Monthly Archives: June 2016

God – occupier, not invader

Early March, 1945, found vastly diminished German military capability.  It also revealed multiple German cities with devastated civilians crawling from ruins to placate hard-faced GI’s.  Many weren’t impressed by their show of repentance.  The Germans might paint over Nazi slogans on city walls, but that proved nothing to American Generals and Privates.

However, with the collapse of the German military, and the needs of civilians increasing exponentially, the U.S. Army immediately turned from fighters to care-givers.  (The difference between the Soviets and Americans/British became clear.  Once fighting diminished, Americans and British employed the noblese oblige characteristic of western armies at war.  The Russian army wreaked as much harm as possible on German soldiers, cities and women.)

Like modern National Guardsmen ordered into disaster areas, regular Army troops cleared streets, sealed broken windows, rebuilt electric grids, re-installed water plants and pipes and supervised paid German worker as they contributed to the clean-up.  Across the Rhine, 190.

Only under the most terrifying circumstances does God become our adversary.  When that happens, prayers don’t penetrate his presence, guidance from on High vanishes, hope disappears and tribulation falls.

Get ready, America.

Even then, if individuals SEEK God, he’ll be found.  If REPENTANT individuals pray, they’ll be heard.  If hopeless persons seek HOPE, the God of hope helps.  Whenever persons unconditionally surrender to God, he becomes their protector and provider.  Even as society collapses.  Christians, yield to him, trust him, love him.  He will be our surety against all change.

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Worry – when do we get old enough to

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Little Town on the Prairie noted the family crisis when blackbirds invaded their oats and corn crop.  The mother could make blackbird pie from the birds her father shot.  But what would happen to the family now that the grain crops had vanished?

The even-more crucial problem was blind-sister Mary’s chance at college.  They had planned on money from the crops to send her.  When her dad, after dinner was over, said he would go to town and buy a trunk for Mary, Laura couldn’t silence her delighted shock.  She blurted the question, was Mary still going to college?  They had no money from the crops.  Her dad quietly replied that he didn’t know Laura was old enough “to be worrying.”  Little Town on the Prairie, 106-107.

Christians, think of the whopping spiritual lesson in that statement.  When we’re vexed by circumstances, beset by challenges, depressed by failures and sins—and find ourselves tormented, wondering HOW—that’s the time to remind ourselves “God didn’t know we were old enough to worry.”  As his children, whatever our biological age, when does he shift responsibility of caring for us from him to us?  When did God let great historical events get beyond his control, let alone our small personal crises?  When does Matthew 6:32-33 become our problem, not God’s opportunity?

Yours for a faith that grows beyond the problems of life to guarantee personal peace from God in Christ by living in God through Christ.  Whatever happens in life.

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Insult – beginning a relationship

Teddy Roosevelt wanted to hunt Rocky Mountain goats, a prize trophy in the 1880’s.  He needed a hunting guide.  He learned that Jack Willis, famed hunter in Montana, might be available.  T.R. wrote to him from Medora, North Dakota.

Willis disdained Medora, the dream-town of an Easterner with his own fortune and a deep-pockets father-in-law.  He had no interest in Roosevelt’s query, but did take an immediate dislike of his penmanship.  He called it the worst he had ever seen, “bar none.”

His short answer to T.R. seethed with disregard for his handwriting.  If Roosevelt couldn’t shoot any better than he could write, Willis had no interest in being a guide.  Undeterred, T.R. took the rebuke in good humor and sent a telegram detailing his arrival time in Thompson Falls, Montana.  The killer promise of course was MONEY.  T.R. would pay him well.  Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands, 221.

First impressions are always interesting, if not always definitive.  While we never get a chance to make a second first impression, dislike or insults or anger or love need not be final.  T.R. could have been irreparably offended by the critique of his writing.  People have been offended at less.  Admitting that the criticism had merit, he continued his pursuit.  That’s what first impressions can teach us:  however good or bad they may be, give second impressions a chance.

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Opportunity – finding future by seizing

John Hay and John Nicolay, Abraham Lincoln’s dual biographers, commented negatively on Stonewall Jackson:  Hay called him “a howling crank.”  Being aware of Jackson’s eccentricities, one can pardon Hay’s characterization.  In fact, until his brilliance in the Civil War, Jackson had a far-less than splendid reputation as a teacher or military genius.  When first nominated to take charge of Confederate troops in the Shenandoah Valley, Senators questioned his qualifications.  Lincoln’s Boys, 274.

Hay and Nicolay may have correctly evaluated Jackson sans the Civil War.  However, since the Civil War occurred, and since Jackson proved a brilliant tactician planning and a ruthless commander fighting, we cannot evaluate him isolated from the War.  It provided Jackson with his opportunity for personal and martial glory, and he seized it.

That’s the point for all of us.  Regardless of our limitations or eccentricities, if we seize the opportunity that sets us apart as significant—or even as merely useful to God—we’ll be remembered for our success, not for whatever would otherwise hide us in anonymity.  Whether or not we seize our opportunities, Jesus expects us to persevere in discipleship.  We don’t want to add to our mistake of failing to seize opportunity the sin of not persevering in our responsibility.

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Treasures – of two kinds

Ever hear of the Oppenheimer Blue Diamond?  It sold in May, 2016 for a record $58 million.  The 14.62 carat beauty derived its name from the late supervisor of the De Beers Corporation.  San Diego U-T, 5/19/16.  It took only 25 minutes to auction the rectangular-cut masterpiece.

The buyer will provide strict security measures to keep it for himself; to keep it from anyone else.  His satisfaction will be the singular quality of the stone:  the only one of its kind in the world—at least for now….

………….

In 1640, 20 years after establishing the Plymouth Colony, Puritan leaders commissioned the publication of what became known as the Bay Psalm Book.  Something like 1700 copies were printed.  Something like 11 copies survive, two owned by Boston’s Old South Church.  They put one up for auction in 2013, expecting perhaps $30 million in proceeds.  They would use the funds to promote their “progressive”—i.e. “liberal”, no longer Christ-focused social/political/welfare programs.  San Diego U-T, 4/14/13.  The hymnal represents Puritan belief that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.  The Boston church no longer embraces Puritan belief but loves to be essential to society in poverty relief.

The differencs between the Oppenheimer Blue Diamond and the Puritan Hymnal is the essential point.  Note the contrasts.

 

The Diamond                                                              The Hymnal

A work of God’s creation                                           Based on the Psalms, God’s word

 

Purchased to be preserved for a few                      Printed to be used by many

 

Cut and polished out of its crude                               Representing its perfect source,

original state to glow                                                  a fair example of disciple-faith

 

Valued at millions as a work of art                             Past any value humans ascribe by

reason of its origin in God’s own mind

 

Immune to all forces except the final                       At the End of All Things, Still the

Incineration God sends                                               Eternal Word of God to be sung to

his Glory

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Adventure – the unquenched thirst for.

K-2 may be only the second-highest mountain on earth at 28,251 feet, but it’s certainly the deadliest.  Of every four people who reach its summit, one dies trying.  It killed 11 climbers in one day.  Extreme Survivors, 66 ff.

Given the danger trying to ascend its treacherous heights, why are climbers drawn so irresistibly to it?  Because of the DANGER posed in the effort.  The same principle applies in those daring to start a new business or those volunteering for hazardous occupations.  Danger attracts the adventurous as it intimidates the conservative person.

When Jesus told people to “Follow me,” he always made his hardest demand first:  Deny yourself so you can follow me.  That monster requirement has always silenced the interest of those wanting a religious thrill.  It has also stimulated the seeker of spiritual truth.  It flunks those not willing to learn Christ’s alphabet as the prelude to understanding his language, but those staying in his school soon learn the pleasure of his entire curriculum.  When we learn to value self-denial, Christ’s successes eclipse our failures, his righteousness our wrongs, his confidence our fears.

Our adventure in Christ can sometimes drop our head and slump our shoulders.  It exasperates and irritates.  It makes us wonder why God makes discipleship so difficult.  On every such occasion the Holy Spirit stands ready to lift our mind up, draw our shoulders back and send us forward!  He makes the very daunt of discipleship appeal to those seeking a spiritual dare to resist temptation till it’s a shadow and Jesus is altogether the Substance; to struggle Satan to the abyss and cast him off; to experience delay in success knowing the very difficulty will make its ultimate arrival that much more exalting and exciting.

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Discipleship – can get out of sync

James Shields had good years with the Kansas City Royals.  As free agent he signed a monster dollar contract with the San Diego Padres.  Giving up many hits and home runs, offset by spotty skill, led the Padres to trade him to the Chicago White Sox.  There, and including his last start with the Padres, he’s raised a 3.06 ERA at the start of this season to a 24.62 ERA in his last four starts.

The Sox are studying film, watching him live and working a psychological profile to get him back in sync.  Here’s hoping they succeed.  San Diego U-T, 6.20/16.

The spiritual relevance of the account cautions Christians.  Whatever expertise we may HAVE had, or PRESENTLY have as Christ’s servants, we too can get out of “sync” as disciples.  Carelessness in prayer, days and weeks passing without Bible reading, regularly absenting ourselves from worship services and small group studies, refusing to tithe, etc., etc., will always get our discipleship motion out of whack.

When that happens, we may try to get back in harmony with the Spirit’s movement, direction and illumination.  It’s always possible.  However, it possibly may be too hard, too challenging, too time-consuming.  Then we’ll forget about it for some easier-to-pursue interest, some easier-to-seek-God way devoid of the discipline imposed on Christians.  The last thing we want to happen may happen:  we CAN decide Jesus isn’t worth the effort of finding where we went wrong, are wrong, what will get us right again—in sync with the Holy Spirit—until we’re restored to Christ-like disciples.

If you read this, and know you’re out of sync with Jesus, YOU are to blame.  Stop in your tracks and TURN AROUND.  You can go back to spiritual competence and excellence.  What may never happen to James Shields can happen to us.  We can go back to our love of God in Jesus Christ.  But don’t fail to Start.  Don’t continue drifting away.  For you can get so far out of sync you won’t be willing to listen when the Spirit urges your return to duty on Christ’s team.

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Bible – never an end to its treasures

Archaeologists continue to discover meaning from King Tut’s mummy.  While studies in the 1970’s – 1990’s felt that the iron dagger came from a meteor, recent technology has verified it.  The Egyptians called it “iron from the sky”.  San Diego U-T, 2016.  Scholars discover more about Tutankhamen as technology advances.  Nevertheless, a time will come when the corpse will reveal no further information.

Contrast that with God’s word.  At no time will scholarship, or lay reading and study find themselves at an end in what God’s word means.  Instead, as Christian discipleship deepens, so does one’s insights into the word—with no end in view.

That’s also true with the life in God’s Son all believers possess.  Even now we have a fullness of life denied everyone else.  But is that life to ever become so full now that we need not enter Heaven to receive more?

Never.  When eternity is needed for God to show us all he is and has; when in the new world, delight after endless delight will surprise us with JOY, no blessed experience now will ever exhaust the meaning of discipleship.

If anyone looks to this life, and its information for tutoring, STOP.  It can’t teach us what we need to know.  If anyone isn’t looking to God’s word and God’s Son for tutoring, START.  Whatever this world teaches has an end.  Whatever Jesus teaches continues eternally, world without end.

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God – ALONE the source of every virtue we treasure

A lady, known as a skilled artist, also served on the faculty of SDSU’s art department.  She also collected world-wide “folk art treasures.”  She died in 2013, leaving a multi-million dollar La Jolla mansion to a sole heir.  The collection not sent to Christies auction house sold at a gigantic estate sale.  Some of the proceeds will endow an artist-in-residence program.  San Diego U-T, 6/16/16.

The Union Tribune’ Night and Day Section, 6/16/16, highlighted the weekend Arts and Entertainment available to San Diego county residents.  No lack of opportunity exists to pass one’s time, spend one’s money and momentarily forget life’s stresses.

Another feature in the Union Tribune is the appearance of locals the editor feels worthy of publicity.  One of the questions asked of them is how they prefer to spend a weekend.  Except for a rare instance or two in all the interviews read, no one bothers with God and Church.

Humanism so thoroughly dominates American culture that God isn’t considered relevant.  We as a society lost faith in God before we looked to the arts and entertainment industry as the source of all virtues we consider worthwhile, including beauty, gentleness, creativity and insouciance.  Remember:  we lost faith in God before we turned to humanism.  We didn’t fall under its wicked spell because God was dead or even silent.  We simply didn’t want to hear him any more.  We had better ideas.

As a result, we have a field largely dominated by the homosexual lobby that demands acceptance of its lifestyle, and glorifies ANY KIND of lifestyle that rejects God in Christ.  Moslem terrorism has no answer.  It lashes out at sinners.  Only God in Christ has an answer.  It reaches out to sinners offering repentance and forgiveness, as I Corinthians 6:9-11 records.

I’m going to miss taking the U-T.  I glean many ideas for writing from it.  But it’s decidedly liberal editorial positions has convinced me it isn’t worth the money.  The entire paper has fallen far from its Union-Tribune days of 30 years ago.  I’ll have to dig into my files for blogs, illustrations and stories.  Aaaah…the burdens of being a writer.

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Duty – doesn’t ask “why me?”

As the Higgins’ boat motored to Utah Beach 6 June, 1944, a soldier kept repeating aloud, “Why me?”  A soldier in another Higgins’ boat the same day, never known for profanity, stood and began to curse everything about the war, including Higgins, Eisenhower, his immediate superiors and, most vehemently, Adolph Hitler.  He was really saying, “When I should be somewhere else, doing something I love, why is this happening to me?”

Most men, like the 20 year old sergeant of the 626th Engineer Co., were too busy doing their duty to ask the question.  They bulldozed everything from an airfield strip to sand bunkers.  They built everything from pillboxes to entire towns.  Actively working kept them from self-centered questions.  Occupying themselves with their work kept personal problems to a minimum.  San Diego U-T, 6/6/16

Discipleship in Christ’s name isn’t easy at any time.  But the circumstances of life conspire to create the “why me” syndrome that distracts from our duty and reduces our effectiveness.  Let’s concentrate on what God demands in his word and expects of us.  That will keep the “why me’s” to a minimum.  It will also fuel effort with significant energy that achieves spiritual success despite our incapacities.

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