Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Interesting Times



For he says, In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.  Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. -- 2 Corinthians 6:2


Talk of living for today or seizing the day, means, for too many of us, ignoring the consequences of bad choices.  My sister used to leave the supper dishes unwashed.  Her excuse was that she might die overnight and someone else would have to wash them.  We use our credit cards for unnecessary purchases today without thinking about the interest and other charges we may have to pay later.  We eat too much and later complain about gaining weight.  We sit on the couch and watch television instead of exercising and wonder why we are out of shape.

I prefer the more colloquial and picturesque expression, “Make hay while the sun shines.”  You can listen too much to the weatherman, and one thing is sure:   there is no putting up hay when the sun isn’t shining.  Take full advantage of the current conditions.  If it is raining, cloudy, or dark, there are other things you can do. 

I am living today in the future I once looked forward to.  So are you.  I have said before that we cannot change the past but we can change what the past means through our actions and attitude in the present.  The future, on the other hand -- despite what some believe about determinism, is not set.  Our choices today play a part in how tomorrow plays out. 

We cannot know what will come to us tomorrow, but the Lord advises us to … not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:34).  All I really need to know is that, tomorrow, Jesus is still Lord.

Meanwhile, I can be thankful that I have today.  Sometimes I think I was born a hundred years too late but maybe not.  It could be that you and I are alive today because this is our day.  The old Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times” has come to pass for us.  Peace, prosperity and ease are nice, but interesting is interesting.       

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Quick Post To Show I Have Not Abandoned Thee



And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.  He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’  For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”  And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says.  And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? , Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” – Luke 18:1-8


You all know I have talked about this passage before, and I have become more convinced than ever that the unjust judge is the natural, fallen, conscious mind.  Prayer is not about persuading God to see things our way.  It can’t be.  That makes no sense.  Why would the God who is all-wise, all-good, and all-powerful take the advice of a deeply flawed, often deluded and very limited creature?  The argument is that our Father loves us so much that He wants us to plead with Him just so He gets to hear our voice or that He is so kind and loving that He won’t give us what we need until we beg Him.  There are all kinds of ways people try to explain the importance of prayer, and there is some validity to a lot of the theories. 

One of the reasons Pentecostals believe that we speak in tongues is that it is a “prayer language” bypassing the conscious mind.  We are speaking to God directly from our spirit by the Holy Spirit Himself.  When Paul is talking about spiritual gifts in First Corinthians 12-14, he says that he “speaks in tongues” more than anyone and that he prayed “with his spirit” and also “with his mind”.  If he prayed only in the spirit, his spirit was edified but his mind remained “unfruitful”. 

Prayer is meant not to enlighten God but to enlighten us.  As we seek God our spirit becomes more dominant and, rather than being held in thrall by the conscious mind – which is, in turn, often a puppet of the subconscious – the mind begins to conform to the spirit and be illuminated by the light of the Divine.  Persistence, importune prayer renews the mind to the point that we are able to ask in accordance with the will of God. 

The unjust judge “who neither feared God not respected man” eventually acknowledges that which is right and good and lawful.  He decrees and enforces the will of the Lord.   

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Citizenship

By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. -- Hebrews 11:9-10

We are not going to make the world a better place.  That is the bad news.  The good news is that we already have access to and may inhabit a better world.  We may call it the kingdom of God or the city of God, but it is real and present through Christ who is the Door.

I ran across a good word a couple of times recently:  supersensible.  The natural world is sensible. The supernatural is not nonsense but supersensible.  It reminds me of Lewis describing MacDonald as "canny" in The Great Divorce.

I am truly from Missouri.  I was raised to be canny by canny people.  We talked supernatural stuff, and we believed that Jesus and His disciples did miraculous things, but we believed, as well, that those times had passed.  When we heard of uncanny events or occurrences, we attributed them to coincidence, something that hadn't been explained yet, or someone's "wild imagination".

I believe that there is a reality, truer -- so to speak -- than the temporal, material cosmos wherein dwelleth meat and where in meat we dwell.  I believe in something beyond the reach of my five senses -- the supernatural.  If there is a supernatural, how do we make contact with it?  Is there a super-sense that allows us to sense the supersensible?

It might be imagination, or something like what we normally think of as imagination.  It would not be "wild" imagination, ungoverned or governed by the old feral, Adamic nature.  It would be disciplined or -- perhaps better -- tuned by and to truth.

Prayer, communion, study, meditation, contemplation, mystic imagination, all these are means of connecting to and establishing citizenship in the City which Abraham sought.  That is the world in which I am interested.  As long as I am on this side of the dirt, I will be in contact with the world that so many seem to believe is the only one.   I will be in this world, but I do not have to be of this world.  

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Speaking of Laws

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations -- "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (referring to things that all perish as they are used) -- according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. -- Colossians 2:20-23

People wonder why there seems to be so much infidelity, perversion, and corruption in Christian ministry.  The answer is:   I can learn to behave, but I can't learn to be good.

Most of the time, we encounter Christians who have learned to behave, to live outwardly to please their friends, fellow church members, and their families.  We can fool people, even our spouse.  We can't fool ourselves.  We are hounded by the fact that we are not authentic, that we are living as "actors on the stage of life, playing a role of that which you are not".  That is what the word we translate as "hypocrite" means when Jesus uses it in places like Matthew 23.

Faith doesn't just move mountains.  It changes us from phony actors into children of God.  When we believe the truth in the innermost parts of our being, we will live according to that truth.  That will keep us -- most of the time -- from acting without love toward our brothers and sisters.

I may not act the way you want me to act, but I will always act in accordance with what I truly believe in my heart.  If I act wickedly and contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ, it is because I do not believe in the truth of the gospel.  I will say that, yes, of course, I believe Jesus lived and died for my sins.  I have memorized the Nicene Creed, and so on.  But if I really believed it, I would act upon it.

Suppose I am back in the deep woods some place south of Pulltite.  I know I am south of Pulltite, and I have a compass, and I really want to get to Pulltite.  Easy, then, I just follow that compass needle north.  Now, as it happens, I start out after dark, and I have a light that I keep on the compass.  The only way I am going to get where I'm going is to keep that compass pointed north.

I walk for an hour or two, and there's no sign of Pulltite.  Could I have passed this thriving metropolis in the dark?  Suppose I get to thinking that maybe I wasn't south at all but more east.  Maybe I start thinking the compass is faulty.

If I believe I was south, and I believe the compass is right, I will keep going.  If I don't, I will give up or just start wandering around in the dark.  What I believe is going to determine where I go and what I do.

It is the same way living the Christian life.  Pay no attention to everybody else's experience or what the world says.  The truth is that you and I do not know what anyone else truly believes.  If they could admit it to themselves, most Christians seriously doubt their compass.  Yes, it was Daddy's compass; it was Mama's compass, but times change.  It may not work with all these magnets and electromagnetic waves and GPS.

You are going to, in the end, live by what you believe.  If my works aren't right, I don't really believe my compass.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Law to Ban Laws



I’m for a law to ban laws.
We’ve already got so many
It’s hard to keep track of where it’s at
And know if I’ve broken any.
Too often what’s right ain’t legal
And what’s legal too often ain’t right.
Tryin’ and tryin’ to walk the fine line
Could keep a feller up all night.

Through history most ever’thing bad’s been done
Had a law made it legal first.
So breakin’ the law was better
And obeyin’ the law was the worst.

Now that don’t make sense to a simple man
And if I was to make a bet
I’d say them that want to run things
Will make it more confusin’ yet.
For a man who fears foulin’ the law
Ain’t gonna strike no sparks
Lest he be grabbed out of his bed
And hauled away in the dark.

It wouldn’t be the first time such has happened
And if ye think it cain’t happen here
Find ya an old history book
That ain’t been re-writ this year.

Laws like weeds keep spreadin’
Chokin’ out all that is good
And doin’ good’s called evil
And evil is that that ye should.

The laws that’s writ fer lawyers
Would cover acres of land
But the laws that make us decent
Can be writ on the palm of a hand.

So I think we should repeal ‘em all
We could go from scratch again
Instead of thousands of thousands
We could start with, maybe ten.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Looking Out

Trust in him at all time, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us – Psalm 62:8

I am least likely to trust in God when things are going along splendidly.  It is easy to trust in God when all other hope is gone, when we have no other options.  

Trust in God first, second, and last.

Trust God when you are bitter, when you are snakebit, when you are well and able, when it all comes together, and when it all falls apart. 

Pour out your heart to God when it is filled with praise, when it is filled with joy or sorrow or hate or love, when it overflows with bitterness and cursing or gratitude and blessing. 

The world was different before the Cross, but I remember it.  I remember my life before the Cross.  God was a dread presence if I remembered Him at all for I was estranged and alienated, filled with animosity and rebellion.  But I saw Christ crucified, the wrath of God upon Him, in my place.  I saw, too, the risen Christ, and the ascended Christ, and I knew that I need no more suffer fear and foreboding in telling God my troubles, expressing my doubts, dismay, and anger, or confessing my faults, failures, and weaknesses.
And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by (Exodus 33:21-22).

When you picture “cleft of the rock” it is a rather womb-like image.  God is our Father, but Wisdom is feminine, and the Way has that aspect of mystery as well.  Moses had asked to see God’s glory.  To see God full on destroys our existence as material creatures.  He always has to be behind us, as we are sheltered in Him.  Looking out, we may, however, see what lingers of His having come by in the great spiral path we are on.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Navigating the Mind Field



Then he touched their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it done to you. -- Matthew 9:29


I think Jesus knew what He was talking about.  I am not going to go all New-agey deepaking on you, but I do believe my life has unfurled according to the things I believe, whether I was always fully aware of those beliefs or not.  I am in the Way, and the Way is in me, and He is working all this out. 

We can have toxic beliefs hiding back there out of sight -- booby-trap beliefs.  They are lying there quietly and unnoticed until we do, think, feel, or experience something that trips the trigger and BOOM!  We have no idea where that came from.  Wouldn’t it be good if we could sweep our subconscious minds to find those tripwires and mines?  How do you suppose we would go about that? 

There is a positive way in that as we embrace more and more of the truth of the Bible and traditional Christian teaching.  We study the Word and that exposes and disarms some of those booby-trap beliefs.  We replace bad ideas and bad theology with good theology and a right understanding of who God is and of His infinite love for us. 

Another way is through prayer.  We have talked about this from time to time.  Suppose you knew someone who came to you for advice.  He or she started talking about the problem and all the issues around it, all the bad outcomes, and everything that is wrong.  Then when the person finished he simply got up and left.  You might not have the answer or you might.  The person is never going to know because you never got to a chance to say anything.   Too often for too many of us, that’s the prayer model we follow.  That is one belief we need to get right.  A lot of us do not expect God to speak to us so we never bother to listen. 

What if we went to God and said, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.  Open my ears to hear Your Voice.”? If we wait before the Lord, listening and meditating upon His Word, it could be that He would, in some way, expose some of the erroneous beliefs and axioms the world has built into our thinking.  I am pretty confident that He will, that He, in fact, longs to deliver us from the potential destruction of lies and disbelief. 

The world is going to believe in its idols.  Right now, Caesar seems to be the obsession of those who are conformed to the fashions of the flesh and the fleshly mind.  Government will create heaven on earth.  This is especially true during this political season.  Some leader has the answer to all our problems if we can just vote the right person into office.  Except it never happens.  The mark of our insanity is plain:  we keep trying again and again, every two or four years. 

Believing the truth about ourselves and reality delivers us from the alluring delusion of a utopian society.  Strangely enough, though, if we were to, as individuals, live righteously and responsibly by biblical truth and biblical principles in our everyday lives, we would find ourselves a lot closer to heaven while on this earthly journey.