Monday, March 31, 2014

Graven Images

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. -Exodus 20:4

That about covers it, right? No physical representation whatever of God is to be made, worshipped, served, honored or loved. Isn't that what it says?

It's the first place in the Bible where God refers to Himself as jealous (v.5). Not junior high cause your girlfriend is flirting with another guy jealous. This is God, remember. Jealous for his glory (Isaiah 42:8), jealous for his honor (Romans 1:21), jealous for his holy name (Ezekiel 39:25).

Old testament stuff? Jesus said it like this: "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24)."

During the Protestant Reformation, images, icons and even the altar were thrown out whenever a formerly Roman Catholic congregation embraced the Reformation.

No images of anything whatsoever.

I know, being familiar with my heart's tendency to make idols, how easily worship is diverted from its heavenward destination to whatever is placed in front of us.

I know, having been a performer, how performance tends to draw the focus of worship away from God. And that is idolatry.

In the midst of a discussion wherein I had expressed the thoughts I have just shared, an acquaintance remarked, "Yes, but aren't you taking this too seriously?"

Aren't we supposed to?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

But One Thing Is Needful

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. -Psalm 119:105

I hope you don't think I'm stretching a point to apply Jesus' words to the subject at hand. Yes, we are "cumbered about" many things. Nonetheless, we must choose the thing which is needful.

You and I, being Southerners, would no doubt have sat Jesus down at the kitchen table and carried on a conversation while busily preparing the meal. Delicious food and gracious conversation; the hallmarks of our hospitality, right?

Still Mary chose simply to sit with Jesus and devote her entire attention to his words: "that good part."

Right. So here comes the stretch. Having heard the Lord's words, we still have to apply them, to choose that which is better in all our day-by-day activities. In other words, I find myself thinking all too seldom of how God is glorified in whatever I am engaged in at any given moment.

I am thinking just now of how I choose to entertain myself. In particular, as we sit each evening around the TV set; what we are watching and why.

My $7.99 a month Netflix subscription allows me to watch a wide variety of movies, TV shows, documentaries, etc. Only a tiny percentage of this material was created for God's glory.

Still, He rules over all and His purpose is served in all things.

Yet, am I not responsible to seek the reflection of his glory in all the things I view? From Andy Griffith to Bones to the various nature programs?

It is easy to see how Sheriff Andy Taylor models Christ to his neighbors and his family. But where is the good when Seeley Booth makes an inadequate defense of his professed faith to his partner, Dr. Temperance Brennan? Her foolish (and generic)statements of unbelief would be so easily refuted, it seems.

Or not? It reveals to me that I am not as readily conversant with Christianity as I ought to be whenever I fail to properly contend for the faith, as I do sometimes (you know, "I should have said this, or that.")

Aren't we bound to not only seek entertainment from a well-plotted crime story (or whatever you prefer to watch) but to engage its worldview  from the standpoint (or even better, the vantage point) of biblical wisdom?

Is this the needful part, the better part?

It's all too easy to be consumed by the BoobTube. There's a lot of junk spewing forth there. Discernment is required, that the wrong stuff not be allowed into our minds and our hearts.

Finally, I've said all that to say this: I have begun to blog at this site:

You know that I write here to express my thoughts on matters of the Christian faith, to share my experiences and beliefs, to encourage you to think about yours, to invite you into conversation if you feel so moved.

At "Speaking in General," the focus will be on what I think about what I watch: recommendations, heads-ups, and musings in general. I understand that there are things I am better off not watching. I understand that those things may be different for you than for me. I am aware of my own weaknesses and tailor my viewing accordingly.

I pray that you are not offended by what I choose to watch. I seek only to entertain and share while attempting to focus on what is needful.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lost Shaker of Salt

Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife.... -Westminster Confession of Faith 24.2

It might have been Plato who wrote that man and woman were originally one being, with four arms, four legs and two faces. Zeus. the story goes, was jealous of their unity and afraid of their strength.

So he separated them and ever since, we have had to search for our other half, the one who could complete us.

Paul noted, in Acts 17, that the Greeks oftentimes shot very near the mark, considering that they were aiming in darkness.

It is interesting to remember that the Greeks also looked upon womankind as a curse from the gods; trouble wrapped in a beautiful package.

The biblical account, in Genesis 2, reveals the truth of the situation. God, in his wisdom, completed his creation of humankind by making a partner for the man, whom he created first ("it is not good that the man should be alone"). And that which was created separately became one.

Of course, sin entered into the picture and not only were the man and woman separated from God, but divided from each other.

It doesn't take a lot of skill at extrapolation to posit that the dividing force in Greek mythology is similar to the being credited with inciting man to rebel against his creator and thus bring suffering, division and death into a world that had been created "very good."

Believing that God has all things under his sovereign control, I can't help but believe that he chose for me the one who would complete me and I her. That this completion has occurred in the context of our completion in Christ, I also firmly believe.

It is our nature to follow our desire, to do "that which seems good" to us. This means we seek first that which "is pleasing to the eye."

And let's face it, that's as far as it goes in many instances. The result is that (like the Texas tornado and the Tennessee divorce) somebody just lost a trailer.

In every case, the longing is for that lost "other."And as in all other things, in Christ alone is that longing truly fulfilled.

Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. -Mark 10:9

Monday, March 17, 2014

Someone You Love

Rescue those who are being taken away to death, hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. -Proverbs 24:11

Someone you love is bound for hell.

Forgive me if I'm wrong and don't think for a second that I judge anyone in that fashion.

Is it not true, though?

Would that I could have the assurance that each of my dear family and each beloved friend will meet me in heaven.

I strain to see evidence of new life in the hearts of many; a desire for God and a seeking after his kingdom. Formerly I thought that one could have Christ but merely be backslidden or distracted by the bright shiny things of the world.

A glimpse into my own heart dispelled that notion and taught me that fruit cannot be gotten from a dead tree.

Some stand at the wide open door of hell and the furnace-blast from its gaping maw has seared their souls and their consciences.

Others, like the fig tree Jesus cursed, sport beautifully deceptive foliage. I must admit I'm drawn more to search my own heart by the image of the non-bearing fig tree than by the terrors of the flames.

Jesus said that if you judge, you will be judged with the same judgment you pass on another. He also said that we may judge a tree by the fruit that it bears.

A contradiction? Surely we must recognize that judging to pass sentence and judging to discern a need are two entirely separate and different things.

One belongs to God alone.

The other we are commanded to do.

For if we see the need, we must begin to pray. To pray without ceasing, without fainting, to pray continually, to pray with a heart that is breaking.

For someone we love.

Everything depends on it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Beginning Is Near

...and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. -Matthew 24:30b

This is amazing!
Does anyone know who the artist is?

You can see lots of interesting stuff on YouTube.

Not sure of this artist's intent, but can the Christian help but see, in the opening imagery, the analogy to our own fallen and ruined world?

For me, the stark and plaintive music underscores the mood as the camera scans the solidity of the restraining, restricting wall (like a prison wall?) and reminds me so much of how our sin has imprisoned us.

Of course, the artist may be merely attempting to decry our self-destructive tendencies. But still I must ask: from where do those tendencies come?

I said the final image reminds me of Matthew 24:30. I know that Jesus spoke these words as a warning to his listeners, but as I see the figure perched atop the rickety ladder gazing longingly (hopefully?) into the heavens, I hear words of promise; the promise of fulfillment, of completion, of the joy to come.

Monday, March 10, 2014

If I Loved You

Time and again I would try to say all I want you to know. -Oscar Hammerstein

It's about definitions. Elmer Gantry aside, love is not the morning and the evening star. This is a good definition, one of many to be found in this particular source:

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, it rejoices with the truth."

This is the ideal. Do I fall short? You know me. Do I repent of my failure? You know that I must.

Though the implication seems to be that I must set aside my faith to affirm yours, I do not believe for a moment that this is your intention. You are well aware of the proof texts that condemn what you have chosen. Do I condemn you? Even if I were so inclined, I well understand my moral inability to cast any stones whatever.

Simply put, it's not my job. As one with the inborn ability to choose that which you desire, you must consider carefully the choices that you make and then live with the results. This is true for all of us.

A wise man once noted, "Our choices have eternal consequences."

The truth of this frightens me. I believe in God. My faith is founded on revelation. How can I believe anything other that what God has revealed Himself to be in his word? 

And His word commands this:

"...have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh."

I love you. I pray for the day when you too will "rejoice with the truth."

Friday, March 7, 2014

In Defense of Gaston

No one plots like Gaston, takes cheap shots like Gaston, No one persecutes harmless crackpots like Gaston.

First, let me say that Gaston was not a character in the original fairy tale. No, he is a construct of the Disney corporation intended to turn a parable with many shadings into a black-and-white fable.

As such, he has been grievously put-upon. His desperate seeking for love has been portrayed as barbaric, unbridled, oppressive lust for the beautiful Belle.

I mean, come on. Who hasn't had their heart broken by unrequited love? Of course he acts out just a little.

And I'm thinking that the term "harmless" in reference to Maurice is quite relative. Harmful to whom, I would ask? He's already been described as a "crackpot." So is he a danger to himself, to the community, to society at large? I invite you to consider just how far removed "crackpot inventor" is from "mad scientist."

And what about that Beast? I don't have to remind you that the whole idea of his being changed into a hideous monster was to reflect his inner beastliness. Here's a question. Are there any references in the Bible to the character of a "Beast?" Nuff said.

As for Belle? Can you say "passive-aggressive," boys and girls?

So next time you go to hating on Gaston, just remember there are (at least) two sides to every story.

How about a little love for the guy?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Teach Your Children Well

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. -Deuteronomy 6:7

At The Wedding this past weekend we saw more than two young people in love with one another. It was obvious to all but those too blind to see that theirs was a Godly love; a love based on the love of their Heavenly Father; a love learned, no doubt, from an early age onward.

The  joy of imparting our faith to our children is one of the sweetest rewards God gives to Christian parents.

In the midst of regret that we, being fallen, have not loved them as well as we could or should have, there is comfort, as my friends the Kendalls would attest, in seeing them grow up to embrace the precious faith that God has given us.

We wish these two all God's blessings and His comfort in whatever trials they may face. We are confident that they will be dedicated to teaching their children the things of God.

May all of you with young ones be so dedicated.

Whenever an infant is baptized at GPC, the congregation is charged along with the parents to nurture this child in the faith. So that even those of us whose children are grown and gone and who may have fallen short in this task are reminded to teach the children with whom God has blessed us, the covenant children of the Church.

May it be so.