Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Holy Hesitancy?

I used an illustration Sunday about the days when I was Police Chaplain I could walk into anything and go anywhere when I had my "official" Police badge or pocket insert out, and I looked like I knew what I was doing. I walked through Police stations, including Head Quarters, into Emergency Rooms and through almost any "Restricted" or closed off room or area. Part of it was that even the official people didn't want to take a chance on challenging someone who looked confident and who could possibly "out rank" them. I could tell you lots of stories about things I did and places I went into that, prior to being a Police Chaplain, would have never crossed my mind to do or go. Experience and confidence, along with a badge, were a big part of it.

Probably the most challenging part of grasping and truly identifying with the passage in Hebrews 4:14-16 about Jesus being our great High Priest is that marvelous sentence in verse 16: "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence." I am humbled by the opportunity to approach God, and I am overwhelmed by His love that calls His throne a "throne of grace," but coming before it and Him with confidence? Whoa!

Now go back to my illustration about my access to things as a Police Chaplain. Confidence didn't happen the day they handed me a Police badge. It developed over time as I learned what I could do, that it was expected, and that it was necessary to doing my job. That was especially true when it came to the people who worked in the hospital emergency rooms I had total access to. They trusted me because they saw what I did, and over time, they called me to come help them. At the same time, as my experience and confidence grew, I stopped hesitating, wondering, and doubting - I just did it! Confidence - the kind the Holy Spirit it talking about - isn't about pride, arrogance, and showiness. It's - from experience - boldly and fearlessly knowing you can trust God's love, and trust how passionately He waits for us to approach his throne of grace - any time and for any reason - when we need mercy and grace to help in time of need.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Our Florida Tour

Our 14 day cruise was actually two 7 day cruises. So, we were back at Ft. Lauderdale on the second Saturday, but Princess had some neat excursions for those who were continuing. We went on an Everglades Air Boat Ride & Botanical Garden tour that was pretty neat. The above peacocks were walking around the Everglade park.

It was a pretty cool way to see some of the Everglades, but the ride was not the fast-water-skimming experience I was expecting. It was still fun. There were about twenty people in each boat, which is way too much weight to be zooming around anywhere.

They were able to accommodate a huge crowd with the many air boats they had. I did see a two seater off in the distance, so if you really want one of those high speed experiences, that is the one to take. Again, it was still fun.

This is one of my distant pictures of the alligator show. This guy is on one of the TV shows about alligators and it was a good presentation. The problem was that it was in the low fifties temperature wise, and I was in shorts and T-shirt and cold.This was a mountain lion snoozing at the Botanical Garden. It was a pretty nice place and would have been a lot more fun - and beautiful - on a sunny warm day. It was still a fun tour.

These are all really plastic and stolen from peoples front yards. NOT!

We crossed a bridge right over were this guy was calmly resting in the water - I presume - waiting for one of us to fall in.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More Vacation Pictures

This was just a great view of the Old Town San Juan with our cruise ship in the back ground. We didn't get to San Juan until 4:00 PM and the excursion was from 4:30 til 7:30. I couldn't believe it, but we were actually hungry by the time we got back to the ship.

Here is another picture from San Juan. It's a good picture of our good friends Don and Kathy. We have been on a lot of trips together and ALWAYS have a lot of fun.

These are a few pictures of the one day we were at Princess Cays (pronounced keys). It was a beautiful private beach with the classic white sand and palm trees. We splurged and got a bungalow that was small, but had AC. When it got real warm in the afternoon, that AC was nice. We shared the tropical room with some more good buddies, Glenn and Vickie.

This is Glenn and Donna standing in front of the bungalow. It had five chairs and a table inside and two loungers on the porch and two more under the umbrella. The scene from our porch was incredible. The snorkeling was also wonderful.

This is the view to the right of our bungalow or to the left from the last picture. They had a nice sidewalk that went the full length of the half mile beach. The had some incredible food in the serving lines and some great little shops too. It was a lot more fun that I though it would be, and I'm especially glad that we got to enjoy it since the stop there the next week was cancelled due to high winds and too choppy seas to use the tenders. We got to see it from the boat, but only long enough to turn around and head to the next stop.

I'll put a few more pictures up later of the two stops we had ours second week in Curacao and Aruba.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Get it!

We are back from our vacation. Actually, we got back Saturday evening, but I have been so busy playing "catch-up" that I haven't been able to do a new blog. I plan to share a few more pictures from our trip - for family and friends who want to see them - but I think I'll wait until later this week. I'm still reflecting on a couple of things from my Sunday morning lesson that have been filling my head with things I haven't thought about before. Maybe that is the result of having spent two weeks thinking, studying, and preparing that lesson.

I have always struggled with chunks of Hebrews. I guess it is the Jewish focus and all the Old Testament comparisons and analogies, but it's also occasionally the teaching itself. The series I've been sharing for the last several weeks is all about the Extreme Privilege we have of having such an amazing high priest who represents us to God (Heb.4:14-16). Right off the bat you have the problem of being a twenty-first century modern Gentile trying to identify with the concept of having a high priest. It doesn't mean the same to us. It doesn't compel us and fill us with the same kind of honor and appreciation that it would to one who was raised and immersed in Judaism.
Then - add to that the fact that Jesus "is able to sympathize with our weaknesses" and "has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet without sin." How beautiful is that? He understands! He sympathizes! But then I'm supposed to identify with someone who has had every temptation I have ever had "yet without sin"?
The next chapter in Hebrews (5) is another passage that has always given me reason to feel confused. As our sinless high priest, when he was growing up he "learned obedience from what he suffered." What? He struggled with obedience? He learned some things "the hard way"? What is this all about?
The key, I believe, to understanding this and truly being able to identify with our sinless high priest, is recognizing that the struggle is with temptation not with sin. Once we sin, the struggle with that temptation is over for that point in time. The true struggle is not letting our "passions and desires" control us and cause us to give in to the temptation. Temptation is not sin. It is the natural pull to let our selfish desires guide us, and it's not sin until we choose to give in. Jesus felt every one of those pulls. His temptations were not limited to the three "big ones" in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. Luke's account said that Satan only left him for a more opportune time. He never stopped tempting our Lord.
What that means is that we truly do have a high priest, a Lord, a friend, a brother, and a Savior, who understands us completely. The extreme privilege is that he loves us in spite of our sins. How wonderful is that?!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pics From Last Week

I tried to download these pics last week but the system on ship just wasn't good enough. So, after trying several times and using a lot of very expensive minutes, I gave up. This morning, however, I'm down in the official "Internet Cafe" and the reception is good so I was able to download these pics from our stops in St. Martin (above) and San Juan (below).

It has been a very relaxing and enjoyable cruise. We are in the final two days of travel back to Ft. Lauderdale and should be back in St. Louis Saterday afternoon. I will put more pics up after we get home, and tell a little more about the trip.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Vacation Alert!

Just take a look at the above pictures for a few minutes and you'll know why I won't have very many new blogs for the next two weeks. It's the Grand Princess and yes, for the first time in our cruising history, we decided to go for a mini suite. We love having a balcony to sit on and watch things from our room, which is especially great if you ever do an Alaska cruise, but we are also thinking about having all 14 of our group into our room for our own private communion time on Sunday. Donna got some grape juice so we don't have to hit the bar for some wine this time (for some reason - with every kind of food you can think of on board - they never have grape juice). Anyway, I'm writing this to simply let any of my fellow bloggers know that we'll be on vacation for the next couple weeks. I will probably put some pictures up of the Caribbean islands we stop at so our family can see where we are and what we're doing. So, if you don't want to feel Winter remorse and risk having feelings of envy toward us as we walk beaches, wear shorts and sandals, and develop February tans, you might not want to check this blog for the next couple of weeks.

We are really looking forward to a true "get-a-way" with some special friends, and family since my sister is going, and just relaxing in warm sunshine in the dead of winter.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

It Wasn't Meant To Run Wild!

Guilt is a strange animal. Sometimes it's unwarranted yet you feel it eating at you like a cancerous sore. Other times you totally ignore it even though it is chewing on your heart like a crazed dog with a new bone. As a concept it's neither good nor bad, it's simply waiting in the closet of our mind to be called out by broken convictions or misunderstood grace. We make it good or bad, depending on whether or not we deserve it or are diminishing the power of grace to cover our sins. Like many things, it is a God-given tool to help us recognize that something is wrong in our life. If our conscience is trained and tender, it tells us we've disappointed our Father and it drives us to repent, change, and learn. If we find ourselves feeling guilty about something we've done in the past, but received forgiveness for - we're trying to pay for something that has already been paid for, and something which we are incapable of paying for anyway!

Guilt is our inner warning bell that tells us it's a bad idea to do something, and it's the alarm that blares in our heart when we've done it. It is a help not a punishment - unless we continue to hear it but act like we don't. If it is from God it is a holy honk, but if it's from our own poor self-esteem, it may become an unnecessary and undeserved burden that we refuse to let God carry.

Sometimes we feel guilty about God's blessings. He gives us good health, good jobs, good homes, and great opportunities to serve, share, and guide others, and we let Satan tell us again how unworthy we are - so we turn gratitude into guilt and blessing into burdens. It never has been about what or how much you have, but who really is Lord of your life. Again, if we've been ungrateful and unsharing - maybe we need some guilt, but if we believe God gave it to us, the only expectation is that He be glorified in how we use it.

Grace is not a permanent guilt eraser. Guilt is what reminds us that we haven't responded to God's grace as completely or as consistently as we should. It's a call to stay on coarse, and - yes - it's an animal to avoid, but it is not a burden to bear as much as it's a beast to get rid of - as quickly as we can - with the help of God.