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

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, July 31, 2015

Only A Moment

Love is the word we use
To mean what we want
Until we learn
It means what it costs
and what is lost.

To love is to lose.
It is the perfect suicide
that leaves the hitman alive.
If this life is it
It is a hit,

Like ice water
That dimples around
Grasping fingers --
Now going down,
 It shocks, and knocks,
And evades our locks.

In the world without end
Love transcends.
It only begins
With what we see
And what is near,

And passes away
To wait for us another day.
So be careful what you love
For of this your heaven will consist.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Unchained Delusions

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.  -- Proverbs 29:18

Another way to put it is when people stop attending to instruction in God’s truth they begin to reject all the restraints of society and tradition.  I wonder where something like that might be happening.  Older translations often say “where there is no vision the people perish”.  Throwing off moral restraint results in death, both individually and societally.  This is not coming to America.  It has arrived. 

Rather than repenting and turning back to God when we have been faced with the consequences of our decadence and decline, we have, as people like to say these days, “doubled-down”.  The culture applauds that which flaunts morality and tradition while ridiculing and attacking the righteous.  The accepted leaders in politics and the media are almost without exception morally twisted people. 

I know I keep harping on this theme, but the answer lies in the last line of this proverb.  It is up to us individually, in our local churches, among our friends and families, to hear the truth, speak the truth, and live according to the truth.  It won’t be as easy as it used to be.  If we are willing to do that, though, we will be all right.  Being all right may mean taking the express to heaven, but that’s OK, too. 

It does not matter what the majority says, what the popular say, what the rulers or the enforcers say.  What matters is what God says, because the Truth is the stumbling block upon which illusions will fall and shatter.  God will get us through if we stick with Him. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I'll Stand Here

And next to him was Shammah, the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the men fled from the Philistines.  But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines, and the LORD worked a great victory.  2 Samuel 23:11-12

I don’t think this was particularly strategic ground in any normal military sense.  We often find ourselves in struggles and confrontations with the world, and the issues seem minor.  It’s hardly worth the conflict or the effort.  We are told to be at peace with people as much as is possible from our side.  Blowing up about every little thing or blowing things out of proportion probably doesn’t do much to advance the kingdom.  

I’m sure there were those among the soldiers who were fleeing who thought Shammah picked a poor “hill to die on”.  Who cares about that pea patch?  That’s the whole Philistine army coming across there.  Sometimes, though, it is the small battles upon which the outcome of the larger war turns. 

We might find ourselves wondering if some of the “insignificant ground” we have surrendered as Christians has led to us being under such an intense siege in the culture war these days.  If we had been more diligent in condemning the belittling of marriage through no-fault divorce and moving marriage from a sacrament of the church to a profane, civil ceremony blessed by the state (profane in the sense of not being sacred within the church), we might not be looking at the travesty of the state acknowledging, approving, and enforcing the ludicrous concept of homosexual marriage. 

If we had pulled our children from public schools and refused to support a centralized, government-run education system when the Supreme Court began to separate knowledge from morality, we might not have a generation of virtue-challenged, moral morons today.

But these things have happened.  This ground has been lost.  Maybe all we have left is a pea patch, and, if that’s all we have then it is worth defending.  Maybe that’s what Shammah thought.  I’m tired of giving up ground.  It reminds of the scene in The Warriors where Cowboy and Ajax are running from the Baseball Furies.  Cowboy says he doesn’t think he can make it.  Ajax asks him if he is sure that he can’t make it.  Cowboy says that he is sure.  Ajax says, Good.  He had had enough running.  He was ready to stand and fight and let people know what the Warriors were made of.    

The Lord put it in Shammah's heart to have had enough running, enough compromising, enough backing down and giving in.  We can’t speak for others.  We can’t say if this is their place to stand, but I think we can know when it is ours. 

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13).

Monday, July 27, 2015


As soon as the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, It is the king of Israel. So they turned to fight against him. And Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him; God drew them away from him. – 2 Chronicles 18:31

I guess it was Jehoshaphat’s lucky day. 

What constitutes a miracle?  How do we tell a miracle from chance or coincidence or a random occurrence?

First, we need to define chance or random.  We can define chance in terms of probability as in the classic coin-toss.  There are only two possible outcomes.  Depending on the starting point, air pressure, force applied, distance the coin falls, etc., which we do not know, we say that a coin will be heads 50% of the time and tails the other 50%.  But when we consider that for a moment, we realize that what we mean by chance or random is “causes unknown”. 

Even the Bible uses this term.  Reading on from the verse above:  For as soon as the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him.  But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded (vv 32-33, emphasis added).  The words in English translations that say “at random” or “by chance” are, from the original Hebrew, something like “in his innocence”. 

The king of Syria had ordered his soldiers to specifically target only Ahab, the king of Israel.  Ahab, having heard a prophecy that he would be killed in this battle, thought to escape by disguising himself and allowing attention to be drawn to his fellow king, Jehoshaphat of Judah.  Something happened – we have no idea exactly what – to convince the Syrians that Jehoshaphat was not Ahab and they turned their attack from him.  However, like the famous story of an appointment in Samarra, Ahab could not escape God’s decree.  An arrow released by a Syrian bowman toward the Israelite warriors found its way through the armor of Ahab and mortally wounded him. 

The bowman had no idea that he was shooting at the king of Israel.  Our friend, the Preacher explains, Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all (Ecclesiastes 9:11).  It strikes me that the most ardent and militant of atheists must agree that the Bible contains at least this one truth.  Time and chance explains the whole of existence to the unbeliever.  We and not something or someone else are here because of time and chance.  The wise man, though, uses time and chance to say that there are things beyond us that we cannot know.  The foolish thinks that because he knows of time and chance, he understands all. 

Ahab was destined to die that day in the battle that he had chosen to fight.  The prophet spoke out the decree of the Lord.  There was no chance Ahab would escape. 

I was lucky.  I was unlucky.  What a coincidence.  It was just an accident.  We have all said those things in the past and will again in the future.  Someone fell asleep.  Someone was distracted.  Someone left late.  Someone left early.  I slowed up just before the deer crossed the road.  I never saw it coming.  Why did the deer cross the road in the first place?  Chance.  Causal chains of events collided, for good or for ill, to make someone smile.  To end someone’s life. 

No miracle will ever convince anyone of God’s existence or of His goodness and grace, except those who are touched by the Holy Ghost.  There is no chance we will escape. 


I wrote this and pulled up the browser and came over here to post.  At that point, I read the comments on Friday's post, and John's last comment:

Something similar happened this weekend. Cousin Rick, one of my few relatives and somebody I really liked but saw maybe 6 times, called me and left a message on Friday. He had never called me before. Didn't notice until Saturday. I called and left a message Saturday night and again Sunday morning. He died on Sunday morning from a heart attack we found out last night. Make of it what you wish. Guess we will chat later.

Friday, July 24, 2015

This Day

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. -- Psalms 90:12

This is not my wedding anniversary.  I think that will be easier when it comes along in a couple of months.  This was just our day.  I’m not sure exactly how it started, or, rather, I remember exactly how it started.  I was driving that stupid blue Malibu.  It cornered like a hog that had been eating too much sour mash, and the Boss slid over to the center of the bench seat.  The next year, I bought her flowers or something.  And every year after. 

Last night I drove out to the cemetery with a handful of her favorite cut flowers.  On the shelf on the island in the kitchen is her stack of Alan Jackson CDs.  She liked to get those on the 24th.  I usually bought her favorite perfume for Christmas, like last Christmas, but sometimes, if she ran low in summer that would be her gift.  In the old days, yellow roses, chosen for some forgotten reason, were replaced by bouquets of lilies. 

This day last year, instead of a gift, we went out for dinner, and she had prime rib.  She had been already been hospitalized and released three times, and the doctors had no idea why.  We had even been to see a specialist at the university medical center who was as baffled as the local neurologists.  I don’t blame them.  She knew what it was, and I refused to believe it.  She made me go to the funeral home where she picked out her casket.  We went to the lawyer to set up our estate.  She picked the spot in the cemetery where the big black stone stands.  Miss Organization, I called her.  Even the Lord respected that.

Vickie was a faithful believer and follower of Christ, in the extreme, as she was in most everything.  It is oddly comforting to think that the Lord spoke to her, and she heard and responded as she did.  She kept telling me, “This is my last …”, and I kept saying, “No.”  Don’t say that.  Yet here I sit alone on this day for the first time since my age was a third what it is now.

I tell stories so that I don’t live in the past.  For me, the present can only be understood by the past.  Not everyone is like that, maybe it’s the storyteller’s burden, but I don’t mind.  If this has been too personal, I apologize.  Sometimes I write something I’ve planned and hope that it helps a reader.  Other times, like today, I write something I need to know and am helped by it. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015


 Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning – Luke 12:35

Be in readiness.  One does not need to adhere to any particular eschatological doctrine in order to understand that we do not know when our end will come.  Nevertheless, the mass of people, including many who follow one religion or another, live in a state of unthinking security, unaware and in spiritual slumber. 

The night of the ancients was divided into four watches, the second and third falling on either side of midnight.  We speak of the “midnight cry”, but the parable Jesus gives here of the watchful servants indicates that, while we might expect the Lord’s return at the darkest hour, we must remain watchful even when that time has passed.  In fact, Matthew 14:25 says, “And in the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea.” 

Neither the midnight nor the storm nor yet our fears will move God before the time comes.  Faith must persevere through darkness and turmoil.  We must watch and pray even when all seems hopeless and lost for we do not and cannot know what the Lord’s plan is or when and how it will come to us.

Only one thing is certain:  there will be an end. 

And, if there is, our watchfulness, our willingness to stay awake, to keep our lamps trimmed and burning, to stare into the darkness looking for and waiting for the Lord will be rewarded.  A lot of Christians are going to face this.  Christians are being martyred and driven out of the Middle East.  So far, in most of the West, we are facing ridicule, which is no big deal.  More and more, however, there are moves to try and silence us. 

I will admit that sometimes I think the best thing some Christians could do to further the kingdom would be to shut the hell up.   Still, the idea of punishing people for “hate speech” is odious and offensive to those who love liberty, and I would not want to see that day come.  I don’t always get what I want. 

Some believe that what I am waiting for is an escape from an impending Great Tribulation where all the wicked will be left behind to suffer under the wrath of God while we believers are transported to a party that will last for seven earthly years.  I don’t suppose I would complain if that turned out to be the case; I just think, in this world, as Jesus promised, we will have tribulation.  So, no matter how dark the night, how fierce the storm, or how terrifying the circumstances, I will try to keep my watch faithfully and always be ready for when He will call me.