Monthly Archives: March 2016

Life – meanwhile…goes on

Remorseful Judas—remorseful, not repentant—slammed his ill-gotten silver coins to the temple floor and stomped away…to hang himself.  Meanwhile…”Jesus stood before the governor” Matthew 27:11.

Life went on though Judas died.  His betrayal served to fulfill, not abrogate God’s word.  John 18:19 noted that Simon Peter cravenly denied knowing Jesus while associating with unworthies in Caiaphas’ courtyard.  Meanwhile…“The high priest questioned Jesus….”  Simon’s denial served only to expose his cowardice.  It didn’t delay the Master’s destiny.

After attending John Nicolay’s wedding in Pittsfield, Illinois, John Hay returned to Washington to remove his belongings from the Executive Mansion.  Meanwhile…he saw new faces everywhere…new orderlies and clerks responding to the ever-present crowds.  Lincoln’s Boys, 170.

Hays’ return only proved the transience of earthy endeavors.  Yes, the government survived and continued.  Even with Abraham Lincoln dead.  Yes, both Hay and Nicolay would continue careers in politics, journalism and diplomacy, but no longer in the cockpit of national authority as Lincoln’s private secretaries.

People sometimes wonder what happens to the church if they quit attending and supporting.  Learn from the Bible stories and human life…Meanwhile…life goes on.  Others attend services and support the church.  God always has others if we choose to absent ourselves.

One day Judgment comes.  All gather before the Great White Throne of Jesus Christ.  Those who refused to love and serve God here and now will be sent to Hell.  Meanwhile…those who now love and serve God will enter New Jerusalem to begin eternal Joy.  And not a one of them will fail to delight in their eternal experience because others didn’t qualify.  Meanwhile…ecstasy in God’s new world continues.

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Treasure – what is our?

Would you like to own America’s first $20 gold coin?  Pony up at least $15 million.  The nation’s last $20 gold coin may cost you as much.  Both are secreted in Smithsonian vaults.  San Diego U-T, 8/13/10

Spiritual perspective.  If you owned by faith the riches of Jesus Christ, you would gladly carry them around and SHARE with all who seek him.  If you owned the country’s first or last $20 gold coin, what could you do but hide it in a bank vault?  What great value spiritual treasure has since it’s to be given away.  What little value ancient coins have since they are hoarded!

Or take the SS Central America—the Ship of Gold, bound for New York from California, filled with $30,000 pounds of the glittering gold.  A hurricane sank it off North Carolina in 1857, with the loss of 400 people and all that precious metal.  $10 million has been recovered by salvagers.  The death of 400 people seem an afterthought to collectors of COIN!  Gold has soul, they say.  Yes, but the 400 people ARE souls!  But don’t confuse collectors with facts.  Gold is the thing!  And security against economic crises.

Unless you look at life through Christ’s perspective.  He called as Fool the rich man whose “gold” was expanded barns and bumper harvests—which he considered his security for a “good old age”.  Only to die that very night Luke 12:13-21.  Read the account if you’re ready to adjust your view of true worth.

Aboard the same SS Central America were other historic articles:  a copy of the Declaration of Independence, printed about July 17, 1776.  And spoons crafted by that splendid silversmith Paul Revere.  To say nothing of possessions treasured by those 400 dead.

Spiritual perspective.  The Christian faith, God’s final, full and perfect revelation of himself, dealt completely with forgiveness of sin:  no religion ever has or can.  In addition, Jesus Christ fills his believers with exceptional, unrivaled spiritual benefits that Paul listed in Galatians 5:22-26, Colossians 3:12-17 and Peter in II Peter 1:5-9.  Think of it:  forgiveness of all sin, past and present AND, in addition, treasures of virtues that fill life to full and overflowing even now.

Take all the worlds treasures but give me Jesus:  the cry of every believer.

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Predictions – God-ordained but fulfilled by human decisions

In I Kings 11:29-40, while Solomon ruled a united Israel, the prophet Ahijah predicted the removal of ten tribes for Jereboam’s rule.  Being in charge of Solomon’s forced levies to provide workers for multiple building projects, Jereboam familiarized himself with unrest seething in the ten tribes.  The young upstart may have taken Ahijah’s prediction as an excuse to begin a rebellion against Solomon.  If so, it failed and Jereboam fled to Egypt—the haven of conspirators and the persecuted.

The prediction, however, came true, not by a forced rebellion from outside Solomon’s heir, but from within Rehoboam’s own political cabinet, detailed in I King 12:1-17.  In this, and every predictive event of the Bible, human decisions fulfilled divine predictions.

In every situation where God ordains an event human free will achieves it.  It’s God’s foreknowledge working within human activity.  God didn’t MAKE them do it.  He foresaw that they would DO IT!

You can find similar predictions and fulfillments in I Samuel 2:30-33 and I Kings 2:27.  In I Kings 14:10-11 and 15:33-34.  In I Kings 13:2-3, 31 and II Kings 23:16.  In John 6:70 and Matthew 26:23-24.

The Spiritual principles involved.

One, it may take but years or centuries for God’s word to come true.  If he SAID it, it SHALL come true.  NO word of God can be sterile.

Two, God didn’t force any of the behavior that fulfilled his prediction.  No overpowering predestination fated the individuals as robots.

Three, while God foresaw the behavior, even naming individuals who weren’t alive at the time, he held them accountable for their actions, even to destroying them in turn.

Four, that principle applies to the Nazi hatred of Jews.  The Jewish leadership of Christ’s time brought history-long punishment on their race.  But God judges those nations and leaders who harm the Jews.  It’s a matter of antinomy:  two entirely different and contradictory ideas that make perfectly harmonious teaching once God works in them. That applies today to the Jew-hating, Christian-hating, even Moslems who don’t agree with them-hating barbarism of Moslem terrorists.  All they’re doing is guaranteeing severe destruction of states who harbor them and of the religion itself.

We are free to live as we please.  But God’s word determines truth.  If we harden ourselves against his truth through Jesus Christ, we suffer!

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Death – various perspectives for

While sorrow, loneliness and despair afflict survivors, consider the far worse scenario King Jehoram experienced in ancient Judah II Chronicles 21:1 ff, especially verse 20.  Leading his people from God when succeeding his father Jehoshaphat, Jehoram died after eight disaster-ridden years.  And…”He passed away, to no one’s regret….” verse 20.  Better to have survivors grief-stricken over one’s death than they should forget one as soon as possible.

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One young man took President Lincoln’s death so personally he died by suicide.  He left a note that he wanted “to join Abraham Lincoln.”  War Years IV, 337.

The only death Jesus demands of his disciples is death to self-will, A.K.A., self-denial.  Followed by LIFE everlasting in God’s Son.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to patch Christ’s new garments to our sin-worn habits; or pouring his new wine into our old, cracked beliefs.

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After criminally not guarding Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater, Washington D.C. policeman Joseph Parker wandered the streets.  At 6 A.M. the next morning he herded a hapless street-walker into the station to prove he had been doing something.  Charges against her were dropped.  Charges against him were NEVER filed!

God’s servants need-never, indeed must never, disobey him flagrantly, then try to compensate by some useless gesture, acting as if we have really been on duty after all.  If we sin, confess it.  Never try to draw attention from it by some act of morality or generosity.  God never forgets unforgiven sin, even if we do.  As he never remembers forgiven sin, though we sometimes do.

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Loyalty – to Jesus necessary in disciples

The night of President Lincoln’s re-election, Ward Hill Lamon, who often served as Lincoln’s security, visited John Hay, one of the President’s private secretaries.  They talked of this and that before Lamon decided to leave.

Hay offered him a bed, but Lamon refused.  He instead took a glass of whiskey, and went out to the President’s door.  Rolling himself in his cloak and Hay’s blankets, and armed with pistols and bowie knives, he passed the remainder of the night on duty, protecting the man he loved.  The War Years IV, 586

Hay called it an “attitude of touching and dumb fidelity.”  Why not call it intense personal loyalty? 

Eleven of the Twelve disciples felt just such loyalty to Jesus:  just such allegiance; just such faith.  To him they gave themselves unreservedly.  They believed in HIM:  even when they didn’t understand him; even when he said and did things that bewildered them; even when they wondered how he could ever have chosen Them!

Can we say we BELIEVE in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior and Lord?  Whatever happens?  Whoever disagrees?  Despite any price we have to pay to be his?  Do we commit ourselves to him knowing we can never be wrong because he’s always right?

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God – in. we must trust, Part III

David scrambled down the hill to the valley of Elah.  Across the swells he could see the living pillar of flesh 75 yards away.  They exchanged hard, shouted defiance.  Then the time for action came, David trusting in God, Goliath in his size.

In a sudden rage Goliath lumbered forward, expecting David to run for cover.  Instead David loped forward in a sweat of concentration, looking for his chance to hit Goliath with the stone snuggled in the sling.

Intending to terrify David, Goliath clanked and clanged onward in his armor, spear held aloft and cocked, ready to hurl, his voice booming across the plain, denouncing David, cursing God, shouting defiance to any who stood in his way.  On he came, a tank in human form to wreak his vengeance.  On he came, the miserable behemoth, to kill the king.

David calmly viewed the oncoming menace and saw the opening.  The giant had a defense everywhere except around his nose and lower forehead. David watched, Goliath continued his noisy approach, his eyes flaming, spittle forming on his beard as he alternately cursed and threatened mayhem.

Out of his lope David broke into a trot, heart pumping wildly.  His trot became a wind sprint covering the last twenty yards between them. And as he flew across the ground practiced hands armed the sling, pulled it aloft and at ten yards, as Goliath readied his spear to strike, David twirled his slingshot once, twice, thrice, then let it go….

Time stood still as David glided to Goliath’s right, and re‑armed to strike again.  Without need.  For the stone had almost instantly crashed into Goliath’s forehead.  Stopped in his tracks, he at first did nothing but look balefully at the youth, his wounded face a puzzled question, “What happened?”  David’s mocking stare tapped at his forehead.  Goliath pulled his eyes up to see a bump above his nose, instinctively reached to feel…and understood.  A pitiful moan fled his mouth.  His knees buckled, his unspent spear fell and he slowly, limb by limb, frame by frame, section by section collapsed into the dirt.

David quickly bent at Goliath’s side, whipped his sword from the scabbard and severed his head.  Holding the grisly trophy aloft, David waved it to Israel.  They burst into a guttural war hoop that terrified the Philistines, fleeing across the mountains and down to the seacoast towns, angry Israelite warriors pursuing unleashing vengeance to the very gates of Gath and Ekron.

Conclusion

Remember:  both David and Goliath had power.  Goliath represented the 10th century B.C. danger to Israel that 21st century A.D. nuclear-Iran poses to her.  Under ordinary circumstances he proved the invincible champion, armed-to-the-teeth, powered by the best this world had to offer.  No one on either mountaintop bet on David.

 

But…thank God for this…Goliath wasn’t fighting a boy, but the Living God. David repeatedly wound the two-stringed sling with a pouch.  But God released the one string that sent the stone like a guided IBM missile into Goliath’s brain, above his nose, below his helmet.  Since David’s God is now for us, who or what can successfully withstand us?  – Fini –

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God – in. we must trust, Part II

David had gone to the battle line; heard Goliath’s roaring challenge to Israel; volunteered to engage him; been outfitted in Saul’s gear and found them wanting; dressed in his homespun and went to meet the foe.

To achieve victory David had to focus on God, not Goliath.

Lest we forget:  Goliath represented all the terrible fear Satan engenders when we think of opposing him.  All nine feet, five hundred pounds reeked of contempt for ordinary mortals.  His military hardware matched his size.  The Bible writer left nothing unsaid of Goliath’s impregnability.  A coat of scale armor—one plate lying on another—not the usual iron rings linked together—weighed 125 pounds.  Bronze greaves covered his legs and a bronze helmet his head.  Goliath effortlessly flung a bronze, not a wooden javelin, over his shoulder, and for sport extended his 20 pound spear at arm’s length, holding it there as an expression of titanic strength.

As such behemoths often do, as playground bullies did and do, he intimidated his opponents into surrender.  Like Frankenstein he stalked out of his lines everyday to stand in valley center:  to issue his challenge, to strut back and forth, then return to his tent, his day’s work done—and not a minute too soon, with the sun glaring at him from a clear blue sky.

His appeal was simplicity itself.  “Let’s not have your army fight our army.  Let me stand for my side and someone stand for yours, and whichever one of us wins will be the same as our whole army winning.”  The brute could afford the swagger.  No warrior in Israel came close to his size.  And Saul, more terrified than the rest, suffered the opprobrium by being taller than anyone else and, therefore, the likeliest candidate to meet the enemy.

Abhorring the challenge, the king instead ordered skirmishers out regularly to engage their counterparts in brief, bloody battles of clubs, spears and swords.  Then the troops broke contact and retired from the field until the next day’s skirmish.  War by boredom:  hurry up and wait; hurry up and fight; hurry up and retire.

David stood on the valley floor and looked up the hillside where Israelite warriors peered down.  He instinctively jerked his hand into the air and screamed the name of God Almighty.  And, from the summit, waves of cheering washed over the lad, flooding him with excitement.

Forward to the battle.  Across the swells in the valley floor David marched to his destiny with greatness.  And, seeing an Israelite at last advancing alone, Goliath began his death march from perhaps 75 yards.

At 50 yards he stopped, looked, gaped, and began to swear in thunderous disdain against the  insult Israel had delivered.  Had Saul no code of honor?  Didn’t he know that personal combat demanded at least somewhat-equal combatants?  Did Saul consider him so little worth honor he treated him like a dog!  For 40 days he’d been licking his chops waiting a fight.  And Israel had at long last sent someone out—and he turned out to be a runt, an unarmed child.  Oh, the rage the giant felt.  Oh, the curses with which he poisoned the air.

Then he finally decided:  O.K., that’s the way Saul wants it, it will have to do.  He would take revenge on Saul later.  Just now he’d consume the pup standing insolently 50 yards away.  He’d use that boy as an example of his prowess.  He’d hoist him on his spear, holding him aloft to the shame of Israel, then toss him off to die in a heap.

“You want a fight, boy?” he sneered at David.  “Fine; let’s fight.  But I’ll warn you now, you’ll lie in this field until birds eat your eyes out and animals bare your bones.”

This is what we call a boast.

David stood those yards apart, listening.  When Goliath finished, David began, answering boast with boast.  Only he out boasted Goliath in length and in content.

In God’s name he had come, not with sword or spear, David shouted.  And the God he served, whom Goliath had disgraced, would deliver him up.  David would strike him, cut off his head and see to it that Goliath’s corpse remained on the field to be consumed by carrion.  It would all be done to prove that Israel had a God who saved by his power alone.

So…all the talking was over; all the bragging was done.  Who could deliver the goods?  The two stood closer now, less than 40 yards, Goliath sneering in contempt at David, David dripping with scorn for Goliath.  – End Part II –

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God – in. we must trust, Part I

David the shepherd went to deliver supplies to his brothers in the valley of Elah.  Before he left he had delivered Israel from Philistia’s onerous dominance.  To achieve that victory, David had to use his God-given skills in the contest.

Saul listened to the youth, increasingly impressed, all the way to faith.  “Go,” he exclaimed, at once issuing an order and saying a prayer:  “The Lord be with you.”

Then, as generals are accustomed, Saul ordered “regulation” gear for the new recruit:  his own tunic, coat of armor, helmet and sword—a worthy gesture and symbolic of David’s eventual ascension to Saul’s place.  But Saul’s decision inadvertently shackled the boy.  A big man, Saul’s equipment dwarfed David.  The armor reached the floor, the helmet fell over his eyes and he nearly slumped under the weight.  As he took the sword and started, it stuck repeatedly into the dirt, kicking up dust.

David looked pitiful and knew it.  “Begging your pardon, sir, I can’t wear these.  I’m not used to them.”  Here again was a prophecy of David’s future reign.  He would be a warrior, but fighting always at God’s direction.  His weapons would be the sword, but wielded by the Spirit.  He wasn’t “used to them” physically and was even more a stranger to such weapons spiritually.  Saul would fight only with swords; David only at the direction of God’s Spirit.

Out of the king’s presence walked the shepherd in his own peasant clothes, bag and empty sling.  To the brow of the hill he walked and over its side, feet first slowing his scramble, arms held behind breaking his fall, till he reached the stream bed.  There he bent, chose five smooth, round stones from the scores lying there, armed his sling and stuffed the reserve into his shepherd’s pouch.   – End Part I –

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Arts – the, a substitute for God

The March 20 edition of the San Diego Union Tribune had a special 32 page section dedicated to the Arts Culture.  Every conceivable practice of the Arts was included; from Old Globe productions to pop artists blasting their tunes.

As I’ve indicated in another blog, as surely as the medieval emphasis on religion, not the Bible, proved societal decadence, stressing the Arts, not the Bible as the source of beauty, gentleness and creativity, is evidence of ours.

Arts at best can dramatize Scriptural truth about God in Christ.  For example, the closing scenes of Jesus on the cross in Ben-Hur have the Savior’s blood flowing down the cross into rivulets that become streams, rivers and oceans of water bathing all shores in forgiveness.  While that was the writer’s intent, and the movie’s meaning, remember that it was Christ’s actual death that secured our forgiveness.

The Crossing of the Red Sea visualized in the Ten Commandments happened in cinema in a huge parking lot in Universal City, California.  In reality it happened when the “Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land” Exodus 14:21.

Never mistake the re-enactment in Art with the reality of Bible history.  While many admire the human re-creation, they don’t give a second thought to the God who initiated it.

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Adversity – we can take only so much

After experiencing horrifying tortures that broke his arms, paralyzed his hands, punctured his eardrum, beat his face raw and his buttocks so badly damaged he could hardly sit—Red McDaniel was put into isolation.  It was almost more than he could take.  He plunged into depression, asking how much suffering he had to endure to “know Christ in His suffering?”  Scars and Stripes, p. 127

He needn’t have asked.  No one could ever compare his sufferings with Christ’s.  Jesus alone experienced them.  Only he could, has, ever shall.  However, McDaniel’s question surfaces a good blog-point.

If we feel we’ve reached the point where we can’t go any further—and find we MUST, we CAN.  God won’t burden his people beyond their capacity to carry the load.  That’s a promise from Psalm 78:39:  “He remembered they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.”

That Psalm recounted Israel’s wilderness rebellion against God despite his numerous and repeated benefactions.  When their sins exhausted his patience, he punished them.  When they sought him in repentance, he responsded mercifully, not in anger.

When we think we’ve gone as far as human nature can.  When we’re sure we can go no farther—trust in God.  He knows what we can and can’t take.  He may take us to the very edge of the difference, but he’ll never precipitate us beyond.

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