Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Truth Hurts, but I Can't Help Laughing

A joke to illustrate my point (bear with me, it's kinda long):

Young King Arthur was ambushed and imprisoned by the monarch of a neighboring kingdom. The monarch could have killed him but was moved by Arthur's youth and ideals. So, the monarch offered him his freedom, as long as he could answer a very difficult question. Arthur would have a year to figure out the answer and, if after a year, he still had no answer, he would be put to death.

The question?...What do women really want? Such a question would perplex even the most knowledgeable man, and to young Arthur, it seemed an impossible query. But, since it was better than death, he accepted the monarch's proposition to have an answer by year's end.

He returned to his kingdom and began to poll everyone: the princess, the priests, the wise men and even the court jester. He spoke with everyone, but no one could give him a satisfactory answer.

Many people advised him to consult the old witch, for only she would have the answer.

But the price would be high; as the witch was famous throughout the kingdom for the exorbitant prices she charged.

The last day of the year arrived and Arthur had no choice but to talk to the witch. She agreed to answer the question, but he would have to agree to her price first.

The old witch wanted to marry Sir Lancelot, the most noble of the Knights of the Round Table and Arthur's closest friend!

Young Arthur was horrified. She was hunchbacked and hideous, had only one tooth, smelled like sewage, made obscene noises, etc. He had never encountered such a repugnant creature in all his life.

He refused to force his friend to marry her and endure such a terrible burden; but Lancelot, learning of the proposal, spoke with Arthur

He said nothing was too big of a sacrifice compared to Arthur's life and the preservation of the Round Table.

Hence, a wedding was proclaimed and the witch answered Arthur's question thus:

What a woman really wants, she to be in charge of her own life.

Everyone in the kingdom instantly knew that the witch had uttered a great truth and that Arthur's life would be spared.

And so it was, the neighboring monarch granted Arthur his freedom and Lancelot and the witch had a wonderful wedding.

The honeymoon hour approached and Lancelot, steeling himself for a horrific experience, entered the bedroom. But, what a sight awaited him. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen lay before him on the bed. The astounded Lancelot asked what had happened

The beauty replied that since he had been so kind to her when she appeared as a witch, she would henceforth, be her horrible deformed self only half the time and the beautiful maiden the other half.

Which would he prefer? Beautiful during the day....or night?

Lancelot pondered the predicament. During the day, a beautiful woman to show off to his friends, but at night, in the privacy of his castle, an old witch? Or, would he prefer having a hideous witch during the day, but by night, a beautiful woman for him to enjoy wondrous intimate moments?
Noble Lancelot said that he would allow HER to make the choice herself.

Upon hearing this, she announced that she would be beautiful all the time because he had respected her enough to let her be in charge of her own life.

The moral is.....

If you don't let a woman have her own way....

Things are going to get ugly

Does this remind you of a passage of Scripture (think Genesis 3:16b)? Actually, control is an idol we all seek after. And ugly is the natural state of our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). At no time is this more evident than when we are thwarted in our desires.

So we laugh because this desire is a sad fact we have all encountered in others. And it is better to laugh than to cry. That's not funny, it's just true.

Here is a deeper truth. God's mandate in Genesis 3:16 (and Colossians 3:18) stands.

But when did the witch become beautiful? Not when she was compelled by her husband, but when she chose freely. 

We must desire (ladies and gentlemen) the things of God. With our regenerated hearts, Christians, we have been given the ability to choose the good.

It's how we become beautiful.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


The music is called, "The Ecstasy of Gold." I had thought it was "desire for," or "lust for" gold.

I have watched this dozens of times. Two things strike me.

First is the expression on Eli Wallach's face when the camera focuses on him. What do you think: desire or lust?

Second is the vastness of the cemetery and the ever more insistent and frenetic pace of music and scenery (it becomes a blur), as the character chases round and round after his lust/desire.

Is Sergio Leone attempting to tell us something here?

If you've experienced these two emotions, you know they are two quite different things.

A subject of endless fascination for me is the differing angles from which males and females approach these two things and the confusion that results.

I deal in generalities here and am subject to error. Forgive me.

Outside the setting of marriage, the tendency is for the woman to confuse the man's (a)lust for (b)desire for (c)love. "He wants me," has two different meanings. Nothing but heartache can come from this confusion.

Within the marital setting, the man believes that his wife's love for him is expressed always in desire underlaid by the same lust he feels. Hmmm. Sort of but not really? Maybe part of the time?

The other error inherent in this attitude is his failure to perceive the need to express his love verbally. To perceive, in other words, the emotional need (or desire) that must be fulfilled. Nothing but heartache can come from this confusion.

There is a saying: "He's talking out of some other part of his body (I paraphrase), cause his mouth knows better." Again I beg your indulgence and forgiveness as I always do when I speak of these matters which may be over my head.

My point, you wonder? Or perhaps my take on Leone's point in this scene.

Simply that I have known people (myself among them) who engaged of this confused and frenetic chasing after their desires/lusts. To their own harm.

When Jesus said we must seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things would be added unto us, could this have been one of the things he had in mind? But what we NEED, rather than what we WANT.

Or you can enjoy this film sequence simply as: a great film sequence. If that is your desire.

I am my beloved's and his desire is for me. -Song of  Songs 7:10

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What Is Your Cross?

...let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. -Matthew 16:24b

There is a god, a false god, that every human being worships. It is not made of stone or wood or precious metal.

This is the god that causes us to seek first our own desires, to mutilate our bodies and to kill our children. This god stares back at us from our mirrors.

It is easily the most familiar face we know. And we love it. It might be said that self-love is the most widespread religion on the planet. Even self-loathing is but the unhealthy reverse of the same coin; a morbid focus upon our idol.

Here is my cross. To put to death daily this false god. Paul warned us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. To shift our focus. When my desires are God's desires, they will no longer be evil desires.

But the idol does not die easily. My cross is to put to death the old man and he does not want to go.

But Jesus said, "My yoke is easy...." What is this easy?

Gratitude. Though I bear my cross and sometimes the idol dies hard, I am grateful for deliverance purchased by my Savior's blood. Isaac Watts knew that to survey the "Wondrous Cross" is to be so overwhelmed by the magnitude of God's grace that our desire becomes Christ and His kingdom.

And the yoke becomes easy and the burden light.

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I Prayed For You

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.... -Jeremiah 1:5a

The earliest memory I can recall is when Mom and Dad brought my newborn sister Deb home from the hospital. I do not recall who else was there, what the weather was like (July in Arkansas; what would be your guess?), or the color of the car my father drove. I only remember my mom holding a tiny little red-faced sleeping baby, as dad helped her from the car.

The earliest prayer I can remember praying is for my brother Rodney. By the time I was eleven, I had two sisters. I felt outnumbered.

So when I learned that Mom was expecting, I began to pray. I prayed with the confidence that only an eleven year-old raised in church can have, certain that God would hear me and answer me.

There is a sense in which we believe that the only prayer of the unregenerate heart which God will acknowledge is, "LORD, save me!"

God hears the prayers of His children. Can it be that the earnest prayer of a child fits that category? I don't know. I know that the Church has always taught its children to pray. I know from many incidents recorded in the Bible that Jesus loves the little children.

At any rate, about 8 in the evening on October 21, 1959 (my dad's 33rd birthday), the call came from the hospital. My mother had given birth to a "fine baby boy."

Was I overjoyed? As much as I love words, I cannot begin to express my feelings. Or the fellowship that we shared from the first
time we met. Eleven years between us, but two GUYS, the first guy
whose company I ever truly enjoyed. How I defended him from my sisters when they wanted to put make-up on him and dress him up. Playing football in the backyard. Not letting the other guys break up a fight between him and David Treadaway until Rod began to gain the upper hand. If you're a guy and you have a brother, I don't have to tell you any of this.

Funny thing about that prayer. I don't recall praying much (if any) at all after that. For a long time. Until that storm-lashed night (in October again) when I cried out, "LORD save me!"

But since then, I have prayed. Prayed for mercy for my mom. Prayed for forgiveness daily. Prayed for Christian brothers and sisters undergoing the trials that we all face in this life.

Since then, I have prayed for my brother again. How blessed I have been to have such a brother. Even when we have been angry with each other, forgiveness has always followed quickly.

But I would have him be my brother in Christ also. I would play football with him in the backyard of heaven. With brand new bodies able to run like the wind, "soft hands" to catch those lofted passes, eyes sharp to "look the ball into your hands."

I would stand beside him at the throne of God, and sing a new song; we who shared many a night together singing every song we ever knew.

So I love you, my little brother. I am praying for you, And I will come continuously before God's throne of grace, like the persistent widow, until He grants my petition and I rejoice as I did on October 21, 1959; a brother has been born into the kingdom of God.

May He be praised.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Can Jesus Completely Save?

He's the master of the sea, billows his will obey.
He your savior wants to be, be saved today.
"Love Lifted Me" -a hymn

What's wrong with this picture?

I know lots of songs (both secular and sacred) to which I don't know the words. That may just be me.

I have begun to be more aware of the words to hymns that we sing in worship. I have several hymnals on my bookshelf. "Love Lifted Me," is not in the Trinity Hymnal we use at GPC.

Lots of us weren't really raised to think deeply about the words of the songs we sing in church. I have been carried away by the beauty of the music in worship. To hear our congregation singing "It Is Well With My Soul," a capella, with the call and response of the chorus, is to be transported nearly to the gates of heaven.

But isn't our view of God expressed just as clearly in the words that come out of our mouths when we sing as the words that proceed from the pulpit during the sermon?

We know and understand that Jesus is the Master of the sea. He prepares the waves to rage against the ship carrying the wayward prophet. He speaks as they become perfectly still. He walks on the waters.

How is it then that Jesus wants to be your Savior but must wait on you to decide? Did He not make the sea and does it not obey His voice? Whosoever will, may come, you say. Ah, but Who has the power to change that will so that it desires Him, something it would never do if left to itself?

The point is that the One who made all things must be Lord over all things.

We do choose that which we desire. Every day we decide to do this, that, or the other thing. Our will is free.

How can this be, when God rules over all things? Is this not a contradiction?

No. It is a mystery. The Bible teaches both God's sovereign rule and our ability to choose and shows that under God's direction, both work together to accomplish His plan. They concur.

Arminius taught this: that Christ must wait on fallen man to choose salvation, and it naturally follows that He cannot stop that man from turning away from  that salvation at some later date, should the man so choose.

But Jesus said, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand."

Who do you believe?

I believe that the love, mercy and grace alone of a sovereign LORD have lifted me and will keep me in His hand,

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

An Hundredfold Now in This Time

My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it. -Luke 8:21b

I have been blessed. I am privileged to be able to pray for the body of Christ, of which I am part.

As I began to lift up my precious church family this morning, I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy. As I mentioned each name, a face appeared in my mind's eye, of a loving brother or sweet-natured sister. Of their families; husbands, wives, children and grandchildren.

What a diversity we have within our small numbers, and each of them a blessing from God. How much poorer would my life be had not my God called me, redeemed me and made me his child, a joint-heir with Christ. And placed me in the midst of this blessed family.

How alone in the world and lonely without the love and encouragement and fellowship of these saints. How could I begin to serve and follow Christ without their prayers, which God has ordained since from before time.

As He has my own prayers for each of them. How blessed am I to be called to plead with God on their behalves. And as I do so, to recall each of them to mind, the wonderful times we have shared together in the Lord.

I am blessed.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for this family in Christ, even those whom I will not meet until your kingdom comes.

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, -Philemon 1:4