Standing the Watch

January 4, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

Have you been asking God for something lately? I know I have. Do you feel the answers are slow or non-existent? Me too—that is, until the other day when I read Habakkuk 2:1.

“I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.” (NLT)

The moment I read that scripture, something clicked. As a former Navy submariner, I’ve stood a few watches. Six hours or more at a time—some watches on deck, some below decks.

Each watch station has its own characteristics, but what’s unique about all watches is that initially, you as the person taking the watch are unprepared. Yes, you’ve put on your uniform, donned your weapons, strapped on your protective gear—but that doesn’t leave you ready. So you go to your watch station and do the turnover routine with the off-going watch—unprepared.

Once you have assumed the watch, the real preparation happens.

When standing topside security watch on a submarine in port, there’s a lot going on. Initially, when you take the watch, all that activity has an equal priority to your ears, eyes, and mind. For the first ten or fifteen minutes, your mind performs the last portion of preparation for that watch—creating dynamic filters.

After standing there for a while, just listening, observing silently, your brain starts to block things out. That steam vent fifty feet away that pops off every 4 minutes fades into the background. The roar of the diesel engine powering the crane at the end of the pier becomes a quiet rumble. Even the soft, gentle slap of waves against the curve of the sub’s hull, the ebb and flow of its tidal forces tugging the ship against the creaking mooring lines, and its seemingly random pushing around of loose pilings against each other under the pier all disappear.

A different silence emerges.

Finally, you are prepared to hear and see and to stand your watch effectively. Even your body can sense differences around you. Now you’re really “on watch.”

New sounds touch your ears—conversations audible at couple hundred feet away, footsteps of someone walking on the deck of the ship opposite you, distant laughter, and unseen doors opening and closing. Your brain filters out what doesn’t change, while enhancing what does.

Until I read that verse in Habakkuk, I had forgotten what waiting on the Lord is really about. This is the position I should have put myself in when waiting for an answer from God. At my watch station. Alert. Mouth shut. Ears open to hear that still small voice speaking to my spirit.

(I Kings 19:11-13) He created us to hear His voice in spite of the clutter.

I won’t forget again.

Love’s Ultimate Day

November 7, 2020 by  
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By Alan Mowbray –

In the month of February, the focus always swings to love. Sure, it’s not the only month of the year where love rules, but still, you get my point. Valentine’s Day, wedding anniversaries, the “day we first met” anniversaries, our “two weeks of dating” anniversaries, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day and a plethora of other “days” all remind us to show some love to those who are most important to us.

But to me, Good Friday is the ultimate day of love.

1 John 4:16-17 (NKJV) introduces us to what and Who Love is–“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God Is Love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.”

Next, John 3:16 (NKJV) quickly explains just how much God loves us. “For God so loved this world, that he gave His only begotten Son. That whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

We, who were sinners. We the world. Loved by Him, yet dead to Him. The world had rejected Him. The world hated Him. Adulterers. Murderers. Cheaters. Liars. Gossipers. Blasphemers. And still, He loved us enough—selflessly—to give His own Son to die. He sent Jesus to live as a man, not just to do cool miracles and say really deep things—but to die. And to die the most horrible death that man could conceive.

It was the only way God could circumvent the destruction and judgment that was waiting for all of us—thanks to man’s fall in the garden. Circumvented, that is, if we chose to accept and acknowledge what Jesus did for us.

So that’s what makes Good Friday the ultimate day of love in my book. Jesus did this because of love. If I had been the only soul that ever lived, He would have died for me in order to give me the chance to accept that gift.

When I take the time to just remember that one thing—the sacrifice my Savior made for me that day—I am broken. After being unjustly accused, He was beaten beyond recognition. He was whipped until his skin was in tatters. He was stripped and hung from a crude killing machine—the cross. Lastly, all the sin of the world—not just past sin, but all sin that would ever be perpetrated—was placed upon Him.

Think about it. If my sins were/are heavy enough to condemn me to death, what can be the weight of billions upon billions of people amount to? Agony is too small of a word to describe it.

Yet Love carried it all! Love knew that this must be done. Love came down to earth and became man. Love suffered through childhood, puberty, adulthood, injustice, numerous opportunities to quit, temptation upon temptation, and—

Love stayed true to His mission of love.

Salvation.

1 John 4:10 (NKJV) “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Take a moment to just toss around in your head the enormity of a sinless human life of 33 years, culminating with dying for your sins—done as a gift—just because you are worthy of His love.

All of this was a gift to you. Personally.

If you’ve never accepted that gift, why not now?

You can let me or any writer on this site know just by commenting and we’ll respond.

Let today be Love’s Ultimate Day for you!

Defining Love In 600 Words or Less

August 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

1 Corinthians 13:13 (The Message)
“But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

When you stop to think about love, what comes to mind?

Affection—admiration—desire—need—attraction—overlooking the faults of others—forgiving—giving to the poor—helping others who are suffering—being a friend—going to battle for someone, etc.

Sophocles said, “Love frees us of all the weight and pain of life.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. called love, “…the master key that opens the gates of happiness.”

Playwright Karen Sunde pondered: “To love is to receive a glimpse of heaven.”

Since the instant love touched the hearts of Adam and Eve, mankind has been trying to define exactly what love is. Everyone has their own definition of it. When you search the word love on the web, you get conflicting results:

“An emotion of strong affection and personal attachment.” Yet, is it not true that neither affection nor attachment is required to love people? There are many individuals I have shown love to over the years and I guarantee you that for some, I had no affection nor was I particularly attached to them.

“To have a strong liking for.” Hmmm, I would have to say again, that a requirement like that would preclude me from loving a lot of people I know.

“Passion or desire.” Okaaaaay. Now the field just got narrowed down to one. Uno—as in less than two. Yeah, you guessed it, my wife. I would say that using that criterion would exclude everyone else on the planet.

So, love remains an elusive definition, yet, everyone knows about it.

There are at least eighteen characteristics of love given in the New Testament. Together they help answer the question, “What is love?”

Love suffers.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not jealous.
Love does not brag.
Love is not arrogant.
Love does not act unbecomingly.
Love does not seek its own.
Love is not provoked.
Love keeps no record of suffered wrongs.
Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.
Love rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things.
Love believes all things.
Love hopes all things.
Love endures all things.
Love never fails.
Love does no harm.
Love covers a multitude of sins.

We know one thing for sure—the Word of God focuses on love, teaching us that our goal must be to put love first, and that any spiritual gifts He gives us must operate out of love. Love is a powerful, but not an impersonal force. It is not a vague mist or a dreamy concept. It is not an idea, but an actual entity.

But what is love, really?

1 John 4:16 (NKJV) tells us: “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”

God is love.

There you go. It doesn’t say God has love, but that He is love. Don’t mix up the order. Love is not God. God is Love.

Let me show you the difference—it’s huge.

My dog is a girl.

My girl is a dog.

Do you see the difference? Don’t get ‘em mixed up.

There’ll be a war.

God is love.

These three words say so much yet only scratch the surface. Sigh, if only I had another 9000 words—

Just Start

July 6, 2020 by  
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By Alan Mowbray –

I’m pro-life.

I post stuff about it on Facebook. I tweet about it. If I come across someone who is commenting on the merits of “pro-choice,” I stick my nose in it and argue.

The other day, I experienced something that made me think. I read an article exposing hospitals that forced nurses to assist in abortions against their moral will under the threat of termination.

Incensed, I posted the link to my social networks.

The reaction was immediate and positive. People voiced their opinions against the practice and I was happy to see that people I had friended were on the same page as I on this issue.
In amongst the discourse, a pro-life activist whom I had friended jumped in. Although I expected agreement and encouragement, what we all received was a holier than thou attitude with statements like, “This is old news—I knew this stuff already” and “You’re clueless so quit posting things that you know nothing about, so quit condemning people.” I was floored. Although we were both pro-life, I understood those comments to mean that unless I have walked a mile in her shoes, I had no business even talking about the subject. I was confused for a few days on what I had even done wrong.

I told you that story not to put down the activist, but rather to say this: Just because you have been up to your eyebrows into a worthy cause or a certain subject, be gentle around those who are only ankle or knee deep. People have to start somewhere.

Imagine a church whose doors were open only to those with a doctorate in Biblical Theology or a small group where the members scoffed at the new people for asking questions about old topics—saying, “Oh puleeze! We’ve been over that time and time again!”

Or think about that new Christian who, for the first time, celebrated Christmas with a new understanding? What if, while they were realizing the immensity of that day they became visibly and emotionally shaken, and you came up and told them, “Hello? Of course we’re celebrating the birth of Christ. What did you think you were celebrating at this time every year, ya big baby?”

We are imperfect. Yet somehow, we easily forget that. Each of us, including myself, has done this to some degree. I’ve judged people almost as a reflex—opening my mouth and inserting my foot before thinking. I’ve belittled people because they weren’t at the level I was. I’ve even yelled at some for not knowing what I thought they should know—even though I was or should have been their teacher.

We live in a period of major growth in the knowledge of God, His Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of us is the student at one level and a teacher at another. Hearts are open to new things and new understanding. We must keep ourselves in check if we are to connect together as the body of Christ. I implore you to put this filter in your life!

Father God, help me to be gentle with your children. Forgive me for hindering their growth instead of helping. Holy Spirit, help me to see them with God’s eyes not mine.

I’m grateful that this experience opened my eyes to my own failures. Again.

But I know this. Just because I don’t know everything there is to know about abortion and the pro-life movement, it doesn’t mean I can’t be vocal about it. Hey, ya gotta start somewhere. Just start.

Potential

June 2, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

William Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Or would it? If Donald Trump changed his name to Gladys Smith, would all the prestige, trust, and brand recognition follow him to his new name? Hardly.

Our names are important. They appear to be an empty slate when we are born; yet, when our parents named us, they bestowed upon us part of God’s plan for us—potential waiting to be realized as we grow and learn. Have you ever wondered how your name fits into God’s plan for your life?

In Acts 4, a man named Joseph sold some land and gave all the proceeds to the apostles for the use of the young church. He received great honor and blessing for this act. His name means “he will add.” Prior to this, he had been given the nickname of Barnabas, which, as stated in verse 36 means “son of encouragement.” Was he living up to his name?

Israel sent 12 spies into the Promised Land to scope out the situation. Only two had a positive report upon return. Do you remember their names? Joshua and Caleb.

Joshua means “Jehovah is Salvation.” His report to Moses, if followed, would have permitted a whole generation to see the Promised Land. He saw that the Lord would see them through. Because his report was unheeded, that generation perished in the wilderness.

Caleb, whose name means “dog”(as in tenacious fighter, loyal), yearned to enter the Promised Land as well, boldly asking for the most dangerous lands to conquer—at eighty years of age..

Barnabas honored God with his giving. A couple named Ananias and Sapphira coveted the honor and blessing that Barnabas received and sold some land as well. Their story in Acts 5 does not have a happy ending. Conspiring to steal honor and blessing they lied about the sale total to the Holy Spirit and the apostles. That lie carried a price of immediate death.

The name Ananias means “Grace of God.” He took advantage that grace. And, with a meaning like “Woman of Beauty,” isn’t it sad that such a beautiful name as Sapphira is considered cursed by the world?

So the question is… How sweet is the fragrance of your name to God? Is its scent filled with the vision of provision that God has promised you, or does it stink of defeats, compromises, and lies to the Holy Spirit? Looking at myself, I’m not pleased. There are parts of my life that are flowing great, while other parts reveal weakness, failure, and deception. And still He loves me. Praise God for his grace!

As for the other ten spies, here are their names and meanings:

Shammah – Renowned, or heard of God

Shapat – Judge, to judge or avenge

Igal – Avenger

Palti – Deliverance from the Lord

Gaddiel – the fortune of God

Gaddi – Fortunate

Ammiel – People of God

Sethur – Hidden

Nahbi – also means Hidden

Geuel – Majesty of God

What if each of these men had returned an honest and accurate report instead of doubt?

Would their names be honored like Joshua and Caleb?

What if?

Father God, whose name is the Name Above All Names, I praise you! Thank you for my name. Guide me in fulfilling the destiny to which it is linked. As a child grafted into the vine, I will strive to honor my Father’s name through my actions. I ask for wisdom and draw from your love and strength to release that potential which you have given me. Glorified is your Name! Amen!

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