Monthly Archives: July 2016

Humanity – a despair common to all

Little Laura Ingalls had reached the end of her endurance.  That Friday night, after dutifully washing the dishes, she brought her books to the table and opened her history book.  Then it happened.  Emotion suddenly ebullient, she rose, pushed her chair from the table, “slammed” her book shut and threw it on the table.  Fairly screaming, she announced she didn’t care any more, she didn’t want to study, or learn or teach school…she wanted to leave, to play, to go West….

Surprisingly, while both parents sat shocked, her father responded more leniently.  Taking her clue from him, her mother offered consolation, not rebuke.  They had never seen their studious, obedient daughter reduced to near-sobbing hysteria.

Fortunately for her, the other daughters, and many in the town, her father initiated a weekly Literary Society.  That change gave Laura a new patience for the ongoing drudgery of pioneer life.  Little Town on the Prairie, 211-212

Change is sometimes needed:  to break the spell of apparent doom in life, to open new possibilities, to reveal new hope.  The weekly literary society surfaced it for Laura.  Moving to a different locale does it for others.  Removing one’s self mentally from daily effort until a renewed vision appears does it for still  others.

The last change is the most challenging.  For, when life or career leaves us in the same location, doing the same work; when it’s our inescapable duty; when we have no alternative; when it’s all we want to do with our life, the only way to escape the drudgery and despair of repetition without result is to change our ATTITUDE!  Same task, new approach!

While the hardest person to conquer is self, circumstances can be equally formidable.  Only persistent, dogged, resilient faith in our GOOD GOD inspires the change in attitude that recruits renewed energy in his work.

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Grace – the inexhaustible word

In different dictionaries, the word honor had eight meanings in 1908 and fifteen in 1996.  Two encyclopedias, in 1931 and 1966 listed three columns and fifteen respectively.  Since 1966 its meanings have expanded exponentially.  The Genuine Article, 122.  That doesn’t mean the word honor HAS that many applications, but that linguists have simply created new ways it can be understood.

Revelation 19:11-16 describes Jesus Christ, and verse 12 declares that all honors ascribed to him are too few to understand him completely.  Since Jesus embodies Grace, it also has endless complementary words and meanings, and not all of them compiled exhaust it.  Unmerited favor being the basic meaning, let’s consider it in this context.  While we’ve truly stressed grace as unmerited favor, we’ve mistakenly considered it cost-free.  Grace is cost-less to the sinner:  what he needs, but never deserves; what Jesus gives as a free gift, no charge; what we can accept without shame since Jesus gives without condition.  We are each saved by grace alone through faith, not by faith alone without baptism.

Beyond that, however:  grace free of cost to the confessing sinner doesn’t mean grace exacting no price from the forgiven sinner.  Colossians 1:13-14, one of many scriptures, stressed its post-baptismal cost.  We’ve been rescued from sin’s darkness and brought into the Kingdom, where we have responsibilities, obligations, standards and duties.  As Professor Marion Henderson told us, we’re transferred when baptized, not discharged.  Transferred from one realm of service to another, not discharged from further impositions.  And if we’re willingly and stubbornly unfaithful to our new enfranchisement, we’re guilty of a spiritual dereliction of duty even grace won’t cover.

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Treasure, the real, lasting, continued

The in-flight instructions John Glenn followed on his history-making orbit of earth in February, 1962, has sold at auction for nearly $67,000.  In addition to detailing celestial bodies, the instructions specified landmarks he could identify throughout the five-hour flight.  They also told him when to take photos and exercise.  San Diego U-T, 7/24/16

One of eight bids won the prized instructions.  The fortunate owner can, by following them,  live what John Glenn experienced 34 years ago.  Still, it will be only vicarious.  Only Glenn had the personal privilege at the time, and he can’t to this day take anyone along with him on another flight.

Reading the Bible, Jesus Christ’s life-instruction book, differs from Glenn’s or any pilot of a commercial airliner today.  They orbited Glenn in the heavens around the earth.  Christ’s instructions promise to take us through the heavens, as Jesus himself went in his Ascension, Hebrews 4:14.  Through what we still see and, with ever-more powerful telescopes, shall see deeper into the universe more than ever.  Through all that, into Heaven itself, where God Almighty sits on his majestic throne, Jesus Christ sits beside him on his throne, serving as our High Priest.  Later, in the New Jerusalem, as God Almighty in Glorified human form, Jesus gives us the privilege of seeing the otherwise Invisible God living among us.

It cost $67,000 to secure Glenn’s flight-instructions.  The only money it costs us to read, believe and inherit the benefits of Jesus Christ’s life-instructions is a tithe of our gross income and a love offering equal to our spiritual maturity.  For most of us, over a lifetime, those costs are a mere percentage of the $67,000 someone paid for Glenn’s flight-instructions.

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Discipleship – what God seeks from our

Each year football players anxious to play in the NFL parade before scouts and general managers, who eye them critically.  Do they have body scars that indicate previous surgery—if so, where and how serious?  Do they have broad shoulders that reflect developed muscles and promise chiseled leverage?  Do they have any limp in their step that indicates hidden knee, ankle or thigh injuries?

Height, weight, name—the name important only in case they want to TALK to him.  Otherwise, LOOKING is sufficient.  How big are their hands, how fast they can run forty-yard dashes; how well do they move laterally or while back-pedaling?

They’re looking for a body that can stand the vigors of bone-crushing, head-beating professional football.

O.K. for NFL owners and for players eager to sign multi-million dollar contracts to PLAY a GAME.  None of which interests God when he seeks disciples.  He looks instead for a child-like faith that:  trusts him, believes everything he says, takes an interest in spiritual issues, seeks to please him in every way.  In short, God seeks the person who is Obedient.  The key word in discipleship isn’t preach, or baptism, or prayer, or tithing.  Or any other of the many factors we consider so essential.  The key word in discipleship is OBEDIENCE to the Master in the manner of a child before his parent, a slave before his owner!

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Discipleship – has no age limit

Buffalo Bill Cody had a weakened physique in his old age.  Forced to work in his Wild West Shows by economic necessity, he would be helped into an alcove of the tent and helped to mount his horse.  He would sit, slumped over, the victim of arthritis, rheumatism and kidney failure.

But on cue, his name called, he pulled his shoulders back, sat tall in the saddle and burst through the open flap and tore around the arena like a boy.  Then, his expected appearance complete, back into the tent he walked his horse, the flap closed and over he slumped, to be helped off, the old man he had become.  The Real West, A & E, 9/17/92

One segment of Eye on San Diego, a T.V. series years ago, featured a female body builder.  When asked why she endued the physical cost of body building, she quickly replied, “because I want to look as good 30 years from now as I do today.”  She couldn’t have been more than a mid-20 female specimen.

The thought struck me—30 years!  Just 30 years?  Didn’t she want to be physically capable after that?  She was willing to experience the necessary effort just to be healthy for those few years?  That’s our trouble, you see.  We don’t  look nearly far enough ahead.  Oh, we all think of eventual retirement; but how few really think of final retirement—from life?  We look 30 years ahead, but not 100 or 1000.   Only looking into eternity gives the proper value to this life.

It’s necessary to want a strong, vigorous body a century from now—and a millennium from now.  The only way to achieve that is to presently pay the price of discipleship.  If there’s no gain without pain to keep our present body fit, pain leads to gain as we prepare for the next body.  But the effort exerted for that is infinitely more rewarding.

Whether like Bill Cody, an old, worn figure of a man; or like the body-builder, seeking short-term results, discipleship has no age limit or, within limits, health-barrier.  Physical affliction may slow our motion to a crawl, but we can still serve Jesus by moving slowly.  If we have to stop for frequent rests, we can still be active though needing frequent R & R’s.  Keep on keeping on for Jesus!

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Heaven – only for the prepared

The flashy Hilton Garden Inn along Pacific Coast Highway, San Diego, gleams in the sun against blue-paned windows and white surfaces.  The registration area reflects the exterior’s appeal, its boxed lines in a checkerboard pattern across the partition.  The clerks waiting to register guests dress to match the surroundings.  An architect’s dream.  Luxury at first and continuing sight.  The kind of place patrons should enter dressed in long gowns, tuxedos and top hats.   Except…there stood the guests, dressed in slacks, sweaters, jeans, sports shoes, flip-flops and back packs, dragging wheeled-luggage.

All of which surfaces a spiritual perspective.  No matter your dress, luggage, intellect, business or morality, the Hilton Corporation will register you, take your money and open the door into luxurious rooms.  “Pay Up” and you’re welcomed.

For a moment however, see the picture as the entrance to Heaven, with the employees behind the counter as Angels checking names of people lined up for Judgment before being welcomed into the Father’s many rooms.  And think of their casual clothes and footwear as the morality and good deeds many expect to pay their price of admission into Heaven.

To be shocked that the good deeds and morality of every unredeemed human are like “filthy rags” to God Isaiah 64:6.  To discover that Jesus died to forgive the sins that no good deeds or morality could ever cancel, qualifying us to live with the holy God!  What corporations tolerate to flush its coffers full, God never accepts, to maintain his control of all who enter his presence.

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Danger – facing . excels hiding from

The police chief in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said that the three officers slain by the sniper were running towards the threat when it happened.  The first responders in the New York Trade Center knew the risk of confronting versus the safety of fleeing danger.  Every policeman and fireman on duty lives with that awareness when the call comes or the bell rings.  The militiaman rode away from his Vermont home to fight with General Gage against General Burgoyne. He didn’t understand what his wife said as he left.  (It’s a tradition that wives keep talking after husbands can’t hear.)  When he returned, he found she had said, “Don’t let me hear they shot you in the back.”  The ancient Greeks had a motto impressed on every hoplite before battle:  either come home wearing your shield, or on it.

John and Simon faced a decision when Jewish thugs manhandled Jesus into the High Priest’s courtyard.  Read John 18:15-18.  Because he could, John entered the court—noted in yesterday’s blog in another context.  Because he couldn’t, Peter waited outside until John secured permission for him to enter.

At that point came the decision.  Known as a disciple of Jesus, John accepted the danger and entered the court.  Aware of the danger, but deciding to bluff his way through, Simon denied being a disciple of Jesus to the girl on duty.  Note:  a girl, not a temple soldier.  Likely a slave girl, indicating a deplorable lack of security.  And note:  if John could with impunity be known as a disciple of Christ, Simon couldn’t be in danger.  Indeed, had the Sanhedrin really considered Jesus a threat to the nation’s security, they wouldn’t have allowed any of his followers inside.  In reality, they considered the disciples helpless followers of a powerful Teacher.  With the Teacher removed they knew the disciples would be harmless.

That call to duty in danger presently challenges God’s people more than ever.  With opposition to Biblical values and standards increasing; with acceptance of immoral standards rising, Christians have to decide whether to stand and contest the Enemy or remain safe inside our sanctuaries, our faith and our personal experience with Jesus.  We can charge forward to the danger like lions hunting hyenas or flee it like rabbits from coyotes.  We can risk personal verbal attack, and possible physical violence, if we confront the merchants of deteriorating depravity.  Or, by creating a “Jesus and Me” atmosphere of faith, further divorce ourselves from society.  The latter will keep us safe, and satisfy for now the clamorous voice of the unconverted.  The former will at least cost us significant time, effort and expense—and maybe worse.  The question is basic:  will we, with John, run to the spiritual threat, or with Simon Peter, from it?

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Career – leaving a. with a social standing

Mark 1:20 tells us that when Jesus called them, James and John, those redoubtable Sons of Thunder, left their share of the fishing partnership to father Zebedee and “the hired men.” Luke 5:7 notes that Simon Peter (Andrew seems to have been in the boat with him) “signaled their partners in the other boat” to help them with the enormous school of fish they had taken from class. It’s likely that those partners were James, John and Zebedee.

That sounds more like a fishing corporation than isolated fishermen trawling Galilee’s depths. An aside by John in 18:15 reinforces a social acceptance of Zebedee’s family denied Simon Peter. John, “known to the high priest,” entered that person’s courtyard, while Simon waited outside for John to gain him entrance. That strongly implies at least acceptance, perhaps influence, Zebedee’s family had in high social circles. Could he have been a relative of the High Priest? Could he have been a Levite? (Not all Levites served in the temple.) Or related to the High Priest by marriage, John’s mother providing the entrée?

John revealed nothing more than the tantalizing facts of history, an appropriate touch in an utterly historical book recording the life of an utterly historical Jesus Christ.

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Guilt – the human condition after disobedience, Part III

Let’s consider the ultimate way guilt is good. Part I emphasized the personal peace gained in having guilt forgiven. Part II emphasized the personal values gained by removing admitted guilt. Part III emphasizes the ultimate good of guilt.

Not only does it clear everyday life of obstacles that would otherwise shackle us; it promises our restoration beyond what Adam enjoyed to a complete originality of a new body encasing our perfected spirit in God’s likeness.

Baptism now cleanses us inwardly, but leaves our body as is! Our spirit delights in being renewed, while our unredeemed body keeps us imprisoned. We’re still subject to Adam’s curse: we all surely die. Before we do, we still need sleep, food to eat and recovery from illness, disease or accident.

Even now, we revel in God’s Presence, not just in God’s benefits. We want his forgiveness, his provisions, his purity but most of all HIM! But God’s promise for the new world is: never again will we be subject to anything short of perfection. Never found here, to our despair, it’s inherited in his new world, to our endless joy. Now it’s quiet resonance captivates our mind. Then, in an overflowing plenty, a pandemonium of ecstasy enthralls! Fini.

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Guilt – the human condition after disobedience, Part II

Curses on computer!  Nevertheless….Guilt in mortals is good, whether we sin in ignorance, as Eve did, or against knowledge, as Adam did.  Guilt is also inevitable in mortals, however we sin.  The original pair felt shame and tried to cover it.  What they didn’t know, and most people still don’t, is the uselessness of hiding sin.  Secreted, it festers into a spreading cancer that consumes our spirit.  God’s solution, sacrificing an animal to himself on their behalf, then clothing them its skin, provided their release from sin.  The Master’s sacrifice permanently and perfectly released us.

Nevertheless, guilt is not only good, but necessary.  Guilt when sinning is the spiritual monitor God put in our brain—call it conscience—that blares like a fire alarm when triggered by sin.  It’s a warning:  awaken to what you’ve done, or haven’t!  Our society, by disconnecting the monitor from our brain, has loosed heretofore unimaginable wrongs in society.  It’s the need to “be me”, to do “what I have to do to be me.”  However unlike Jesus it makes us, it satisfies the ego.  We then create a God who has compassion on all, despite our sins.  If Jesus won’t have it, we’ll find someone else we think will.

Adam and Eve KNEW when they sinned.  She took responsibility for being deceived; Adam wanted her to take responsibility for his sin against knowledge.  God sentenced both to punishment for violating his word.  Adam’s the far greater sinner as the head of humanity.

The point is, both knew their guilt when disobeying God.  Our culture no longer wants to be guilty for transgressions of eternally-fixed truths.  That’s how far we’ve fallen from God.  Instead of admitting sin against the OLD STANDARDS God set, we create new standards that excuse us, empower us, liberate us and, we think, eliminate us from condemnation.  End Part II

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