Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Meditation on God's Mysterious Ways, You Can Skip This Part if You Like

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God....(Psalm 139:17a)

Something I have observed: God gave us the ability to reason and then we make a god out of our ability to reason.

This is either: (a) a true statement or (b) me, projecting. You can choose.

Why doesn't God save everybody? Is that THE question? Is it a valid question? Is it a question I should even be asking? I know that God works through secondary means (He certainly did in my salvation, didn't He in yours?). Thus I know that my (feeble) prayers and my witness (however pitiful) must count for something.

So should I pry into these things? Is the answer different for you than it is for me? At what point does inquiring into God's methods become a questioning of God?

You may accuse me of mindless faith, if you like. I find these things in God's Word:

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29).

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD (Isaiah 5:8).

Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33)

There is comfort for me in these words. And warning as well, though I will apply that to my own heart and leave others to proceed as they are led of the the Spirit.

Like the psalmist, I meditate on the preciousness of God's thoughts and conclude, as he does:

...How vast is the sum of them (Psalm 139:17b)!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And I Wll Tend My Vineyard On the Eastern Slope of the Mount of Olives

The early morning summer sun shone warm upon Eleazar’s shoulders and gave the promise of a hot, sweltering day to come. But for now, he reflected, the sun’s rays promised life, as they warmed the earth and caused the crops to grow. He always waxed philosophic while tending his vineyard. The smell of the rich, fertile soil, the leaves of the grapevines rustling in the northerly breeze blowing across the hillside; all these took him away from the sights, sounds and smells of death to which he had grown accustomed on the battlefield. His life here in Bahurim with his wife and children was a good one. The fruit and the grain were harvested in their seasons. Naarah had borne their children in the time allotted for such things. Their oldest son, Ethan, was growing like a weed in a field of barley. All these things, he thought, are the things of life; not those deeds I do on the field of battle.

“Eleazar, my husband.” His wife’s voice seemed to him, in his contemplative state, like the sound of a mountain brook splashing across pebbles in its downward path; soothing and pleasant. He turned, and recognized, standing with her, Uriah the Hittite. Uriah had joined David at Ziklag, after serving as commander of a mercenary troop for the Philistines.

“Greetings, Uriah. Welcome.”

“Eleazar. Josheb told me I might find you in your vineyard.”

“Yes, when I’m not being a mighty warrior, I’m a mighty farmer in my spare time.”

Uriah offered a polite smile to show that he understood this was a joke. Sensing that his guest wished to speak of some matter that was troubling him, Eleazar became serious.

“Your pardon, my friend, for my rudeness. Come and share my noonday meal.”

Uriah accepted and in a short while, they were seated underneath the fig tree in the courtyard of Eleazar and Naarah’s home. Taking a drink of the wine Naarah had placed before them, Eleazar spoke first.

“I have not seen you in Jerusalem, what little I’ve been there. Has the king posted you to some border outpost, perhaps?”

“In truth, I have taken a wife, nearly six months ago and the king excused me from active service for a time,” Uriah replied.

“I see. With Jerusalem taken and the Philistines cowed, it may be a while before any of us sees active service. I suppose it is well that I get used to tending my vineyard and sowing and reaping my grain.”

“True. Honestly, I welcome a respite from constant warfare.” Uriah smiled. “It seems, sometimes, as though I was born on a battlefield and have lived my life there.”

“I certainly share those sentiments. Most of us do. It is good, I think, that we have these feelings. I have known men who could not get enough of the killing.”

“And I. Now is the time, I hope, to focus our energies on life, instead of death.”

“That is my prayer, also,” responded Eleazar. “Have you and your wife a little one on the way?” Uriah’s countenance clouded, and Eleazar regretted the question.

“No,” Uriah spoke thoughtfully. “I wonder, sometimes, if because I’ve taken many lives, the LORD withholds life from my wife’s womb.” Uriah’s voice was troubled, as if he had pondered this matter much, and Eleazar’s heart went out to him.

“Yet, you would not refuse the LORD the use of your sword in smiting his enemies?”

“Surely the arm of the LORD is long enough to smite His enemies without the use of my sword.”

“You remind me of something I was once told by my kinsman, Jonathan, whose armor bearer I was.”

“You speak of the son of Saul?” Uriah asked.

“Yes. He said that God works through men, both good and evil, to accomplish His purposes. We Israelites believe in God’s destiny for our nation.”

“Certainly, God chose Abraham and his descendants as the people of Promise,” Uriah agreed, “but we are all God’s are we not?”

“All who worship Him and call on His Name,” replied Eleazar.

“Lord, Lord,” said Uriah, smiling.

“ ‘Who call earnestly upon Him,’” Eleazar amended, “and seek Him and His will in their lives.”

“Yet, I, a Hittite, a foreigner, if you will, believe that God chose me and called me here; though for what purpose, I know not. Do you believe this?”

“I have seen many unlikely things, both on the battlefield and elsewhere, that can only be of God. Yes, I believe that all men must heed God’s calling,” said Eleazar, then added with a grin, “Even Hittites.”

The mood lightened after that, and the two men reminisced on the wild days with David at Ziklag and in the service of the Philistines. Eleazar reflected that they had many things in common; had made their beds in the valley of death, had dwelt in a place where a man becomes one with his weapon, and steps outside himself to do battle. Battle; the terrifying, exhilarating, stomach-churning maelstrom of screaming, striving, bleeding, dying confusion. Yes, he thought, some became addicted to it and sickened and died when peace came and they could no longer go to war. But not me. Thanks be to God, not me.

As the day waned, Uriah departed, and Naarah came and sat beside her husband in the shade of the courtyard wall. During their time together, he had shared many of the thoughts with her that he had expressed to Uriah. She thanked God for this man of hers, as they sat, holding hands in the peaceful silence of the approaching dusk. Naarah was proud that Eleazar was one of the mighty ones who served the LORD God of Israel and his anointed king. But she was aware, as well, of a tender heart within the warrior’s breast and for this also, Naarah was grateful.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

If You're Lookin' For Trouble

"Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)"

"Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)"

I think you see where I'm headed, here. The thing is: man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. But Proverbs 6:18 speaks of wicked imaginations. So here's a question: Is it wicked for the child of God to imagine that, at some point, God will not provide for him/her?

I'm reminded of Israel in the wilderness. For over 14,000 days in a row, God provided food for His children. Just enough each day. Nobody came up short. If there was any extra, it rotted. Hmmm.

This was a miraculous thing. But the Bible says they grew weary at times of having just enough. The gall of these people. Not me, LORD. Nor you, gentle reader?

Is it our nature (some more than others) to fret and fume over what might be? What a blessed thing, then, to have confidence in God's providing.

And so, keep me, O LORD, from borrowing trouble from tomorrow.

And a final word of comfort from that famous reformed theologian, Dan Jenkins: "What coulda happened, did (Dreamer Tatum in Semi-Tough)."

Monday, December 19, 2011

O Christmas Tree

Got the tree up on Friday. It took a couple of hours. All the branches had to be fluffed out and hung on the pole/trunk. Then every decoration collected over all the years carefully arranged on the limbs. There are several strands of lights, garland, balls, bows, beads, and tiny angels, sleighs and Santas. There are ornaments handmade by Sandy throughout her childhood and finally, the paperplate angel perched upon the very tiptop.

So I'm sitting in a darkened living room Sunday morning, admiring this work of yuletide art and the thought occurs to me: "What a symbol of paganism!" I'm not really speaking of the origins of the Christmas tree tradition, but this: Is all this gaud and clutter representative of what the holiday has become? Am I advocating that you (or I) take down your Christmas tree immediately?

No. But really, what does all this have to do with Jesus? He might not have even been born on December 25th, right?

But he was born.

Christmas is a time for family. Of all the holidays, this one, set in the dead cold of winter is the one when families come together to celebrate. They may be separated by hundreds of miles, but they plan and expend great effort to meet in one place. Why is this?

I think it is this:

The human family was broken by the fall and so our individual families. Father striving against son, daughter against mother and brother against sister; holding on to hateful grudges and nursing bitterness in their hearts.

But the the birth of Jesus signalled the birth of healing and the end of brokenness.

For how can I know the Christ of God and the forgiveness he offers without myself offering forgiveness?

I will keep my Christmas tree and continue to raise it up and drape it in decoration. But let this be my prayer: that this tree remind me that the babe, who was born in a stable, and lived a perfect life on my behalf and died in my stead, arose and now stands at the right hand of God the Father and intercedes for me.

And let this be my cause for celebration.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reflections on a Birthday

Today I have been alive 63 years.

I have been blessed. What pain I have experienced has been mostly self-inflicted.

I have been loved. Truly. I know this is so because I understand that the ones who love me forgive me daily.

I have been happy. But a thousand times better; I have been given joy. (Psalm 4:7)

I have been redeemed. Like Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones I have seen this dead heart made alive. I stand amazed and can scarcely comprehend.

I have come to understand that God is in control. Of everything. And this is His province, while mine is self-control. Also that there is nothing He does in my life but what is directed toward His glory and my good. Even the stuff I don't like.

"I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.(Psalm 4:8)"

Happy birthday to me.

Monday, December 12, 2011


This is a great tune. Haunting melody. The lyrics are another thing, though. Hallelujah means "praise the Lord." But the song speaks of a "cold and broken hallelujah."

The rest of the words talk about shattered relationships and the seeming futility of it all and I detect something like an attitude of postmodern despair. It goes like this: since we can't ultimately know the truth, any praise, any worship, any joy, any feelings for another person we might express would only be fleeting and hollow things based strictly on emotion.

A joyless kind of joy, I suppose. There's a lot of it around.

How sad.

Is there any hope?

What about faith? Here's a question: do I have to know something empirically (you know, experience it with my senses) to believe in it? Isn't faith the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen?

Hallelujah indeed.

I've heard that a fool says in his heart, "There is no God."

I pity the fool.