Thursday, June 19, 2014
Reading CS Lewis and his encounter with his mentor/teacher William T. Kirkpatrick (a stiff and tough instructor in how to think) Lewis is said to mention that “I hear you,” was the closest thing to praise ever uttered by Kirk (William).
“I hear that” because I have often, but not easily or too frequently, offered these same words to others who speak from their heart – whether pain or joy or just an opinion – and put themselves out there for all to see; giving others the possibility of criticizing or laughing. Perhaps that would be all I need now and then when someone reads my blog and would do me the honor to say so, in some way.
So, if you find this page interesting; or if the words hit your life in some way; or if you have shared this with someone else because you think it might help them; perhaps you could let me know that this page was not lost in cyberspace some where, but was actully read and understood by someone. A simple comment of “I hear that” would be great encouragement to me, even if you do it only once. Sometimes I feel a little lonely out here in “real” space.
Meanwhile, as I was reading our passages from Paul's writings, which we are reading to complement our sermon series on Act 13 and following, I came across this admonition: Paul is writing to the Corinthians, scolding them for their self righteous attitudes, self serving bragging about “who” they are ”following” and how that makes them special; he declares that he is sending his “son” Timothy to be with them and help them find their way back to reason by reminding them of what Paul actually taught them. But he also declares a desire and a determination to get back to them himself.
In closing he says, “What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit.” And here I remembered that old fashion way of discipline... “Come out to the woodshed with me.”
Paul was not afraid to declare that the Corinthians needed some discipline. They were his children in Christ and He was their Father, sent by Christ. In other words, he was responsible for them and he intended to take care of business, one way or another. He was well aware of the responsibility leaders in the faith held, and would be judged for in the end.
He did not put them in “time out” nor did he send them to their rooms to think about what the had done and were doing; neither did he say, “Shame on you. Now go and continue as you were.”
No. He told them there would be consequences if they did not shape up and humble themselves before God; stopping the “bragging” nonsense and the sinful behavior. Then he moved on to tell them other things that needed changing because they were sinning in those things as well. And, if we go on to the next letter we will find that they were a pretty stiff-necked people about all of this.
So how do we shape up in the stiff-necked category? Are we hearing what God said? And, even better, are we doing what God said? Do we even want to know what He said?
I sincerely hope that we do want to know and that we are making an effort to hear from Him everyday in many ways; not just reading one verse with an effort from someone else to bring us light though what they are thinking about that verse; Or are we reading through the books of the Bible (not necessarily in order) but with consistent effort to see the “Big Picture” laid out at our feet by the hand of God himself.
I suppose you can guess by now that I am adamant about reading and studying God's word, line by line, in the Books He has given us as the underlying premise of our faith and beliefs – even if we only read one verse at a time, or one chapter or even one "section" title at a time. We must just keep reading, and reading, while also making note of and studying the Word in many various ways.
Ask anyone who gardens: Digging in the soil yourself is a blessing beyond words and an uplifting joy, even though one may not be able to grow everything they want to, they can find Joy in what they do grow and eat.
Then there was Psalm 34, verse 17: The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them...” Here my thoughts turned to the fact that I seriously try to keep myself busy in doing righteous things in order to BE righteous. Do you see anything wrong with that?
Wow. How many times have I frustrated over someone who will not let their Lord be their righteousness, but go on sinning by pushing their own agenda for the life they are willing to live.
When will I learn not to do that? When will I learn that my righteousness before God is in Christ and Christ alone!!! When will I learn that I must stop making myself busy with righteous busyness in order to “Be still and know that (He) is God!! When will I humble myself to stop making my own plans for how my perfect life should be “worked” out, and let Him have His way, however strange it may feel.
Well, once again it has been a busy day; But this time I hope some headway has been made for the glorification of God, in myself and in others.
May the God of our fathers and the Lord Jesus Christ, be with us all as we daily struggle to be what He wants us to be; and may we be listening and hearing Him speak to us through out our days on this earth, until we can be with Him one day.
Can you hear that? :)
Friday, June 13, 2014
Recently, I was blessed to read an article by Dr. J. C. Sproul about the subject of intent, dealing with the question of whether or not there is “intentional” interference in our lives on this earth. Or, in other words, is there a reason things happen or is there not? In my words – Some call it fate, some call it Karma, some call it luck; and some call it “destiny,” what ever that means. But many call it God's intentional interference; or, at least A god's intentional interference.
”In it's complexity...” he says, “We distinguish between proximate and remote purposes.” :) Sorry, I love that sentence. But... “What?” “The proximate being what is close at hand and the remote referring to the distant and ultimate purpose.” My thoughts are, “Does what happens today take us to the tomorrow that we are “supposed” to have and on to the end that which we are “destined” to achieve.
In our common knowledge of God's Word, we basically agree that bad things do happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. And we commonly believe that “... in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28) But, when bad things happen, we tend to go into overdrive asking “Why?” Why me, why them, why now?
When the shooting happened at the Colorado theater, I wrote a little bit about survivor mentality and the question that caught my attention was not “why me, or why them, or why now ” for the survivors, as much as “Why didn't it happen to me?” “Why did I survive while others did not?” Why were my children saved, but my neighbors children died?” This was especially true in the testimonies of 9/11 survivors who spoke up during the 10 year remembrance of that horror.
This type of thinking is not rare at all. It comes with realization of having survived what could have been a death sentence: 9/11 and the Boston Bombing and several school shootings come to mind, but any loss of life can seem to be completely unfair, whether by senseless gunfire or by “natural disaster;” one's own survival comes into question - even in war.
I have never been in any type of group danger, so I cannot rightly speak to matters of that confusion except to say there IS a purpose, and it is purposed by God, with intent to bring about His will in our daily lives and in how His plan for justice will work out in the end.
That does not mean He planned these events, it means He will use these events to show His power and control by saving those who must still go on with the work or toward the work they are “intended” to accomplish overall. A recent look at the division that developed between Paul and Banabas, his preaching partner (Acts 15:36ff,) shows us that God has a plan and that plan is sometimes worked out in the “wrong” way, but His intentions win out in the end: Sproul points to the actions of Joseph's brothers and the conclusion that Joseph came to and shared with them that they intended (whay they did) for harm, but God intended it good. God took a horrific action and used it to complete the good that He had intended all along. (Genesis 50:19)
My own experience is one of “Why didn't it happen?” And the two times that this question came to mind were quite startling for me: Both include the possibility of driving off a cliff or cliff like structure. Let me explain:
Steve and I used to spend hours and hours and days and days driving around in the mountains following old logging roads or fire access roads deep into the forests of the Cascades west of Yakima, up toward Mt. Rainier National Park and Chinook Pass. One day we were coming back down the cliff-side road from a very high viewpoint and my attention was grabbed by a question Steve asked about the map. Without thinking I looked over at the map but kept rolling slowly along. Suddenly my steering wheel jerked hard to the right, and I realized that we had come within a hairbreadth of driving right off the cliff. But we did not. I realized immediately that God had interfered with that ending.
Two questions came of this episode: Why did God interfere since I was not living for Him at the time? And why didn't I jump out, shout Hallelujah, and kiss the ground that I was still on? Well the latter is understandable in that I was still too angry to handle any kind of message from Him. So I breathed a thank you and did not even mention to Steve what had happened. I just tucked it away.
The second incident happened a few years later when I was driving us to the Tri-cities and we were returning to the highway down a steep on ramp. I was distracted by the radio and once again the steering wheel jerked just in time to stop me from going straight over the side. Again – Why did He save us from that? And, again, I didn't have any idea what to say, so I said nothing. Steve did not notice this time either.
Apparently, God had plans for me. He had to be very disappointed that I did not get the message or share the message. But He has forgiven me all and has pulled me into His safe harbor for healing and learning and growing. For that I am finally eternally grateful. It takes a 2x4 to the head to get a mule's attention sometimes, but God did what He needed to do and, hopefully, He has my attention now.
My personal answer to this question of why is “because God said so.” Even if we “misstep” in our journey, God never forgets where He wants us to be and He never lets go of His intent.
One testimony that was given on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 came from 2 families who were involved in one tiny turn of events that got one killed in the event; while the other was unscathed. This involved the pilot situation on one of the aircraft involved.. Which one escapes me right now, but the situation has made a permanent mark in my own mind about the total and complete Sovereignty of God:
One of the pilots was scheduled to fly that day, but a senior pilot decided that he wanted that flight and he was able, within the system, to secure his place in the cockpit for that flight. He died, the other lived. But both families are content in knowing that this was part of God's overall plan and intent: that one would go Home to Him and the other would remain to serve awhile longer in his mission here on earth. As Christians, they are of one mind on that detail. They believe completely in the intent of God.
And the truth is that most people who escape death when others around them die, are driven to wonder, “Why?” Many, even unbelievers, will utter some phrase or other that indicates that they feel a sudden burden to be someone honorable and do something honorable because they lived. Many of the “first responders” and all responders to this tragedy who were actually in the middle of it, spoke the same things, even to the length that one said, What was I not doing that I should have been doing when my friends and loved ones died, but I lived?” Does that break your heart or what?
Many may say that apparently there is still something they should be doing, but they are at a loss to know what, but many just survive in a state of confusion and PTSD even to this day. And, surprisingly, even those who would answer, “Why not?” are as in “Why not me? Why shouldn't I be the survivor? - I am …. a good person, aren't I? - are showing an interest in an underlying belief that there is intent in the happenings on this earth.
We who know Christ always have hope in Gods promise of justice in this world and we can always hope in Christ's return to take us out of here or to bring us home through death. He will have His way and He will work out His justice in His way and in His time for all to see.
So, even as we cringe at the news ,and horrors of evil going on around us and decisions being made we can lift these things up to Him, ask Him to handle them, possibly even clamp down on them; but we do not need to fret ourselves into sickness over these things. We just need to keep on keeping on, while living and speaking as Jesus did in the crazy time that He was living on this earth.
May we “Speak Life” as we journey here, and may we be daily aware that God has our back in all things happening around us whether from “evil people doing evil things” or from natural disaster...
May we pay attention and jump in where we can, while finding our Peace in You, Lord. Amen.