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

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, March 29, 2013

Forsaken



My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
-- Psalm 22:1-8


At nine o’clock in the morning, Jesus was nailed to a rough beam, the wood likely already a stained and saturated witness of man’s cruel justice.  Naked, hanging as if spitted like the Passover lamb that foretold Him, Jesus was left to bear all the dark repulsiveness of sin.  The Father had called Him, “My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”  Now even the Father had to turn away.

We may go through many dark valleys and bear many burdens.  Men and women have suffered and endured terrors that defy the scope of human language.  Yet none can be compared to what Jesus experienced in six hours upon the cross.  For one, it was six hours by the clocks of earth; in heaven, it rends the fabric of eternity, an always, timeless suffering.  For another --  as it is eternal, it is universal.  All of humanity that ever lived or ever will live and every misdeed done, every vile thought pursued, all the disgusting blackness of all human hearts gathered to be borne away by One. 

One alone.        

And in the midst of His suffering, the ones for whom He was dying, the ones He loved and over whom He wept, they ridiculed Him, laughed at His trust, at His claims that He knew the Lord, that He was the Son.  Had He not told them of the Prodigal?  He had not asked what earthly father would give his hungry child a stone or a serpent instead of bread or fish?  His own words, echoing from their sneers, added to His torment.  Now He was to be cast down like that piece of brass, that Nehushtan on a pole destroyed by Hezekiah.  Was He wrong about it all?  Would it all be for nothing?

Immobile, bleeding, fighting for every breath, humiliated, in unbearable pain.  Abandoned. 

He knows how it feels.  

On Friday.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Get Up

Now, my son, the Lord be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the Lord your God, as he has spoken concerning you.  Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God.  Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the Lord commanded Moses for Israel.  Be strong and courageous.  Fear not; do not be dismayed.  ... there is so much of it ... I have provided. To these you must add.  You have an abundance of workmen....  Arise and work! The Lord be with you! -- 1 Chronicles 22:11-16


The old saying, "The Lord helps those who help themselves", annoys me because it is very close to right, yet there is something misleading in it.  It's the "help themselves" part that is just slightly distorted.  I suppose some would find "the Lord helps those who get off their asses" offensive, but I think it is close to correct and more memorable, perhaps, than "the Lord helps those that get up and get started".  "Get up and boogie, and the Lord will dance with you"?  I don't know. 

You and I have to get started.  I used to hang out with a preacher who was, frankly, incredibly lazy.  I liked the guy, but he was allergic to work.  He would, however, energetically tell me how we were "dead", and, therefore, it was all God, because a dead man couldn't even believe, a sort of reductio ad absurdum position regarding free will.  It is readily embraced by the slothful, the professional victim, the professional weaker brother, and others who choose to believe they are not responsible for their conditions or their actions.  It is closer to Islam than Christianity.

I am not going to get to heaven because I do good works, feed the hungry, or clothe the naked.  But, if I want to get something done -- for the Lord, for myself, for my family, my neighbors, or my church -- I going to have to start, make plans, get the tools and materials, take some time, expend some effort.  It doesn't matter what it is.  Pray then obey, and obedience does not usually consist solely in sitting on the couch waiting for the miracle to come. 

Yes, some of us do need to be weaned from the impulse to do everything ourselves.  If you are a German Catholic, this may well be the case for you.  The rest of us probably don't struggle that much with a constant, burning, and irrepressible urge to work between meals.    

The Bible says that we have "... died, and [our lives are] hidden with Christ in God".  I am told that "[i]t is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me".  This is true, but we are also told, by the very same Paul who wrote these things, to act, to believe, to have faith, to "...consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" and "... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."  

As David did for Solomon, Christ has done for us.  There is much that has been done, much that has been provided for us, but there remains a work for us to do.  Christ has suffered for us, borne our sins, griefs, and sorrows.  We are to complete that suffering as a ground completes a circuit that the power and presence of God may shine as light in a dark world. 

Each of us has a temple to build.  We have a vast store of resources on which to call.  Christ dwells in us by His Spirit quickening, strengthening, empowering, and enabling us to do His will, but we must arise.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why Seek Ye the Living Among the Dead?

Found here.

Being old and more than a little set in my ways, I would not, personally, respond to something like this.  It will, no doubt, appeal to some.  It's probably not a bad idea for a blog post, but I think it's a little too cute for anything other than Superfun Rockband Church, as Barnhardt says

I have to apologize in that I can't find the link to the site where Mr. Turner found this.  Could be a browser thing. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Altered for a Heavenly Fit

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. -- Romans 8:29

I am certainly not about to get into a debate with any experts in theology, especially Calvinistic theology, as for such dragons I would likely be considered crunchy and good with ketchup.  But the verse does tell us what we are predestined for, and that is to be conformed to the image of Christ.

That's almost a like-it-or-not proposition, an offer we can't refuse.  My absolute certainty of free will does not preclude me from believing that, once stepping through the strait gate, we will most likely follow all the way to the end.  We will be made into the image of Christ, no matter what it takes or how long it takes.  I am pretty much counting on the fact that God will not give up on me until I am conformed to the image of the Son, until you and I and numberless others are unified in faith, brought to maturity in the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ

As we talked about yesterday, it is the final cause of this life which gives it meaning.  I often find myself looking around the world and thinking I was born out of time, that I should have been far happier living in my grandfather's time, walking behind a plowhorse, unstressed by the taxations and vexations of modern life.  Nevertheless, while we may not have chosen our times (and I'm not totally convinced of that), we are where we must be.  As we are being transformed, destined to be conformed, we were also destined to bear the burden of this day. 

I do not think it is time to beat our swords into plowshares.  The battle line forms.  Proverbs 24:10 says, If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.  The day is upon us, and it will alter us forever.  This is nothing to fear.     

Monday, March 25, 2013

Purpose Built

And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from his birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" -- John 9:1-2 (KJ21)

All of us know of those whole lives have been handicapped in some way, and, like those disciples, we are inclined to ask for the cause of such troubles.  The ninth chapter of the Gospel of John answers this question — to a degree.  But it also poses a question or two.  Is it a greater wonder that blind eyes may be opened, or that the open eyes see nothing?  Where, then, does the sin lie?

All of us also encounter obstacles in life.  We might even say that the notable absence of obstacles becomes an obstacle, in that one without difficulties is more likely to be weak and hapless.  The weakness of soft and easy living yet may develop a certain strength to endure it.  We should, at least, not be envious of those for whom life appears to flow so smoothly.  The modern urban dweller and information worker is never going to gain much strength from packing around digits, so some pay good money to sweat, strain, and suffer down at the gym.  It is a strange world. 

The question asked of Christ goes to the heart of existence.  Is there a reason for suffering?  Is there someone to blame for the imbalances, the unfairness, and the pain of life?  Is there someone to blame, or to praise?  The random collisions of packets of energy, of particles forming matter, clinging to one another, coalescing to create ever larger clumps and clusters -- is that it?  For if there is no one to blame, or to praise, if it is meaningless to suffer, why suffer?  Why allow suffering?  Why endure?  If suffering is meaningless, so is life.  Who can blame a purposeless universe for being also pitiless? 

But we are human.  An ape wonders at "what".  A man ponders "why".  A cat may be intrigued by the how of something, as will a human, but the better among us will not be content until we have pushed our reason to find a reason.  All that we see has a hidden essence -- that even a blind man may know.  A favorite quote of mine comes from Anaxagoras, "Appearances are a glimpse of what is hidden."  Most of us are wise enough at a minimum to recognize that the outward appearance of a thing or of an event is shaped by forces and factors not immediately visible or sensible.  This is true of our very existence. 

Molecules, atoms, particles and particles of particles, light and energy, magnetism and gravity manifesting in massive, starry fires, in fragile, passing points of life -- there is more than we see.  More, perhaps, than we want to see. 

Jesus answered, "Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him" (John 9:3, KJ21).  Much of the time we want to focus on what precedes an event in the past in order to explain it when we ought to look to the future for what follows.  What causes a man to plant an apple tree?  Is it because he tasted apples in the past or because he wishes to eat them in the future?  We think our past determines our future, but perhaps we should look occasionally through the other end of the telos-scope. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On the Anvils of Heaven

Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.  It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
 putting everything in subjection under his feet.”


Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control.  At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.  But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. -- Hebrews 2:5-9

I am clearly out of my depth here, and I would probably be better off to just post the passage and leave off my comments. 

The Apostle Paul gets a lot of credit for faithfully carrying and proclaiming the message and revelation of Christ with which he was entrusted.  Whoever wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews -- and it most likely wasn't Paul -- deserves some credit as well.  Hebrews has a richness and depth that is in some ways similar to the Gospel of  John.  As John steps away from the synoptic lens to go clear to the other side of Christ and picture Him in another dimension, so the writer of Hebrews steps away from the Pauline revelation to deliver a unique messianic unveiling. 

Man is not a mere clever ape.  Some men seem to be -- some are not clever enough.  Man as Man is a ruler of creation, not solely an occupant or an inhabitant.  Man was ordained a lord from the beginning.  In the new creation, "the world to come", man will be lord -- never the Lord.  It doesn't work like that.  Heaven and earth will come together again.  The world will be unbent — to use Tolkien's imagery.  The hierarchy will be restored, and those in the kingdom will live and work, create and replenish, subdue and reign, rejoice and celebrate.  All will be done in and through Christ. 

(An aside, the King James is the penultimate English translation of verse 9, poetically if not grammatically:  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.)

Most of the time I read the above passage, and because I am familiar with 1 Corinthians 15:27-28, For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” ..., I see "the world to come" being subjected to Christ Jesus.  And that is true, but it is subjected to Him through us.  Jesus as the Last Adam, the Second Man is our Lord, but we are His servants, ruling and reigning in a creation we cannot even imagine. 

Look, I'm going to be honest.  I love God, but I am not thrilled by the thought of spending eternity at an all-day singing and dinner on the ground.  Once a week would be fine, but some of the time (or untime or whatever it is), I want to run and roam, to see and solve, maybe even to battle.  Really, if it's just hanging around constantly, I'd about as soon sleep through it.  I know, I'm a horrible person.  I'm also the person God made.  I want to ride to and run with the hounds.  It could be I'm too bent to ever be fit for the kingdom, or it could be that I am the way I am for a reason. 

Still, even if I am wrong all the way through, man is not.  Man has been crowned with glory and honor and all things are subjected to him -- though we can't see it yet.  All those who are troubled by evil in the world, wondering why this is allowed or why that happens, here is your answer:  You will get to fix it.  The wrong you see, the wickedness, the injustice, the ruthlessness that troubles your heart, you will be assigned to set it right, to hammer out the crookedness and make it true. 

You don't even have to wait until you are resurrected.  You can start heating the forge and swinging the hammer now.  They call it prayer. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Defining Worry

When we use the word "worry" what do we mean? The word comes from the old Saxon, and was in imitation of the sound caused by the choking or strangling of an animal when seized by the throat by another animal. We still refer to the "worrying" of sheep by dogs—the seizing by the throat with the teeth; killing or badly injuring by repeated biting, shaking, tearing, etc. From this original meaning the word has enlarged until now it means to tease, to trouble, to harass with importunity or with care or anxiety. In other words it is undue care, needless anxiety, unnecessary brooding, fretting thought.

What a wonderful picture the original source of the word suggests of the latter-day meaning. Worry takes our manhood, womanhood, our high ambitions, our laudable endeavors, our daily lives, by the throat, and strangles, chokes, bites, tears, shakes them, hanging on like a wolf, a weasel, or a bull-dog, sucking out our life-blood, draining our energies, our hopes, our aims, our noble desires, and leaving us torn, empty, shaken, useless, bloodless, hopeless, and despairing. It is the nightmare of life that rides us to discomfort, wretchedness, despair, and to that death-in-life that is no life at all. It is the vampire that sucks out the good of us and leaves us like the rind of a squeezed-out orange; it is the cooking-process that extracts and wastes all the nutritious juices of the meat and leaves nothing but the useless and tasteless fibre. -- George Wharton James, excerpted from Quit Your Worrying!

To cease from worrying is sound advice, but I'm worried that I'm not going to be able to follow it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Dream Whip



Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain. 
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Psalm 127:1-2


To sleep, perchance to dream, as Hamlet says, is indeed a gift.  Hamlet is meditating upon death, as sleep is a little death.  They are intertwined, speaking one, of the other. 

 I don’t think God is un-American or French or anything.  He doesn’t tell us to be indolent or unconcerned, to cast aside vigilance and industry.  Jesus encourages us to watchfulness, but it is to watch and pray.  Guarding our lives, our families, and our possessions, laboring defiantly to build towers to reach heaven, apart from God, these are futile endeavors.  

One thing I have learned from trying to grow my own food is that I cannot defy nature.  Sometimes I can put plants out early, sow seeds early and do all right.  The ground will warm quickly, there won’t be a late frost and everything will germinate, develop,  and prosper.  Generally, though, it is better to work with the seasonal averages if I don’t want to have seed rot in the ground or frost kill off or stunt my plants.  

Times and seasons are important in seeking God.  Immorality and unrighteousness are never in season, but sometimes even our good works can be out of season.  We labor, we struggle, we plow and plant and water and nothing happens, or our efforts backfire on us.  Though we should not trust too much to appearances, our apparent failures may occur, not because we have done the wrong thing, but because we have done it at the wrong time.  We can get out of sync with the rhythm of God’s work.  

God’s rhythm includes resting and recreating, sleeping and dreaming.  Gagdad mentioned that Western Civilization may be built on Paul’s dream of the Macedonian Call:


And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in AsiaAnd when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.  (Acts 16:6-10, emphasis added)


I think that our lives are built on dreams and visions, as well.  They don’t even have to be remembered; most probably are not.  Something in us pushes this way or that and we find ourselves interacting with people in places we can’t recall so much as dreaming of, though, somehow, it seems familiar.   

We discover 
and recover 
what we sought 
all unaware.   

Jesus tells us that the way to destruction is broad and easily found, while the narrow way is often obscure with no wide loads.  We think of these ways as descending – downhill to hell, versus ascending, climbing up the rough side of the mountain to heaven.  In these symbols, the Lord is telling is that, one way, He is with us, while the other way, we are on our own.  He is the Way, and we have to pay attention to the signs if we are going to get on the right road.  

It is a scientific fact that sleep-derivation will kill a man.  Not to dream God's dream is to miss God's path and be out of God's time, and to miss the Way of Life is a sleep from which we will not so soon awake. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday Thoughts



So do not be surprised at again finding yourself becoming sensitive, impatient, haughty, and self-willed.  You must be made to understand that this is your natural disposition, and without God’s grace, you will never be anything different.  “We must bear the yoke of the daily confusion of our sins,” says St. Augustine.  We must be made to feel our weakness, our wretchedness, our inability to correct ourselves.  We must give up hope in ourselves, and have no hope but in God.  Yet we must bear with ourselves, never flattering ourselves, but never neglecting an opportunity to correct ourselves.  

We need to understand what kind of people we really are while waiting for God to change us.  We need to become humble under His all-powerful hand.  We need to become submissive and manageable as soon as we sense any resistance in our will.  Be silent as much as you can.  Be in no hurry to judge, but think through your decisions, your likes and dislikes.  In your daily life, stop at once when you are aware of getting in too much of a hurry.  And do not be too eager even for good things.  Take your time.  FĂ©nelon

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.  For each will have to bear his own load. – Galatians 6:3-5


Drama at home is like meringue on pie.  It’s a lot of trouble to make, serves no purpose that I can see, but some people seem to insist on adding it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Little Shop of Horrors

Then he said to me, Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land. -- Ezekiel 8:12

Those of us who are not famous and influential live and act within modest confines.  We care for our families, do our jobs, do our duty.  None of it seems terribly significant against the scale of human history and even less so compared to the immensity of the universe.  But we are important.  What we think and what we do matters to God, who cares much less about governments, political systems, and economies than He does about the individuals who are involved and affected by those things.  A government is transitory.  If a nation lasts a thousand years, it is as a day to the Lord.  An individual soul is eternal.

Paul says that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit , that the body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  We build great cathedrals to God's glory, that we may gather and praise Him in the congregation.  This is good, but the Lord is at home in the frail frame of human clay.  The temple of Solomon was a magnificent structure.  The interior, though, was rather simple.  There was a Holy Place and a Most Holy Place.  Only a veil separated the two.  The same design had been in the tabernacle of Moses.  When Christ died, the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  This signified the opening of the way directly to the presence of the Lord.

We tend to keep things in separate chambers.  We like rooms in our houses.  Even my parents first slapdash shack had two rooms.  The outhouse was downstream a ways.  In modern America, we have distinct rooms, walls and doors to separate and isolate everything.  We have kitchens and dining rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, family rooms, living rooms, recreation rooms, and sun rooms.  We have garages for our cars and shops for our tools, walk-in closets for our clothes, basements and attics.  We have schools -- all divided up by grades and groups, where we learn, job sites and offices where we work, places where we shop, places we go to be entertained, places we go to eat, even places we go to worship God.  Division and distinction come naturally to us, and, for the most part, it is harmless when it's not beneficial.

But within ourselves, in the temple where the Spirit dwells, there are no rooms.  It is all one Holy of Holies.  Moses and Solomon acknowledged the separation of soul and spirit, the partition that has to exist apart from the Cross, not by God's will, but by our own inability to dwell always in His presence. 

Do I have my room of pictures?  Do I have something that I look at that I would rather God did not see?  Let's not fool ourselves into thinking we are talking just about naked women -- or, I guess, naked men.  Nor is it limited to idolatry of one kind or another.  It may be something dark and sinful -- lust, hatred, greed, or envy.  But it may also be something that hurts us, a wound we hide, some wrong done to us or by us that we can't bear to have Him look upon.  It doesn't matter if my room of pictures is the size of a trunk or the Louvre; it's still a shut off place, something I want to hold for myself, that I don't want God to clean out or even rearrange.  I have it the way I like it.  It is mine.

Maybe you say that you do not have such a room, but I would ask you if there is a place to which you retreat in difficulty.  I have an angry room.  When the pressure is on, that's where I am apt to head.  I always slam the door behind me.  The elders of Israel didn't just go down in their dark room for no reason.  They saw the troubles of their people and themselves, and they said, God has forsaken the land.  I mean, what are we supposed to do in an undead attack?  We barricade ourselves in some place, our safe place, our room of pictures.

And what is a picture?  It can be a reminder of the love and joy and happiness we have experienced at different times, an anchor in reality.  There's nothing wrong with that.  We won't have any problem showing God that picture -- in fact, that's the kind He usually shows us, pictures from the Logos, of the perfections of heaven.

Sadly, pictures can also be a means of creating something unreal, of distorting, isolating, and objectifying reality.  If our room of pictures becomes our reality, if we prefer to live in an intellectualized, romanticized, simplified representation then we are going to wall ourselves off from God.  The danger is that our very understanding of God will become distorted, stripped of awe, and neutered.  We might even convince ourselves we could take His place.  Sealed in the darkness with our images and imaginations, we are truly trapped in a chamber of horrors, next door to hell. 

Don't add any more bricks to the wall.  Tear it down.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Be Happy

Happy are you who sow beside all waters, who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free. -- Isaiah 32:20

I started to post something else, and this may not turn out to be very long, but I was praying and complaining about one problem, as well as confessing about the wrongness of another thing that I had asked for.  The Lord stopped me, and it was as if He said, "I would give you that if it would make you happy.  But it won't."  I really couldn't disagree.  It is often the case that I do not know what would make me happy, and it is possibly the case that, at some level, I fear happiness -- at least some forms of happiness. 

I am rather of the opinion that people who are addicted, whether to food or drugs or buying shoes, have latched onto one thing that "safely" makes them happy.  Sure, there's a downside to it, but it is a known downside.  The problem with some forms of happiness is that we do not know what the dark side of it portends for us.  We prefer the devil we know, and we seem to know instinctively that all heads come with a tail, that silver linings come in clouds, that cheesecake has calories.

Thus, any offer of happiness, for many of us, certainly for me, carries a threat.  I know that I have to give something up for this.  It may be now; it may be tomorrow.  But I know it's going to hurt me.  God bless poor old Gram, wherever he is, and God bless Emmylou, but I think it's about time to stop living in a sad country song. 

What I forget is grace.  What I forget is the cross.  Yes, there is some hurt and loss involved in life.  Jesus knows all about it, knows the depth of it, bore it, paid it -- for the joy set before Him -- He endured the cross and despised all the shame associated with that suffering and even death.  When the hurting comes to me, if I understand, it is transformed in passing through Christ as rain makes rainbows.   

Jesus has sown beside all waters.  He has turned us loose on the open range.  We can stray or stay close, but we can, wherever we are, kick up our heels, roll and ramble and enjoy the freedom we have been given.  I want to be close enough to hear His call, close enough that if I step off in some quicksand, He can pull me out.  But the halter and the hobbles are off, and the Master doesn't mind if an old mule meanders in green pastures, beside still waters.  It makes them both happy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Funny Monday

It is better to live in a desert land
than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. -- Proverbs 21:19

A continual dripping on a rainy day
and a quarrelsome wife are alike;
to restrain her is to restrain the wind
or to grasp oil in one's right hand. -- Proverbs 27:15-16

Next time someone tells you that the Bible is "full of errors", offer these verses as proof of the infallibility of Scripture.  Of course, there are also verses in Proverbs in praise of wise and virtuous women, and it says that "he who finds a wife finds a good thing".  Certainly we can agree with that. 

Women are generally better than men, and even a "quarrelsome and fretful" woman may not be necessarily evil, just a disturber of the peace.  Men get their share of grief from the wise for drunkenness, gullibility, lust, violence, greed, etc.  Men are more often jokers, smokers, and midnight tokers, to quote Steve Miller.  Can we truly give much credence to Solomon's comprehension of the feminine?  After all, a man who really understood women would never have more than one wife.  Ever.  With three hundred running around, no wonder the man dreaded quarrels.    

By the way, the biggest laugh I ever got in church was when I read Proverbs 27:15 during a Sunday School lesson one morning, paused, looked up at the audience, and said, "Drip ... drip ... drip."  My pastor's wife, usually a very sedate and elegant lady, was doubled over in her pew.  I still have no idea why. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

How Do You Do?

Actions, then, are called just and temperate when they are such as the just or the temperate man would do; but it is not the man who does these that is just and temperate, but the man who also does them as just and temperate men do them. -- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Slaves, obey your earthly masters  with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. -- Ephesians 6:5-8

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. -- 1 Corinthians 10:31

Doing good should, I suppose, ideally arise from being good.  Being, though, can be honed by practice.  It seems we used to understand this better than we do today. 

We can do much good deceptively, to gain an advantage, to convince others that we are better or other than we are.  Sometimes we may even convince ourselves.  Thus both Paul and Aristotle point out the importance of the intentions and motives that underlie our actions.  Intentions are not feelings.  My actions count.  My motives count.  My emotions, not so much.  I may feel like doing the right thing, or I may not.  I should do it anyway.

Whatever we do, we can do it to the glory of God.  That is, we can do it as Jesus — who was certainly just and temperate, merciful and gracious and true -- would, i.e., for the same reasons.  The question is not, then, what Jesus would do, but how and why.  Imitating Christ is good; however, it means imitating Him at a level beyond pious behavior.

To put what He said in words I might be able to understand, Jesus was always looking outside for need and inside for direction and authority.  I am apt to turn it wrong-side out, look inward at my own needs and wants while looking outside for someone or something to fix me.  By looking inside for authority, we mean looking spirit-ward, away from the physical strength and resources we might bring to bear and toward, as Jesus said, what we see our Father doing. 

Our authority and power to act righteously comes from what is done above — as God's will is done in heaven, we replicate that on earth.  As I often must remind myself, prayer is not about getting my way so much as it is about getting a look at His way.  One mistake I have made in the past, even understanding that truth about prayer, is that I held an expectation of some vast, detailed, all-encompassing vision or revelation.  That can happen, I suppose, but it's more like finding out what frequency God is broadcasting on today and tuning my receiver to pick it.  The message won't come through until its time, but, if I'm not on the right channel, I'm likely to miss it. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mattering

Who shall bring any charge against God's elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.   Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? -- Romans 8:33-35

For the burned out, for the burned down,
For the hopeless, blinded and lost
In a fog of circumstance,
For the weary and the worn,
And most of all, for the failures,
The fallers, the stumblers,
The ones who never seem to get it right,
Who can't make happy talk,
Who know the great darkness
In the basement of the heart's dungeon

For us

The depressed, the despondent,
The dependent, the dishonest,
The losers and the liars,
Hypocrites, and holy rollers,
The abandoned, the apathetic,
The indifferent, the indignant,
The lonely and the loveless,
The ugly and the unloveable,
The haters and the hurters,
The beaters and the beggers

Name your poison.
Here is the antidote,
The pain-killer,
The cure.
It does not matter what I am,
Only what He is. 
It does not matter where I am,
Only where He is.
It does not matter what I've done,
Only what He has done.
It does not matter where I have been,
Only where He is taking me. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Poured Out

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.  — Psalm 37:23-24

I am just fried, and it is my own fault.  For decades, I have worked out at night.  One night in January of 1991, I was upset, and my wife said, "Why don't you go run around the block or something?"  I went out and ran a mile then collapsed in a wheezing, quivering gelatinous heap in my driveway where I remained, under the big and bright stars deep in the heart of Texas, until I could crawl back into the garage.  It became a habit.  The last couple of days I have been working out in the morning.  I spent the weekend cooped up in the house inhaling paint fumes as I repainted the laundry room and one of the small bedrooms we never use.  Last week was busy.  I have stuff that needs to be done, like, right now, and I don't feel like doing it.  I wonder if the CDC keeps track of the mortality rate from Spring Fever?

So, as I am stumbling along through the day, I might want to ask myself what it means to "delight" in God's way.  Does it mean I have to be happy about all the stuff that is going on in the world?  Does it mean I need to pull everything in and live in a contemplative bubble?  Does it mean that I have to be on "a mission from God"? 

My daughter-in-law sent a picture of our grandson who is soon to be nine.  There was about two feet of snow at their place — much worse than we had here.  It was cold.  She wanted to make something and needed mushroom soup but had forgotten to buy any, so she called her parents who live about a quarter mile down the road.  Her dad got in the car and drove up with the can of Campbell's.  She told her son to run out and get the soup so Grandpa wouldn't risk falling down.  Apparently the boy was in the middle of changing clothes, so, dressed only in drawers and snow boots, he ran out to retrieve the soup.  She took a picture of the kid grinning crazily, nearly naked in hip-deep snow and sub-freezing temperatures.  

I think that is delight.  I was delighted.  It was something as goofy as his father would have done — or might still do.  It didn't make a whole lot of sense, but it worked out.  If there is no joy, no excessive exuberance in my following Christ, I am probably doing something wrong.  I think of the woman who broke open her alabaster jar of perfume and anointed Jesus at Bethany.  It was wasteful, and beautiful.  There is a poignant and rapturous pleasure in pouring out all that we have, in reaching the point where we have nothing left and seeing what will happen.  We may not be able to do it all the time, but what great happiness pours in as we pour out.  What liberty there is in emptiness and brokenness when it is for Christ's sake.  We never lose what we give to Him and for Him. 

In fact, if we feel that we have lost something, if something has slipped away from us, we can turn it from grief and loss to joy by offering it willingly to the Lord.  Our pain and suffering can be our freewill sacrifice to honor and exalt Him.  It really is up to us, how we choose to react.  You know, we may not be able to do it right at the time it happens or even soon after.  The wound may be too deep for us.  We may have to struggle for a while to find our perspective.  But it doesn't matter if it happened years ago, we can turn around now, today, and offer the hurt and loss to Him and let God give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise in place of the heaviness that has burdened us.  Isaiah says that if we will do that, not only will we be lifted up, but we will become like oak trees in strength and straightness — trees of righteousness. 

Seems like a reasonable trade.