Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Army of the Dead

And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." -Ezekiel 37:3


Dead as a hammer.

Dead as a doorknob.

We have seen dead, whether it has been a loved one, a family pet, or simply an animal lying crushed beside the road.

Can you imagine this death as being the state of your soul?

If the wages of sin is death and if, in fact, we are steeped in sin from before birth (as Psalm 51 indicates), then surely spiritual deadness is the state in which all humanity find themselves.


There is Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones. There are Jesus' words to Nicodemus in John 3.

There is a life-giving Spirit.

Who hovered over the waters at Creation.

Who rested upon Christ at His baptism.

The Spirit who filled the Church at Pentecost.

This is the Spirit who gives life to dead hearts and transforms them from dead stone into living flesh.

So the question for each professing child of God must be: "Do I possess this Spirit and does He reside within my heart?"

I must ask: "Does my professed love for Jesus find expression in love of His Word, in love of His Church, in love of His children, my brethren?"

These things of the Spirit must work themselves out in the affections of my heart and in service rendered to the Master and His kingdom and His saints.

Does this once dead heart live?

O Lord GOD, you know.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Home to Roost

...and be sure your sin will find you out. -Deuteronomy 32:23b

I have sinned. No surprise there.

Is it not true that we live in daily repentance? Of course we are grieved over our falling short of God's glory. It's one of the things the Spirit does for us.

But of all the grievous things, perhaps the most painful is to have a long-hidden sin surface at an inopportune time.

As in when we are admonishing with someone else over the same sin.

First comes the sickening remembrance.

Then, the inevitable and necessary "Forgive me, Father."

Do you think that God allows such sins to be covered over  by our self-righteousness and unrecognized in our deceitful hearts? And He does this so that the sting of conviction might be more acutely felt and repentance all the more immediate and sincere?

Think David as Nathan spoke, "Thou art the man!"

And I am reminded of another verse, "...let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed unless he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).

If I were to draw a conclusion from all this, I suppose that it would be:

That as we work together in Christ, confessing our sins, and sharing our struggles, we learn from each other's mistakes, always forgiving and offering encouragement to one another.

What goes around comes around, they say.

There is enough forgiveness in our Savior to go around.

And as we send it forth, may it come back to us.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I Know Who I Am!

Harry Angel, in "Angel Heart."

Self image.

The bane of our existence?

Cultures, I have read, create their own mythologies over time. Can this be said of us, as individuals?

It goes something like this: our lives are molded by early experience and we begin to shape our own personal myth. This is me: the kind of person I am, what I believe, why I believe it, and so on.

And is it possible then that the myth becomes set in stone? An image, even, to be worshipped?

And is it also possible that relationships, viewed through the filter of Myself, must be disrupted, tainted or even destroyed?

Unless there is love.

I have been loved by someone who loved me; not the me I had created in my heart, but the me she could see underneath all the pride, resentment and bitterness.

There was a glimpse of kindness and goodness and tenderness that she could see, looking through eyes of love.

But much, much more than that, I have been loved by Christ who for some unexplained and deeply mysterious reason, set His heart on me.

And so the me I have imagined and loved and gloried in, must become what He has imagined, desired and ordained.

It is hard. It is painful, even heart-breaking at times.

But it must be.

How could it be otherwise?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Like Ghosts, Only Sad

I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again.-Joan Baez

So I watched several wretched horror movies Saturday. Sandy and
I had a very merry time as we MST3K'ed Hellraiser.

I really can't watch horror movies nowadays with any degree of enjoyment.

Suspension of disbelief is the issue, I suppose, for you see, I don't believe in the existence of ghosts or goblins or Freddy or Jason or any of that.

Memories are a different thing.

They can come unbidden, unwelcomed and with no warning. Like ghosts are supposed to be able to do.

To define them as electrical discharges firing along neural pathways is unsatisfactory. That doesn't explain their power, their ability to haunt.

And the haunting is not about some spooky and unexplained presence.

It's more like an absence really. Where there used to be something.
And the expectation that the something ought still to be there.

This is the essence of memory, that is so much more than a visual recall played out on the mind's movie screen.

And the haunting is not played out in fear or terror, but in an existential ache, so deep and so abiding.

And I wonder, would it be selfish or disloyal or even shallow to desire to be done with it? Done with the memories.

Ah, but the truth of the matter is this: memories, seasoned with the bitterness of past sins, move me forward. Take me from this place of haunting.

What next, I wonder?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Holy Diver

Between the velvet lies, there's a truth that's hard as steel.-Ronnie James Dio

Dio was going on the radio as I drove into the cemetery this morning. The red rising sun cast its pink glow onto the pale marble all around me before it was swallowed by low-lying clouds.

There was a freshly dug grave nearby, a narrow hole which seemed barely wide enough to accommodate a casket, and I was struck by the strangeness of our custom; to place the remains of our dearly departed in a box and place them in the ground.

There is a significance to this whose meaning escapes me. I am reminded of the Viking funerals, not so much the burial rites, but images of burning ships sailing gloriously into seas set aflame by the setting sun.

It seemed fitting to me, however odd you may find it, to meditate on these things as I knelt before her grave on this day.

But as I look forward to the resurrection, it seems fitting as well to remember to be thankful: for mercy given, for sanctification completed, for ultimate healing (not the healing we had prayed for, right?).

To be grateful to remain, to be the one left standing, is most difficult of all, it seems.

Yet I remember that God's faithfulness is great and His compassions new every morning and I recall the lyrics of another song:

"The ones left standing carry on."

It's what God's children do.

Monday, September 7, 2015

He Leadeth Me

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. -Psalm 94:19

I was searching the phrase, "murmur nor repine," which had popped into memory during prayer this past week.

It seemed, as I pondered the words, that I had been guilty of such  and I sought to find out the hymn which contained these words and read the lyrics in their context.

Hard to reflect on the biblical truth that our God leads us, in all the circumstances of this life, and not be brought to tears.

What a precious thought, indeed. And what ingratitude I have shown in complaining and doubting.

Isn't it amazing that even in the vague meanderings of the mind, our God seeks us out to bless us and comfort us?

What consolations we have, as we hope in God's word and in His salvation.

What blessings we have in God's people, even in an obscure young Baptist minister who labored faithfully all his life and was given, by God's grace, to write one hymn. A single hymn which, in the richness of its theology, has so blessed the people of God.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015


O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? -Romans 7:24

Another respected Christian has been dragged down into the muck and mire.

If you were to read the self-confessed details of his fall and how he ignored the gracious warnings of guilt and fear, you might wonder, "How can these things be?"

At the risk of sounding crass, I will repeat a statement I have often made to my youngest daughter: "Men are dogs."

All that separates us from the lower animals is our ability to reason, to think (i.e., to plot and plan to achieve our base desires).

Harsh and simplistic, yes. But useful for our purpose in seeking understanding.

We are fallen. However regenerate my heart may be, it is still wicked and deceitful. I shudder to think what I might be up to, were it not for the indwelling Spirit's power to convict and inspire repentance.

Whenever we (men and women) seek to act in God's place to meet our own perceived needs, we have sinned. Otherwise godly desires have been twisted and perverted and an idol has been raised up.

I fear isolation (the self-imposed kind). Oh, may I not cut myself off from godly conversation and counsel. I need the iron of my friends in Christ to keep me sharp and alert.

Surely we realize that none of us is immune from temptation, that Satan comes, in places and moments of weakness to drag us down.

We must remember Paul's warning: "Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."

Pray for the saints.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September I Remember

April, come she will. -Paul Simon

I have heard, that in an instant, a person's life can change forever. 

How true.

I have heard that these are moments of extreme clarity, like the flash of lightning, revealing things previously not seen.

This too, I think, is true.

Do you find that your life is remembered in brief episodes, at times seemingly unrelated?

The reality of the thing is difficult to embrace, and were it not for the remembering, would seem a figment of our imaginations; a dream even.

There is a hymn, a children's hymn you might call it, that has been playing over and again in my head: "Jesus loves me, this I know." And the simple accompaniment played in single notes upon a piano.

And the constant memory of the repeated promise: "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."

Odd, isn't it, that faith has been defined in part as "the conviction of things not seen."

"For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

And so here is resolution.

Here is reassurance.

Here is reality.