Friday, December 14, 2018

"Making His-Story"

Revelation 12.10b-11 NASU

“…the accuser of our brethren… accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”
  


Faith may be hazardous to your health. Your decision to follow Christ could have serious consequences. Your might even die for your convictions. You have an enemy. He hates you. Unlike most church attendees, your enemy is totally committed to the success of his mission which may be summarized in three words: your eternal destruction! 

The devil’s strategy is to accuse you “before our God day and night.” You are without defense, of course. Every terrible thing Satan tells God about you is true and yet his words contain nothing of the truth. His strategy ignores the infinite gulf between what is true (you are sinful) and the truth (you are forgiven).
You are forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus who paid the price for your sins making you fully acceptable to the heavenly Father in spite of the devil’s constant accusations against you.
That’s your testimony. That’s your story. It’s really His story in you. You are making His-story each time you utter this testimony. His-story makes you fearless in the face of your enemy’s ultimate weapon… death itself. Together with the Apostle Paul, you may laugh in the face of your final demise:

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death,
where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1st Corinthians 15.54c-55 NASU

Over one hundred and fifty years ago a fearless leader of the Oglala Sioux Nation earned tribal allegiance for his willingness to forsake all in a losing war with the Federal Government of the United States. Crazy Horse was fully committed to preserving the land and way of life of his people. He motivated young warriors with this famous charge...

“Today is a good day to die.”

Crazy Horse was right. Today is a good day to die. Our willingness to forsake all, even our own lives, when combined with “the blood of the Lamb,” renders “the accuser of the brethren” utterly impotent. Victory is absolutely guaranteed to Christians who do “not love their life even when faced with death.”

__________________

The sketch at the top of this post is called "Accuser 2" from an Islamic clip art site at http://www.al-islam.org/gallery/kids/Clipart/drawings/drawings.html.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

"He'll Do It for You Too!"

Revelation 11.11 NASB

“And after the three and a half days the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were beholding them.”

Leaders fall down, even leaders on high functioning teams. Take, for example, the two fire-breathing witnesses of Revelation 11 who prophesy to a tough crowd and “stand before the Lord of the earth” for “twelve hundred and sixty days” (vv.3-5). Together, and with God’s authority, these “two witnesses” (v.3) appear invincible. Like Moses before Pharaoh, they have “power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague” (v.6). Yet, even these men go down…


“…the beast that comes up out of the abyss will
make war with them, and overcome them and kill them.”
Revelation 11.7 NASU

But you can’t keep a good man or woman down…

“...after the three and a half days [1], the breath of life
from God came into them, and they stood on their feet;”
Revelation 11.11 NASU

How do you get up after Satan knocks your wind of confidence, strength, or life out? How can you stand again after the death of a loved one, the death of a vision, or the death of hope? It is sometimes impossible to rise to the occasion, even when you know you must.


Going through religious motions of the walking dead will only drive you more deeply into the abyss of despair, which is where the god of discouragement wants to take you. Go instead with “the Lord of the earth” (v.4) who is also “the God of heaven” (v.13). He alone can breathe life back into your battered soul and re-ignite the fire of your lost passion. He can raise you up from death, drudgery, defeat, and disappointment.

“And the LORD God formed a mans body from the dust of the ground
and breathed into it the breath of life. And the man became a living person.”
Genesis 2.7 NLT

If God did it for Adam, He’ll do it for you!

“Come from the four winds. Come, breath.
Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!”

“So… the breath entered them and they came alive!
They stood up on their feet, a huge army.”
Ezekiel 37.9b, 10b “The Message”

If God did it for a pile of corpses in the Valley of Dry Bones, He’ll do it for you!

“…if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies”
Romans 8.11 NKJV

If God did it for Jesus, He’ll do it for you too!

___________________

[1] I understand “three and a half days” to correspond to the three and a half years or “forty-two months” (v.2) of godless celebration on earth following the earlier three and a half years or “twelve hundred and sixty days” (v.3) of effective ministry by the Church of Jesus Christ and its “two witnesses.” This three and a half year time period is also called “time, times and half a time” in other apocalyptic passages (Daniel 12.7; Revelation 12.14). The combined seven years appears to directly precede the second coming of Christ at some future date.

The amazing photo of the hand reaching from water is entitled "Rise Up!!!" by "professional longboarder turned photographer" Ryan Cardone who gave me permission to display here on my blog. You can learn about Ryan and view and purchase his excellent ocean theme work at http://www.ryancardonephotography.com/about.htm.

The very good drawing of a man face down is by Brad Arnold and used here by permission of the artist. You may see Brad's talent on his My Space site at http://www.myspace.com/supremecreativegenius.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"Bitter Sweet"

Revelation 10.10-11 NASU

“I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.

“And they said to me, ‘You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.’”

Not everyone is called to the prophetic ministry. Those who are must prepare to suffer. They are caught between the voice of God’s command and the reality of the world all around them. The apparent incompatibility is nearly unbearable.

A prophet hears the word clearly, almost audibly. The message is sweet and wonderful. All is well with the prophet’s world because in his world there is nothing better than the presence of God. The words of the Lord are like honey. They goes down smooth. The prophet is full, satisfied, happy.

The initial encounter is sweet but the whole experience is bitter-sweet. Something’s wrong. The prophet’s stomach churns and rumbles. He feels sick. The word of God doesn’t set well. The prophet aches with the incredible realization that he must tell others what he rightly assumes they will not believe. He is not na├»ve, nor is he an idealist. He prepares for pain. The messenger of God’s word is trapped between the truth and the active resistance he must face when he proclaims it.

This dilemma is the prophet’s cross to bear. He has no choice. He must proclaim the word because he partook of it. The prophet enjoyed its sweet benefits; its flavor and life-changing results. 

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth”.
Psalm 119.103 NIV


It’s too late. He must now pay the price for his divine indulgence. The voice of Jesus is heard in the deep parts of the prophet’s soul. There it will rot. He is compelled to make others know.

“Freely you have received, freely give.”
Matthew 10.8 NIV

He must give. He must share. He must tell. Or, he will perish with the pain of God’s word tearing at his gut. Speaking God’s word is the prophet’s only relief.

“I took the little book from the Angel's hand and it was sweet
honey in my mouth, but when I swallowed, my stomach curdled.
Then I was told, You must go back and prophesy again over
many peoples and nations and languages and kings.’ ”
Revelation 10.10-11 “The Message”

___________________
Artist above unknown.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

"Truth that Stings"

Revelation 9.5b NIV

“And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man.”

The 9th chapter of the book of Revelation describes in horrific detail what the Bible calls “the first woe” (v.12). While this portion of scripture does not make for pleasant family devotional fare or popular elementary Sunday School curriculum, I assume there is a message here for me and all Christians.

Who is this “angel of the Abyss” (v.11)? From this fallen star’s eternal hole will rise mist “like the smoke of a gigantic furnace” that will darken “the sun and sky” (v.2). Nasty hairy flying locusts resembling “horses” (v.7) with “lion’s teeth” (v.8) will stream from their dark home stinging those those who do not bear “the seal of God on their foreheads”  (v.4). Their sting will be “like that of a scorpion” (v.3). Victims will yearn for death yet destined to suffer their agony for five months (vv.5-6).

Is the awful imagery of Revelation 9 to be understood literally? Will stinging locusts actually appear in the future to torture all unbelievers who inhabit the earth? Or, is this the writer’s symbolic and creative description of 1st century political upheaval, the natural consequences of an addictive lifestyle, or a future without Christ? Regardless of the precise meaning, the text reminds me I must be ready. I want the protective “mark of God on my forehead,” whatever that means.

When my son Stanford was about eighteen years old, he casually informed me that he could catch a bee with his bare hands and easily endure its sting. I said he couldn’t do it. That’s all Stan needed we challenged each other to a bet. Stan and I approached the flowering Escallonia bush in my front yard. I watched spellbound while Stan cupped a honey bee and slowly opened his hands. As the bee’s stinger penetrated his skin, Stan remained motionless. He gently placed the bee back on the bush, removed the stinger from his palm, and proudly flaunted it before me. I lost the bet. Stan’s act of youthful machismo impressed me. He earned my respect.

When it comes to bee handling, Stanford’s a bigger man than me, and anyone else I know. But, without Jesus, no man or woman is a match for “the angel of the Abyss” (v.11). Not me. Not you. Not Stanford. The stinging locusts with their “power to torment people” would bring anyone to their knees in terror. 

Stan became a follower of Jesus Christ when he was in high school, and now, “Because He who is in [Stanford] is greater than he [Satan, Abaddon, Apollyon, the angel of the Abyss, etc.] who is in the world” (1st John 4.4 NKJV), Stanford, and any believer, can endure the sting of anything that may come their way.

_____________________

"Get Thee Hence, Satan" is the work of Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890), the celebrated Danish painter, who is recognized by many as the greatest artist ever to interpret the life of Christ.

Monday, December 10, 2018

"Smoke... or Ash?"

Revelation 8.3-4 NIV

“Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.

“The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.”

How easily I tend to mystify and over-spiritualize the simple acts of devotion to God. Prayer, for example, is speaking to God. How complicated is that? I know how to talk. I can open my mouth and talk to God.

In C. S. Lewis’ classic The Screwtape Letters, older demon (Screwtape) mentors his young nephew (Wormwood)[1] on ways to discourage his Christian “patient” from engaging in effective prayer:

“The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether…this is best done by encouraging him to remember, or to think he remembers, the parrotlike nature of his prayers in childhood. In reaction against that, he may be persuaded to aim at something entirely spontaneous, inward, informal, and unregularised; and what this will actually mean to a beginner will be an effort to produce in himself a vaguely devotional mood in which real concentration of will and intelligence have no part. One of their poets, Coleridge, has recorded that he did not pray ‘with moving lips and bended knees’ but merely ‘composed his spirit to love’ and indulged ‘a sense of supplication.’ This is exactly the sort of prayer we want...” [2]

These prayers resemble nothing of the “prayers of the saints” rising “before God from the angel’s hand.” Prayers like those described by Wormwood’s uncle in The Screwtape Letters are no prayers at all.

Advice to self: Don’t spiritualize your prayers turning them into ash which dissipate in the wind of nothingness. Rather, simplify your prayers. Make them actual. Like a child, say them aloud and say them daily. Set aside special time to tell God exactly what’s on your heart and your prayers will rise with the smoke of your angel’s incense before the throne of God in heaven.
____________________

[1] The name Wormwood comes from Revelation 8.10-11. John sees “a great star, blazing like a torch” and falling from the sky. According to the Bible, “the name of the star is Wormwood.” 

[2] The Screwtape Letters ~ How a Senior Devil Instructs a Junior Devil in the Art of Temptation, C.S. Lewis, Macmillan Paperbacks Edition, 1959, pp. 19-20. Of this book, the author himself confessed: “Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment” (p. xiii). This book is a must for not-faint-of-heart believers who are looking for a fresh dose of convicting and compelling truth.

The image of smoke is entitled "Blue smoke" and I found it at this interesting photographic website: http://www.focused-geeks.com/index.php?showimage=35.

Friday, December 07, 2018

"Who Gets In?"

Revelation 7.13-14 NIV

“These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?”

“Sir, you know.”

“These are they who… have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Heaven posed a question, “Who are they?” John was smart and refused to answer. He dared not impose his intellect or insert his opinion. Instead, the author of the book of Revelation wisely deferred to the questioner: “Sir, you know.”

It’s not mine to determine who does and does not get into Heaven. That’s God’s choice. While all are welcome “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7.9), only a few will actually respond in faith and wash their robes “in the blood of the Lamb.”

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Jesus, Matthew 22.14 NASU

Who gets in? Is Heaven an exclusive club? Of course not. All are welcome. God wants everyone.

“God… wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”
Paul, 1st Timothy 2.4 NIV

There is, however, a condition. We must wash our robes “in the blood of the Lamb.” No other expanded version, broadening definition, all-inclusive application, or universalistic interpretation of this simple truth will do. I cannot turn to “a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all” (Galatians 1.6-7).

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel
other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”
Paul, Galatians 1.8 NIV

Anyone can get in. It’s not difficult. A simple prayer of faith will do... “Jesus, wash me with your blood. Cleanse me from my sins. I believe in You.”

“…you who believe in the name of the Son of God… may know that you have eternal life”.
1st John 5.13 NKJV

___________________

The excellent "Washed in The Blood" image above was painted by Chris Dare and posted here with the artist's permission. In Chris' words: "I hope that the universal Biblical themes expressed in my art will bring unity in the church and inspire appreciation in the secular community."

Thursday, December 06, 2018

"Bent on Conquest"

Revelation 6.2 NIV

“I looked and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.”

The rider of the white horse had a singular mission… conquest! He was a conqueror and he “rode out” like one. The NAS version of the Bible translates it this way:

“…he went out conquering,
and to conquer.”

For the white horse rider, conquest was a present and future reality. He conquered and  would continue his conquest. According to the Bible, I too am a conqueror.

“Yet in all these things 
we are more than conquerors through 
Him who loved us.”
Romans 8.37 NKJV

I am preparing for battle to…
  • make a living
  • expand my ministry
  • manage my business 
  • manage my finances
  • manage my-self
  • be an example of Jesus
  • care for the needy
  • hear the Spirit
  • obey the Spirit
  • love God
  • love difficult people
  • maintain a positive mental outlook
  • perform with efficiency
  • work hard
  • resist temptation
  • grieve well the loss of my wife
  • care for my dear children and grandchildren
  • hold my head high and do whatever’s next
My demons are many, but my God is great, and “I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me.” I am a conqueror so I should act like one. Life is not perfect; but life is good and the future is bright. There are battles to fight, but I can win the day. I am a warrior in Christ’s army and “can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4.13 NASB).

My “white horse” is parked in the garage. I will soon leave the comfort of my home, start her up, and drive somewhere “as a conqueror bent on conquest.”

____________________

The beautiful painting of horses rearing is "Untitled Work No. 0810" by Polish painter, Tomasz Rut (1961- ).

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

"Closed Book"

Revelation 5.4-5 “The Message”

“I wept and wept and wept that no one was found able to open the scroll, able to read it. One of the Elders said, ‘Don’t weep. Look — the Lion from Tribe Judah, the Root of David’s Tree, has conquered. He can open the scroll, can rip through the seven seals.’”
“Read the Bible” is cheap advice. Offering this solution to a suffering soul is almost shameful. It’s easy to say and costs the say-er nothing. Counsel of this kind offers no enduring hope and effectively drives a wedge between the seeker and giver of advice, which, of course, may be the latter’s un-admitted intention, insofar as he really cares little for the plight of his suffering brother.

“Read the Bible” may really mean “Don’t come to me with your petty problems. I’m far too busy right now for you. Go figure out life on your own and leave me alone.” But, of course, “Read the Bible” gets the advice-giver off the hook without feeling badly about a failed counseling session. Besides, it sounds much more polite and spiritual.

There is a reason why “Read the Bible” doesn’t work. The book is sealed. Nobody gets it! It’s impossible to grasp its meaning without help.[1] Our pain is too profound and the Bible is too distant, too aloof and cryptic. Somehow we know the words of the Bible can help but we can’t get at them on our own. The (meaning of the words in the) book is locked and sealed. Like medication in a human-proof container, no one can open the book and get the help they need. This is why so many people don’t bother to read the Bible. Its meaning eludes them. Bible reading feels like a waste of time. It’s a discipline that may be good for them but without immediate self-improvement results, they soon give up the practice. As one man said, “I got lost in the ‘begats,’ so I quit.”

Here’s more effective advice… “Get to know Jesus”! He is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” He alone can “open the scroll” and “rip through the… seals.” Jesus is able and willing to open the book and reveal its meaning to you and everyone you know.

 
“Don’t weep.” Look to Jesus. He can open the book, break the seal, and ‘crack the code.’ He is “the Word [who] became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1.14). Jesus can open the Bible and pour its life-giving water into your parched and thirsty soul.
_______________________

The very fine drawing "An Open Book" was posted on the BBC website by Catherine (age 17) of Bedfordshire, England in November 2007 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/).

[1] I do not intend to suggest that the Bible isn’t clear. I subscribe to the Reformation principle of the ‘perspicuity’ (clarity) of Scripture. Its meaning is transparent, clear, lucid, and visible to believers. The Bible is not obscure, ambiguous, or confusing. The Reformers were combating a politically motivated policy which allowed a corrupt ecclesiastical system to profit by leveraging the laity's superstition about the Holy Book. This false teaching insisted that Scripture’s truth was available only to clergy who alone were privileged to interpret the Bible to the masses. 

However, the reformers also believed that the Holy Scriptures could not be truly understood apart from faith in Christ and the illuminating action of the Holy Spirit, which is the point of my post. According to the historic Westminster Confession (I.6, c.a. 1643): “… we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word.” Those who are so illuminated may certainly grasp the meaning of the Bible as the Holy Spirit imparts understanding. We need to know Jesus Christ if we expect to benefit and comprehend any part of His Word.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

"Come Up Here"

Heaven's Door by Ron DiCianniRevelation 4.1 a, b The Living Bible

“Then as I looked, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before, which sounded like a mighty trumpet blast, spoke to me and said, ‘Come up here…’”

At every point on the journey of faith there stands an open door beckoning me to step into the realm of Heaven. I must not wait until I die. Jesus calls me to join Him now.

“Come up here.”

There’s nothing for me down there, claims the Living Lord. I am invited to “Come up here,” to participate in my salvation with the God of Heaven, and to make a difference on this earth. I am to enjoy my epitaph long before it’s carved in stone on a forgotten plot of cemetery dirt. There are wondrous opportunities to merge the temporal and eternal, to blur the line that distinguishes ‘here-and-now’ from the here-after.  May the will of God be done in me, right here, right now, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

“Thy will be done on earth… as it is in heaven.”
Matthew 6.10

My thoughts must remain heavenward.

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things on the earth.”
Colossians 3.2

Welcome Home by Ron DiCianniThe door of Heaven is open. Like John of the Bible, I may “come up here” long before I go back to the dust ‘from whence I came.’ Heaven is a glorious place to live during my stay on earth. The mysterious connection between this world and the next may be realized through a personal friendship with Jesus Christ who seamlessly transports His children back and forth, giving them a little taste of heaven on earth.

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6.20a, 21

Today I heard His voice, the voice of God’s gracious invitation. 

“Come up here”!

____________________

The beautiful Christian images featured on today's blog were painted by Ron DiCianni who has earned national acclaim for his work with such major companies and organizations as McDonald's, the U.S. Olympic committee, and the Smithsonian Institution. You can view and purchase his art at http://www.rondicianni.com/.

Monday, December 03, 2018

"Ignorance of Ignorance"

Revelation 3.17 NASU

“Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,…”

There’s only one thing worse than ignorance and that’s being ignorant of one’s ignorance. It’s one thing to be ignorant. That’s forgivable, even fixable. But the ignorant man who thinks he’s not, well, that’s a problem. That guy may be a danger to himself and to all within his misguided realm of influence. Avoid him.

The Bible has a name for the person who is unaware of his own ignorance. He is called a fool. Fools are easy to spot. They cannot help themselves. Fools display their ignorance. Most people fully understand that if they don't know what they are talking about it’s best to keep quiet. The fool knows no such restraint.

“A fool… delights in airing his own opinions.”
Proverbs 18.2

A certain level of ignorance is tolerable, even expected. I cannot know everything. I may be ignorant of certain matters, but I don’t need to act foolish. I can accept that I am occasionally ignorant. I just want to know when I am. May God enlighten me to my own ignorance and protect me from the way of the fool who thinks he knows what he doesn’t and thereby becomes his own ultimate authority.

“He who trusts in himself is a fool.”
Proverbs 28.26

May the Lord keep me ever aware of my limitations and inadequacies. I pray that I will know when I am “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” Jesus, expose my ignorance to me that I may keep from exposing it to everyone else. Teach me to shut up more often than I speak up.

“Blessed is the man who has nothing to say… and cannot be persuaded to say it.”

____________________

Purchase Scott Adam's 18th book When Did Ignorance Become a Point of View? at http://thedilbertstore.com/products/65412-when-did-ignorance-become-a-point-of-view.

Friday, November 30, 2018

"Prepare to Die"

Revelation 2.8a, 10-11 NIV 1984

“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: 

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer... 
Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life... 
He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”
Smyrna was city about forty miles north of Ephesus on the west coast of modern day Turkey bordering the Aegean Sea. The literal Greek word for “Smyrna” is translated “myrrh” in three other verses of the New Testament and always used in reference to the suffering and death of Jesus:
  • The wise men from the east brought “gifts of gold and incense and myrrh [lit. smyrna]to the child Jesus (Matthew 2.11) and unknowingly forecasted the Passion of the Christ.
  • Bystanders at Golgotha offered Jesus “wine mixed with myrrh [lit. smyrna] to help deaden His pain just prior to crucifixion. Jesus refused to drink it (Mark 15.23).
  • Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea used a seventy-five pound “mixture of myrrh [lit. smyrna] and aloes” (John 19.39) to embalm the body of Jesus.
“Smyrna” refers to suffering and death. Of one thing we may all be certain… we will die. Likely there will be some suffering attached to the event. “Smyrna” reminds us to prepare for the inevitable. We may suffer and will certainly die.

Thirteen years ago, I said good-bye to my father and watched him slide past death’s door at the hospice center. I miss him and think of him every day. He was a Christian man. 

Five years later (eight years ago), I had the same experience with my dear mother. I knelt by her bedside at her home in Bothell, Washington, and whispered in her ear, “I love you Mom. Go be with Jesus. Go be with Dad. Oh, Jesus take her into Your loving arms.” A moment later, she took her last breath. I was, at once, both very sad and truly happy, relieved and broken. My aunt and uncle and I huddled and cried next to Mom’s lifeless form. But Mom, like Dad, knew the Lord and she is with Him now.

Adonica was the love of my life and I shall never forget the moment she slipped into eternity. I was surrounded by family, friends, neighbors, a kindly ambulance driver, and helpful nurse from the hospice center: Sunday, 2:14 p.m., August 30th, 2015. It was very quiet, except for the sound of my weeping.  

My loved ones and I may face more suffering. “Smyrna” and “myrrh” are real, but death does not have to frighten us. We may face it bravely and and remain faithful. Today I will take great comfort from the words of the angel at the church in Smyrna:

“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.”
“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
“He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”

____________________

The cartoon image "Facing Death" is a woodcut used by permission of the very talented artist Dan Nelson. I love his thoughts about an artist's calling to serve: “When artists focuses on ‘expressing themselves’ they abdicate their calling as servants. Artists are given to the community to re-humanize the world through the creation of art.” You may view and purchase his work at http://dannelsonart.com/.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

"Deep Reading"

Revelation 1.3 NKJV

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”

Houses need regular cleaning. Dust gathers. Mud gets tracked in. Dirt happens. A home owner can get by with superficial cleaning for a while. It helps to invite guests over to the home. The pressure of “having company” may spur the host into a much needed cleaning frenzy. A rapid run-through with the vacuum cleaner, a quick de-cluttering, throw the dishes in the dishwasher, check the bathrooms.

Most visitors will not notice (or be too polite to comment on) hidden dirt lurking just beyond the line of vision. Surface cleaning is passable... for a while. Eventually, every home needs ‘deep cleaning’ above the bookcase and door frames, under the beds and rugs, behind the toilets, and in all the corners and cracks of unlit and forgotten places.

I can read the Bible superficially. A quick run-through a chapter or two. A check mark by an interesting verse, a minute of meditation, and call it good. The Christian company I keep remains sufficiently impressed with my superficial knowledge and use of Scripture.

Surface Bible reading works… for a while. At some point I need to do some ‘deep reading.’ The dust of the world settles naturally in my brain. The mold of sin quickly grows around my soul. The clutter of undisciplined behavior collects on every horizontal surface of my being. I wouldn’t want Jesus to see my spiritual house this way. I need to do some ‘deep reading;’ that is, the kind of Bible study that actually pays attention to what I’m reading instead of allowing my thoughts to wander while my eyes scan the text. ‘Deep reading’ requires me to actually hear the text and listen to the Holy Spirit. It begins with the rock solid conviction that, because God will speak to me from the pages of Scriptures, I must pay attention and act accordingly.

I think it’s time to get my spiritual house in order and invite Jesus over for a visit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

"My Beloved Lazy Boy"

“…fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish.” Jude 3c “The Message”

“…contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude 3c NAS

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

This moment is perfection, at least, as much perfection as can be achieved on earth. I am alone reclining on my Lazy Boy sofa chair. It’s early and dark outside. I’m wide awake after a full night of sleep. My senses are tweaked to the max and I am fully aware of God’s gift of comfort.

Mentally, I am at peace knowing that all is well with my wife and kids soundly sleeping upstairs. The soft glow of Christmas lights and decorations remind me of Christ’s birth. Michael Allen Harrison’s rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful” chimes low from my computer blending in perfect harmony with Larry, my cat purring aggressively at my head on the top of the sofa and the water sounds from the indoor fountain in my study. The aroma of a steaming cup of Starbuck’s Verona swirls in the air. I am warm, comfortable, fully caffeinated, relaxed, prayed up, and ready to read God’s Word. All is well in my universe.

Against this soul-soothing back-drop, Jude’s command snaps me into another realm of consciousness...

“Fight with everything you have. Contend earnestly for the faith.”

I don’t want to leave my soft, overstuffed recliner. No feeling could surpass this moment of quiet tranquility and intimacy with Jesus. I deeply appreciate the gift of reprieve and the respite God allows me during my daily devotional practice of P, B & J (prayer, Bible, and journaling). But it would be selfish to remain here. A couple hours in the morning is all I get. There’s a war out there. I have battles to fight. I must make a difference in the world. Christ calls me to “contend earnestly for the faith.” I’m not clear, in this moment, what it means for me to “fight with everything you have” today or “contend earnestly for the faith.” Whatever it means, I am quite sure it will require me to leave my beloved Lazy Boy. 

I hear the understanding voice of Jesus gently whispering in my ear..., “Don’t be a...”


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Wednesday, November 26th, 2014: 

I wrote this piece approximately eight years ago. Today on November 26, 2014, things are different. It's early in the morning. I'm still drinking good coffee, listening to Michael Allen Harrison's soothing piano music, and getting ready to read my Bible. My kids are still sleeping peacefully upstairs. But things are different now. The cat is dead and the Lazy Boy sofa shows serious signs of wear from my daily ritual. All is no longer "well with my universe." I feel peaceful, but not comfortable. I will soon make my daily drive to Sunnyside Hospital where my wife is fighting to regain her health, suffering from acute myeloid luekemia. Life is short and filled with surprises, not all of them pleasant. We miss our wife and mom and want her home soon.  

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

It's been two years from my last reading of this entry and things have changed. Robert and Rachel are still sleeping quietly upstairs. They will be up in a couple hours to get ready for another day at Beaverton High School. I'm still drinking good coffee and listening to Michael Allen Harrison. Christmas lights are up and I'm ready to read my Bible. Last night, as we drove from her piano lesson, Rachel confided in me: "I was thinking about Mom and wishing I could go to the mall with her." We miss her so, so, so much. I wrote a book and started a non-profit called 423 Communities. I am still called to get off my Lazy Boy (where I am now sitting) and "contend earnestly for the faith." Today will be a good and productive day. I will trust and serve Jesus and, God willing, make Adonica proud of me.

Wednesday; November 28th, 2018:

My precious wife died just over three years ago, and I have never fully recovered from the loss. Her pictures still line the stairwell and precious memories fill my heart. Robert is at the Air Force Academy and Rachel and I are banging around in this big house all by ourselves. I am still on my Lazy Boy chair reading the Bible and sipping Starbucks. Michael Allen still plays Christmas music in the background. But the lights and Christmas tree are missing. Rachel did not want to decorate this year. Too much work, she claimed, and Christmas apparently doesn't mean anything to her. I feel so broken. I'm a adequate dad, barely, but such a crappy mother. This previously cherished holy-day will never be the same. Everyone has left Rachel. I alone remain for her, and I am clearly not enough. This hurts as much as the death of my wife. Rachel deserved so much more.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Which John are You?

3rd John 13-14 NIV

“I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.”

A couple of millenniums ago a man named John shared his ideas and feelings with friends in several letters. He had many more things to say and, unable to express all his thoughts in writing, John made plans to see them “face to face.” The anticipation of a reunion with old friends made him feel warm inside. He visualized greeting each one “by name.” They would spend many hours just talking. What joy this brought to John’s heart.

Compare John of the Bible with today’s  John. This John is too busy to see his friends. He has important work to do. He loves his friends but duty calls. He must sacrifice their time together for now. Instead of paying a visit, he’ll make a few quick phone calls (hoping to get voice mail), fire off a couple of emails or texts, and call it good. Down deep Modern Day John is afraid to make a connection with people. They might require something of him. He is well acquainted with his own inadequacy and knows the limitation of his capacity to love. He’s been hurt by so-called friends in the past. He will not make that mistake again.

Instead, this John throws himself into his work with total abandon. Modern John is addicted to success. Work is predictable and much easier than relationships. John is a successful businessman and writes a couple of books. He even makes public appearances. John becomes a celebrity but he is lonely. No one really knows him. He wants friends. He wants to be known, but doesn’t know how. 

The kids grow up and leave home. His wife leaves him. Work is his only real friend now. It will always be there. Modern Day John nurtures his relationship with work seven days a week. Weeks turn into years. His public persona fades like a distant ship on the sea of popularity and his fans eventually forgot all about John. Modern Day John dies and hardly anyone notices. His memorial service is sparsely attended. Just a few folks from the office, and the kids he hasn’t seen in years.

Modern John always intended to get together with his friends and family... later when he had more time. But “later” and “more time” never came. Modern Day John should have taken his cue from John of the Bible. Bible John had real work to do. The work of relationships. This John dedicated himself to the friends he loved. He made new friends and loved them too. John of the Bible found Jesus in the people he met. They found Jesus in him. They all found eternal joy in the time they spent together before they parted for the last time. Bible John’s funeral was preached to a packed house. He left a  legacy. 

“I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”
2nd John 12b

“I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The
friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.”
3rd John 14

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