Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dancing in the Streets of Innocence

An earlier post that included the Margaret Becker song, Who Am I, reminded me of another work of hers that the whole world needs to rediscover.

Innocence, innocence
In innocence, in innocence

Tonight I'll sleep like a baby
On the bed of no regrets
Well listen, you, you can have your money
Now you, you can keep your pride
I don't need nothing
'Cause I'll be living rich tonight
In innocence, in innocence

Tonight I will count my blessings
Contemplate the treasure of the meek
Like the peace that passes understanding
The joy that keeps my soul
Well I, I am planning
On taking home the holy gold of
Innocence, of innocence

Resistance, resistance
I turn the other cheek
Well, there's no freedom like the freedom 
Dancing in the streets of

Resistance, resistance
I turn the other cheek, well
Freedom, freedom you will find me
Dancing in the streets of
Innocence, of innocence

Truth is...because Jesus has wiped out everything that stood between me and my maker, I have every reason in the world to sleep well, consider myself wealthy beyond belief, forgive others......and dance with joy like no one's watching.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Take My Mother-in-Law...Please

Jesus never had a mother-in-law of his own, yet he still had to deal with one...Peter's (Simon's).

Mark 1:29-31 (NIV):
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

From my journal, November 17, 2000:
The first response of Peter's mother-in-law when Jesus healed her: service. She fixed dinner for them. In the same way, may I daily renew my sense of wonder at the love God expresses to me, and live out of a grateful heart.

Truth is...we don't do good things so Jesus will love us, but out of gratitude because He loves us.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Old MacDonald Spoke of Forgiveness

...E, I, E, I, O...

But seriously, George MacDonald (1824-1905) was not only a literary inspiration for the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, but a Scottish preacher who also published three volumes of Unspoken Sermons...from which comes the following words about one of my favorite topics, forgiveness.

I do not know that it is of much use to go back to the Greek or the English word -- It will be enough if we look at the feelings associated with the exercise of what is called forgiveness.

A man will say: "I forgive, but I cannot forget. Let the fellow never come in my sight again." To what does such a forgiveness reach? To the remission or sending away of the penalties which the wronged believes he can claim from the wrong-doer.

But there is no sending away of the wrong itself from between them.

Again, a man will say: "He has done a very mean action, but he has the worst of it himself in that he is capable of doing so. I despise him too much to desire revenge. I will take no notice of it. I forgive him. I don't care."

Here, again, there is no sending away of the wrong from between them-- no remission of the sin.

A third will say: "I suppose I must forgive him; for if I do not forgive him, God will not forgive me."

This man is a little nearer the truth, inasmuch as a ground of sympathy, though only that of common sin, is recognized as between the offender and himself.

One more will say: "He has wronged me grievously. It is a dreadful thing to me, and more dreadful still to him, that he should have done it. He has hurt me, but he has nearly killed himself. He shall have no more injury from it that I can save him. I cannot feel the same towards him yet; but I will try to make him acknowledge the wrong he has done me, and so put it away from him. Then, perhaps, I shall be able to feel towards him as I used to feel. For this end I will show him all the kindness I can, not forcing it upon him, but seizing every fit opportunity; not, I hope, from a wish to make myself great through bounty to him, but because I love him so much that I want to love him more in reconciling him to his true self. I would destroy this evil deed that has come between us. I send it away. And I would have him destroy it from between us too, by abjuring it utterly."

Which comes nearest to the divine idea of forgiveness?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...we all know the answer to that question. May we love people enough to truly forgive them; restoring the relationship between us and the people who wrong us, and between the people who wrong us and God.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Me So Little, He So Big, And Yet...

I was privileged to grow up on a farm that was far enough away from the big city of Fort Wayne, Indiana that I could actually see stars. Many were the nights I would lay in our yard, stare up at the diamond-studded sky, and feel an inner twinge of extreme smallness.

Apparently, the young shepherd David did the same thing, and it led him to write a song that would become the 8th Psalm...

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them;
human beings that you care for them?

Margaret Becker turns those thoughts into a more-personal question: Who am I?

Truth is...I may never know why it is He loves me so, but I will live my life celebrating the fact that He does.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

JtB or JC?

Mark gets right to it in his account of Jesus' life...cuts to the chase, as it were.

Mark 1:1-11 from Eugene Peterson's The Message:
The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

Watch closely: I’m sending my preacher ahead of you;
He’ll make the road smooth for you.
Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!

John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.

As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”

At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”

From my journal, November 15, 2000:
Which would I rather be: Jesus, or John the Baptist? Would I rather have my way prepared for me, or prepare the way for another?  -  At one time or another, I'm sure that each of us is each of them. But oh, to hear God say, "You are chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life."

Truth is...None of us can actually be either John the Baptist or Jesus Christ, but we can, to a certain extent, fill similar roles in the lives of people we have contact with. I can help prepare a person to be ready to receive Jesus by speaking truth, living out love in practical ways, and offering grace and forgiveness like a "little Christ" (a literal definition of "Christian").

The song, You're the Only Jesus, as sung by The Imperials:

Or, if you prefer prose to poetry, this quick thought from David Whiting:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ruler of Islam Saves Protestantism

It's not Scripture (in fact, it's probably from a 19th century hymn by William Cowper), but it's still true: God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

The phrase came to mind when I recently read an excerpt from Martin Luther (by Scott H. Hendrix) that explained how the Catholic church could have easily nipped Martin Luther and his fellow protesters in the bud except for being occupied with the military threat posed by the Islamic leader of "the Turks", Sultan Suleymon.

Which in turn reminded me of a song by Rich Mullins (long-time readers should not be surprised):  Who God Is Gonna Use

Truth is...if God can use a donkey or an Islamic sultan or a Roman Governor to bring about His grand story of redemption, He can certainly use you or me.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Fill My Cup

Feeling empty?

Let's escape from the current political news and social chaos and rumor-mongering and turn to what has proven to be a source of comfort and hope to millions of people through the course of thousands of years...music.

And the particular piece of music I'd like to direct you to today is not just a song; it's also a prayer.

Well, if you've got six minutes to spare, let the message of this song, as recorded by Debbie Roth of Rest in Him Ministry, become your personal plea for refreshment.

Truth is...yes, that IS my wife and yes, I would love for you to arrange for her to sing and/or speak at your next ladies' retreat or fellowship event. However...it would give me even more joy to know that this little oasis of hope has made today's journey through the desert more bearable.