Thursday, September 26, 2013
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
I’m certainly not worthy of my namesake, Jesus’ brother James, as his reputation in Jerusalem was that of a wise and holy man. In fact, they referred to him as “Yakub the Sadiq.” While speaking with an unrelated woman in public was disgraceful in those days, Yakub did it routinely, and no eyebrows were raised because he was trusted.
For years I’ve prayed for that kind beyond reproach reputation, and for years I’ve fallen short. But I’m gaining on it. My vision is to have my inner thoughts and motives as pure as my outward actions.
Am I a hypocrite, because what goes on inside is different from what I do? I suppose that depends on your definition of hypocrisy. I like to think of it as exercising a modicum of self-control, and such small victories in my thought-life represent huge leaps of spiritual growth, at least for me.
My Mission Impossible is to be like Jesus. For years I suffered frustration, even anger, for falling short of that ambition. I allowed the enemy to snare me with self-condemnation, and I occasionally succumb to that temptation even now, but understand that it is not of God. Instead, it is from the enemy of my soul(Romans 8:1).
Even though, as everyone, I haven’t reach the standard of holiness Jesus raised, I now don’t mind hearing myself addressed as James. It’s a reminder of who I want to be, and by God’s grace, will become.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
TO MRS. RAY GARRETT: On the real program of the spiritual life—living in the present moment.
12 September 1960
The whole lesson of my life has been that no ‘methods of stimulation’ are of any lasting use. They are indeed like drugs—a stronger dose is needed each time and soon no possible dose is effective. We must not bother about thrills at all. Do the present duty—bear the present pain—enjoy the present pleasure—and leave emotions and ‘experiences’ to look after themselves.
That’s the programme, isn’t it?
Could Lewis succinctly express profound truths, or what?
“Tolerance,” is a double-edged sword. While we must practice tolerance of others’ faults, or become guilty of judging, we must not develop tolerance(become desensitized) for “methods of stimulation,” such as emotional pleasure or pain. This moment is all we have to give our Eternal Lover, and to experience life in the moment, we must not anticipate the pleasure, dread the pain, or regret the inevitable mistakes.
Of course, to experience our fullest life we must do our best to be our best, and we can achieve that best only in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Our Savior created us as we are—warts and all—so he might empower us to become the man or woman of his vision.
Monday, September 16, 2013
I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately, probably because I so miss being in one. At my age, most unmarried women have been hurt by a man at some time, so I completely understand the “once burned, twice shy” fear. But all men are not control freaks; we just tend to be. So mature women tend to prefer friendships with other women, as they can communicate at a more intimate level without fear of encouraging attempts at domination.
Relationships between women take place at a whole different level than a woman with a man. Women are more intuitive about feelings, while men think more concretely—as in, dense. Women tend to be more patient in their pursuits, while men have a harder time appreciating the long-view, and “want it now,” whatever “it” might be. Both men and women expect the opposite sex to understand their unique perspectives, which they usually don’t, any more than an apple can expect to taste like a grape. Fact is, expectations are poison to relationships.
That’s where Christ’s love comes into the relational picture, both within the church, and between men and women. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) The NASB New Testament has 108 instances of “one another” statements, all of them detailing relational aspects within the church. Trouble is, many couples fail to understand that every standard for “brethren” relationships also applies to them. Of course, total compliance to those standards is lemon-cream-pie-in-the-sky in this largely carnal, church social climate, but where such standards are taken seriously and obeyed in interpersonal relationships, there is no “once burnt” to be “twice shy” of.
To establish and maintain godly relationships, we must first cultivate loving intimacy, individually, with our Father, through Christ Jesus. That’s, first, as in before even thinking of pursuing intimacy with another. Of course, already established couples have to try much harder.
Second, we must crucify our expectations. Otherwise, we’ve torpedoed the relationship before it even leaves the pier. Wow! That’s a hard one, as our human nature manufactures expectations by the submarine-load.
Third, we must love one another as Christ loves his bride, the church. Period. That’s First Corinthians Thirteen-love. All else will develop on God’s timetable.
And forth, we must pray hard—together! Because only God’s Holy Spirit can keep those bonds pure and strong.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
“When you open your mind to the impossible, sometimes you find the truth.”
Dr. Walter Bishop
Okay, I’ll admit; Dr. Bishop is a character on the TV series, Fringe. Nevertheless, he’s an atheist in the series, and wastes no opportunity to malign belief in God. Which is odd, considering one would think the writers would spot inconsistencies in their scripts. I mean, I do, and they’re at least as smart as I am.
So, back to the impossibility at hand: Theoretical physicists deal with the “impossible” every day; that’s why they qualify their title with the word, “theoretical.” They can’t prove their postulates, but they must come up with something, regardless how impossible-sounding, as an alternative to God’s existence. Even if God’s existence is more plausible than their unsubstantiated, “scientific” theories, it is entirely unacceptable, as to them such thinking is “closed-minded” and “irrational,” while their attempts at debunking theistic belief is obviously “open-minded” and “rational.” Obvious to them, anyway.
Perhaps I’m not the first to admit that many who call themselves Christian are, in fact, closed-minded and irrational, but I’m not too far from the head of the line. The problem with Popular Christianity is its, dare I say it, superstitious and mythological historic and social ties. Where Christian teaching aligns with God’s Word, that’s not the case, but most, if not all, of the denominations and movements within Christendom carry with them remnants of Romanism, which was the first, and greatest, apostasy of Christ’s church.
Honestly, I’m not even sure how much of what I believe is God’s Truth, as I’ve picked it up along my way from generations of similarly indoctrinated teachers. That’s why I question everything but the fact that God is, eternal, self-existent, and personal. And Jesus the Christ fulfills at least dozens, and possibly hundreds of Hebrew prophesies, which leaves me no choice but to believe Jesus is exactly who he said he is.
That’s why I’m a Christ-follower, and not a “Christian,” even though the two terms are supposed to be synonymous. I love, especially him, because he first loved me, sinner that I was, from the moment he spoke the universe into existence. I don’t understand much of God’s revealed Word, but as Sam Clements once said, “It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” And by “bother,” I mean convict. My life’s quest is to learn as much as possible about God in this life, so I won’t be all that surprised by what I find out in the next. That, and I want to share God’s love and goodness with as many as I can, so they can experience the unspeakable and glorious joy I have now, and is just the beginning of my eternal joy.
That atheists are determined to escape God’s eternal glory grieves me, but I can only influence those who are willing to be influenced. What grieves me far more, however, is all the “good” folks who believe in, “the Man upstairs,” and refuse to know him personally, through the Son he gave just for that purpose.
Friday, September 13, 2013
Yes—at first one is sort of concussed and ‘life has no taste and no direction’. One soon discovers, however, that grief is not a state but a process—like a walk in a winding valley with a new prospect at every bend.
Lewis couldn't have put it any better, as usual. I would, however, add that it's not only grief that is not a state, but a process. Life itself is a process, and the "winding valley" produces surprises at every bend. We see some of them as prospects, and some as setbacks, but each surprise is either God-ordained, or God-allowed. He will now allow His children to be tried beyond our ability to not only survive, but learn and profit from it.
I've not finished my grieving process, and may never fully complete it, but I must move on. As Lewis implied; the adventure lies in finding out what lies around every bend.
"See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.”
I saw and old man limping along,
Will that be me in five years,
Father, keep me erect in stature.
Even if you choose to allow pain,
Give me the courage,
To walk in a way that praises You,
All my life’s days.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Would that I could claim my rebirth in Jesus eradicated those faults in me, but at least because of his spiritual insights that I've gained through his Word, I constantly fight those tendencies when I recognize them in myself. Were it not for knowing him, I'd have to be an atheist.
Human Religion would lack all merit, if not for its moral mandates. And even at that, many non-religious people are better human beings than most who call themselves "Christian." Yes, that comes close to being a generalization, which I avowedly hate, but after sixty-seven years of watching life on this planet I can't escape its truth.
The counteracting truth that keeps me loving and following Christ, however, is that I can see the changes he's made within me. So I do my best to ignore others' faults, knowing my Savior does the same for me in the name of Love. And isn't that what life is about?
Monday, September 09, 2013
C. S. Lewis distinguished between bereavement and estrangement, saying the bitterness of the latter is worse than the grief of the former. Both can exhibit elements of the other, but when a person looses a loved one by natural death there is no rejection.
We can, however, turn it all to bitterness through blame, by holding God, another, or ones self, responsible for a loss. “God could have prevented his death,” or, “I could have done more to prevent her death.” Both trains of thought contradict God’s Word by denying his essential love and assuming he doesn’t have our best interests at heart.
Bitterness proceeds from blame, and hatred from bitterness. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44) And he also said, “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Even if someone is responsible for our loss, Christ holds us responsible to love them anyway. Of course, that may be the hardest thing we’ve ever done, as it goes against every natural instinct in our being. The key that Jesus gave us to unlock the love he commanded is pray for those who persecute you. And the operative term there is for, rather than against. Pray for their salvation! Pray for their happiness! Pray for their prosperity! Pray for his love for them. And mean it! Such a change of mind is simply a matter of will, and it could be said, will versus won’t.
Motivational speakers like the phrase, “Just do it!” If you have a problem with someone, praying for their wellbeing won’t come naturally. You won’t mean it at first, but as you persistently obey Christ, he will change your mind, and before you realize what’s happened you will mean it. He will give you his love for that person, be it God, some other person, or even yourself.
Grudges are a thorny beast,
steal your rest,
steal your peace.
Deal with them as saints of old,
pray your straw-works
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
“Thus says the LORD,
‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD.
For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
And whose trust is the LORD.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.’ ” (Jeremiah 17:5-8)
I constantly hear reports from friends who have new, more alarming news from their email, facebook, and conservative news feeds. Apparently the handcart on which the world is going to hell is getting ever bigger and more all-inclusive. The more up-to-date alarmists cite the inroads Islam is making in our government and mandates to enforce Shariah Law here. Others are still ragging on the commie pinkohs, or both.
While Red China may indeed be manufacturing handcarts and marketing them through Iran for the purpose of hauling the West into hell, the above Scripture passage from Jeremiah, as well as several from the New Testament, tell us quite clearly not to allow fear and anxiety to steal our peace in God. Of course, those outside of Christ can claim none of God’s promises, save one: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31)