Posted on September 8th, 2012

Gen 3:21 MSG "God made leather clothing for Adam and his wife and dressed them"

After Adam and Eve sinned, they tried to cover themselves with leaves. As I am sure you can imagine, this could not have worked well. A tree leaf is not very durable, even when freshly picked. After a few hours, it starts to crumble and fall apart. That is kind of like the solutions we turn to in our own strength.

Too often, after sinning, we turn to our best machinations to restore dignity to our lives. These are shoddy imitations of life at best. We are truly pitiful when we try to mend the things we have broken.

But we don't have to be left there. God wants to provide for us. God wants his children to have their needs taken care of. Even without Adam and Eve asking for God's intervention, God knew their shame and provided a way for them to live in dignity.

Please note that this provision did not circumvent the consequences of their actions. Adam and Eve still had to leave the garden. They still entered into the death process. The hurt of others was still there (leather only comes from animal skins= something died!). All of the above is still true. You reap what you sow. But that is not the only truth. It is also equally true the God loves us and wants to provide for us. It is not either/or. It is both/and!

Keep this in mind when you are going through trials or even consequences. This time in life may be hard. You may feel like there is no relief. You may even be manufacturing your own solutions. Just remember, no matter what has happened, God still loves you and wants to provide. Only turn to Him and accept His provision.

-Damon

Posted on September 5th, 2012

Based on Joel 2, Luke 15:11-32

My dearest Child,
                You have been away such a long time. I miss you so much. I remember the times that we used to spend together. I would watch you run and play. It brought joy to my heart to see your innocence and pure passion for living. Your exuberance brought life to those around you. It seemed like the whole world brightened when you came to talk with me. Not about anything special, just because you wanted to spend time with me. I miss those days.
                When you came and said that you were leaving, I didn’t make you stay. That was a very painful day to me. I knew that you were only going to get hurt by going out on your own. It was your decision and I didn’t stand in the way. But that doesn’t mean that I liked it or wanted it that way. My love will not force you to be in a relationship with me.
                If you could only see my heart. I want so much to be a part of your life again. There is so much that I could help you with. I can help you carry the burdens and heal the wounds. Even though you have not wanted anything to do with me, I have not stopped loving you. It brings me to tears to see the painful choices you have made. If you would only come back, I could give you the relief that you have been seeking all this time.
                I know you thought life would be better away from me, but I think you know now that is not true. The things you didn’t like were for your protection. Not because you were deprived or deserved extra punishment. I just didn’t want you to bear the scars from learning the hard way. I have seen too many lives destroyed. You are my precious heir. I want so much more for you. I want to give you the world! Just come back to me and see what you are really missing!
                You don’t have to fix anything, or even get your life back together. Just come as you are. I don’t care how nasty you have become. Just come to me. It doesn’t matter what you have done. Just come to me. I don’t care how unworthy you feel. Just come as you are! I love you more than any of these circumstances could ever change!
                Don’t you know how much I have already provided for you? It is crazy to think that I would cut you off or leave you lacking because of the failures in your past. My love knows no bounds. Just try me and see. If you need help to get back, just call me. I will come running and be there before you know it. There is no place too far or road too difficult! Nothing could stop me from coming to you! Oh my child! It is not too late! Let me help you! Let me in to your life so that I can really give you the things that I know you need!

With all the love in the world,
Daddy   

Written by Damon


by Pastor Mike Bower on July 31st, 2012

As Ralph walked away from closing the largest sale of his career, he was on cloud nine...pumped...on an emotional high about this deal.  And yet, at the same time, he was grateful to the Lord for answering his prayer and giving him the sale.  The commission would allow him to pursue some of his life long dreams immediately.

Ralph’s wife and children were out of town visiting her mother that evening, so, at the end of the day, he decided to have dinner with another salesman from the office.  As Ralph was enjoying his prime rib and relating the exciting account of his successful day, he caught a momentary glimpse of an attractive woman seated two tables over.  Their eyes connected briefly with her smiling ever so gently.  He chose not to take a second look and proceeded to enjoy the evening.

However, her smile lingered in his thoughts, and, because he was feeling so triumphant, he failed to guard his heart...“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Prov 4:23 NLT).  As he departed the restaurant, he took one brief glance in her direction. 

After arriving home to an empty house, he sat down to view some television before he retired to bed.  He was not able to find anything interesting, so he turned to the computer to check his email and Facebook page.  An image of an attractive female surfaced and his mind began to wander back to the restaurant.  The enemy had already baited him, and he failed to recognize that the emotional high he was experiencing coupled with the encounter of an inviting smile was the beginning of a slippery slope.  You see...Ralph had slid down that slope before.  He proceeded to pull up a website he knew, in his heart, was taboo for him as a married man, a follower of Christ, and a future discipler of men.

He chose not to acknowledge that this emotional warmth produced by a validating smile from a woman who was not his wife was a trigger and would lead him to actions inconsistent with who he was in Christ.  Had he immediately recognized where this sensual emotion would take him, he could have chosen one of a few options:

1) Drawn the strength he needed to resist the temptation from Scripture...”Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts” (2 Tim 2:22 NLT), and “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Phil 4:8 NLT).

2) Told himself the truth of his identity in Christ (Rom 6:6); considered himself dead to sin (Rom 6:11), and presented himself (mind, will, emotion, and body) as an instrument of righteousness to God (Rom 6:13).

3) Called a brother in Christ for prayer and hear & discuss truth.

4) Begun to pray for himself, his wife, and his children.

Your quality of life is determined by your choices.  What will you choose when you face a similar temptation?

Summary: After an experience of some victory, guard your heart (Prov 4:23).  Tell yourself that yielding to sexual temptation is inconsistent with your identity in Christ.  Arm yourself with the knowledge of Scripture, a network of godly men, and prayer.

Posted on July 29th, 2012

The people sat around in nervous silence, listening to the feared leader speaking to the lowly peasants. He is neatly dressed and conservative in appearance. If you judged the attitude in the room, it would seem more like a king presiding over his court.
He was the CEO of the company where I work, visiting the plant for his annual tour. This was the time that he was supposed to motivate the troops, galvanizing us to succeed despite the hardships of the coming year.  With the required awe appearing in our faces, we listen to him speak. Only the results matter. We appreciate your hard work, but only the results matter.
Only the results matter. Just remembering the words spoken that day makes my blood boil and skin crawl. It was as if he was saying “I don’t care how many of you meaningless, pathetic worms must be sacrificed, I only care about turning a profit at the end of the year”.  He proceeded to share how he came up with this philosophy when confronting one of his kids about their grades not meeting his expectations. He said that was the defining moment when he came up with the business philosophy that shaped his career. I am incensed that someone could have such a warped view of life.
Recently, I was reminded of this concept, and took some time to think about it. I wanted to skewer him for his lack of concern about the people. I was dead set on proving him shallow and specious. Imagine my horror when I came to the conclusion that he was at least partly correct…
Partly correct because in the grand scheme of things, only the end results truly matter. Partially incorrect because I came to see that it was which set of outcomes you looked upon for the grade.
The realization came when I started thinking about the concept in terms of human value. My questions centered around “what about the result of a healthy adult life?” and “what about the value of having families maintaining close relationships and demonstrating their love?”. That is when it hit me. Love and health are results. They are the results of making healthy, loving choices over the course of our lives.
The point that the CEO was stressing and I didn’t want to see was that we need to focus on the bigger picture of how we want our stories to turn out. Philippians 3:14 (ESV) says “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. My paraphrase is “I keep the end results in front of my decision making process, in order to achieve the divine design God has set for my life”.
Focus in its verb form is defined as “to bring (as light rays) to a focus; to adjust the focus of (as the eye or a lens);” and “to bring (as an image) into focus”. (www.merriam-webster.com) The idea is that something is changed from something blurry or vague into something understandable and clear. Do our lives bring a set goal clearly into emphasis? Are we living with the end in mind?
What about you guys? What results are you looking for? Only the results matter. Only the things God wants for you matter.
-Damon

Posted on July 13th, 2012

I praise you, for I am fearfuly and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my sould knows it very well.   Psalm 139:14

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”   I Samuel 16:7

As a photographer, I often hear people say that they are not photogenic, or simply put, they don’t “take good pictures”. After thinking about it, I have to say that I don’t agree with this statement. I think everyone is photogenic. Sometimes it just takes more effort to bring it to the surface. That is where the skill of a good photographer comes in handy.
However, this is not about plugging the services of your local snap artist (have camera- will travel). It is not even about taking pictures. This week, I have been pondering what makes people believe that they can’t have visually compelling images captured of themselves. What makes them embrace the falsehood that they can’t be appealing to someone else as they are without help from something outside themselves?
What I have decided is that it doesn’t have anything to do with the image appearing on the screen or print. The caricature we see is only a reflection of something deeper. I believe it comes down to how we define beauty in our personal lives.
Is a person valuable because they have beauty or do they have beauty because of their value? Most of the glamour shots and super-model images flashed in front of our eyes in advertising are geared toward making us believe the latter.
They taunt us with the thought that “if only you had these newer clothes or better makeup, then people around you would care more about you” or “if you drove this nicer car, or had that amazing new piece of technology, then you would be a real man”. How often do we as a culture get wrapped up with the obsession of pursuing stuff as status symbols? Do we ever get enough to fill that hole? Or is it just a constant chasing of vanity that will drain of us energy?
Another misperception of beauty is that it is about what that person can do for us. For example, a physically attractive woman is beautiful because she has a nice visual aesthetic. A rich man is handsome because of the clothes he wears or the new car he drives. They seek a chance at a pleasurable stimulus or new fancy toys. The masses flock to such people because of what that person gives them. Politicians and high level business men (or women) are attractive because of the influence they command. If society says they are respected enough to have power, then we must have some worth if they are willing to associate with the likes of us.
I am as guilty of believing these lies as anyone else. I am bothered by the remembrances of my failures and shortcomings. There are times when the scars on my soul make me want to hang my head in shame. The doubt rings through my mind. “How can you be beautiful? You have screwed it up too much. You are damaged too much to ever have any worth.”  Just being honest here… sometimes I don’t even see a portion of the value in me. Sometimes, I think it would be preferable to not be than have to continue as I am and have been.
Maybe that is why I recognize this process in other people. I have seen it at work in my life, so I know the struggles that others must be going through. How can we be so blind? How can we miss the true answer in our pursuit of all the empty ones?
But what other options are out there? Are my daughters doomed to grow up feeling insecure and wondering if someone will ever love them? Does my son have to work his hands to the bone in order to achieve success and preeminence before he matters to the people around him? Is that single mother whose two jobs have worn her body beyond repair to be considered less than whole because she will never be the image she was when she was young and vibrant? What about the homeless man that whose stench is so bad that you have to fight back the vomit just to be near him? The ex-con covered in tats and just wanting a chance to undo the wrongs choices he made in his youth? Does he have a shot at beauty?
Our response to all these queries must be based in the belief that beauty is based in the value of the person. More specifically, the value of human life determines true beauty. In order to answer that, we have to define value in some form. Value is defined by dictionary.com as relative worth, merit, or importance. Kind of like the business concept -what a good or service is worth is whatever someone will pay to bring that object into their life.
From the beginning of time, humans have exacted a heavy price for our being. We found existence because God breathed into us. He took part of Himself and used it to bring us about. We still bear the mark of our Creator. He knit us together before we were ever born. Our souls harbor the fingerprint of God.
That imprint is a reflection of what has been given for us. It perfectly complements the price that was paid to enable a lasting relationship. God sent his Son to lay down His life. He has forever declared we have worth. We are not just pleasure seeking automatons meant to live and die without any other purpose. We were created and then purchased because God declared us valuable.
In addition to the fact that God valued us enough to create us, He considered us extravagant enough to make a way to be near us after we abandoned Him for something else. He has declared us to be worth the trouble even when we could bring nothing of worth back to Him. All we can ever give in return is heartache a trouble. We will never be an investment valuable enough to bring a return for cost that we own. But is that the point? No, we are beautiful because He has stamped us with a price tag of unsurpassed value… the value of a Father’s love for His only Son. We are beautiful because God has said we are precious in His sight.
How often do I miss true beauty? It is right there in front of me and I have no idea that I am wasting my time on things that are hopeless. Hurting people are all around just wanting for anyone to love them. Do they know that they are already loved more than we can fathom?
Do you see it? Can you see people the way God sees us? Am I ok with being me regardless of my abundance or lack? Can I look in the mirror and see who I am instead of what I have done? Do I need some human to declare me loveable before I have the confidence to carry on with life? Are the strangers around us merely interlopers in our search for meaning, or are they fellow works of art? Do you see the beauty of the price paid or only the utility of their proximity?
Well, what do you think? Feel like getting any pictures done?

-Damon





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