Friday, November 27, 2020

"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 26, 2020

"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, open my heart to the deeper meaning, 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 25, 2020

"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...”


______________

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.

Wednesday; November 25th, 2020:

Things are better now, but I am crying as I re-read the entries above. I still have my daily dose of coffee and Michael Allen Harrison Christmas music. I have progressed to Spotify and a better chair facing our gas fireplace. It's a perfect spot for my daily ritual of P, B & J. Adonica has been gone for just over five years now and I have finally realized... I will NEVER get over this woman. She will always be a part of me. The pain of grief is less intense now, but still very real, and made better by several positive elements in my life. Rachel is a freshman at University of Idaho and likes Christmas again. Robert is flourishing at USAFA and recovered nicely from a bout of coronavirus. My grandson Shawn moved in with me and given me a renewed sense of purpose as together we struggle through distance learning at Southridge High. I have a new woman in my life and I love her as I did Adonica. She's definitely out of my league, but we are moving forward together in a relationship which seems God-ordained. I still miss you Adonica. I hope you are proud of the way I raised our children in your absence. I shall always love you. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

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 for him. 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

Monday, November 23, 2020

"True Love"

2nd John 1 NIV

“The elder, To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth – ”


When I was very little, I used to wonder why there was such a thing as war. “Why can’t people get along?” The fact that my younger brother and I bickered constantly should have been a clue. I had the silly, childlike notion that every country should build bridges to all others and meet in the middle. If we loved each other there would be no wars, terrorism, fighting, hatred, or abuse. There, at the middle of the bridge, we would forever end ‘man’s inhumanity to man.’

The idea of negotiating peace on the middle ground of common beliefs and in a spirit of love made sense to me back then. But I have since learned that love is not enough. The elder John opened his second letter with a claim to “love in the truth.” Truth is as equally important as love. Unfortunately, truth is not easy to find. Most of us wonder, as did Pontius Pilate on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion, “What is truth?” (John 18.38). If the meaning of truth was not in question, if we all believed the same, then there would be no divisions among us and love would naturally exist. It’s easy to love people who agree with us.

However, there are many versions of “truth” and people have always fought to defend theirs’s. The defense of truth can be extremely dangerous. What if the “truth” I seek and embrace is, in fact, not the truth? A lie from hell can masquerade as truth and cause unspeakable damage, as nearly occurred ten years ago at Pioneer Courthouse Square when a bombing plot was successfully foiled during the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in the city of Portland.[1]

If you believe that the eradication of the infidel is your greatest expression of love for the supreme being you serve, then you will commit violent atrocities in his name. Sadly, in the case of radical Islam, some young people have no real choice in this matter. They are born into a religious system that fosters unreasoned hatred. They become indoctrinated as toddlers and grow up knowing little else.  

Most of us have a choice. We may choose a system of truth grounded in a personal relationship with a Supreme Being who existed before the beginning of time and within whom dwells the perfect combination of love and truth. Through Him we can actually “love in the truth.” Before I can even hope to love anyone I must know and subscribe to the real truth. I cannot simply love and hope for harmony. Love as an idea is meaningless. I must truly love or my love matters not at all.

About two thousand years ago God showed us what it meant to “love in the truth”...

“But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son
in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”
Romans 5.8 “The Message”
___________________

[1] The accused terrorist, nineteen year old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, felt betrayed by his family: "To my parents, who held me back from jihad in the cause of Allah. I say to them, if you make allies with the enemy, then Allah's power will ask you about that on the day of judgment." (The Oregonian, "Bomb suspect in court today," front page, November 29, 2010).

Friday, November 20, 2020

"Clever Facsimiles"

1st John 5.20c-21
“The Message”

“This Jesus is both True God and Real Life. Dear children, be on guard against all clever facsimiles.”

Do you know when the first “fax” machine was invented? Take a multiple choice guess.
  • 1843
  • 1920
  • 1962
  • 1986
If you selected 1843 you’d be correct. In that year Alexander Bain, a Scottish mechanic and amateur watch maker, received a British patent for the earliest version of modern “fax” technology. Bain’s machine evolved from Samuel Morse’s telegraph and combined watch parts with telegraph code to transmit an image from a metal surface.  

Nearly one hundred and fifty years later (around 1990) while on a sales call in southern Washington my customer introduced me to (what I thought was) a brand new concept. She offered to “fax the order.” I soon learned about scanners that converted physical documents into digital images and modems that transferred data through phone lines to printers in other locations where duplicate images of the original document were created. Amazing!  

Today, the Internet, e-fax, and web-based computing have made fax machines obsolete. I can now obtain electronic signatures and create fully executed, long distance contracts via email without the use of a fax machine. No more email attachments, printing, signing, and faxing. Just a few points and clicks and presto... a fully signed document.  

Fax technology was pretty cool while it lasted. Cool or not, one fact was always evident… the recipient of a “fax” was never in possession of the original document. A facimile or “fax” in its etymological Latin roots means ‘to make (fac) similar (simile).’ A fax may appear to be the real thing, but its not 

I am daily inundated with spiritual copies of the real thing. Countless nearly perfect duplicates of the original Gospel message compete for my allegiance. Counterfeit options to Biblical truth abound. I am routinely assaulted with reams of meaningless religious facsimiles vying for my devotion. I mustn’t be fooled. Jesus alone is the real thing.

“This Jesus is both True God and Real Life.
Dear children, be on guard against all clever facsimiles.”

Thursday, November 19, 2020

"The Dawning"

1st John 4.16a NASU

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.”
 Love is not instantly understood. It is felt over an undetermined length of time. I have grown in my love for my beautiful wife (who is now in heaven) and each of my seven children. My love has been steady and always present, but never perfect or easily expressed and received. It has changed, matured, evolved, sometimes, even faltered. Together, we stumbled through the journey of love, pausing frequently to forgive and love again. We learned to depend on each other, receiving and returning the love so essential for our health and healing. Our love for each other is reinforced daily in countless ways. 

God’s love is even better. It’s perfectly consistent. It dawns on us that God is trustworthy. The sun rises every single morning and has for thousands of years. That fact alone says something about His character. God’s love is reliable.

For most believers, conversion to Christianity was not a pin-pointable event. It grew. Salvation was not a ‘Paul on the road to Damascus’ flash of revelatory light knocking us off the high horse of our active resistance to the gospel. Instead, small revelations converged to momentarily suspend and then renew our thinking. Many, minor spiritual ‘ah-ha’s’ added up to noteworthy conclusions. It was a progressive epiphany. Truth began to make spiritual sense... maybe Jesus is who He said He was. No instant drama or blinding light. Just an evolution of hope made real, deep in our souls. We tried Jesus on for size. Did He fit? We looked in the mirror of self-awareness and He seemed to fit just fine. We gave Jesus a chance and He didn’t let us down. His love was constant and dependable.

As Christ comes more into focus, God’s plan of salvation emerges and we embrace truth with ever-increasing confidence. Somewhere along the line “we have come to know.” It isn’t clear exactly how or when it happened, but it did happen. There are many things we do not comprehend but, like the blind-from-birth man who encountered Jesus, this “one thing” is certain...

“One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.”
John 9.25 NIV

“We have come to know!”


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

"The Magical Appearing Socks Trick"

1st John 3.18 KJV

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

Every day I wear socks. I open my sock drawer and there they are! It’s magic. I never run out. There’s always enough. Like Elisha and the widow’s oil (2nd Kings 4.1-7) or Jesus and the loaves and fishes (Matthew 15.32-38), they just keep multiplying. The socks are always there… clean, folded, in a variety of colors, and ready to wear.

Actually, I know how this trick works. It’s not really magic, but it is miraculous. It’s the miracle of love. Love puts clean socks in my drawer when I’m not looking so they appear when I need them. Somebody loves me. That’s the miracle. Love picks up, washes, dries, folds, and puts away my socks every day… it’s a miracle! Someone chooses not to love in word, neither in tongue.” Instead, she loves “in deed and in truth,” just like the Bible says. I am Elisha’s widow. I am one of five thousand whom Jesus fed. I am my wife’s clean sock recipient. I am the beneficiary of the miracle of love.

It’s hard for me to imagine what possesses a woman to love at that depth and with such consistency. Could it have be Jesus in her? 

That was then. 

Six years ago, my dear wife was in a bed on the oncology floor receiving chemotherapy for acute myloid leukemia. She could no longer do my socks, so other angels picked up the task. Our older children moved into my home to care for the younger ones, allowing me to spend those many days in the hospital with Adonica. Clean socks still showed up each morning in my sock drawer. Our grown kids did my laundry, even though they were busy with their own active lives, children, and jobs. 

It's still hard for me to comprehend this type of love. What possessed my family to love like this? Was it Jesus in them? 

Today I wash, fold, and put away my own socks. I miss the magical days when clean socks appeared in my drawer without my help. I miss the woman who was living evidence of the presence of Jesus. Now I must love others in deed and in truth,” just like I have been loved. 

There are plenty of people with dirty socks who could benefit from the miracle of Jesus in me.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

"Cold Pricklies and Warm Fuzzies"

1st John 2.24, 27d “The Message”

“Stay with what you heard from the beginning, the original message. Let it sink into your life. If what you heard from the beginning lives deeply in you, you will live deeply in both Son and Father.”

“Live deeply in what you were taught.


I’m having some personal difficulty with 1st John. The book seems too ‘black and white.’ John speaks of light and darkness, truth-tellers and liars, Christ and the anti-Christ. You either love your brother or you hate him. As I said, starkly black and white. Listen to this, for example: 
“The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”  
1st John 2.10-11 NASU
When it comes to human relationships, is there not something in between love and hate? To my knowledge, I don’t hate anyone, but there are some people I don’t like very much. I have no opportunity to display love toward them because they avoid me in the same way I do them. Does this constitute hatred toward my “brother” and walking “in the darkness”? I hope not. Some people don’t mix well with me. We are like oil and water.

I wish I got along with everyone and, for the most part, I do. I have great relationships with family, clients, and neighbors. But there are those few who, like ‘flies in the ointment,’ ruin my otherwise flawless compatibility record. These detractors prove I do not qualify for the “World’s Most Congenial Guy” award. 

Oddly many of them, like me, are professing believers and active church goers. I don’t get it. When I am around these people I receive no ‘warm fuzzies,’ only ‘cold pricklies.’ Why won’t Jesus wipe away all differences and help us achieve the unity He promised and commanded? Am I doing something wrong? Are they the bad guys? Or, is there an explanation that, for the moment, eludes me?

Only one thing consistently gives me the warm fuzzy feeling; and that is “the original message” of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I “let it sink into my life” I feel better, more confident of His calling and love. When I press into Jesus and the truths of the Bible, I experience the personal benefits of living “deeply in both the Son and the Father.” To “live deeply in what I was taught” when I first met the Lord nearly fifty years ago brings an inner joy and peace that cannot be shaken. Living deeply for Christ is the only response that makes sense of the cold prickly people I know.

I will try to love them, but when I fail, and fail I will, Jesus will have to sort it out for me later.

I’ll close with this little, hope-inspiring gem from the pages of 1st John: 
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  
1st John 2.1 ESV
_________________

Hugging cactus from webcomic "A Simple Apology" by Mark Gleim.

Monday, November 16, 2020

"Start Using Bad Words"

1st John 1.8-9 NASU

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 

If  we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

When I was a boy, my dad and little brother and I faithfully performed the ritual of “confession” every Saturday night in preparation for Mass the following day. Revealing my sins to a priest in a dark booth apparently absolved me of all past wrongdoing, granting me clearance to receive the sacrament of holy communion on Sunday. I was required to recite a few “Hail Marys” and an “Our Father” or two and, after completing my penance, could leave the sanctuary free from sin. 

Does this sound ridiculous? Did this weekend ritual truly cleanse my soul? As silly as it now seems, I then believed it did and I always felt better after confession.

Sin. What an ugly, unpopular, dirty little word. Except for many Roman Catholics (who privately discuss their personal sins with a priest on Saturday night) or certain Protestants (who willingly hear of their sins from the pulpit on Sunday morning), people will not tolerate the idea. The concept of “sin” is offensive to progressive thinkers and never used in polite conversation. The very word is nearly unspeakable and banned to the ‘island of forbidden subject matter’ along with other very bad words like “guilt,” “holy,” “Jesus,” and “discipline.”

Sin, however, is a reality, whether we accept it or not. All of us have some of it residing in the dark crevices of our souls. John said if we deny it we are self-deceived. He also assured Christ-followers that “the blood of Jesus… cleanses us from all sin” (1st John 1.7), a reality which may be ours through the regular practice of humble confession. 

I probably felt better as a boy on Saturday nights for a reason.  

Friday, November 13, 2020

"How Unlike God am I"

2nd Peter 3.8-9 “The Message” 

Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day

God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. 

He’s giving everyone space and time to change.”

Time is of no consequence to the Lord. He existed forever and is without beginning or end. God “was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4.8b). When you’ve been around that long, patience is a given. God is not slow. Rather, God is longsuffering and patient. The passage of time means little to it’s Creator for whom “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

How unlike God am I. I’m much faster! Quick to pass judgment, instant in decisions, generally in a hurry, and constant with worry. I fear time is slipping away and I have none to waste. John Mayer and I think alike: “Stop this train; I want to get off and go home again... So scared of getting older. I'm only good at being young.” [1]  God does not share this concern with me. 

I size up situations in a flash, quickly gather my findings, and rapidly compartmentalize persons I meet. I’m a ‘pigeon hole’ specialist!

God is not like that. I’m more likely to come to a conclusion than contemplate a condition. But God is in no hurry to bring any matter to conclusion. He could unleash His power upon the earth and usher in Christ’s return right now. Apparently He does not wish to do so. According to the Bible, God is actually “restraining himself” and “holding back the End.” He loves His creation and wants to allow as much “space and time” as possible for His precious, rebellious children to repent.

“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,”
declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.”
Ezekiel 18.32 NASU

If God gives “everyone space and time to change,” then so should I. If I intend to be godly, as He commands, I must incorporate some of His attributes in my interaction with fellow humans. Apparently, like patience, self-restraint is a virtue. “Space and time” may be the kindest gift I offer. When I come to ‘the end of my rope’ I prove again how unlike God I am. I can still throw a tantrum, lose my cool, ‘burn a bridge,’ or inwardly scream: “That’s it! I’ve had it. Enough is enough!

Next time I feel stressed, I hope to try something different... something less Davely and more Godly like “holding back the End” of my rope and “giving everyone [including myself] space and time to change.”
________________[1] "Stop This Train," from John Mayer's 2006, third studio album, Continuum, a four times Platinum-seller. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

"Master"

2nd Peter 2.19b NAS 

“…for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.”

A man is enslaved to that which he cannot stop himself from doing or thinking. He is a slave to his addictions.

“…for if they are addicted to 
corruption – and they are – 
they’re enslaved.”
2nd Peter 2.19b “The Message”

There are many varieties of addictions. All of them are insidious and seem harmless at first. Even when the addict is fully overcome by his drug of choice, he may not recognize his sorry plight. The impact of his condition is gradual, relentless, and very real. Others see it but he denies it. He is deceived by the lure of sin and his fascination with its false promise of happiness.

There’s a hole in the addict’s heart and he is desperate to find enough meaning to plug it. He escapes often into an artificial, fleeting comfort offered by his cruel master. His vision is clouded by temporary relief from the pain of his sad existence. His judgment is impaired and yet he remains resourceful enough to develop an intricate system of lies and cover-ups. His excuses and self-validations do not work. Everyone who matters soon learns the truth. Even the sinner becomes aware of his imminent demise.

In lucid moments, the addict may express (and truly feel) a sorrow resembling repentance. But he possesses neither the courage nor humility to walk away from the grip of sin and its medicating power. The prodigal son has not yet ‘hit bottom’ in the pigpen of his own making. It may take another divorce, job loss, car wreck, or treatment center to get his attention, or he may never come to his senses.

Are you that man? It’s not too late. It’s never too late. Peter was that man. He was “overcome” by shame, hopelessness, and despair on the day he denied Christ. He was “enslaved” by the bondage of his addictions until he exchanged one master for another...

“This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave… of Jesus Christ.”
2nd Peter 1.1 NLT

Slavery to Christ is freedom from self. He who proclaimed “release to the captives” (Luke 4.18) sets us free from the private hell of our secret addictions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

"I'm Glad Peter Kept a Journal"

The following is a phrase-by-phrase look at 2nd Peter 1.12-15 in the New American Standard version of the Bible…

“Therefore, I will always
be ready to remind you
of these things,”

Peter was clear about his calling…
  • Its duration: “always”
  • Its content: “these things” (see preceding verses 4-11)
  • Its purpose: “to remind”
“even though you already know them, and have been
established in the truth which is present with you.”
 
Peter understood his audience already heard, believed, and put into practice the truth about Jesus. Nevertheless, he was compelled to tell them again.

“I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling,”

Peter grasped his own mortality. Because his death meant the end of his ministry, Peter was all the more committed to use his remaining life and breath to promote the gospel.

“to stir you up by way of reminder,”
 
Reminding Christians of what they already knew would increase their enthusiasm and re-ignite their passion so they could boldly carry out the mission after Peter’s death.

“knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our 
Lord Jesus Christ has 
made clear to me.”

Peter knew that life is fleeting and earthly existence is finite. It was imperative for the apostle, and all of us, to take full advantage of the short time remaining to faithfully serve the body of Christ.

“And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able 
to call these things to mind.”

Besides preaching the word, Peter had the foresight to write the word. He knew the message of Christ he proclaimed was timeless. Peter’s written record endures for  the benefit of future generations of believers.  

Peter knew nothing of blogs, web sites, the internet, email, social networks, texting, virtual communities, Zoom calls, or podcasts. Yet, right in this moment, approximately one thousand, nine hundred and fifty-two years later, you and I are benefiting from Peter’s words... exactly as he imagined.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

"Redundant Systems"

1st Peter 5.5b-7 NIV

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”


The theme of humility appears everywhere in Scripture. James echoes Peter’s warning:

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble...
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
James 4.6, 10

The humility theme is more than just a little redundant in the Bible. Both Peter and James quote Solomon who first recorded the saying nearly 1,000 years before Christ...

“He mocks proud mockers but give grace to the humble.”
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Solomon, Proverbs 3.34; 16.18

And Solomon was alluding to his father David’s teaching...
 

“Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly,
but the proud he knows from afar.”
David, Psalm 138.6

Redundancy is a systems precautionary measure. Modern gas valves, scuba tanks, and parachutes all use redundant systems. No one wants to blow up, run out of air, or fall to their death. Redundancies are introduced to insure the user’s safety in the event of an early first system failure.

Perhaps God is redundant on the “humility” theme for a good reason. He knows how cocky we can be after a little success. Often, and for no good reason, I fail to be humble. I must take extra precautions and make special note of the redundant instructions found throughout the Divine User’s Manual…

“Pride goes before… a fall.”
“Clothe yourselves with humility.”
“Humble yourselves… under God’s mighty hand.”
“God gives grace to the humble.”