Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Devotion vs Devotions

The reputation of 17th-century monk, Brother Lawrence, is that he was a very religious kind of guy, but while reading The Practice of the Presence of God, I'm finding that to not be the case.

I'm not saying he wasn't spiritually aware or that he didn't love God. I am saying that he didn't seem to care too much about outward forms and rituals that most folks would call religious.

Allow me to quote (and then translate):

I have quitted all forms of devotions and set prayers but those to which my state obliges me. And I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention and a general fond regard to God, which I may call an actual presence of God; or, to speak better, an habitual, silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God, which often causes in me joys and raptures inwardly, and sometimes also outwardly, so great that I am forced to use means to moderate them and prevent their appearance to others.

In other words, Larry didn't bother with having "a quiet time" or a set-apart schedule for "personal devotions" beyond what was required of him by the fact that he lived in a monastery. Instead, he purposefully thought of God as his constant companion; silently talking with Him as he went about his daily duties. And it seems that consistent awareness of God's presence sometimes brought Larry such joy that it took some effort to keep from looking like a giddy fool to the brothers around him.

Truth is...I'm not necessarily recommending that we all discard any devotional habits we may have cultivated. Instead, methinks it would be a great advantage to add to them the awareness that we are with the Lord whether we're kneeling in prayer or weeding a garden or commuting to work.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

THIS Explains a Lot!

I've often been accused of having no filter, but now I can see a positive side to that.

I am indebted to delancyplace.com and their sharing of a snippet from The Unleashed Mind: Why Creative People Are Eccentric by Shelley Carson.

From DelancyPlace:
Many highly creative people behave in ways that are viewed as eccentric. Why? Researchers are finding that their creativity and their eccentricity are rooted in the same cause -- a diminished ability to filter out nearly as much of the constant stream of information as the average person, and thus the need to process and organize this information in untypical ways. The term for this trait is "cognitive disinhibition".

From Carson:
Many highly creative people [display] personal behavior [that] sometimes strikes others as odd. Albert Einstein picked up cigarette butts off the street to get tobacco for his pipe; Howard Hughes spent entire days on a chair in the middle of the supposedly germ-free zone of his Beverly Hills Hotel suite; the composer Robert Schumann believed that his musical compositions were dictated to him by Beethoven and other deceased luminaries from their tombs; and Charles Dickens is said to have fended off imaginary urchins with his umbrella as he walked the streets of London....

In fact, creativity and eccentricity often go hand in hand, and researchers now believe that both traits may be a result of how the brain filters incoming information. Even in the business world, there is a growing appreciation of the link between creative thinking and unconventional behavior.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it. (Psalm 139:14 NLT)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

When Love Was New...Wow!

Having looked at foundational "Jesus Music" albums from Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill, it would be remiss of this blog to ignore the force of nature that was Keith Green.

Keith was a musical powerhouse at an early age. For instance, have you seen the clip of his appearance on I've Got a Secret when he had signed a recording contract at the age of 11?

After years of spiritual exploring and experimenting, Keith fell in love with Jesus. That not only transformed Keith Green, but it ended up changing a lot of Christian musicians, as well. To be sure, his unexpected death in a plane crash (July 28, 1982) shortly before the release of his fourth album brought additional attention to his music, but his songs of worship, personal testimony, and John-the-Baptist-like challenge were making waves and changing lives long before he bid this world goodbye. 

Keith's first album, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear, charges out of the gate with the infectious piano-rocker, "You Put This Love in My Heart".

I found it hard to believe
Someone like you cared for me
You put this love in my heart
I tried but could not refuse
You gave me no time to choose
You put this love in my heart

I want to know where the bad feelings go
When I'm depressed and I get down so low
And then I see you coming to me and it's alright

I want to tell you right now
I'm not afraid to say how
You put this love in my heart
There are sometimes when I doubt
But you always find me out
You put this love in my heart

Cause when I see all that you've done for me
It's hard to doubt, I just have to believe
Cause you follow up, proving all of your love

Well I know
the loneliness I had before
Is gone now
I'll never feel it anymore
Cause your love has released me
From all that's in my past
And I know I can believe you
When you say I'll never be forsaken
Your love is gonna last

There's so much more I should say
If I could just find a way
You put this love in my heart
Is all this real or a dream
I feel so good I could scream
You put this love in my heart

I want to know where the bad feelings go
When I'm depressed and I get down so low
And then I see you coming to me and it's alright

You put this love in my heart...

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...the love of God is certainly worth singing about; maybe even making you feel so good you could scream! It's good to be reminded of how it felt when it was fresh and exciting. Make it so again, Lord Jesus!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Have You Been Doing It?

It's one of the easiest things in the world to do. Almost all of us find ourselves doing it without even thinking about it.

And we need to stop it.

The "it" under consideration here is comparing ourselves to others.

Whether we're considering our job performance, swimming abilities, or usefulness to God, we always seem to be glancing around ourselves to see how well we're doing compared to those around us.

The problem with doing that, no matter how naturally we fall into it, is that we end up in one of two unhelpful situations. Either we start thinking too highly of ourselves or we start putting ourselves down.

Take the opening lines of the Rich Mullins song, "Hard", for example:

Well, I am a good Midwestern boy 
I give an honest day's work if I can get it 
I don't cheat on my taxes, I don't cheat on my girl 
I've got values that would make the White House jealous 

Well, I do get a little much over-impressed 
'Til I think of Peter and Paul and the apostles 
I don't stack up too well against them I guess
But by the standards 'round here I ain't doing that awful

More often than not, I see folks leaning toward the extreme of thinking their gifts, their abilities, and their skills aren't good enough to be of any use for the Kingdom...that there are way more people who can do way more impressive things and get way bigger results.

The sad part of that kind of thinking is that it usually results in the person not doing anything with their gifts, abilities, and skills. It gets left up to "all those other people who are more talented."

Paul had something to say about this in First Corinthians 12:12-21.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ....

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

Truth is...We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed. (Brother Lawrence)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Have You Found Brother Lawrence? (I Didn't Even Know He Was Lost!)

I enjoy browsing through the library.

Almost always, it results in finding something I didn't know I was looking for.

For instance, during a recent stroll through the 248 section of the Dewey Decimal System (no relation), I found a book that I had heard about countless times but had never read, The Practice of the Presence of God: Conversations and Letters of Brother Lawrence.

For something first published in 1692, it certainly feels up-to-date so far. I'm sure several quotes will be finding their way into this space. Such as this one:
In order to form a habit of conversing with God continually, and referring all we do to Him, we must at first apply to Him with some diligence; but after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty. (Oneworld Publications, Oxford, England, 1993 p.15.)

In other words, when our first attempts at a spiritual mindset seem forced and done out of a sense of duty, we shouldn't fret. They will eventually become matters of the heart that we could never abandon.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...if at first you don't succeed, pray, pray again.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

God Is the World's Biggest Abortionist

Nobody kills more unborn babies than God.

Apparently because of some recent state legislation, the topic of abortion has been trending again. And because of that, I reposted my first blog entry on the subject to my Facebook timeline.

And because of that, I've been involved in a few comment threads of late, one of which brought up the point alluded to by the title of this post and spelled out in the first sentence above.

The argument basically goes like this:
Abortion shouldn't be such a big deal because there are far more miscarriages, including those that happen before a woman even knows she's pregnant, than there are abortions.

My single-point response? There are far more people who die every day from natural causes than there are murders, but it's still illegal to murder.

Truth is...to get a broader scope of my take on this topic, click the "abortion" label to the right, or just click here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What Did You Become at School Today, Johnny?

So there's no misunderstanding, the title "What Did You Become at School Today, Johnny?" is not meant to imply that this post will be a disparaging diatribe on how the educational system in the United States has turned from teaching skills or knowledge and is more focused on indoctrinating the young in the ways of political correctness and the celebration of all things except traditional, Judaeo-Christian values.

Not that I couldn't spend some time ranting about that.

No. Instead, I'd like to bring to our attention a quote from Oswald Chambers.

"We are apt to think that everything that happens to us is to be turned into useful teaching; it is to be turned into something better than teaching, into character. We shall find that the spheres God brings us into are not meant to teach us something but to make us something." ~ Oswald Chambers, "The Love of God: An Intimate Look at the Father-Heart of God", Discovery House

Truth is...Yahweh has never been a tyrant demanding adherence to a set of ideas or a list of rules. It's always been about relationship and the condition of the inner person. " The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7 NLT)

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

That No Good, Lying Wizard of Oz

Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure. "Everybody loves The Wizard of Oz." And I admit, it has long held a firm spot in my top five list of favorites.


There is one pronouncement the Wizard himself makes that is exactly the opposite of the truth.

The scene is within the Wizard's chambers. Toto has exposed "the man behind the curtain" and creative alternatives to what Dorothy's companions asked for are being handed out.

Instead of brains, Scarecrow receives a diploma. Instead of courage, the Cowardly Lion gets a medal. Instead of a heart, Tinman is given a testimonial with an accompanying heart-shaped watch.

It's what the Wizard says to conclude his time with Tinman that sets my teeth on edge:
"A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others."

I submit that the exact opposite is true. How much you are loved by others is not a tool of judgment, but a result of judgment. How much you are loved by others is a direct result of how much you love.

I'm speaking in human terms, of course. Our mortal commitment to another's well-being (i.e., our love) is very rarely unconditional. There is almost always something we are reacting or responding to that elicits such a commitment or response.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Yahweh may be the only person this doesn't apply to. Paul had it right when he wrote, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 NIV)

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Charlie Brown on New Ideas

With gratitude for the timeless work of Charles Schulz, our story today begins with Lucy bravely approaching Charlie Brown with an idea for improving their baseball team.

She's pretty excited about the possibilities present in her idea, but Charlie Brown is not...how shall we say...receptive to the proposed change.

This sends Lucy back into the outfield where she makes a life decision.

Truth is...I've got an observation and a question.

Observation: "That's what everyone else is doing" does not necessarily make an idea great.

Question: How many great ideas have never seen the light of day because of fear of someone's gut-level/knee-jerk negative reaction?

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Rockin' Good News

And now, class, we come to the final song on Randy Stonehill's Welcome to Paradise album, "Good News". It may draw the album to a conclusion, but its true purpose is to draw our attention to the future and fill us with hope.

Good news, Christ is returning
Good news, now the world is learning
Good news, Christ is returning
And Jesus gonna bring us on home

Good news well I feel alright
Good news He'll come like a thief in the night
Good news he's gonna take us in flight
Jesus gonna bring us on home

Oh yeah, ain't that real good news
Oh yeah, ain't that real good news
Go on hang up your blues

Good news we're gonna live forever
Good news floating light as a feather
Good news we can all be together
When Jesus comes to bring us on home

Oh yeah, ain't that real, real good news
Ain't that real
Oh yeah, ain't that real good news
Go on hang up your blues

Good news, Christ is returning
Good news, now the world is learning
Good news, Christ is returning
And Jesus gonna bring us on home

Come down make you feel alright
Like a thief in the middle of the night
Come down make you feel alright
Like a thief in the middle of the
Middle of the night
©1976 King of Hearts Publishing

Truth is...whether Jesus comes to take us on home or comes bringing the New Jerusalem with Him, the strong hope and firm assurance that He will make all things right is reason enough to sing, shout, and let it all out. GOOD NEWS!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A Tuesday Confrontation

It's the Tuesday before Passover, c.33 AD.

Jerusalem's population has multiplied as Passover pilgrims flock to the spiritual center of the nation.

A sizable portion of the crowd has come to the temple early in the morning in hopes of hearing Jesus teach or at least to see what he might do today.

On Sunday, his entrance into the city turned into a praise-filled parade that got the religious leaders all on edge. Then on Monday, Jesus ran all the shady businesses out of the temple courtyard...which also ruffled the feathers of the Sanhedrin.

What's going to happen today?

Almost as soon as Jesus arrives, a committee of chief priests, scribes, and elders confronts him and basically asks "Who in the world do you think you are? Who gives you the authority to do stuff like this?"

Jesus' response immediately puts the religious leaders over a barrel:
     “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!”
     They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. But do we dare say it was merely human?” For they were afraid of what the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet. So they finally replied, “We don’t know.”
     And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11:29-33 NLT)

Truth is...people have been trying to back Jesus into a corner for thousands of years with exactly the same amount of success.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Dating the Gospel

Have you ever been socially/romantically involved with someone and then not been involved and not really know why either the involvement or non-involvement happened?

As part of my personal faith journey toward Easter, I am reading a book by Brant Pitre, The Case for Jesus. I'm only five chapters in, and I'm already pleased with the thoroughness of Pitre's examination of evidence and honesty in saying what can and cannot be concluded from the evidence at hand.

But that's not what this post is about.

What this post is about is where my train of thought went when I saw the title of an upcoming chapter in Pitre's book: "The Dating of the Gospels".

I'm certain the chapter is about determining when the four gospels in the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were written. And that's important because it helps a person make judgments about their trustworthiness.

But my train of thought? Well, it immediately dropped the "s" from "Gospels" and got me to thinking about the concept of dating the Gospel...being socially/romantically involved with the Good News that Jesus is God-in-the-flesh and his death and resurrection paid the debt of our sins and freed us to a new kind of life where we are no longer slaves to the sin nature.

What does it mean to "date" someone? What's going on in a dating relationship?

  • There's definitely an attraction, but not really a commitment.
  • It's kind of trying on the idea of monogamy. "What would it be like to be with this person and nobody else for the rest of my life? Would I enjoy that?"
  • Depending on a person's moral convictions about sexuality, there might even be physical involvement that is associated with a marriage commitment.
  • Breaking off the relationship if it gets difficult or doesn't go the way you thought it would is always an option.

Methinks that some of us actually do relate to the Gospel in the same ways.

  • We like the idea of not being condemned and that Jesus loves us, but not all that sure about having anything expected of us.
  • We toy with the concept of dedication and allowing Jesus to call the shots. "How will my life improve if I decide to follow Jesus?"
  • We maybe even attend church services if we like the musical style and the sermons aren't too long.
  • Spirituality is something we practice or something we do; not necessarily the core of who we are. We can put it on or take it off however the mood strikes us.

Truth is...I have personally found marriage to be far more deeply satisfying than dating ever was. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Song for Sarah / Ditty for Debbie

"Song for Sarah" holds a special place in my heart. It's the third song on the second side of Randy Stonehill's classic "Jesus Music" album, Welcome to Paradise, but it was also part of my wedding vows (with "Sarah" replaced by "Debbie").

It's a practically perfect invitation to a love commitment, along with a gospel message of the greatest love of all.

Sarah, can I love you?
Will you open up the door?
I know you've heard that misused word
a lot of times before
But I think that you need someone
who can firmly take your hand
And love you in a way
that you can really understand

Sarah, will you love me?
You've got so much there to give
We've waited for so long
to change the lonely way we live
And I see the fragile lady
that you hide behind your eyes
And I want so much to reach you
when I hear those distant cries

Sarah, Someone loves you
in a way I never could
He laid His life before you
on a cross made out of wood
Oh and in His hour of anguish
our dreams were given birth
I hope you finally realize
how much your love is worth

© 1976 King of Hearts Publishing

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...while this is a quiet, sweet song, it is also personally the source of laughter. You see, our wedding day was particularly hot and humid and the church building in which we were wed had no air conditioning. While I was singing this song to my bride, a drop of sweat trickled down my nose and Debbie tenderly reached up and wiped it away. The near-sighted ladies in the crowd thought she was wiping away a tear I had shed and totally lost it!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Measuring Up

I'm one of the elders at my church. We are primarily pastors, dedicated to caring and praying for the members of the congregation and overseeing the spiritual direction of what is taught within our walls.

We are currently in the midst of bringing a couple new people on board, and part of their apprenticeship is filling out a questionnaire so we can get a better idea about each person's spiritual background and outlook.

As I read through the set of answers from our most-recent apprentice, and look at the partial list of qualifications Paul documented in First Timothy 3, I am practically forced into some self-evaluation...and a renewed doubt as to my fitness for the role.

According to Paul (I Timothy 3:2-7), someone who serves as an elder should be:

  • above reproach
  • faithful to his wife
  • temperate
  • self-controlled
  • respectable
  • hospitable
  • able to teach
  • not given to drunkenness
  • not violent but gentle
  • not quarrelsome
  • not a lover of money

Moreover, he must:

  • manage his own family well
  • see that his children obey him
  • do so in a manner worthy of full respect
  • not be a recent convert
  • have a good reputation with outsiders

I'm certainly stronger in some of these things than in others, but I'm glad this is a list of guidelines as to the type of person who should be in church leadership, and not necessarily a strict checklist.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...this isn't such a bad list of personal goals for anyone to do some self-evaluation against.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Giving Up

Here we sit in the middle-ish of Lent, wondering if we are approaching Good Friday and Easter with the proper level of thought and intent.

Some folks choose to give up something "for Lent". A lot of the time, it's something fairly innocuous (like chocolate, or caffeine) and is meant as only a temporary fast from whatever substance or activity is chosen.

I've known people who have absented themselves from social media as a way to test their commitment to Christ or to help themselves focus on spiritual matters in preparation for Holy Week.

They'll even pull out some Scriptures they feel relate to the role Twitter and Facebook play in their social interactions:

  • Titus 3:9  -  Avoid foolish controversies ... and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
  • 1 Timothy 1:3-4  -  Command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths.... Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work.

Truth is...If something is good to give up "for Lent", maybe it would be good to give it up entirely. I'm not necessarily saying to renounce all social media; maybe just stop using them to engage in foolish controversies, eh? 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

News for You

Have you ever looked around and felt like everyone is just going through the motions? Like maybe The Matrix wasn't too far off?

I'm thinking Randy Stonehill felt that way when he wrote "News for You".

Everybody's goin' to the movies
Everybody's leavin' for the show
It seems as though we've lost the nerves for feeling
and no one's in the mood to want to know

I got news for you, this is not a game
I got news for you, are you listenin'
I got news for you, we are all the same
And when that is understood
We can start to live again

Can you look inside yourself and tell me
That your emptiness is just a state of mind
And you'll feel better if you just keep busy
If you leave your feelings all behind

I got news for you, this is not a game
I got news for you, are you listenin'
I got news for you, we are all to blame
And when that is understood
We can start to live again

Oh start to live again
People people tell me where have we been

Ever feel as if your heart was whispering
Like a special Voice you never heard before
And something deep inside your soul was tickin'
As if Someone was pounding on the door

I got news for you, this is not a game
I got news for you, are you listenin'
I got news for you, we are all the same
I got news for you, this is not a game
I got news for you, we are all to blame
And when that is understood
we can start to live again
Yes when that is understood
We can start to live again
©1976 King of Hearts Publishing

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...getting in touch with one's feelings AND realizing that "we are all to blame"  -  that the world is the way it is because "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)  -  are both important steps on the road to a real, thriving relationship with the creator of the universe.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Neil Anderson's "Who I Am in Christ"

John 1:12   I am God's child.
John 15:15   As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1   I have been justified (declared righteous).
1 Corinthians 6:17   I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20   I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.
1 Corinthians 12:27   I am a member of Christ's body.
Ephesians 1:3-8   I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
Colossians 1:13-14   I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
Colossians 2:9-10   I am complete in Christ.
Hebrews 4:14-16   I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:1-2   I am free from condemnation.
Romans 8:28   I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.
Romans 8:31-39   I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22   I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.
Colossians 3:1-4   I am hidden with Christ in God.
Philippians 1:6   I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me.
Philippians 3:20   I am a citizen of heaven.
2 Timothy 1:7   I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
1 John 5:18   I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.

John 15:5   I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life.
John 15:16   I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
1 Corinthians 3:16   I am God's temple.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21   I am a minister of reconciliation for God.
Ephesians 2:6   I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.
Ephesians 2:10   I am God's workmanship.
Ephesians 3:12   I may approach God with freedom and confidence.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...truth. Promises are promises.