Friday, October 31, 2014

To Die For

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. -Revelation 22:2b

So we have with a fair amount of certainty identified one of the fruits (with its healing leaves) as chocolate.

What the Aztecs viewed as fit only for kings and gods, we acknowledge to be God's greatest blessing to the taste buds of man.

And since we know that creation is cursed by the Fall of humankind, how could we begin to imagine how delicious that heavenly chocolate will be?

I asked a German young person of my acquaintance to compare the chocolate made in her homeland to that made here in the U.S.

"There is no comparison," she replied.

So yeah, like that, only more so.

This morning, Ms. Joycie roes from her sickbed with a hankering for the taste of a biscuit. Those of you who have been privileged to eat this woman's biscuits know what I'm talking about.

Tender, moist, light, flaky. fluffy, melt in your mouth (and I mean that literally) biscuits. Every adjective you could ever in all your lifetime think of to describe how marvelous. how delicious, how soul-satisfying a biscuit could be. Add it to this list.

In other words, the second of the fruits (with leaves for the healing of the nations)could just possibly be (drumroll please):  TA-DA---Ms. Joycie's biscuits!

Just like the joke in which the fine Christian lady asked to be buried with her fork, we understand that the best is yet to come.

Scenes of heavenly joy and beauty described in Scripture beggar the imagination and we can only dimly perceive them when we think on those things which delight us in this life.

You've heard it said, "I feel so bad I'd have to die to get better?"

Well, that's kinda the plan, isn't it?

We enjoy so many of God's blessings as we serve Him here on earth. We strive and pray to see the kingdom go forward and all the while look forward to that day "when in my flesh I shall see God."

Meanwhile, the search continues.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The New Know-Nothings

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: -Hosea 4:6a

You may know nothing of the "Know-Nothing" movement. It was  blessedly short-lived and militated basically against German and Irish Roman Catholic immigrants. One sermon by a Know-Nothing minister described the pope as "an enemy of the railroads(!)," among other things. Need I say more?

There is, unfortunately, a new Know-Nothingism abroad in the land which asserts that theology is the province of ivory tower intellectuals and has nothing to do with the average every-day Christian.

I have linked to a display of charts showing the results of a survey among adult Americans concerning the content of the Christian faith:

The level of ignorance displayed in this survey is perhaps not surprising but certainly saddening; and alarming when you wonder just how effective might be the Gospel witness of someone so lacking in Gospel knowledge and understanding.

In is instructive to read the whole of the 4th chapter of Hosea, which starts with a blanket condemnation of God's people and a listing of sins which might sound all too familiar in the context of our culture.

After the warning of destruction in verse six, Hosea proceeds to condemn the faithlessness of the nation's teachers and leaders.

We are responsible, we believers in Christ, before God, to embrace Him fully, with all that we are and have. To desire him, to long to know him.

In Acts 17:11, the Bereans are commended for their examination of Scripture for their guidance and inspiration. Even Paul, that man of God, was held accountable and his preaching examined in the light of God's Word.

How much more so are we to examine our Bibles to see if what we are hearing from our preachers and teachers is indeed in line with God's revelation of Himself and the nature of the faith we have been given?

To know nothing of my faith is inexcusable. To follow blindly after a blind guide is folly.

There have been many great teachers in the God-directed history of His Church. We are thankful for them and by the Spirit's enlightening power, we prayerfully examine their teachings in light of Scripture. We examine ourselves and those who would lead us in that same light.

To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. -Isaiah 8:20

Amen. Let it be so.

Monday, October 27, 2014

My Death Verse

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; and the mountains and hills shall burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. -Isaiah 55:12

What is your life verse? This is a question that you may have been asked; the idea being that the Christian's life and walk of faith can be summed up in a single verse of Scripture.

Or perhaps the notion is that, out of all God's word, there are certain verses or passages that truly (more than the others) move me or inspire you.

I can understand how this could be, for who does not have a favorite portion of the Bible which we read over and over again?

"...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. -Psalm 30:5b" is a verse I have heard cited often.

The thing is, I am inspired each day, as I read my Bible, to meditate on God's greatness, His mercy, His holiness, all His attributes. So it is hard to choose among the vast riches of His Word, a passage that really, truly fills my heart above all the others.

It is customary, I have read, in many Native American cultures for a warrior to compose a death chant, to be sung at the time of his dying.

As pilgrims and sojourners in this world, we too, we children of God, are to be heavenly minded and to long to be with our Lord (Philippians 1:23).

So, though I know that I am called to live my life in the light of "all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16), there is a passage that has special meaning to me; what I consider my "death verse," the above-quoted Isaiah 55:12.

Coming at the end of a passage celebrating the Gospel call and the sureness of God's choosing, this promise of our eternal security is so precious to me.

I call upon you to rejoice with me, in God's mercy and incomprehensible love. Only in the crystal purity of His truth can we find adequate expression.

This, then, "be the verse you 'grave for me:"

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Other

I am God, and there is none like me. -Isaiah 46:9b

You don't have to read much of Karl Barth to understand that he places a lot of emphasis on the "otherness" of God. Our understanding of God, he claims, is weak and feeble. The finite trying to grasp the Infinite.

We lose sight of God's otherness, maybe, in this day and age of the exaltation of humanity. Our sins have become "mistakes." Our rejection of His law have become "choices." Truly His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts.

But the Creator has revealed Himself to His creatures. The "heavens declare His glory (Psalm 19:1)," sings the Psalmist. Paul proclaims that "what can be known about God is plain (Romans 1:19)."

Still this is a being who can create something out of nothing, hold all creation in existence by the power of His will and is so vast his creation can't contain Him.

So how can my mind begin to grasp the reality of a being who is so "other" from me?

In Ephesians 5:32, Paul speaks of the mystery of marriage as pointing the way to understanding of the mystery of Christ's love for his bride, the Church.

In His creation of humankind into two sexes, it seems that God has given us a clue to the puzzle of the other.

Who has not meditated with wonder (and at times, despair) upon the differences between men and women?

To men, women may seem creatures of pure emotion, with no rhyme or reason, no logic whatever to their thinking.

As I understand it, men have seemed to women as cold, unfeeling brutes ruled by their base desires.

It seems like total war, at times, with no compromise possible and utter destruction the aim of the enemy. It is useful, at such times, to remember that there is an enemy and this is indeed his aim.

But where does that leave us, men and women, in this necessary struggle to understand and resolve our differences, our otherness?

God, in His mercy and wisdom, has given us these relationships. But it is a mistake (and a sin) to enjoy only that physical difference while despising those things that set us apart emotionally and mentally. 

What a struggle it has been to (begin to) learn to embrace the other that is my beloved. To understand that without her, I am incomplete. To see how our differences complement each other and at the same time, teach us forbearance and kindness.

Just as those physical differences are the cause for so much joy, so also am I fulfilled in embracing this strange, this other being. To love her, to cherish her with all my heart, soul and mind.

It is indeed a great mystery, just as Paul has said. One which will be revealed on that day when I stand before the ultimate Other.

And I will glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Evil For Good

So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. -Genesis 45:8a

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28

One of the unbeliever's favorite questions is: "If God is good, why is there evil in the world?"

Wrong answer: any variation on the theme that God merely "allows" evil to exist, implying that He is not in control, ultimately of all that exists.

Writing under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), James reminds us that God is not tempted by evil nor does He tempt anyone (1:13-15).

It is a difficult concept to grasp that God, without being the author of evil, controls it and uses it for his own purposes. The Bible is clear, however, that this is so.

Honestly, it is quite comforting to know that even men's most wicked actions are being used by God to accomplish His perfect, pleasing and acceptable will.

It's what enabled Joseph to forgive his brothers. Or Paul to persevere  in his missionary calling in spite of severe persecution. Or for you and I to pray for the forgiveness of those who wrong us.

Our lives are seldom like those of the characters in nighttime TV dramas who are beset by wicked, malevolent people, bent on inflicting misery and destruction.

No, we are afflicted(?) by the banality of the humdrum everyday neighbor lost in the mediocrity of selfishness. People much like ourselves, in fact.

For most of us, the evil we suffer comes at the hands of those who have not much thought for us or our well-being; who actually care only about achieving their own gratification.

Lust of the eye, lust of the flesh and pride of life. Adam and Eve were perfect yet yielded to these temptations. How much more so are we, God's imperfect children, prone to fall into the same snares.

The smallest thing; an offhand word, an unintended slight can cause us grief. Are we as careful as we ought to be, not to cause offense ourselves?

Jesus instructed us to pray for forgiveness, even as we forgave others. How rich in meaning is this simple command. It covers the entire range of hurt, unintended or not, that we tend to inflict upon each other.

So let the evil I suffer be used by my Father for good and may I return good for that evil, as best I can.