Monday, July 28, 2014

Won't You Spare Me Over Til Another Year

Serious as a heart attack... -Old Southern expression.

Perhaps it is overly dramatic of me to state that I stared into the face of death. A bit of a cliché I think.

Still, it is a strange and unique thing to experience and even stranger are the thoughts that pass through the mind at such a time.

Let me begin by confessing that the intensity of the pain brought to mind an old comedy routine of Richard Pryor's. It is odd, I know, but I couldn't help remembering his description of his own heart attack.

Don't even ask me why I laughed out loud as he lay on stage, microphone in hand, writhing in remembered pain, as he recited an inner dialogue between himself and the heart that was indeed attacking him.

My most vivid memory is the way he depicted his heart as a clenched fist, speaking to him in gruff, ominous tones.

I recalled this, as I lay in my recliner, as being so apt to what I was experiencing.

The pain came in waves, increasing and subsiding. Heartburn. I wondered? I took an Alka-Seltzer.

I can't recall at what point I prayed to God to take me if that was His purpose. Seeing that the pain was outside anything I have experienced (including a compound fracture of the leg), I recognized the distinctly possible nearness of my death.

I thought then of my wife and daughter. It broke my heart, I must say, to think of their grief, and I felt guilt for desiring even slightly the release of death.

Then I remembered what I should perhaps have thought of in the first place: King Hezekiah's prayer. As the godly king faced his own certain death, he wept and prayed to God for the sparing of his life for a while longer.

I wondered if Hezekiah felt that same sense of deep sadness at the thought of work left undone, tasks not accomplished and opportunities  missed.

All this I reflected upon even in the midst of the pain. And I began to pray finally that God, in His mercy and wisdom, might grant me a while longer to work, to pray, to experience the joy of seeing dearly loved ones brought to Christ in salvation.

God spared Hezekiah's life for another fifteen years. God alone knows the plans He has for me. Plans to prosper me and not to harm me, as I have read.

It is easy, and perhaps even correct, to view all this as a reminder of life's fleeting nature, of the fact that we are not guaranteed tomorrow and that our lives are in the hands of the One who made us.

I am reminded of the verse which says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."

When I ask for what purpose God spared me, I am brought back to a deeper question: Why save any of us at all?

In light of scripture, I can only answer: To serve Him wherever I am and with whatever means He gives me.

Grant it to be so, O God.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

If I Were You

 ...if I ran this place; there wouldn't be no mercy, there wouldn't be no grace. -Wayne Watson

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! -Psalm 139:19a

A cessation of wickedness. No more murders, wars, abuse or persecution. None of the effects of the Fall.

What would that look like?

Actually, you can read a description of all this and more in Revelation 21 and the first six verses of chapter 22.

It's about Jesus coming back to judge the wicked and re-create creation.

A new heaven and a new earth.

What a thing to look forward to, right? I'll admit that I look around sometimes and see what goes on and have a hard time remembering that I'm supposed to have compassion for the lost, to pray for those who spitefully use me or who simply just don't get it or desire to have it.

But you know there's a Holy Spirit who dwells within me and He is pretty much constantly at work, pointing out my failings and reminding me that the only thing separating me from all the awful folks I'd just love to smack upside the head is grace.

Because God is gracious, I am made able to pray for the less-than-lovely. I am reminded of who I am and Whose I am. I am brought up short when my tendency is to judge and reminded that there is a Judge. One day He will judge with perfect righteousness and even those on whom His judgment falls will acknowledge His perfect and holy justice.

Until then, I ain't Him. I'm me, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and I've been commanded to watch and pray.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Zombies Much?

Ah, saith Satan, I have infused a poison into him (man) which will make him return to the dust from which he was taken. -Sermon #1326, based upon Genesis 3:15, by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The problem of sin (or evil, if you prefer). Will you agree that it is a basic problem of the human condition? THE cause of all the misery, pain, suffering and death that exists, that has existed since the fall?

This is what Scripture presents to us, from Genesis and throughout.

Would anyone in their right mind (Romans 1:18-22) really believe man able to evolve and achieve perfection by his own efforts?

Poison, says Spurgeon. An apt analogy. I think the notion of infection (a virus, if you will) is apropos, as well.

It is interesting that the idea of virus has been put forward as an explanation, in many recent films, for zombieism. Of course, once we left Bela Lugosi's "White Zombie" voodoo behind as our premise, the concept of infection has always been there. From George Romero and onward.

Can it be that art truly does imitate life? I wonder if the recent spate of zombie movies are our attempt (at the deepest level, of course) to deal with the burgeoning proliferation of evil all around.

Our entertainment has always included monsters. Each of our cultural icons of evil (you know; Freddy, Jason, Dracula et. al.) has its roots in myths and legends (and perhaps a little truth).

The effects of sin, even in the life of the believer are devastating. From the smallest scratch, so to speak, can come every type of ill effect.

Caught up in sin, we can be overcome by some sort of compulsion and our very will subverted. In the sense that Paul described in Romans 1:18-31, you could refer to one trapped in sin as a mindless monster, driven solely by its urges.

They're always seeking a cure, in these films.

As for the infection of sin, God has provided the cure.

We are estranged from God by our sin and at war with Him.

But God has provided the sacrifice.

Monday, July 7, 2014

God Alone

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. -Romans 11:36

In this simple doxological statement, Paul sums up everything we need to know about God and his salvation.

What Christian denies that all things are from the God of creation? Do I need to cite proof texts when I say that the world and all that is in it came into being from the word of his mouth?

In Acts 17, Paul tells the Athenians (and reminds us) that in God all things have their very being. What would happen if he should remove his hand for but a moment?

Does not the God who created life in the first place re-create life as well? We were dead in our trespasses, right? Dead as in "without life." We are "new creations," isn't it so?  

Does not "all things" include our own salvation? We are commanded to repent and believe. Would my deceitful and desperately wicked heart be capable of repentance and belief? Would I, who was at enmity with God, be capable of desiring him?

Or must God first replace this stony heart with one of flesh and write his name upon it? Must he draw me to himself before I can begin to come to him? Must he hold me in his hand so that nothing or no-one (including me) can snatch me from him?

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I'm In Control

The wind blows where it wishes... -John 3:8a

Umm, so really I'm not in control. And therein lies the issue.

Looking back on my infidel life, there was the unconscious desire for control. I know this because a loved one once called me a control freak.

Now it has long been a part of my self-image that I am a cool, laid-back sort of guy. What lies we tell ourselves!

So God really is in control. Of everything. The more I know and understand about His sovereignty, the more I embrace this.

Or that's what I thought.

In John Owen's little book, The Mortification of Sin, there is a chapter on "A Tender Conscience and a Watchful Heart." In it Owen counsels us to "consider whether the trouble that you are perplexed with is related to your particular make-up and nature."

So the "good" spoken of in Romans 8:28 can refer to a revealing, through trials and testings, of the deep, subconscious roots of besetting sins. 

 It is one thing to recognize and affirm a scriptural truth, but quite another to really, truly embrace it and apply it.

It is possible also to be aware of the devil's schemes, without perceiving the deceit in our own hearts.

The conclusion of the matter is this: there is still within me that which desires, however illogically from an eternal perspective, my own will to be done rather than my Heavenly Father's.

And this must be nailed to Christ's cross.