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

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Night Free For All Open Thread

Seeing that it is a holiday weekend, we begin a new tradition which may last only this week, depending on whether I remember to continue.

I didn't see any of The Speech. Opinions seem to vary widely.

Rasmussen reports a modest Obama bounce. Note that he says this does not include The Speech, but the Palin announcement may suppress some of that anyway.

With the acquittal of Jose Luis Nazario today, I believe that all the Marines charged with murder in the Haditha incident have now been cleared. Of course we are still waiting for John Murtha to apologize for slandering better men than himself.

McCain's selection of Sarah Palin is interesting. He completely wins over the conservative base of the Republican Party. He reinforces his maverick reformer image. He adds administrative experience -- neither Obamba nor Plugs have anything other than rhetorical experience as U.S. Senators. The experience thing is going to be tricky for the Dems. If Obamba brings it up, it is 47 vs 44, two years as governor vs four years as senator, except he has been running for Prez most of the time.

Biden was chosen specifically to pad Obamba resume' and to be the attack dog. I'm sure Joe was primed for Melmac Mitt or laid-back Pawlenty (why am I hungry for tex-mex all of the sudden?). My guess is Mitt would have held his own; Palin may not be able to -- even though she is nicknamed Barracuda. I wonder if they'll play the Heart song for her at the convention?

Think about this, as a man how do you debate a good-looking, at least reasonably intelligent woman? There are three bad outcomes: you look patronizing; you come off as mean; you look like a wuss. Actually Biden's only viable option is to be nice to her, essentially leave her alone, and simply try to state his own case forcefully. If he goes into attack-dog mode on a woman ... well, Mr. Palin might kick his ass ... but at the very least he makes every man watching with even a hint of testosterone want to kick his ass. That does not bode well for picking up votes.

At this point, I'd say McCain has the non-metrosexual, straight male demographic locked down solid. Lefty Looney George Clooney may campaign for Obamba, but if he's a real man, he'll be thanking God for the secret ballot.

If you think I've gone overboard on Sarah Palin's looks, I have two words: Madeleine Albright. For four years we had to watch Madeleine Albright parade around the world in skirts way too tight and short for her. It was beyond embarrassing. Forget the incompetence. The sight of Ms. Albright trying to ooze her lard ass out of a limousine to wallow rapidly behind poor old lying, bloody-handed terrorist Yassar Arafat left me coiled in a fetal position under my desk for days. I want reparations.

Think about what we had to endure during the Clinton years. Besides Albright and the occasional glimpses of Helen "Girly" Thomas, we had Hillary "Steinway" Clinton, Chelsea Hubbell Clinton, Donna Shalala, and that man-mountain of puree ugly, Janet Reno.

Vote Republican! Laura Bush, Dana Perrino, the Bush Twins, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Tammy Bruce (yeah, I know; it's a waste), Sarah Palin. Wake up, America!

Speaking of ugly women, is it just me or do other people wonder how Missouri Senator Claire MaCaskill gets so much face time on TV? The media seems to love the old bag. She's fat and unattractive, obviously not too smart, and only won her Senate seat because she was running against Missouri's version of Gomer Pyle -- Jim Talent. Talent is a incredibly decent human being and a true conservative who never had any business running for state-wide office. His loss to Pee-Wee Holden gave us four years of a Democrat in the governor's mansion while his incompetence in the race with MaCaskill has given us at least six years of corrupt liberalism in the Senate.

Anyone know where I can find one of those "Typical white person clinging to guns and religion" t-shirts? I'd like a window decal for my truck, too.

Should I Stay or Should I Go

Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the waters, which parted to the right and to the left. Then the two of them crossed over on dry ground. ... Then Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. ... Elisha picked up the mantle that had fallen off Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he struck the waters. “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” he asked. He struck the waters himself, and they parted to the right and to the left, and Elisha crossed over. -- 2 Kings 2:8-14

My nomination for Prophet of Cool is Elijah. Put some cheap sunglasses on him and Elijah could be the drummer for ZZ Top. Of course, there is always the possibility the concert would be cut short by lightning strikes. Nobody messed with Elijah.

Even Joe Cool, though, loses it now and then, and Elijah was getting tired. After destroying the Baal cult prophets in a confrontation on Mt. Carmel, Elijah prayed until the three and a half year drought broke and out ran King Ahab’s chariot back to Jezreel. The threats of Jezebel caused the prophet to flee into the wilderness. Though he asked God to let him die, Elijah was not allowed to leave this world until he had appointed his successor. After Elijah threw his mantle on the plowboy Elisha, the two of them traveled together for a while.

In the second chapter of Second Kings, it has been revealed that God is about to take Elijah, and Elisha refuses to leave his master until the end. They visit several places of symbolic significance such as Bethel (“the house of God”) and Gilgal (“roll away the reproach”), eventually coming to the Jordan River. The crossing of Jordan symbolizes, not so much physical death, as the death of self, or dying to the old nature. The power of God upon Elijah is such that he is able to command the forces of nature and the waters part at the touch of his mantle.

When the two men reach the other side, Elijah asks Elisha, “What do you want me to do for you before I go?” Elisha replies, “I want a double portion of your anointing.”

Elijah says, “You have asked for something very difficult, but if you see me taken up, it’s yours.”

I have a question about exactly what this means. It is easy in the immediate context to think that Elijah means “if you are allowed to see me go up,” – or, in other words, if God reveals the nature of this departure to you. This would be related to revelation knowledge and would be applicable.

There is another possibility, too. In the larger context Elisha persists in following Elijah through the various locations to the very end, despite each time Elijah saying to his servant, “You just stay here. There’s no need for you to go on with me.” Elijah may have been saying, “This will be pretty hairy. If you have the courage to handle it and see me actually go, then the double portion is yours.” It could also be a combination of both those ideas.

Receiving revelation requires courage – not exactly the same kind as is required for skydiving or the kind that earns men the Medal of Honor in combat, perhaps, but courage still. It is not easy to give up all of our defenses and abandon ourselves to God and His revelation. We know the revelation is going to demand something of us even as it gives us something of incalculable value. I think of Jesus’ parable of the Pearl of Great Price – the man gave up all he had to have that one pearl. One Sunday evening in the space of a few minutes standing on the sidewalk outside his church in Lewisville, Texas, A. R. Trotter gave the most powerful exposition of that passage I have ever heard. We were all weeping, including Brother Trotter, before he was done. It takes courage to even begin to seek the Pearl. Most of us never start.

Elisha was not to be denied. He crossed Jordan. He faced the fiery chariots and horsemen of God. He saw Elijah taken up and he saw the mantle fall to him. The mantle, or prayer shawl (talith, spellings vary), was the symbol of Elijah’s connection to God and of his authority in this world. He had thrown it on Elisha when they first met to call him to the prophetic ministry -- much as Jesus had breathed on His disciples immediately after the Resurrection and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” though the outpouring did not come until after Christ’s Ascension on the day of Pentecost.

Taking up the mantle, Elisha returns to the Jordan and strikes the water himself. Is this real? Do I have the authority of my master? Does this piece of cloth mean anything? Where is Elijah’s God now?

The water parts just as it did for Elijah. Elisha now carries not only the authority of God but the responsibility. God will not give authority to those who are not tested, who cannot follow and endure. Nevertheless, the story of Elisha assures us that the Lord will find some, a remnant in every generation who will abandon themselves to His purposes, bear the burden of revelation, and speak with His authority.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Don't Get Fooled (again)

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit that does not confess Jesus [to be the Christ come in the flesh] is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard he is coming, and he is already in the world now.
– 1 John 4:1-3

When I was reading on the metaphysical materialism Wiki article yesterday, I was particularly struck by one argument against the supernatural and spiritual. That is, the materialist argues, if spirits do exist they exert no influence on the natural or it is too weak and insignificant to be tested.

As Jesus said to the sons of thunder, “You do not understand what kind of spirit you are.”

From God’s perspective, the spirit is willing but the flesh is the one that is weak. The truth is that Reality is spirit and what we see, the temporal, is derived.

Not all spirits, John tells us, are from God. If you have trouble with the Bible, read the depiction of creation in Tolkien’s Silmarillion. He does a magnificent job of showing how and why God allows those rebel spirits to exist.

Whether we know it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, we all deal with spirits and the spiritual on a daily basis. I need to be able to determine if I am hearing from a true prophet, a false prophet, the Spirit of God or a deceiving, antichrist spirit. John tells me how to do that. Does this spirit witness of Christ or of something else?

I heard a guy casting out “demons” on the radio one time. He supposedly contacted some spirit and was asking it, “Did Jesus come in the flesh? Is He the Son of God?” That is a misunderstanding of what John shows us. I do not recommend having conversations with demons. Jesus says that Satan is the father of lies, so it is pointless to engage in a discussion with the devil, demons or materialist magicians. They will lie to us.

The Spirit of God and the spirit of prophecy speak of Christ as the Incarnate Son of God, or, as it says in the Revelation, “the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”. Antichrist spirits can speak glowingly of “Jesus” as the master teacher and incorporate certain of His sayings into their canon, yet they are not testifying about Christ but about themselves.

For the Christian, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ changes everything. For the antichrist, the Gospel needs to have something added; the Cross is not sufficient; Christ really didn’t die; He was not raised physically from the dead. To the deceiving spirit, Jesus is useful, even interesting but not the Alpha and Omega.

I recall C.S. Lewis talking about the error of “Christianity and ____”. There’s the antichrist. The Black Liberation theology of Wright that Obama listened to for twenty years is just such an antichrist message. The white supremacist message that travels under the guise of the Christian Identity movement is another. Preachers who get too carried away with “faith teachings” are in danger of channeling an antichrist spirit. Islam is an antichrist religion.

That does not mean we reject those people and refuse to love them or engage them. As Paul told us in Ephesians chapter 6, we are not fighting flesh and blood enemies. Our battle is with “world powers of this darkness, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” People are enslaved to antichrists, to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. The most vital thing I can do is be a vessel suitable for the Master’s use, a clear channel for the Holy Spirit to be poured through, a purged, fruitful branch on the Vine.

I pray today, Lord, that my mind would be renewed, that I would be transformed and not conformed to the world’s fashion and image. I pray that I would be filled with the Spirit, covered with the whole armor of God and able to stand firm against the spiritual assaults that come against me. By faith today I put off the old man and with it the deceptions of the enemy. By faith I put on Christ to the glory of God.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

“He is not the God of the dead but of the living, because all are living to Him.” – Luke 20:38

Did you ever read something in the Bible and think, “How did that get in there?” I’ve read the Bible through many times in my life and it still happens. It happened when I read this yesterday. I had to go back to my old KJV and check to make sure it was there. It is. I also went to Wuest’s translation which sounds like Yoda might have said it:

“Now God He is, not of dead people but of those who are alive, for all live with respect to Him.”

MacDonald says it like this in What’s Mine is Mine:

The brothers believed most devoutly that the God who is present at the death-bed of the sparrow does not forget the sparrow when he is dead; for they had been taught that he is an unchanging God; "and," argued Ian, "what God remembers, he thinks of, and what he thinks of, IS."

I suppose the quickening of that particular verse is related to my father’s passing. This is the Holy Spirit coming along with a subtle sprinkle of reassurance and comfort.

Even a heathen like Robert Heinlein believed something similar. If you read Farnham’s Freehold -- not an RAH novel I recommend – he expresses the idea that those who have died are alive as they were in the past.

Jesus goes beyond that, assuring us that those we think of as dead are fully alive to God in the present. God knows no past or future, except as He relates to us. He dwells in the eternal unchanging now, and so shall we. The passing joys of this life will be translated into perfected, eternal joy while the sorrows and suffering will fall away like the husk on the grain, or perhaps will become as a salt or spice to enhance the joy further.

When I was a kid and had nothing better to do, I would take my rifle and go for a walk. An old two-rut excuse for a road led off a hillside and along a branch that was always dry unless it was raining. There wasn’t much space between the steep wooded hillsides, just enough for the branch and the road, so we never bothered to clean it out. It was a tree-lined tunnel, a tube of shade from May until October. After a few hundred yards, the bottom began to widen out. I would go over a little rise and come out from under the trees facing east into the morning sun above and the dew-jeweled grass below. No matter what else was going on in my life, I always felt an overwhelming peace viewing that scene. I feel it now as I see it again.

Somehow I connect that with heaven and eternity. Death is no more than passing through a shady holler with light and life waiting at the end. I’ll walk that road someday and it will be just as I remember, except when I top that little rise, Jesus will meet me there. We’ll talk for a while about one thing and another. I may shed a tear or two, but He will wipe them away. Then He’ll say, “Let’s go on down to the Old Spring. Some folks are waiting there to see you.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Bed, A Table, A Chair and A Lamp

Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If not, I would have told you. I am going to away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. – John 14:1-3

This is a famously misunderstood verse from the KJV “in My Father’s house are many mansions”. Though it has spawned countless references in hymns and gospel songs, the correct concept is not of some English manor or a home in Beverly Hills. Rather Jesus is talking about a resting place of travelers. It is related to the idea of ‘abiding’ or ‘dwelling’ so prominent in John’s Gospel.

Also, the meaning is not predominantly about death or heaven. Becoming a child of God, a son of the Father gives us admittance to the Father’s “house” – e.g., the house of David, meaning someone in the family.

When I am done with this world, or when God is done with me in this world, I will leave this physical body behind. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul compares the body to a tent, subject to destruction. He reassures us that should it be destroyed we need not fear or worry as we have “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” He is expanding the metaphor of the tent or tabernacle – recalling the move of the Ark of the Covenant from a tent to a temple.

Not only is there no reason for my heart to be troubled, it is imperative that I not allow the things that happen in this world to trouble me. Reading through the Proverbs, I see that diligence, integrity, and prudence are commended, but not unending toil and struggle. “The Lord’s blessing enriches, and struggle adds nothing to it” (Proverbs 10:22). To fret and fear, to be troubled in heart are indications that I do not fully trust God. “Believe in God,” Jesus says, “Believe also in Me.” Knowing Jesus, I can believe and enter into a place of rest and peace.

It is good, I think, to be reminded that we are strangers in a strange land.

This world is not my home,
I’m just a’passin’ through.
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue.

We are in this world but not of it.

My mistake is often to put that rest and reward ahead – in the sweet by-and-by. Jesus, though, promised it in the present. Sure, heaven will be a place where the “wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest”, but it is not the traveler’s rest of which the Lord spoke in John 14.

One day Elisha went to Shunem. A prominent woman who lived there persuaded him to eat some food. So whenever he passed by, he stopped there to eat. Then she said to her husband, "I know that the one who often passes by here is a holy man of God, so let's make a little room upstairs and put a bed, a table, a chair and a lamp there for him. Whenever he comes, he can stay there." 2 Kings 4:8-10

It's not a vast mansion, just a place to stop and rest, to be refreshed. It is a place where I am welcomed and loved. I find it a refuge of contentment and security along the way.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Your Friendly Neighborhood Mushroom Messiah

You laugh. Well, they laughed at the Three Stooges, too.

It's true, fish-belly white is the new green. Mushrooms can save the world. Yes, we can.

If you're actually interested Cool Tools has a recommendation and more extensive review.

For everyone else you can marvel over the fact that Amazon key phrases include "cardboard spawn", "bag spawn", "stein butts", "stem butts" and "clustered woodlover", and that there is a book on identifying psilocybin mushrooms.

Mushrooms can provide a source of nutrition, break down stumps, revitalize brown fields and clean up toxic waste. Or, in the case of psilocybin, waste the toxic.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Going Straight Through the Curves

If we must construct the soul out of the elements, there is no necessity to suppose that all elements enter into its construction; one element in each pair of contraries will suffice to enable it to know both that element itself and its contrary. By means of the straight line we know both itself and the curved – the carpenter’s rule enables us to test both – but what is curved does not enable us to distinguish either itself or the straight. – Aristotle “Psychology” – Book I

Man, looking at nature, sees very few straight lines. The straight line is an abstraction, the perfected among approximations. The line exists; everything strives toward it.

What should we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, You shall not covet. ... So then the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. -- Romans 7:7,12 (emphasis in original).

Sometimes I see very little good in the world. I see lies and evil flourishing, deception as the order of the day, and selfishness exalted.

Yet, just as tree seeks to grow straight and emulate an ideal line, so the heart of man seeks after moral perfection – the abstraction of the law, the ideal of truth.

The tree grows to seek maximum sunlight and so, because of the circumstances, it will get a little bent. Down in the wooded gully here, there is a little oak that is fighting its way up among the other trees. You can see over the twenty or so years that it has existed how the environment has changed. First it grew away from one larger tree, then, as it grew taller, it was forced to grow away from a more massive tree on the other side, resulting in an S-curve over about a third of its height.

I can see that because I know there is such a thing as a straight line. My eye imposes that straight line over the tree and I see what has happened. The tree “knows” about the straight line as well and it gets back to it whenever it can. But its life comes from the sun and it must obey a higher law in order to survive.

Those who would call Christ a great moral teacher or the Bible a collection of great moral thoughts must beware of this point. Those things are true and morality is necessary; the human soul seeks to attain it. Nevertheless, it is not the source of life.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
-- Romans 7:24,25;8:1 (emphasis added)

The moral law is not suspended. It still governs the flesh, just as the ideal line still governs the tree’s growth pattern. Life remains a struggle with the old nature, with circumstances, environment, even the demonic.

The good news is that there is a higher law that gives life. I may get a little bent along the way, but, as long as I am seeking the Son, I’ll be straight in the end.

Above that S-curve in the oak’s trunk, it found the opening it was seeking. From there it shoots straight up, triumphant, in the full light of the sun.

That will be me someday.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Liberal Music Rant

As whiny-ass liberals go, I like Orson Scott Card. I have his “Uncle Orson Reviews Everything” site on my sidebar, and I recommend it. We would have some disagreements if we met in person. Mr. Card supports sensible gun control. I think gun control means being able to shoot like Josey Wales and Rooster Cogburn. I think an armed society is a polite society and if I am sometimes not wearing my handgun it’s because I don’t have to worry about my khukri running out of ammo. Mr. Card, though a Democrat, fully understands and supports our mission in Iraq and the overall war on terror – God bless him. I’d cut him a great deal of slack on that alone.

I have a copy of Ender’s Game, and I think Mr. Card is a very fine writer.

But now he has done something to irritate me, having gone too far in his devotion to Janis Ian (see his review of Ian's autobiography here). OSC and I are about the same age. We both heard Janis Ian sing “At Seventeen” on the radio in the top-40 rotation. He went out and bought the album. To be honest, as a teenager, I battled depression and self-loathing. Nevertheless, on my darkest, most self-hating day I would not have actually paid money to have a Janis Ian record, not even the buck for a 45 (note to younger readers – a “45” does not in this case refer to the caliber of my Colt nor Billy Dee Williams’ brand of malt liquor – it was an analog recording of a single song on each side pressed onto vinyl played at 45 rpm’s rather than 33 and 1/3).

Now I am quite sure, as Mr. Card claims, that Janis Ian is a very nice, even likeable person. The two of them have become friends. I am glad for them. I will even go so far as to suspect that somewhere in Ms. Ian’s repertoire there might be a song I like. OSC mentioned a song of hers called “Boots Like Emmylou’s”. (This gives me the cherished opportunity to say, “Emmylou, I love you.”) Still, there are those hurdles to listening to Janis Ian that I simply cannot overcome – “At Seventeen” and “Society’s Child”.

This was called folk music – I think – because no one really wanted to take responsibility for it – it was just “folk”. Ms. Ian’s songs were humorless, self-absorbed, self-important and self-pitying. Her perspective was that of an ugly, unpopular seventeen year old girl who is not going to get asked to go to the prom with the quarterback. In response she points out that the homecoming queens and cheerleaders will get old. Mr. Card finds this insightful and powerful. For some reason, the phrase “sour grapes” came to mind when I heard the same song. And it was so damned whiny! About 30 seconds into a Janis Ian song and I was ready to stick a white hot poker in my ear to sear the eardrum.

You just knew that if this little drama-queen wannabe were somehow suddenly transformed into a slender, acne-free teen angel she would immediately dump the soulful, angst-y worldview into the koi pond and be at the mall shopping for a prom dress with matching shoes and bag.

All that said, at least songs like “At Seventeen” are so depressing and unmusical that they never become earworms like the worst song ever recorded: “Seasons in the Sun”. If that guy is still alive, he should be dressed up for a San Francisco gay pride parade and air-dropped over Taliban headquarters.

Janis Ian music is liberal music, and, I suspect that Ms. Ian is a leftist. Liberals pine for the fjords – I mean, for equality. They do not want equality of opportunity. They want equality of outcome. Now the truth is the protagonist of “At Seventeen” was not in some communist labor camp. She was an intelligent, artistic person living in freedom in the greatest country on earth. She had the opportunity to be happy, as much as the little blonde, brain-dead cheerleader she so envied and hated. Instead, she chose to be miserable, to wallow in self-pity and make her world far darker than it really was.

She whined about “the valentines that never came.” Hey, did you ever try sending one to somebody? Don’t tell me there weren’t any geek boys in the chess club you could have dated? How about making the best of your life like the rest of us have to do? How about getting over yourself? Having once been a boy, I can say that your existential angst and perpetual whining is a real turn-off.

OK, perhaps I am much shallower than Orson Scott Card. I will concede that. But with all the darkness and evil in the world, is it too much to ask that music be, like, not so dark? And it’s not that I am opposed to sad music. One of the traditional themes of bluegrass music is something like: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy kills girl and goes to prison. It is not, however, self-pitying. No where in any song on my MP3 player is there expressed an idea as narcissistic as “I learned the truth at seventeen that love was meant for beauty queens.” No, it’s just wrong. It is not a universal truth. It is just that you didn’t think you could get a date with the point guard on the basketball team or the centerfielder.

Honestly, the most popular girl in my class had a face that belonged on the cover of MAD magazine. We liked her because she had a sense of humor and did not take herself SO seriously.

The leftists sometimes refer to those who are “winners in life’s lottery”. Like Janis Ian they think that beauty, or intelligence, talent, initiative, drive, etc. means that you have rolled a seven and that ugly people rolled snake eyes. Actually, I think I dated the girl that rolled snake eyes, but that’s another story. The protagonist of Ian’s song said that since she couldn’t be “popular” by her narrow definition then the “truth” was that people with blemishes and imperfections were not meant to be loved. Get real. Leftists, of all people, should know better than this. You could have a rear-end by Clydesdale and legs by Steinway and Bill Clinton would hit on you.

If we let other people define us by our appearance, abilities, whatever, then we will be miserable. If, instead, we accept our lives as gifts from God and opportunities to embrace the grace, we will be happy. And, while I’m at it, God bless Bill Monroe.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hear in the Real World

The Lord God has given Me the tongue of those who are instructed to know how to sustain the weary with a word. He awakens Me each morning; He awakens My ear to listen like those who are being instructed -- Isaiah 50:4

This verse is part of a long Messianic passage culminating in Isaiah 53. If you really want to know what the Crucifixion was like, read Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22.

The prophet is talking about the Lord’s Servant, describing both national Israel and the coming Messiah. When the Old Testament talks about the ultimate restoration and exaltation of Israel, it is talking about Christ who now embodies all of God promises made under both the Old and New Covenants. For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Him. Therefore the “Amen” is also through Him for God’s glory through us. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

The phase “those who are instructed” can be and is in some translations rendered as “disciple”. Jesus was given “the tongue of a disciple”. When He went into the synagogue, He was given the scroll and found it opened to a different passage in Isaiah – The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive and freedom to the prisoner, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn (Isa. 61:1,2).

In Acts, Peter talked about, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and curing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil because God was with Him.”

And now He has us to get the job done.

I suppose walking on water and turning water into wine is good work if you can get it. Who knows? It could be that one of us will get the call to keep a party going by giving them a nice merlot from the kitchen tap. Usually I find myself with less glamorous jobs. I sometimes have to give an encouraging word with the buffalo aren’t roaming, or listen to the woeful tales of the brokenhearted while the cell phones are. None of it is too hard, really, but you have to start off right.

Though the prophet tells us first that the Servant is given the tongue of those who are instructed, it is the ear that is awakened first. Like faith, your mission comes by hearing. I’ve found that I can do some good just by doing the right thing – do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God. But for fulfilling Isaiah 61, I need to hear from God.

I remember lying face down on a motel bed in Red Oak, Texas, of all places, and getting a commission from God that completely changed the direction of my life. I lived the next decade as a raven. A raven is a big ugly bird of questionable habits, unclean and despised. Some ravens carried food to the prophet Elijah as he sat by a brook during a drought and famine. I have that on my resume.

A lot of people talk about “the Anointing” and how one is “so anointed” and all that. I look at the anointing a little differently. To me it is kind of like a position I step into or assume. I take my place. I do my job. I fulfill my purpose – even if it is just for today, or maybe just for an hour, when I make the call or send the email to a friend that is on my mind. In that moment I am anointed to do good and break the devil’s grip on somebody’s life. It’s not me – it’s the office.

It all begins with hearing, with being awakened by the Spirit of God. As Ricky Raccoon says, “Listening Now.” Sometimes it is a literal awakening – often at 3:00AM – the fourth watch of the night. Sometimes it is like a fingerless tap on the shoulder, or that still, small voice calling my name.

I’ve never opened any blind physical eyes, but I have helped open some spiritual eyes. I once helped set a prisoner free because I wrote a stupid little note of encouragement. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just heard and obeyed. There is a little boy walking around alive and well because I sent somebody an email about forgiveness. I had no idea what was going on. I just heard and obeyed.

He awakens your ear to listen like a disciple.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Many Thanks, and a tribute

I want to express my sincere appreciation for your thoughts and prayers last week. It really made a difference.

It was the late 1920’s and he was a young man, still a teenager. Yet he had seen quite a bit and been around a little. Missouri had gotten too hot for him as a result of too much moonshine and a few too many fights in the wrong places with the wrong people. He still wasn’t considered a criminal -- unless one counted his personal crusade against Prohibition – but it seemed best for him to get away for awhile until things cooled. The train had carried him west to Wyoming. His older sister and her husband worked on a vast sheep ranch. He would have an opportunity to spend some time alone up in the high country with sheep, a couple of dogs and some rattlesnakes.

Somewhere along the way, his brother-in-law, Fred, had acquired a fine little mare they called Peggy. She was a good working horse, quick, sure-footed, tough, and more than a little fiery. In fact, a rider did not need spurs. More than that, Peggy would not tolerate a rider with spurs.

Fred, Martha, and the rest of the bunch headed for town, leaving the wiry teenager alone on the ranch. Fred suggested that his brother-in-law could ride Peggy if he needed to check on things. “Just remember to take off your spurs,” he said, “before you get on her.”

The young man took care of the chores and, as the day wore on, found himself in the barn looking at that mare. He went over and saddled her, then, very deliberately, he buckled on his spurs.

Now at this point, a question might occur to some people. I won’t say that it never occurred to me any of the dozen or so times I heard the man who put on those spurs tell the story. I will say that I never asked because I already knew the answer. I’m not sure I can put it into words any more than he could have if someone had asked him, “Why did you want to ride the horse with spurs when you didn’t need them?”

Probably he would not have actually answered. He would have begun to smirk, then to smile. He would have chuckled softly and, with eyes still full of mischievous laughter and a slight shake of his head, he would have continued the story.

He led the mare to the open barn door. The ground sloped away ahead of them, gently but down through scattered trees. He would have pulled the front brim of his hat down just a little tighter, put the toe of his left boot into the stirrup, then mounted with a swift, sure motion.

He gigged her.

The mare leaped.

Peggy knew how to buck. She did no fancy sunfishing. She didn’t need to. She landed hard on her front feet, head tucked, hind legs pointing very close to one o’clock. Her back hooves barely touched earth before she clawed up and forward to strike the ground again, kicking and twisting, trying to shake that man from her back.

Yet he still raked her with those spurs.

She headed back down, using the slope and all the forces of gravity to unseat her tormentor. His fedora lifted, despite the extra tug, and sailed away, but he remained. The mare fought on against the man with the spurs. They were through the trees and the ground became a little more level. Peggy was heaving, and she was beginning to lather. She paused, though still trembling, threatening to rocket again. She felt the jab of the rowel and took a couple of tentative steps.

Satisfied after a few minutes, the rider dismounted. He walked back up the slope, leading the now calm mare. He passed by the great furrows plowed in the sod by the horse’s hooves. Retrieving his hat, and having given Peggy a chance to recover, he swung again into the saddle. He felt her back kink a little when the spurs touched her, but she straightened out and went forward at her customary trot. The young man went on with the work of the day.

When Fred arrived he spoke with his brother-in-law about one thing and another. In the course of the conversation, the young man said, “Next time you ride Ol’ Peggy, you can leave your spurs on.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blog Free

I will be out of the sphere this week. Things will be back to normal next week, God willing. I would appreciate c00n prayers today, especially, as I will be attending my father's funeral.

As one of my cousins reminded me last night, with Dad's passing, we are now the old-timers.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Garment of Light Woven in Darkness

He had sent a man ahead of them -- Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with shackles; his neck was put in an iron collar. Until the time his prediction came true, the word of the Lord tested him. -- Psalm 105:17-19

Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob. He was also the chosen of God -- in many ways a type of Christ -- who was to provide the means for establishing Israel as a nation under the protection of the world power, Egypt. Joseph was his father's favorite by birth -- the eldest son of his beloved wife Rachel. Beyond that, Joseph was gifted with prophetic understanding and wisdom, a genius of sorts. Having to deal with him as the father's favored would have been bad enough for his brothers, but his gifts made him even more insufferable. The air of confidence, the sense of knowing, it would have come across as arrogance even if it wasn't -- and Joseph was only human. After all Joseph had a vision of God's plan: his brothers would bow down to him. He would rule over them.

Then the word of the Lord began to test him. Joseph had to learn that the ways of God sometimes pass through darkness and through pathways hidden to the sight of man.

Abused by his brothers, sold into slavery in Egypt, Joseph did not lose faith. He made the best of it and did well. But the path led further down, as he was falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned. The word still tested him. What was in him? Even in the dungeons, his wisdom and integrity puts him in a place of trust and leadership. It doesn't seem like exactly what he had in mind, to be number one -- at the prison. Yet Joseph still shows no sign of bitterness, resentment, or any lack of forgiveness. He clings to God as that exalted vision tries him to the utmost.

When, at last, his gifts seem to give him an opportunity for a glimmer of hope, nothing comes of it. He continues to languish for two full years.

Then "the time" came. His prediction came true. God lifts Joseph. The path emerges into bright light and full view. Joseph is "suddenly" prime minister of the richest, most powerful nation on earth. His wisdom delivers not only the Egyptians, but his own family. Through Joseph, Israel and his descendents find favor in the court of Pharaoh. To his fearful brothers Joseph says, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good."

I see that I do not measure up to this attitude. Too often I hold onto things that should be released. I doubt God in the midst of trials and become depressed and hopeless, yes, even bitter. A brief trial is one thing, but something that drags on and on for years, how can that be God?

I need to remember that darkness is the time of rest. Rather than fretting and worrying in a trial, that is the time to take it as it comes and trust in God. If the path leads down – well, going downhill has advantages. As Jake Hess used to say, “Things will get better, get worse, or stay about the same.” When the night comes and no man can work, I will rest in the Lord. God means it for good.

Suffering, loss, and pain are not good things. Betrayal is not a good thing, yet the betrayal of a Judas brings salvation. God means it for good.

The shadowed path down, the road of testing and trial leads to the light. The word of the Lord will try me as He weaves my way in the dark, as He leads me to the light. God means it for good.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

None Good

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good but One – God.”
-- Mark 10:17,18

Rather than eat up Bob’s space with an extended rehash of the obvious and leave myself looking egocentric, I decided to post it here.

I hope Petey doesn’t mind me stealing one of his favorite lines, but this is a One Cosmos one-off, you might say. One of the OC posters, Warren, commented on the “problem of evil” that seems to trouble so many who proclaim themselves to be atheist or agnostic. He said that the existence of evil and suffering in the world moved him toward God rather than away from Him.

Another poster, Erasmus, pulled a quote from Ray Ingles mini-Mein Kampf where Ray dismissed a God that would allow a volcano to erupt and burn up children in an orphanage. He says that God is to blame for all suffering (that is, He would be if He existed). Finally, the inimitable Slim Pickens noted that if he were to blame God for something it would be for creating Ray. Slim’s point is well taken in that, to paraphrase, Charleton Heston, “Evil is people!”

The atheist cannot deal with the righteousness of God or, consequently, the righteous requirements of God. Ray’s statement was indicative, saying, in essence, that it was not fair to rain on both the just and the unjust. Ray, of course, misses the actual point that rain would be a blessing rather than a curse, but we know what he means. God should bless good people and wipe out bad people.

The first and most obvious problem is the one reflected in the Lord’s koan-like response to the rich young ruler quoted above. God alone is good. All humanity is sinful and imperfect. Even the best of us do or have done wicked things. God does not have “bad aim” as Ray facetiously suggests. God is merciful to those of us who do wrong.

As far as disasters, diseases, “tragic” accidents, etc., those are the consequences of living in a fallen world. “In this world,” Jesus assured us, “you will have trouble.” But He goes on to reassure us, “Cheer up, though. I have overcome the world.” The present world, intended to be perfected under man’s dominion, was corrupted by the Fall. It is redeemed by the Last Adam’s obedience, though the full manifestation of that redemption is not yet seen.

Another problem is one cannot comprehend God’s reality if one assumes that when you are dead you are dead. This world is not enough. Certainly if this life is all there is, some relatively innocent people get the short end, while O.J. got by with murder for quite a while. If there is a God (and there is), then this life is not all, not by a long shot. If there is a God, He will even it up, so to speak. Consider a parable Jesus told in Luke 16:19-31 about a rich man and a poor beggar. They both died. The beggar went to paradise and the rich man went to hell, where he, not too surprisingly, began to complain about his accommodations. Abraham chided the man in hell, “Son, remember that during your life you received good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted, while you are in agony.”

Atheists seem unable to comprehend their own sinfulness. Some make excuses for their bad actions. Other claim they are not bad at all – especially if they don’t hurt anyone else. It is this view of evil as something external to themselves that causes the “problem of evil” to drive them away from religion. On the other hand, those of us who recognize our sinfulness are, as Warren suggested, drawn closer to God in the face of suffering.

You might say, quite biblically, that there is suffering and evil in the world because there are people in the world. Sometimes we reap the consequences of our own evil, sometimes that of others. The atheist asserts that a perfect God would not make an imperfect world. Yet how does the atheist know the world is imperfect? How does he or she know what a perfect God would do? Clearly the atheist is adequate with his finite, inorganically-grown mindless brain to comprehend and judge an infinite Spiritual Being.

Me, I don’t think so much of myself, maybe because I have looked in the mirror, looked in the Mirror, and looked in my heart. I am willing to trust in and rely on the wisdom of God when I see evil, pain, and injustice.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

...'Til Somebody Puts Out An Eye

Nahash the Ammonite came up and laid siege to Jabesh-gilead. All the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will serve you.”

Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I’ll make a treaty with you on this condition: that I gouge out everyone’s right eye and humiliate all Israel”
1 Samuel 11:1,2

Most of us, I would like to think, are born with something like full spiritual vision. It does not take long, though, for the world to begin its work of blinding us to the Real. Putting out the right eye leaves us with a flat, two-dimensional view of things. Life, according to the prince of this world, should have no depth and no meaning. The devil will lock us up inside our own heads and let us go mad as circular reason spirals in, ever tighter.

The enemy comes up threatening and intimidating. I think perhaps compromise is the best course. All I have to give up is one eye. Is it really that big of a deal? What good are two eyes when you are dead?

It is worth considering in this context that Jesus said, “If your right eye offends you, put it out. It’s better to enter the kingdom with one eye than to go to hell with both.” The difference is that Jesus is speaking metaphorically. Ray Charles was blind and couldn’t leave the girls alone. Jesus uses the concept as another way of saying, repent, turn away from the economy of the flesh and die to it.

But the enemy wants me impaired, confused and helpless. Nahash, at least, had the audacity to state his purpose: to “humiliate all Israel” – and, by extension, to humiliate the God of Israel. It’s one of the problems with proclaiming I am a son of God; it draws the whole Family into whatever mess I get myself into.

That’s also the good news. There is a “rest of the story”.

Saul had just become king over Israel and he had not gotten on the path to destruction as yet. The men of Jabesh-gilead sent word that they were in trouble. When the king heard it, he was plowing. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he hacked an ox into twelve pieces then sent a piece to each of the tribes. No RSVP invitation, it was show up or else. Then Saul sent back a message to Jabesh. “By the time the sun is hot tomorrow,” he said, “you will have help.”

So it was that the king went up, took out Nahash, and delivered Gilead from the Ammonites.

I have a choice every day. I can listen to the world’s deception and lose the better part of my ability to perceive the Real, or I can call upon my King and Elder Brother to stand with me. He will not fail me or forsake me. It doesn’t matter that I am somewhat of an outlier, that I am perhaps not all that I should be, He will show up when things get hot.

But what if I have compromised in the past? What if I am already blinded?

As Tolkien said, “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.” Reading in the Gospels one cannot help but think there were a great many blind in the days of the Lord’s earthwalk. When they encountered Jesus they did not remain blind.

If I call upon Him, my blinded eye will be opened, my sight will be restored, and my deliverance will be complete.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lord of the Jerks?

My hand made all these things, and so they all came into being. This is the Lord’s declaration, I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and who trembles at My word. – Isaiah 66:2

As usual, I don’t have anything deep and insightful about this verse today. I happened to run across the phrase “who trembles at My word” and chased it down to Isaiah. To actually hear God speak is an experience that should fill us with a respectful awe, and that’s the idea I was expecting. But when the Word comes, it often has its own direction.

The other day someone referred to my interpretation of Genesis as “allegory”. I didn’t like that, but I didn’t feel like arguing. When I look at the story of man’s creation I see it as literally true. God created Adam and He brought Eve out of Adam somehow. What I don’t know from the biblical account is what mechanism or process God used to do that. God may have taken an existing humanoid creature and transformed it over time. He may have done it instantaneously. The Bible is not interested in that, and neither am I. What is important is that man was a perfect spiritual creature that fell into a mortal state as a consequence of willful disobedience.

A materialist can show me DNA evidence all day and not disprove what I believe. First because, frankly, the biologists are not as all-knowing as they claim to be when they are writing their proposals. Second, the biological facts, whatever they may be, can never negate the Truth of God’s account.

I take the Word of God seriously – too seriously to worry about the literalness of Adam’s creation and fall, Noah’s flood, or Jonah’s whale ride. The way I look at it is that you make one assumption: God exists. Once you assume that, everything else makes sense. For example, people fret over whether the Bible is really the Word of God. I don’t want to criticize anyone for researching the origins of the various books and finding all that is possible – archeological verifications and all that. It’s obviously a better way to spend your time than playing golf. But, like golf, it’s not something I am drawn to. Assume an all-powerful, wise and loving God and you have the answer – yes, He is able to inspire, protect and preserve this revelation of Himself to mankind.

God says He is favorably disposed toward the humble, the submissive and those who tremble at His word. When I think about it, how could He show favor to the arrogant, the domineering and the cynical? Other people, unless they are hopelessly sold out to “cool” and “edgy”, are put off by a superior attitude and pushiness. Is it surprising that jerks are not going to get far with the Lord?

The Word of God has a transforming power, but it will only transform me if I allow it. If I am determined to hang onto my willful ways and keep the truth out of my heart, I will be forever distanced from God. Jesus says those who humble themselves will be exalted. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled. We are told that every knee will bow. It is not a matter of if, just a matter of when.

You don’t have to kneel when you pray. It’s a good idea to pray when you’re driving, but a bad idea to close your eyes and bow your head. Still, we know that body language is a major component of communication between humans. It seems reasonable to give it some thought when communicating with the Master. No physical posture is critical to getting God to hear us, but it may be beneficial once in a while to getting me in the right frame of mind to address Him and receive an answer. Today, at some point, I think I will kneel down before the Lord and just say, “Here I am.”

Monday, August 4, 2008


Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II were all instrumental in bringing down the Soviet Union and freeing Eastern Europe. This is just my opinion, but I don’t think they could have done it without Solzhenitsyn. I read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in high school, and, nearly forty years later, consider it one of the most influential books I ever picked up. Solzhenitsyn was a brilliant writer, a patriot and a prophet. When the intellectuals of the West were embracing the Soviet vampire, wanting America to bare its throat for the inevitable, it was Solzhenitsyn that reminded us of the nature of the beast.

God bless Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He will be missed.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Rejecting Elemental Deception

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy or empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of this world, and not on Christ. Colossians 2:8

I know I have spent (probably way too) much time arguing about empty deceits. That is a good description of most of what passes for human knowledge. It keeps the grant money rolling in but it is of little value otherwise. People who desperately want to be materialists are never content in their desperation. Say what they will, they want to pull us down in the darkness with them. You sometimes wonder if misery loves company or if they are just afraid of being alone in the dark.

It is rather like talking to a man who has fallen into a sinkhole. You offer to throw him a line but he insists that the only proper course of action is for you to jump down into the hole with him.

Sorry. I’ve been there and I didn’t care for the view.

I am reminded of a G. K. Chesterton quote, “I am quite ready to respect another man's faith; but it is too much to ask that I should respect his doubt, his worldly hesitations and fictions, his political bargain and make-believe.”

For in Him the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority Colossian 2:9,10

I can learn a lot by studying the “elemental forces of the world” about how things work, but I cannot learn why things work. The materialist thinks that the only question is how, or rather he only asks how because to ask why is too disturbing.

If I want to understand the material world, I need to know something about the Creator. All of the nature of God was poured into Christ -- and I understand that well enough. What is harder to grasp is that I have been filled by Him.

This is the very purpose of the Gospel – Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection – that we should be restored and partake of the Divine nature. I heard someone protesting the other day about the statement that “God wants to replicate Himself on the earth”. I don’t know what the particular speaker being criticized meant by that. It certainly has the new-agey faux-christian sound to it. Yet I use that phrase, or a similar one, as a convenience.

The Father replicates His nature in His children. What a surprise. That does not mean we are God (though Jesus did quote the Psalm as saying “you are gods”). It does mean that we are carriers of the Holy Ghost bringing the wisdom and power of God into contact with the people we meet and the situations we encounter.

Consider this: our old human nature was subservient to the rule and authority, one might say, of the physical world. The old man is bound and controlled by the gods of forces. When we put on Christ, when we are filled with His nature, the rule and authority of elemental forces are thrown off. Now, instead of being subject to the world’s control, we are submitted to Christ to whom the rulers and authorities of the world are subject. While that is a revelation of a present reality, it is also the promise of a greater manifestation that awaits us.