Archive for August, 2008

“This is the Way…”

August 29, 2008

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more.  How gracious He will be when you cry for help!  As soon as He hears, He will answer you.  Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more;  with your own eyes you will see them.  Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,  “This is the way; walk in it.”  Isaiah 3: 19-21.

Everybody is looking for a direction in life.  God promises that we will have this if we are listening to His teachers.  But how will we know those teachers?  Isaiah 8: 20 gives us a clue,  To the law and to the testimony!  If they don’t speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

Jesus said something quite profound that fulfills the prophecy of the passage above:  “When He (the Holy Spirit) comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment…”  The Holy Spirit’s other job is to guide us into all truth (see John 16: 13).  Through His ministry, we find the way in which to walk.

So now we know that anyone who has spiritual wisdom for us must conform to the teaching of the law and testimony of Jesus or they speak darkness.  This is not about specifics but ethics.  Our God isn’t about choosing our clothes for us as far style, color or cloth, what He seems to care about is our ethics in doing so.  The law and testimony are guidelines for life in general not directed at individual tastes unless they cross the ethical boundaries.  When we need to know if we should get involved with another person romantically, we can look at their ethics to see if they match what we know of God’s.  Jesus taught us it was by their fruit we would know them.

A person’s fruit is their actions, decisions and general expressions about life.  So the decisions

 for business, friendship, romance and family should be guided by this ethic.

The Way is simple, the Truth is living for it is a risen Savior, and the Life is Jesus’ sacrificial attitude for the world around us.

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“Now Where did I Set My Heart…?”

August 26, 2008

“And do not set your heart on what you will eat of drink; do not worry about it.  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows what you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and these things will be added to you as well.”  Luke 12: 29-31.

Where we set our focus tells us what our priorities are.  By subtraction, we can tell what our most important issues are by what we have no time for as well.  Security is a real big one on the list for everyone–not just the females who’s nesting instinct goes into hyperdrive when they look for a mate.  I could probably go into all the reasons why we search for security, citing male and female differences and the like, but what good would it do?  The truth as it is in Jesus speaks to one thing:  Where do we set our hearts?

Jesus told us not to set our hearts on what we will eat, drink, or wear, implying that these things are not what we should worry about.  Solomon claimed all man’s labor is for his stomach (Ecclesiastes 6:7) putting our base needs right at the top of our priorities.  Jesus came to free us from this worry and take us back to the original plan:  complete dependence on God.  How that looks outside the philosophical discussion will depend on whether our understanding boils down to the practical or not.

Paul claimed,  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  And here is the kicker for it all:  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4: 12.

 When he wrote this line, he was chained to a guard 24/7 and his personal freedom curtailed to the point of being nonexistent.  As far as we know, this letter to the Philippians was written during his first imprisonment in Rome.  This means that he faced a second trial and eventual execution later on.  Yet the message could not be more poignant then than it is today.

We set our hearts on the things which last but a blink of an eye and many times totally put off that which is eternal.  I’m wrestling with this right now in every aspect of my life as well.  Balancing our performance with faith will always be an issue for we have lost that sense of God’s presence at all times since the fall.  I wish I could say the struggle will go away, but I don’t think it does until we near death and stare it right in the face, then everything in our lives comes into sharp relief, changing our perspective forever.

I want my life to reflect this teaching.  I have lived an understanding of it for the last 29 years that I have belonged to Jesus.  In that time my POV has grown, adjusted and changed, sometimes drastically in areas, subtely in others.  But whatever the change, I’ve learned that Jesus and Paul meant exactly what they said about the issue of finding security.  We as believers have to find it in our eternal God, while doing our level best to work for our bread on earth.  (Read the balance of faith in 2 Thessalonians 3: 12.)

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.  Psalm 57: 7

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracous and compassionate and righteous man.  Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.  Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.  He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast.  His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look with triumph on his foes.  Psalm 112: 4-8.

Two Common Truths

August 22, 2008

Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?  No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death.  As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it.  Ecclesiastes 8: 7, 8.

It always fascinates me how wordplay reveals the truth within its maze.  In that last sentence arises the most poignant truth imaginable, namely that wickedness doesn’t release those who practice it.  Now it sounds like the person is trapped doesn’t it?  But this is not the case in reality for those who “practice” wickedness won’t be released.  The word “practice” is vital to understanding the key to the truth here.

If I continue haunt backstreets and alleys in search of contraband entertainment, I will be gripped by my habit.  To do away with a bad habit one must replace it with a new one and hold to the new in practice and thought.  The problem comes with the enjoyment of the other life.  Solomon compares this state of being as one caught up in a war–may be not of their own choosing, but caught up anyway–and drafted into fighting for whatever power rules their side of the argument.  The person might not even believe in argument at all but just want to be part of the army, yet it doesn’t matter, since they joined up or let themselves be drafted.

Wickedness can be caught or imposed as well as chosen.  Jesus said that the things which cause people to sin are many (see Luke 17: 1-4, Matthew 18: 6), but woe to person who influenced the innocent to sin.  In other words other people can and do have an affect on our outlook, educate our perspective and choices and have the ability in our younger years to force us into all sorts of evil habits.

One other truth comes quite clear here:  We cannot control our death.  For that matter we can’t even control the day of our birth, let alone contain the wind.  We might be able to harness the wind in order to use it as energy or some such thing, but our ability to predict, control or guage it is non-existent.  We don’t control anything but our own attitudes–and even those can be dictated by chemistry if our bodies are messed up.

Humility comes from the revelation of understanding.  When we see how little we control around us, we should grow humble instead of bitter, grateful instead of demanding, and finally generous instead of miserly.  All of this comes from a love unnatural to us and only found in the source we call Jesus.  Where love abounds, there we find life.

Spiritual Gluttony

August 19, 2008

Today I it came to me that sometimes we become spiritual gluttons.  We force-feed ourselves spiritual “truths” forgetting that the purpose of the study, search and source is to make us healthy.

For some time now I’ve been taking a mild break from intense study because I have nothing more to say about it at this time.  I hope I haven’t been a glutton in this way, but even if I have, I know that it’s ok to take a break and practice what I’ve learned.  Experience is the best way to prove what is true, although we need to keep in mind that experiences vary enough to be misleading half the time.  Living is the best exercise for spiritual food.

I’m in need of some exercise right now.

Poignant Silence

August 14, 2008

I find it a little amusing that for thousands of years men have blamed their women-folk for not bearing them a male child, when all along it turns out men choose the sex of the child.  It’s the sperm which determines male or female, not the egg.

Though I find it amusing, I don’t find the abusive attitude many men took towards their wives, etc., to be anything but sad.  Our ignorance as humans dictates much or our abuse, true, but ignorance alone isn’t the cause, rather it grows out of our attitude alone.  Humans create standards by which everyone is measured, then go about setting up panels of judges who tell us who is acceptable who isn’t.  Right now the most popular form of judging this comes from magazines, religion and social pressure.

O, that’s right, besides the magazines, it’s always been like this.  Yet if we take media and compare the news related sources we have today and those which focus on stories of popular icons and compare it with the means of yesteryear, we get the same formative system.  Opinions changed slower in the ancient times because news travelled a lot slower.

Back to the point, however, we see in history a man divorcing his wife or taking on another one because she couldn’t bear him a male heir.  What’s sick and wrong about this is that he usually blamed her for the problem when all along it was his “seed” that dictated the outome.

This very fact has made me extremely cautious when judging anything I’m ignorant of right now.  If I don’t know for a fact, a proven, unadulturated, no real argument here, kind of fact, where the fault lies or the blame goes or the truth resides or anything else for that matter which points to what is born of reality, I don’t condemn, judge harshly or call anyone else down.

The Balance

August 14, 2008

The Bible tells its readers that it was inspired by God’s Spirit and given to men who wrote down His thoughts on whatever concerned Him.  I see it as a cohesive thought, accepting those things I don’t understand by what I do.  Yet how could anyone prove such a claim?  It would be impossible, for the truth of it cannot be put into a test tube and scientifically satisfied.  We’re stuck with faith and that leaves the question open to debate.

Still, I decided to dedicate myself to the belief in a God, specifically the Christian God.  I am not sorry I did this nor am I proselytizing now for it by talking this way.  What I am concerned with is that those who know me understand that I am just as much a citizen of this world as I am of the next.  I have no desire to be agenda born, I refuse to become a salesman for Christ, and I definitely have no intention of spreading the disease of modern Christianity around the world.  Yet I believe in a healthy Christianity, go figure.  I just feel most committed to the Christian religion do so out of mere practice of it rather than seeking a relationship with God.

I find many Christians to be quite the opposite of what I read about Jesus Himself.  What seems to me to be a simple thing apparently is quite hard for others to fathom.  This means either I am off my rocker or they have opted for less than truth.  I admit I could be completely south of sanity on this issue, though I reserve the right to remain in such a state by choice.

Where I disagree with most modern Christianity is how far to take the teaching.  I take the meaning of the word faith as a practical step in a certain direction, forging an action of a verb that many take to be a noun.  The dictionary view goes along with the verb category on the primary meaning:  belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.  I find it comforting that at least the dictionary puts the primary interpretation of the word as a verb.

For example:  If an authority on the subject tells you to put fresh fruit in the fridge because it will prevent fruit flies, what is the wisest course of action?  It seems to me that we are far more willing to be practical about our food, resources and lifestyles than we are about our God.  If God told humanity that He designed them to stand on their heads an hour a day, what would be the logical course?  To stand on our heads.  If that’s how we’re designed, then no matter how ridiculous His whim in creating this trait in us might be, we are better off following our design specs.

I do my level best to follow the design specs of this God I serve.  I am not blind to its possible off the wall methods, but these things are part of the teaching.  Fanaticism cannot acknowledge reality, dedication looks at both sides of the coin and realizes the reality of those opposing faces, then moves on to live out in action what is understood in the heart.  That’s where I stand.

A Case for Solomon

August 11, 2008

I am a fan of Ecclesiastes.  Why, you might ask?  Well it comes down to the truth of the book.  I don’t like living a fairytale in the day to day realities of life; when I read a fairtale, it’s for the sheer purpose of enjoying a good story.  We can’t replace reality with dreams, though sometimes we can make dreams reality.

Solomon brought my feet back to earth, after years of wishing I could escape it, by showing me that without purpose, living becomes meaningless.  He didn’t even push a grand purpose on his readers really, though he recommended one at the end of the book.  Still, he simplified the notion that we can’t grasp the whole of creation and/or the purpose of it by saying,  As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.  Ecclesiastes 11: 9.  He then goes on to say what man can understand: “Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him–for this is his lot.  Ecclesiastes 5: 18.

We long to know what our purpose is, but I think it’s pretty simple and Solomon hit the nail on the head.  We were made to create, eat, drink, reproduce and find pleasure in both our God and work for this was God’s command from the beginning in Genesis.  When we step outside of this design, we lose our compass.  Jesus then tells us that He came to give all of this joy and simplicity of purpose back to us, to unravel the complicated knot mankind had tied when he tried to be God.

After all his success and accomplishments, Solomon came to the realization that without God it meant nothing at all.  Without God at the center of a man’s existence his life’s work would turn to dust and leave no trace behind after a few generations.  Solomon talked a lot about not being remembered during most of the chapters but he ended his instruction with this observation:  Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”–  Ecclesiastes 12:1.  In other words, instead of worrying about being remembered, which in a couple generations will be improbable, remember God from day one, for He alone has an eternal memory for us.

In 1 Kings 11 God speaks to Solomon about his apostasy, rebuking him for going after other gods and forsaking Him.  I believe Ecclesiastes to be Solomon’s swan song, if you will.  It certainly has the ring of an old man looking back at his life and recognizing his own blunders as well as those of others he observed.  In one text he mentions something in the Eastern way, which is not to speak directly about himself but to use the third person instead:  Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning.  Ecclesiastes 4: 13.

At the end of his life, Solomon sinned and went after other Gods, yet he retained, according to Ecclesiastes, wisdom through it all.  I believe that Ecclesiastes is his testimony to the futility of going after any god but Yahweh.  Whoever recorded this book in its present form ended the book by praising Solomon for his wisdom and thoughtfulness.  The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.  Ecclesiastes 12: 10.  If what he wrote was “upright and true” and therefore not to be questioned, then this book has the stamp of God on it.  Verse 12 tells us:  Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them (the words of the wise).

So my conclusion is that the final word on this book tells us that Solomon wrote what was true and upright.  If we ignore the truth in this book, we bear the consequences of ignoring what is right and true.  Not something to be taken lightly.

Prayer Counts

August 9, 2008

How many times do we need to have our prayers answered before we believe?  How many coincidences do we have to shrug off before we say we have an answer to prayer?

My life is becoming one big answer to prayer.  O, I haven’t won the lottery or become financially stable like some preachers promise, but I have a peace about my life and direction which just doesn’t get any better.  I’m not boasting, bragging or trying to sound spiritual.  It takes real effort some days to have the faith through road blocks, collectors calling and work-less horizons coming ahead.

But God continues to be faithful no matter what I do to act like He isn’t and for that I’m grateful.  His grace towards us goes beyond mere niceness into sheer brilliance of love triumphing over bitterness and hate.

I like that way of thinking and want to conform my mind and life to it.

Love’s Vermin

August 7, 2008

“My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on  the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.  Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.”  Song of Songs 2: 14, 15.

I don’t know what all the “little foxes” do to hurt a vineyard but I can imagine a couple of things without knowing the full story.  A fox is a wild dog of sorts and, since I already know that dogs and gardens don’t mix, it’s not a stretch as why foxes hurt the vines.

First, they mark everything by peeing on it.  My grandpa used chase dogs out of his garden constantly because their urine destroyed the plants like acid.  Second, they dig a lot, and foxes tend to livein burrows underground, so they would dig into the roots of the plants and make it their home.  Third, dogs in general like to chew so I’m sure these little dudes would chew on plants, leaves, roots and may be even the fruit.

For our two lovers, their relationship is the vineyard beginning to bloom.  What could the foxes be?  Idiosyncrasies which plague every relationship, which gnaw at the roots, dig up the dirt and generally piss on everything.  Isn’t it ironic that dogs mark everything with urine?  If the foxes in our gardens of love mark our partners the same way, it stands to reason that we use negative stuff to mark our territory.  We piss on our partners to mark them, wither them and make them our own.  Urine shrivels the plant, so does condescension, degrading remarks, put downs and a host of other things we do to “put them in their place” so that we aren’t threatened.

I hope I’m not taking the metaphor too far here.  Marriage is a more intimate type of friendship.  It means that I’m taking into my family someone who isn’t related to me directly and creating a direct relationship with them.  We have friends who live with us for a time but mostly they are outside of our internal lives.  A marriage partner comes into the inner circle of thought and influence to become part of our family.

If love between a man and a woman is a vineyard, then the root system of every aspect of our lives begins to entertwine, growing together and strengthening even the weakest of plants by being interconnected.  The little foxes in our vineyard are those things which come and dig around the roots, robbing them of moisture, nourishment and a foundation.  It also means that there is an interrupt in the connections to other plants.

The Lover is telling his beloved that she should take care to catch these little varmints and kill them.  Many times in our relationships it’s not the big issues which take us out, it’s the small, seemingly insignificant ones which hurt the worst.

A person who cares about the heart of another will protect and nurture it as their own.  If we get in a relationship where this doesn’t happen from both sides, we will see the relationship grow cold on one side, or die.  Both partners must take care of the vermin in the vineyard as means of protecting the fruit of their love.  Nothing can be left to chance, for the odds of failure increase where planned effort and intentional forethought are not practiced.  At the same time, success becomes a guarantee where continued effort and love remain the rule.

Sacrifice

August 7, 2008

Then God said,  “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”  Genesis 22: 2.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3: 16.

Isn’t it interesting that the very thing God required of Abraham but didn’t allow him to go through with was the very thing God required of Himself and followed through.  Jesus died not because God killed Him directly but because God didn’t interfere–which is almost the same as hammering the nails Himself.  The law states that if a person witnesses a crime and doesn’t do something to either prevent it or report it, he/she becomes an accessory to the fact and guilty by inaction.

God allowed His Son to die, so in point of fact He killed Him by not stepping in to prevent it.  He required something of Himself that He doesn’t require of us.

I call that an amazing God.