Have you ever looked at someone’s social media profile photo and tried to square it with the person you know? I’m not counting your friend who uses a picture of their dog. That’s fodder for another topic. I get it though. I’m not going to post what I look like when I get up first thing in the morning either unless I’m going for comic effect. Also, there’s nothing wrong with presenting your best you to the world, but if your friends are really your friends they won’t require Photoshop filters to make your image palatable.
What about every other way you present yourself? In our interactions with each other, whether they’re brief or lengthy, online or in person, I believe there’s great value in being genuine. What’s on my mind when I say that is everyone at one time or another is going through some sort of personal struggle, and while it’s relatively easy for most of us to talk about the victories in our lives, the rough times can be more difficult to share. We may feel like being honest makes us weak, vulnerable, or guilty of oversharing. In our efforts to be admired and liked we may leave out what makes us most human, our struggles. In the process of sharing what you’re going through, your friend may have an insight that helps you. Also, they may be better able to relate to you by this newly opened line of communication. Because so often we’re going through similar issues it can help us solve our own problems by hearing about a friend’s. Finally, shared burdens are made lighter. Men especially are reticent to appear weak by actually talking about what’s going on in their lives, but we’re all afraid to reveal ourselves at times. Can we leap boundaries and talk too much about ourselves? Sure. Once again, social media, right? But within the confines of a trusted relationship, or towards opening a new one, there’s great value in being real. The irony regarding communication these days is that while there seems to be so much of it out there, we’re actually talking to each other less and less. Too often there seems to be the attitude that every conversation has to have a winner and a loser. I believe most of the time the best way to move myself and everyone I know forward is to talk a little and listen a lot.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV

How can you bear a burden
if it can’t find the light of day?
How can words be spoken
if no one dares to say?
Tears won’t form a flood
if a friend helps stem the tide.
I pray you let me
share your struggles
as I hope you pray for mine.

©Joel Tipple 11/30/2019

(Please feel free to re-post this)

Captive Thoughts

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:2 NLT

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:15 NIV

Once I was in a bible study and the leader brought that last verse up. I immediately found myself confused and overwhelmed. “Wait,” I said.” I have no police or military training. I’m not even sure I’m qualified to perform a citizen’s arrest! Besides, we’re talking about arresting thoughts. How? Should we be contacting Ghost Busters?” A brief group discussion ensued regarding whether this particular bible study was appropriate for me. After I agreed to some ground rules which involved my raising a hand and only speaking an agreed upon number of times per class, I was given some instruction which began to clarify the issue for me.

Seriously though, it’s clear God is telling us the battlefield of our mind needs a lot of attention, the kind of attention which calls for continued prayer and attention to the Word. Challenge what passes through your mind and the concepts you allow to shape your mental and spiritual life. Changing our discussion’s locale, consider your mind a garden. Something will definitely grow there. Either you choose that something, or you can wait to see which weeds volunteer. How do we choose what grows? First, identify the behavior and customs God would have you emulate and compare and contrast those with that of the world. As you identify and quarantine those thoughts which war against you spiritually and mentally, allow God to make you a new person. Make yourself a student of the master gardener. Finally… Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV

Lord, your gracious promise to us is to finish what you’ve begun
by the blood soaked sacrifice on the cross rendered by your Son.
Jesus, you gave us victory when you died and took death’s keys.
I will be forever grateful to You for this gift to sinners like me.

© Joel Tipple 11/23/2019

Bridges Needed

300th Combat Engineers Co. B poses following bridge completion.
Photo: Riel Crandall

During World War 2 the U.S. Army utilized combat engineers for various construction and demolition tasks. Many of these jobs focused on bridges, both for the purpose of advancing our own military and impeding the enemy’s. Under a deadline, and often under deadly conditions, these engineers performed near miracles to give control of transportation and supply lines to allied forces.

Though we may not always realize it, and whether we serve in the military or not, the rest of us are at war too. The difference is our fight is for the souls of men and women to be brought to God. Most important, in our day to day encounters, are we building bridges with those we meet or destroying them? The relationships we all form with those we meet create the bridge between them and the gospel. The people in our lives have to see Jesus in us before they can begin to picture Jesus in their own lives. Is our focus largely on small personal battles that may detract from our primary message and goal, or do we seek to bring people together under the banner of Jesus Christ? The battlefield is littered with the denominational flags and petty theological arguments of those who put the primacy of their organizations before that of winning souls. God’s actively seeking volunteers. Will you put other lives before your own? Will you put yourself under the authority of Jesus Christ? Will you be a bridge builder?

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6 ESV

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
1 Peter 3:8-11 ESV

Here I am,
a volunteer before you God.
I hear the age I am
is the age you want.
Though I’m no engineer
I hear you’re looking
for bridge builders.
The world seems to be
a fighting place.
It’s hard to find peace
in this human race.

The love of money
and its kin
gets ahead
of what you said
is important.
So use me
to build a bridge,
make these hands clean.
Give these eyes a view
for eternity.
Give me
all you know I need
to be a first class
bridge builder.

©Joel Tipple 11/16/2019

Mountain Climbing

I could never get into mountain climbing due to my aversion to cliff hangers. But seriously, the best mountain climbers are meticulous planners, who do spend time thinking about the end of their story on any particular climb. They’re among the last people to commit to something without knowing how they plan on it ending. Climbing the white cliffs of Dover, England, for example, has its own particular hazards, due to the material one is attempting to climb on. Apparently it’s much like climbing ice. In Dover, climbers use ice axes and crampons to climb crumbling white chalk, driving ice pitons to secure lines. As they swing their axes in as deep as possible to gain each new purchase, sometimes large pieces of chalk fall away. Besides carefully thinking through each route, a large dose of strength, patience, and nerve is also essential. Why climb it at all? The answer to that question surely must vary, depending on who you ask, but the sheer difficulty and challenge has to measure in. If everyone could, and everyone would, the “want to” would probably be lacking.

The Christian life has its parallels to mountain climbing. Although salvation is a free gift, I wonder if our walk should more accurately be called a climb. There are skills to be learned, a book of knowledge to be poured over. There is a secure rope which ties us to God and keeps that one misstep from being your last. We all are tempted to climb on our own at times without the aid God wants to give us to keep us safe. Often what appears to be a step toward freedom is in reality temptation by unfriendly forces in our life which could cause us to fall. The Christian discipline of assisted climbing will get you to the top, but holding on to God on your way requires a certain special kind of strength He gives you as you reach for it.

I look up to the mountains and hills, longing for God’s help. But then I realize that our true help and protection come only from the Lord, our Creator who made the heavens and the earth. He will guard and guide me, never letting me stumble or fall. God is my keeper; he will never forget nor ignore me.
Psalm 121:1-3 TPT

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 ESV

I tried to climb
In my mind
I didn’t need it
I got this God I said
I’ve got my own control
But solo climbing

couldn’t hold
any traction
when storms and gravity
to take it all
So Jesus
throw me a line
when I’m about me
in my mind
To the top
I’m beseeching
where heaven’s greeting us all

©Joel Tipple 11/9/2019

Out of Control

I was driving the family car. I had been a passenger many times, but never the driver, and I was terrified that at any moment I would do something wrong. The sun was on its way down, and I was on the edge of losing control when I crested the top of a short hill just outside of town and woke up. I’m not sure how I managed to drive, since, at age eight, there was no way my legs could have reached the pedals, but hey, it was my “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” dream, and in a situation like that, rules are made to be broken. It was a recurring nightmare when I was a child. It could have meant something or nothing at the time. I don’t know.

Have you ever found yourself at a point in life where you felt, like in my dream, that you were barely holding on? Since we can’t be certain when the circumstances of our lives will take a wild and crazy turn, it’s worth considering what and where our place of hope and security is. You may feel, as an adult, that you’re better prepared to be behind the wheel of your life than I was to be driving our Oldsmobile, but just what is waiting for you beyond that hill’s crest? When you get there, will money keep you safe? Your own strength? Your family and friends? No matter how well you’ve managed your finances, no matter how well you eat and how much you exercise, no matter the quality of your personal relationships, the reality of the human condition is that stuff happens. So what, then? Is it a waste of effort to be right and responsible? Or rather, given what many view as the uncertainty and ultimate futility of life, should we teach the virtues of selfishness and hedonism?

Over 2,000 years ago a man came along claiming to be the Son of God. At first those in power viewed him as simply another in a long line of self-aggrandizing trouble makers. But the politically sanctioned murder of Jesus Christ was not the end, instead, it was just the beginning. In dying, then defeating death by rising from the grave, our Lord made available eternal life to those who would turn to Him. Not only did the teachings of Jesus show us how to live life here on earth, his actions secured our access to eternal life in the place God has prepared for those who ask for forgiveness and turn from their sins.

   Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
John 14:6-7 ESV

  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
John 10:27-29 ESV

Your tears and blood
have won
But for your tears
and blood
we’d be forever done
the end would be the end
but for the one who calls me friend
now darkness and death
turn to light and life
eternal joy instead of strife
because of the Son

© Joel Tipple 11/2/2019