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

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sighed, Be

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.   And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:5b-7

When we hear someone say, "The Lord is at hand", it is often followed by talk about the Second Coming of Christ.  Jesus said He would never leave us.  He says that He is the Vine, and we are the branches.  He says that, if we abide in Him, He abides in us.  That's close.  That's at hand.  It's that kind of "at hand" that Paul is talking about in his letter to the believers at Philippi.  If the Lord is near to us, so close that "in Him we live and move and have our being", if that is our reality and understanding, the implications are powerful, and we are, or should be, free from anxiety.

A co-worker and good friend of mine just IM'ed me a little while ago.  He is one of our database administrators.  I am still making the transition from Sybase to DB2, and some things still cause me problems.  He's the guy I contact if I can't figure something out.  He is at hand via email, phone or instant message. 

If we have problems and trials and quandaries in life, why do we not bring Jesus in on those difficulties? 

Paul makes a guarantee — not that gold will rain from heaven to pay off your mortgage, not that lightning will strike all of your adversaries.  He says that if we will tell our troubles to the Lord, pray and ask for help, admitting, in effect, that the solution is beyond us, our minds will be surrounded and garrisoned by the peace of God, not a peace that necessarily makes sense, rather one that goes beyond the horizon of our understanding.  The road disappears over rise.  The peace of God assures me He is as much in control of the part that I cannot see as He is the part I can see.         

"For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin," says Romans 14:23 — strong words.  This classifies worry and fear right alongside hatred, lust, greed, and envy as being neck-deep in unrighteousness.  (By the way, if you are reading this and haven't figured it out already, I'm just preaching to myself.)  I always think I can figure everything out for myself.  There is no doubt that, in some ways, I'm not a complete idiot — not that being an incomplete idiot is anything to brag about — but I can solve problems sometimes.  I ought to do that.  There's a difference, though, between problem-solving and fretting.  Both might keep you awake, but the latter is driven by and based in fear; the former is a function of confidence or conviction.

The bad thing about the Lord is that He gives people freedom to be stupid.  The good thing about the Lord is that He gives all of us freedom.  I don't want to be a marionette.  I cannot ask for others to be.  Those around us can make our lives in this world more difficult through their bad choices, evil actions, and sinful behavior.  God is not going to stop that.  But what He will do, like the One and Only Grand Master Eleven-Dimensional Chess Player that He is, is make all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Tell Him about it.  Prayer in; peace out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Climbing the Rough Side?

You have been asking for peace and comfort.  But you do not understand that you have been led to the brink of the fountain, and are refusing to drink.  Peace and comfort can be found nowhere except in simple obedience.  So be faithful in obeying even when you do not understand, and you will soon find that the rivers of living water will flow as God promised.  You will receive according to the measure of your faith:  much, if you believe much; nothing, if you believe nothing and continue to listen to your own restless thoughts.  FĂ©nelon (emphasis, mine)

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. – Revelation 2:10

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18

When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.  Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. – Psalm 73:21-24

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fade Away and Radiate

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.  -- John 8:38

Christ is the Rock.  The more we listen to the world, the more we focus on the shifting sands of opinion, of popularity and politics, news and celebrity, the more disoriented we become.  The more lost we become.  The web of lies gets thicker and harder to navigate the farther we get from the Source of truth.  In the fog, we find ourselves chasing images and apparitions.  We are deceived by semblances of a truth we glimpsed somewhere closer to home.  Following it, we are only led deeper into the tangle where the air thickens into a noxious miasma that further confuses our thinking.

Yet even in the midst of confusion and deception, reality is always near at hand.  Stillness can still be found.  The outward turmoil and the pressures of  pretense we endure are part of our strengthening. We are, as we live in this world – except for a very few who knowingly and willingly choose to remain, growing and gaining strength to bear that “eternal weight of glory” that will be the new robe we will wear. 

Here we cloak ourselves in shadows.  Back home, we will wear light that radiates from a body more solid and real than we can now imagine.  Arnold in his prime will look like an unstuffed scarecrow in comparison.  We are wont to say, The older I get, the better I was, but age and physical infirmity are just a wearing away of the old clothes.   

Should I go buy a fine, new suit and put it on, only to cover it with the filthy rags and remains of my old, worn-out one?  We would think someone severely deluded who was so attached to worn-out clothes.   It is not just our bodies but our treasures, even our cherished opinions, our misplaced loyalties and loves, our false hopes and carnal desires – all these things are wearing away, becoming ever more gossamer, ever less confining and clinging as we pursue God, as we draw closer to the Solid Rock of Eternity. 

Be still and know. 

Beauty in the River

Kind of a hillbilly version of "Turn, Turn, Turn". 

It don't matter what is said,
We can wake up from the dead,
And roll away the stone. 

Monday, February 25, 2013


Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you ... --  Matthew 28:19-20

And he said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. -- Mark 16:15

Justin at Arctic Pilgrim expresses a legitimate concern about Christians and culture. I don't have any disagreement with the views expressed by him or those who commented.  But it does raise the question in my mind about how we are to engage the culture. 

For example, the notable Catholic priest, Father Robert Barron, often does commentaries on current movies.  We might think that reviewing The Hobbit or Les Miserables makes sense, but he also reviews Skyfall.  I'm not sure I've ever seen an entire Bond movie.  You also have sites like Stephen Graydanus' Decent Film Guide which is beneficial in rating movies and deciding if redemptive value is present. The reviewers provide a service to individuals and families choosing what to view or not view. 

Some things are just too disturbing to watch or hear or read -- I mean, apart from speeches by NMP Obama, Michelle Obama's outfits, and Hillary Clinton's Congressional testimony.  I find most so-called Country music brain-damagingly stupid.  Whatever they call that "urban" crap now is brain-dead.  Television and movies are mostly Death Valley with the occasional oasis. 

If, however, I were attempting to fulfill the Great Commission, I would probably need to think about how I might best connect with the people around me -- the people who are listening to Jay-Z, watching Twilight and CSI: Aberdeen.  While the hermitage is more appealing to me all the time, not everyone is called to disengage from society and the dominant culture.  Jesus was talking about how to live as we go -- as we go into all the world, as we go about our business, as we interact with the people God brings into our lives. 

The fact is that if you are going to successfully make disciples of the people around you, you are going to have to go beyond the Roman Road and the ABCs of salvation.  Discipleship requires much more than motivating someone to cry and pray a 30-second prayer.  You build a rapport and a relationship.  You make disciples of friends -- generally speaking.  You take the heavy end of a guy's freezer going backward down some rickety basement stairs.  When you invite him over to watch the game, he's going to feel more comfortable ragging you about why you changed the channel when the Hardee's commercial came on. 

Most of us aren't willing to invest that kind of time and effort into other people.  We aren't willing to engage on the level where those around us live.  That is the difference between us and Jesus.  That is, then, the reason the church remains insulated and ineffective in putting boundaries on the excesses of the culture, as well as failing to make effective disciples even while busily counting converts.   

We are looking at lost generations.  They have rejected -- or never heard -- any kind of meaningful, authentic mythology on which to pattern and shape their lives.  They live as indoctrinated, unthinking, pragmatic nihilists -- unless and until their thought processes can be engaged to give them a revelation of the absurdity of their chosen existence. 

One by one.  

Monday Morning Scripture

I don’t have much time to post anything this morning, but I have been studying the Gospel of John, chapter 8, especially the exchange between Jesus, the Pharisees, and some of His followers.  This is just shotgunning something to ponder.
The natural life is sustained by lies and limits.  You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one (John 8:15), Jesus said to those who attacked Him. 

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  

They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.” – John 8:31-35

That got everybody stirred up. 

The slave, or the “servant” in the King James, is the natural man -- the mind, soul, and body that interacts with and operates in the physical world (see Romans 6 for both sides of the coin).  The son is not referring solely to Jesus the Son, but the spirit of man -- that which is born of God.  The body does not abide forever; the spirit is eternal.  The body is passing away; the spirit endures.    

 We can look at this as an exchange that takes place between our own mind, soul, and body and our spirit.  Even the aspects of the natural man that believe can become contentious when the spirit begins to rise up and threatens to take its rightful position of authority.    

Friday, February 22, 2013

That Kind of Faith

“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 18:7-8

I return to this passage over and over because it is about more than persistent or – love this word -- importune prayer.  The persistent widow did indeed beleaguer the unjust judge.  As I have noted before, I see the widow as representing our spiritual nature and the judge our analytical human nature.  It’s not all that different from Jesus saying to His weary and sleepy disciples, “The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.”  The flesh is a pain in the butt. 

There are plenty of people around to tell us that our faith is useless in the physical world.  They restrict God to heaven, to an airy, ephemeral afterlife.  They deny His power and presence here.  After all, there is so much evil in the world how can God be involved in our everyday lives?  No, the Lord helps those who help themselves – which is true enough, except it doesn’t mean what some think it means. 

You know what?  I’m tired of being reasonable.  I’m tired period, but I’m really tired of trying to be understanding.  I, in fact, do understand.  The world worships power and crucifies Christ.  The reason the secular humanists can get along so well with much of Islam is because both groups focus on practical political power and control.  The reason there is no hope in a “political solution” is because politics is about the management of practical power.  There is nothing wrong with politics as a tool.  It all depends, as with any tool, on what motivates its use.  If all a person or a group wants is power and control over other people – I don’t care if such a one calls himself liberal or conservative or Islamic or Christian – he is my enemy, and – the dire news, he is God’s enemy.

I live by the law of Christ which is higher and better and purer than any law or set of statutes that man may create.  I answer to Christ, not to the world system.  The troublemaker they crucify is the King I obey.  Yes, we have a conflict.  It is time for “that kind” of faith. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Split Decision

And he said to them, Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill? But they were silent. -- Mark 3:4

To save life or … To do good or … 

We are like the religious people gathered in the synagogue that Sabbath.  We are silent before God’s questions, the questions of life and death, good and evil, truth and illusion.  It is always lawful to heal, to save,  to do good.  Or is it?  Should we always be able to make the decision of who should live, who should die?  Are the issues of life ever beyond us?

Sometimes something or someone must die that another might live.  Sometimes good arises from what appears to be great harm.  If I keep everything carefully cut and separated, if I do not allow the elements to mingle, if I do not let my thoughts go too far, I can make judgments.  If it all comes down to heads or tails, I can decide.  Much of the time there is no reason to be indecisive.  Good and evil seem clear, in focus and obvious. 

Isaiah 38 tells a story of Hezekiah, a good and righteous king who fell ill.  The prophet was sent to the king to tell him to set his house in order for his death had been ordained, and he would not recover.  Hezekiah, receiving the news, turned his face to the wall and wept out a plea for mercy.  As Isaiah walked away from the king’s house, the Lord stopped him, turned him around, and sent him back to Hezekiah with a reprieve – he would be healed and given fifteen more years of life.  During that fifteen year period, a son was born to Hezekiah.  His name was Manasseh.  Hezekiah died when Manasseh was twelve years old, and the boy became king, reigning then for fifty-five years.  He was possibly the most wicked and idolatrous ruler ever in Jerusalem.  The reign of Manasseh sealed the fate of the kingdom and doomed Judah to destruction and exile.  If God had not shown mercy to Hezekiah, Manasseh would never have been born.  Would that have changed the ultimate outcome?  We cannot know.    

Did God do harm or good by extending a righteous man’s life?  God is good, and what He does is good, but, honestly, I am silent.  I trust God.  Not, just trust.  Not, only trust.  Not, I have no choice except to trust.  Trust.

Very recently I found myself laying out a problem before the Lord.  I could see an obvious and quite common solution to the problem.  There were steps I could take to resolve the situation, and, from my perspective, I would benefit or at least find a measure of peace by taking those steps.  But I think it would be wrong.  I know it would be wrong.  If I really trust God, I have to close the door on the natural man’s solution, endure the uncertainty, and continue on doing what I know is right.   

It is the Sabbath for us; we must rest in Him, even while doing the lawful good that is before us.  We can work and strive and struggle up to a point -- the six days of man, but the seventh day belongs to the Lord alone.