to read that there had been a mass-murder at a nightclub in Orlando, just thirty miles from my home. It is with grief and a heavy-heart that I am writing about this heinous event, an event I had hoped and prayed that I would never write about, but have to.

Those who have died or were injured were innocent victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could have happened anywhere in Orlando, or anywhere in America, anywhere large groups of people are gathered. There are many “soft-targets” within the metro-Orlando area, some of which receive over fifty-thousand visitors every day, seven days a week. The Pulse nightclub may have been chosen if the killer harbored anti-gay ideology, but we can’t read his mind after the fact. We all have targets on our backs because we can never know who will be targeted next, so it behooves all of us to be vigilant.

There will be lots of blame passed around over the coming days and weeks, and many “solutions” offered to help keep this from happening again, but they will all fall far-short of the true reason this happened. There will be many “scapegoats“…

Some people may blame the FBI for not “doing something” when they investigated the killer at least twice before he committed this heinous act. However, in a free society, where we value free-speech and free-thought, it isn’t against the law to hold to beliefs that aren’t “politically-correct“, or we would all be behind bars, myself included. As a Christian, in this increasingly-godless society, my Christian beliefs are not “politicallycorrect“.

Some will call for more “background-checks“, however the killer was a licensed Armed Security Guard and had passed a couple of “background-checks” already, so more “background-checks” would not have prevented this heinous act. “Background-checks” can only assess prior activities, but they are not good-predictors of future actions.

Some people will blame the weapon, an inanimate object, a tool, for what happened, however no gun has ever killed anyone without a human-operator. Guns and bullets don’t kill people, people kill people…PERIOD.

Some people will scream for more “gun-control“, claiming that if that type of weapon, an “assault-rifle“, hadn’t been “readily-available“, this might not have happened. That stance ignores the fact that if a person is determined to kill someone, they will ALWAYS find a way. Lest we get caught-up in this kind of rhetoric, Cain killed Abel with a ROCK. We must also remember that terrorists are using explosive-filled vests, “suicide-vests“, very frequently to kill large number of people. The fact is that an explosive-vest, with the right kind of high-explosives, could have killed far more people. Another thing to remember is that this type of weapon is readily-available in the underground-market even if it can’t be bought legally.

Some people will blame the religion or political-ideology of the killer for this heinous act, and that may have been part of his motivation, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The problem goes far-deeper than that, which we will explore shortly.

Some people will even blame the LGBT community for what happened, saying that if they weren’t so “open“, so “out“, even “in your face” about their sexuality choices, this might not have happened. Again, this may have been a contributing-factor, but it is only a symptom of the breakdown of the moral-fiber of our community. Orlando is home to one of the largest LGBT communities in the world, and Disney is their largest employer. My friend and neighbor work at Disney, and she lost several friends and co-workers. It was, and is a real human-tragedy, regardless of how you stack it up.

The root-cause…
Yes, there IS a far-deeper problem than just one deranged man massacring over fifty people, and that problem is SIN! We ARE sinners. Every last one of us, and without the restraining-grace of God, any one of us could do what that evil man did, kill many people. Nobody is “exempt” from the problem of having an evil heart, and it isn’t that we are “better-people“, because we aren’t. The Bible states, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?(Jeremiah 17:9) Jesus also said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.(Matthew 15:19) That, my friends is the “root-cause” of what happened in Orlando this last weekend.

The “cure”…
Yes, my friends, there IS a “cure” for our sin-problem, but it isn’t: being a “better-person“, being “more-religious“, or even being “more-spiritual“. God provided the “cure” almost two-thousand years ago in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came to save sinners, like you, like me, because we are ALL sinners in desperate-need of a Savior. Trusting in the shed-blood and finished work of Jesus Christ alone for our salvation is the ONLYcure“. That, my friends, is the Good News of the Gospel. I need to be reminded of the Gospel every day lest I become just another “religious-person“.

There is a faction of people, who call themselves “Christians“, who are celebrating this event, but they aren’t truly Christians if their hearts are so full of hate. Jesus said that the second Great Commandment was to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no room in that commandment for hate.

What was the spiritual-condition of those who died? Only God knows for sure, so I can’t even presume to make any assumptions. If they died, having never accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are reaping what they sowed, eternal separation from God. If they were Believers, trusting only in the shed-blood and finished-work of Christ for their salvation, they are in the joyous-presence of their Lord and Savior. What grieves and saddens me most, as a Minister of the Gospel, is that those who died without Christ will not get a second-chance. They will never have another opportunity to hear and believe the Good News of the Gospel. Their destiny was sealed the moment they took their last breath.

I am gratified by the outpouring of support that has flooded in over the last couple of days. The downtown-Orlando blood centered had way more willing-donors than they could handle, and had to ask potential-donors to make an appointment for later in the week. I don’t think that it was coincidental that I donated blood just last Friday, so my “pint-of-life” was already “in the bank” and ready to use. Food, water and other supplies also came pouring-in for those in need.

My message to fellow-Christians:
Homosexuals are NOTworse-sinners” than we are, so before we join in condemning the LGBT community, we need to examine our own hearts. Examine them for what? PRIDE!!! PRIDE is rampant among Christians, but we have nothing to be “proud” of. Everything we have is by the grace of God, including our salvation. Maybe we need a lesson in humility, because God hates PRIDE more than all the other sins combined.

Final thoughts…
I am deeply-saddened by what happened, and I join in mourning those who lost their lives, and you should too.

In Christ,
Steve

Are We Too Busy?

A special visitor had come to town and there was a lot to do to get ready to entertain him, but one of the sisters refused to help with the preparations. Instead of helping with the cleaning and cooking, she wanted to hear what their special guest had to say. The other sister was furious…

38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Jesus was SUCH an important visitor that Martha thought that she had to get things “justright” for Him. The floor has to be swept, the dishes had to be washed, and their food had to be prepared. After all, she WAS entertaining the Son of God, the most important person who has ever walked this earth. Does this sound familiar?

We succumb to the “tyranny of the urgent” far too often and leave more important things undone, such as being a good mate to our spouse or parent to our children. I mentioned the song “Cats In The Cradle” in my post “Regrets“, and it really brings to light our relentless pursuit of things we may think are “urgent“, but really aren’t.

I wrote about having proper priorities in our time-management in “Priorities – Time“, and the more I study the Bible, the more strongly I believe that, counter to what our culture would say, I really did place things in their proper order. If you haven’t read it already, I invite you to read it and prayerfully consider your time-priorities.

You may be thinking that there are some things which truly are “urgent“, and you are right. True emergencies require immediate attention, and I have responded to plenty of those. I have dropped everything to rush my neighbor-gal to the hospital many times, and I have spent countless hours with her in hospital rooms. On her part, if she was in the hospital on Sunday, she has insisted that I go to church before I come up to see her. I also take the time to give her my undivided-attention when she calls or needs to talk, and recently I set-aside a Saturday to go with her to see her father, who is in an assisted-living facility. She wanted the companionship and needed the emotional-support. Sometimes I am the only “sanity” in her otherwise-crazy world.

Jesus highlighted what our priorities should be; “but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” People and relationships MUST be our highest-priorities, and all else MUST be secondary.

Are YOU too busy?

In Christ,
Steve