Lessons from Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

Peabody-Sherman-Featured-080615

Do any of you remember the old Rocky and Bullwinkle shows? I used to really like them as a child, but I liked them more when I watched them as an adult. I discovered the humor was so subtle at times that you had to be an adult to appreciate it. Anyway, there was a segment of the show that starred Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman. Mr. Peabody was this dog who was really smart. The premise of the segment was, “If a boy can own a dog, why can’t a dog own a boy?” Mr. Peabody had invented this machine called “The Way Back Machine.” He and Sherman would go into the machine and be transported back into time and history and had all kinds of adventures. It was really cool!!!

I don’t know why, but this got me to thinking today. We all tend to look back on our lives at one time or another. I guess part of it is that as we get older, most of our life is behind us so we think back to the “good ole days,” or “the day” if you are from the Baby Boomer generation. I’ve done that a lot in life. The problem is that usually when I look back reality goes away. We either look back at our sins and mistakes or we push all that aside and think how great “those days” were. I gotta admit that the music was good but the lives of most of our musician heroes were anything but glorious. Generally speaking, “those days” were not all that great, after all.

So, what does all this have to do with anything? Well for us as Christ followers, I think looking back on our lives, even as Christians, is not such a good thing. There are some times where scripture talks about looking back as a good thing. In Joshua 4:1-8 for example, the people were commanded to take twelve stones out of the Jordan River after the tribes had crossed it on dry land. In verse 7 Joshua tells them the purpose. It was so when the Israelite children who were to come later asked about this strange pile of stones, the parents were to tell them of how God cut off the waters of the Jordan and the people were able to escape from the Egyptians. To put this into modern times, I think it is good to look back at the things that God had done for us and that give Him glory. After all, James says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the ‘Father of lights….” (James 1:17). Thinking back in this way makes us thankful and grateful for our salvation in Christ.

But for the most part, we don’t look back in this way. If you are like me, you look back in remorse and shame. Depending on your personality type, it can get so bad that it becomes debilitating and hinders our growth in Christ. We end up “working” and trying to do things to prove to God we are worthy of His love. I can tell you from experience, none of that works. It basically makes us like a Pharisee always trying to put on an outside show of how good you are, but never really allowing God to change us from the inside. I think we need to listen to Jesus when He said to the would-be follower, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Or maybe we need to do what Paul did, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14). Looking back even at the good things in our life don’t seem to be much help in our walk with the Lord. In context, Philippians 3 talks about all of Paul’s accolades he had in his life, and how they nothing in light of “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8) You’ve probably heard that in the Christian life, we are never standing still. We are either moving forward or going backwards. Going back gets us nothing. The future is so much better.

I guess the lesson for me in all of this is that I cannot spend time looking back unless it brings glory to our Lord Jesus. Anything else is dung, as Paul said. I’ll leave you with one more verse: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Let’s not waste our time being sorrowful or remorseful over the sins and mistakes of our past. If we have confessed all that, God has forgiven us. If we keep trying to make up for what God has already forgiven, we show that we really don’t trust God. Everything about God is trustworthy. He is perfect. If He is not perfect in all things, He is not God at all. Trust Christ with your lives and look ahead brothers and sisters!

A Sense of Wonder

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

Well, that title is from an old Van Morrison song that I like. Sorry to keep going back to “the day” all the time. I just have that music in my blood. But I have been wondering about this lately. Not about the song, but about having “sense of wonder” about our God! Maybe I should name this A Sense of Awe!

I’ve been reading a book about the attributes of God. Actually, I have read it before and am re-reading it. I must say, the second time is better than the first. I don’t know how many of you have read such books, but they basically just talk about who God is. The chapters of this particular book talk about God’s goodness; God’s justice; God’s Mercy; God’s Holiness, etc. I’m only on chapter 3 but am already challenged by many things I have read.

One thing that started coming to my mind several months ago, is my approach to the Word of God, the Bible. For years I have always tried to read the Bible through once a year. I would start off with great zeal and try to read several chapters a day. I don’t know if I have ever gotten through the Old Testament in a year, but I can usually read the New Testament twice in a year. But after a while, my mind gravitates to just getting the Bible read in the timeframe I made for myself. I totally lose the sense of why I should be reading the Bible in the first place; to learn about, and spend time with God! In other words, it becomes a project and loses it’s original purpose.

But this time, I am not concerned as much as how much I get read, as I am, does any of this reading change me or get me closer to God. I have a fear that I need to confess. That fear is for the American church and perhaps for the American style of Christianity itself. Now I need to tell you, I’m not on a crusade, and I don’t want to be preachy, but I know my own life is weak when it comes to having a deep love, trust and awe of our Lord. So, let me ask what do we think about when we think about God? Is God absolutely Holy? Is He totally just? Is God all powerful and in control of the world? Just what is my (and your) concept of God?

The reason this is important to us is that our success or failure in the Christian life depends on our concept of God. I’d like to share a few quotes from the book I am reading that struck me:

Christianity at any given time is strong or weak depending upon her concept of God.

Our religion is little because our god is little. Our religion is weak because our god is weak. Our religion is ignoble (of low birth or common origin) because the god we serve is ignoble.  

The local church will only be as great as its conception of God.

What the author is saying in all this is that our concept of God is too small. I don’t for one minute think that we do this on purpose. And I know we are all at different places in our walk with our Lord. But it’s important that we grow in our concept of God. We need to learn to trust God above all else. I have been learning and working on this for over a year. To be honest, I thought I was fine in this area of trust until we came to Step 3 in the Regeneration class I was in last year. People say this step is the most important step in the whole program because every other step that follows depends on our having absolute trust in God. I ended up confessing to our group at the the time, that I had problems in this area.

Let’s end this by just taking one attribute of God from Isaiah chapter 6. You are probably familiar with this chapter. It talks about Isaiah’s call to ministry. In the first verse, Isaiah writes, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe tilled the temple.” Then he starts talking about seraphim who flew around praising God’s holiness. Then, if that wasn’t enough, the whole room became filled with smoke. In other words, it was filled with the Glory of God! What was Isaiah’s reaction. To be perfectly clear, he was filled with awe and fear. His reaction was, “Woe is me. For I am lost.” Isaiah recognized that this God was absolutely Holy and he himself, was anything but holy. Isaiah was totally broken in God’s presence. Holiness is just one aspect of God’s. And Isaiah was blown away by what he witnessed. I wonder what would happen to us if we saw all the characteristics of God at one time!! I think it would be too much to bear!!

OK. Here is the crux of the matter. If the author is right by saying, “The local church will only be as great as its conception of God,” Then what should our concept of God be? I think in our individual lives, and in the church, we need to have a high concept of God. Yes, God is our friend, our Good Shepard, and all that. But that  should not diminish who God is. God is PERFECT is all respects. He is perfect in His goodness, justice, righteousness, love and holiness. If He were not perfect in all these characteristics, He would not be God at all. Might I suggest that you take a few moments and read Psalm 139. I’m sure you have read this Psalm before, but please, just pray and ask God to reveal it to you as never before. When I was in my teens, I used to think that God made a mistake in creating me the way He did. After all, why would he make me so I stuttered severely from the age of five, so much that I could hardly speak. Why would he allow me to be fearful and insecure. I was sure he blew it. But verses 13-16 say otherwise. God formed me as it pleased Him! Can I trust that?

As a part of the body of Christ, may we at Stonepoint grow in our love and knowledge of God. May we not grow in this knowledge just so we can spout it off to someone or let it make us proud. But may this knowledge become part of our inner being and bring change in our lives. May we know and see Him in all His glory! “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His Glory!” Amen!!

The Dry Desert, Sheep and Things

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

Supposedly, King George III made a comment in his diary on July 4, 1776. He is purported to have written, “Nothing significant happened today.” (OK, I first heard of this on an old episode of The X-Files. But I did some research and there is some credence of its validity). Regardless, if King George III actually wrote this, he had it wrong. Across the sea in Philadelphia, something significant did happen that day. The event of signing the Declaration of Independence changed the course of history for the United States and for England as well.

SONY DSCLately, I feel a little like King George. It’s strange, but I go through my days, and if anyone asks me how my day went, all I can think of is “nothing significant happened today.” The strange thing is that things aren’t going too bad for me at the moment. Most of my lunch hour at the ministry is spent reading and studying the Word. On Saturday and Sunday, I have an extended time with the Lord for about two hours that I really love. I am praying more than I used to and I try to keep my heart right before the Lord. And I’m seeking to be a person of good character and to love those around me. Sounds like I’ve finally made it, huh? No. No Christ follower ever really “makes it,” at least not while we are here in this world.

Yet, while all this good spiritual activity is going on, I have this dryness and emptiness within that I am struggling with. I pray for God to reveal Himself in His Word, and I keep on praying even when it seems like my prayers go nowhere. But for the most part, it’s dry and empty. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not seeking some ecstatic experience or some great emotional feeling. But I have this yearning have God speak to me and allow me to just sit at His feet and learn of Him. Personally, I think I can thank the Lord for using Regeneration to change that in my life.

So, all this makes me wonder, what’s going on? Am I out of Sync? Is there some sin that I’m not aware of that I need to confess? (My habit of late is that whenever I realize I might be in sin, I confess it immediately). So, just what does one do in times of dryness desert experiences like this?

I just have a few thoughts about desert or dry times that I’d like to share. The first thing is that the Christian life is a life of faith. If you are a true follower of Christ you started, by grace, through Faith (Ephesians 2:7-8). And we need to live our life, day by day, by grace and in faith. It is written in God’s Word that the just shall live by faith. So, my thought here is that whether our times with God are what we would like or not, we need to continue in faith and leave the results to God. When we pray, we need to pray by faith. I’ve had to learn to ignore how I feel about things and pray in faith. I truly believe that when we pray when it is the last thing we want to do, that God takes those prayers and uses them mightily. Why, perhaps it’s because in those times that we are truly praying by faith.

My second thought is that God always has a reason for what he does. You all know about Moses’ 40-year desert experience. Going out every day and sitting around with a bunch of sheep has to wear on you after a while. Going to visit the desert is OK, but the thing is not to live there. Don’t just pitch your tent and have mutton for dinner. The time in the desert may last only a few days or it may last longer. But the thing we need to do is to trust God by faith that He has a reason for this desert time and to trust Him to bring us out of it. I told someone the other day that I think some of the dry and desert things in my life lately are because God wants to break me of my pride, stubbornness and to soften my heart. I truly believe that. Desert times can be some of our best times of learning from God, even when we don’t feel like it.

Third, don’t let situations, circumstances or satan (I used a small s on purpose) dictate our reaction to the desert. Our God is above and beyond all circumstances or situations. There are things that can be learned in the desert that we can’t learn anywhere else. At least Moses learned how to take care of sheep. Metaphorically, we can learn how to take care of others in the desert. I described my current times with the Lord in a paragraph above. I mentioned things like struggle and listed a lot of questions that I have been asking myself. But notice I never said any of this is bad. Even in the desert I do find little gems here and there that God does to let me know He is right here with me.

One of the small things that He did happened yesterday at work. I was working this rather large list of friends of our ministry that I needed to contact. I had been having computer problems (later to learn they were self-imposed) and just couldn’t get the computer to do what it was supposed to on a case I was working on. I almost told myself it is not worth spending all this time just to send an email out to this one person. Finally, I did a “work-around” just to get my email out. Rather disgusted, my thought was, “well that’s finally done, but what good it will do (ok, negativity).” Soon after I sent the email, I noticed a return email came into my inbox. I opened it, and realized it was from the person I was having all the system problems with. They thanked me profusely for writing them and shared a prayer request with me. I responded by thanking them for responding and assured them that I would pray for them. That was cause for another response of more thanks. I wonder as I write this, if the enemy wasn’t causing all my self-imposed computer problems just to keep me from touching base with this person who need prayer and to be encouraged.

Remember, Jesus said he was “the Good Shepard.” He goes after one lost sheep and brings him back into the fold. We never know why things happen like they do. We only see glimpses of it, but the Christian life is truly lived on a spiritual plain. The desert too, can be a spiritual plain for us.

So, that’s it. I’m still somewhat in the desert. But I’m not complaining about it. It’s dry, hot and somewhat uncomfortable. But I’m thankful that God seems to be teaching me not to question and complain so much and just trust Him. That’s not as easy as I just made that sound, by the way. I question and complain a lot. But at least now God is bringing that to mind and allowing me to confess it when necessary.

I don’t know how you respond to desert experiences. But I pray you just endure and hang on to God’s Word and see Him work. I pray this is meaningful to you in some small way. May God just strengthen us and allow us to see that He is still in charge of both the small and big things in our lives. Enjoy the desert!!

 

 

Broken Pieces of Pottery

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

In 1952, my mom, older sister and I boarded a military transport ship and 11 days later we arrived in Japan to join my father and live there for three years. We settled in a large city called Nagoya and that became home for our time there. Even though I was only five years old when we arrived, my three years there is still with me. The people, the culture, the scenery all left an impression on my life. One of the things that I remember is broken pottery. We lived in a walled in housing area for military745-pottery-repairs-1 personnel and our house was the first house inside one of the gates. On the inside of the wall there were trees planted all the way around the wall for about 20 feet or so wide. I would go there and play and dig holes. I guess that’s what young kids did in my day—dig holes. Anyway, when I would dig down a foot or so, I would start finding broken pieces of statues, and other pottery. I remembered about that for many years and always wondered how they came to be buried there.

Many years later, when I was around 22, I got into reading history books and was reading a book about the Pacific theater of the war with Japan in World War II. I was nearly finished with the book and it was talking about trying to defeat Japan after Germany had surrendered. It seems that one of the Generals had the idea to start a saturation bombing campaign in several large cities. It didn’t matter where the bombs fell and the attacks were not limited to military targets. This was total war and the idea was to break the will and back of Japan. The bombs fell on houses, schools and shopping areas. The firestorms would burn for days.

As I read the book, I learned that Nagoya was one of the cities in the bombing campaigns. Then it struck me. The broken pieces of pottery I discovered as a kid could have been the result of these bombings. I could imagine small shops being fire bombed and destroyed and many people killed. Then the area could have been just plowed under and our housing area could have been built over it all. I don’t know if that’s what really happened, but it’s a good possibility. I still think about it even today. As bad as the bombings were, the general’s plan was a failure. The bombings did not break the hearts or the spirits of the Japanese people. So, on August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb in history. Soon, the will of the government was finally broken and Japan was forced to surrender. The will and back of the country was finally broken.

So, there’s your history class for the week. But I do have a reason for telling you all of this. The reason I have been thinking of this story lately is because I have been struggling with brokenness or being broken. In re:generation, we talk a lot about our lives being broken. There are many reasons we can be broken and most of it is pretty much because we live in a sin-filled world. Sometimes our lives are broken because of wrong decisions we have made and sinful things we have done. The result is often a life-time of guilt. Other times bad things are done to us and just leave scars that we must deal with all our lives. Other times bad things are done to us or against us without our consent. These happen just because we live in a fallen world.

While all that is real kind of brokenness, that is not what I’m not talking about here. There is another type of brokenness that is a necessity to our walk with Jesus. That brokenness is a conscious choice we make to allow God to break our stubborn hearts to His will. We cannot fully follow God unless we allow Him to break our wills. Why is this so important? Because God hates pride!! That may sound a bit strong but it is scriptural. Most of the problems in the world today, and in our own lives, are there because of pride.

Just what does it mean to be broken in our daily experience. Roy Hession wrote a classic book some time ago called The Calvary Road. In it he gives a good definition of brokenness. He says, “Brokenness in daily experience is simply the response of humility to the conviction of God.” I’ve mentioned before in some of my blogs that God is always for the humble and meek. I’m not talking about weakness. True humility and meekness are just the opposite of that. But that begs the question: if brokenness is all that important, how do we attain it?

I’m no expert on being broken but I do have a few thoughts. First, I think that we need to have a teachable heart. God, through the Word, will convict us of areas in our lives that need to be given to Him. Let’s get real. What about our thought lives? I would be totally humiliated to tell you the thoughts that have been coming to my mind lately. God tells us to “put to death” things like sexual immorality, impurity passion, evil desires and covetousness. He adds to that list things like anger, wrath, malice wrath and filthy talk. He also says to “put on” things like compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience and forgiveness. How in this world can we put these characteristics into our lives!!  I’d like to close with a few thoughts:

  1. First, realize that we have died to self on the cross with Christ. That may be hard to grasp but Colossians 3:3 says, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” When Christ died on the cross, we died with Him. Believe it or not, He has taken care of his part and that victory cannot be lost.
  1. Second, “put off.” There are two sides of this brokenness. Jesus has his part, and we have ours. When God brings conviction in our lives, we need to put off whatever it is that we are convicted of. In other words, we need to make a choice. If we are open to His conviction, we can count on Him to show us areas of our lives that need to be given to Him. Then we make the choice. We can either go our way or choose to go His.
  1. Third, “put on.” I kind of already covered this above. We then need to put on the right characteristic. This happens when we choose to go Jesus’ way rather than ours. We “put on” when we choose to obey the Word and do things that please Jesus. About the best thing I can think of in this is to guard your heart. I believe that each time we respond to something in the right way that God uses that in our life to change our character. Any positive change in our lives will come from within us, within our heart. Outside stimulus or pressure to change may last for a little while, but it will never last. Changing our behavior without a change of heart will fail every time. The Christian life is very practical and God loves us enough to stop us in our tracks when we are seeking to walk righteously with Him in our hearts.

Every day we find ourselves in situations where we need to make a choice. Will we yield to God or will we follow our own desires? Everything God brings into our lives, whether good or bad, is an opportunity for us to grow in Him. I pray we make the best of these by making the right choices. Jesus’ death on the cross opened the door that allows us to make the right choices where before we were slaves to our flesh and sin. We now have His spirit within us to empower us. I pray that we will make choices that will change our stubborn hearts to be humble before Him. God bless you all!!