Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Stop Trying So Hard

Can we finally kill off the notion that our relationship with Yahweh is determined by the balance of good and bad deeds we accomplish? Can we stop living our lives in fear of not being good enough?

According to Keith Green's song, "When I Hear the Praises Start," the answer is yes...yes we can.

My son, my son, why are you striving
You can't add one thing to what's been done for you
I did it all while I was dying
Rest in your faith, my peace will come to you

For when I hear the praises start
I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child and you know me
To me, you're only holy
Nothing that you've done remains
Only what you do for me

My child, my child, why are you weeping
You will not have to wait forever
That day and that hour is in my keeping
The day I'll bring you into heaven

For when I hear the praises start
My child, I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child and you know me
To me, you're only holy
Nothing that you've done remains
Only what you do in me
Just what you do for me

My precious bride, the day is nearing
When I'll take you in my arms and hold you
I know there are so many things that you've been hearing
But you just hold on to what I told you

For when I hear the praises start
My bride, I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child, and you know me
To me, you're only holy
Nothing that you've done will remain
Only what you do for me
©1977 April Music

Truth is...the good news of the gospel really is good news. We don't need to try to live up to a list of rules and expectations. Our challenge is to live lives of gratitude for what Jesus has already done on our behalf.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Wise Words Ignored By Their Speaker

Every so often, Hollywood comes up with some words of wisdom that have the potential to change lives for the better.

Hollywood Sign and Cross

The example I'm thinking of right now is a short line spoken by a fictional character named Lance Clayton:

"If you're that depressed, reach out to someone. And remember, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

Truth is...the movie was 2009's World's Greatest Dad and the actor playing the part of Lance Clayton was Robin Williams...who committed suicide August 11, 2014.

Oh, if only Williams would have truly allowed the scriptwriter's words to sink into his heart. If you're on the brink yourself, learn the lesson he didn't. Call 800-273-TALK or 800-NeedHim.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #25

If you've never been to azquotes.com, I urge you to make the trip. There you can find words of wit, wisdom, and whimsy. You can search by subject or by who the quote was spoken/written by.

And you can also find a list of the top 25 quotes about Jesus, as selected by the thousands of users of the site.

Or, you can hang out here for a while as we take a look at the quotes and those who are being quoted.

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Napoleon Bonapart was a man of war and political intrigue. Among other official positions, he was Emperor of France from 1804 to 1815. His biography reads like a script for an action-packed thriller.

And yet, he seems to have recognized the superiority of the spiritual when he uttered these words...

Truth is...Jesus knew there was a difference between him and the political leaders of his day. When Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king, Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36)

And to verify Napoleon's assessment, consider these words of Christ from John 13:35: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Pretty Sure God Didn't MEAN For This To Be Funny

There's an account in the Old Testament book of I Kings that always cracks me up. I'm sure it's meant as a testimony to the reality and greatness of Yahweh, but I can't help envisioning Jim Gaffigan in the role of Elijah.

It's in I Kings 18. The scene is a showdown between 450 prophets of Baal and Yahweh's sole spokesperson, Elijah. Two altars are built. Two bulls will be prepared and laid on top of the altars with some wood. The Baal-Boys and Elijah will both pray for their god to set the sacrifices on fire, and whichever deity answers will be proving which god is real.

Spoiler alert: Yahweh wins the contest, but that's not what makes me giggle. The humor I see is how Elijah taunts the prophets of Baal while they're wailing and dancing and cutting themselves...trying to get Baal to flick his Bic.

You may think I'm embellishing this to make it sound more like a stand-up comic, but this is a direct quote of I Kings 18:27 in the New Living Translation: "'You’ll have to shout louder,' he scoffed, 'for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!'"

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think. (Brother Lawrence)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Because of You

I noticed something surprising about the first two songs featured in this space from Keith Green's "For Him Who Has Ears to Hear": There was no mention of Jesus. And the reason that surprised me is that my memory of Keith is his outspokenness. It seems he never held anything back, and yet, the first two songs on his first album could have been sung to his wife instead of his Lord.

No need to fret, though. Some very upfront in-your-face lyrics will show up later on. As for the third song on the album, "Because of You"? Well, Keith does use the title "Lord" at one point. 

People smile at me and ask me what it is
That makes them wanna be just like I am
So I just point to you and tell them, yes it's true
I'm no special one, I'm just one man

It's because of you
People smile at me and they say, "What a lucky guy"
Yeah, because of you
I can raise my hands in reply and say, "I'm happy because of you"

Now people can't believe, that my life used to be

Something no one had any use for
I'd stay at home each night, never shine the light
And I thank you, it'll never be like before

It's because of you

People point to me and they say "Hey, I like what that boy's got"
But because of you
I confess I don't have a lot
but what I've got is because of you

Oh oh no no no no no no no no no oh

I'm only happy because of you, Lord
Yeah because of you...
I'm only happy because of you

Well people smile at me and ask me what it is

That makes them want to be just like I am
So I just point to you and tell them, yes it's true
I'm no special one, I'm just one man

It's because of you

People smile at me and they say, "Yeah, what a lucky guy"
Yeah because of you
I can raise my hands to the sky and say, "I'm only happy because of you"
Oh yeah because of you, because of you, you, you, you
©1977 April Music

Truth is...There's never really any doubt who Keith Green is singing about, is there?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Our Father, Which Art in - SQUIRREL!

Do you ever have trouble concentrating?

Apparently, one of Brother Lawrence's correspondents had written to him confessing that his mind would wander during times of prayer. The first sentence of BL's reply is, in itself, an empathetic encouragement: "You tell me nothing new: you are not the only one that is troubled with wandering thoughts. Our mind is extremely roving."

BL quickly goes from commiseration to wise words of advice:
I believe one remedy for this is to confess our faults, and to humble ourselves before God. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words in prayer; many words and long discourses being often the occasions of wandering; hold yourself in prayer before God like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man's gate; let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the Lord; if it sometimes wander and withdraw itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that; trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind than to recollect it; the will must bring it back in tranquility; if you persevere in this manner God will have pity on you.

Truth is...it does no good to wallow around in our shortcomings. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and start all over again.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Animal Cruelty as Entertainment

The seemingly ancient theaters of London once were new and struggling business ventures. Consider this quote from Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson...

The new theaters did not prosper equally. Within three years of its opening, the Curtain was being used for fencing bouts, and all other London playhouses, with the single eventual exception of the Globe, relied on other entertainments, particularly animal baiting, to fortify their earnings. The pastime was not unique to England, but it was regarded as an English specialty. Queen Elizabeth often had visitors from abroad entertained with bear-baiting at Whitehall. In its classic form, a bear was put in a ring, sometimes tethered to a stake, and set upon by mastiffs, but bears were expensive investments, so other animals (such as bulls and horses) were commonly substituted. One variation was to put a chimpanzee on the back of a horse and let the dogs go for both together. The sight of a screeching ape clinging for dear life to a bucking horse, while dogs leaped at it from below, was considered about as rich an amusement as public life could offer. That an audience that could be moved to tears one day by a performance of Doctor Faustus could return the next day to the same space and be just as entertained by the frantic deaths of helpless animals may say as much about the age as any single statement could.

This reminds me of a couple things in Scripture.

  • First, the quick turnaround the crowds of Jerusalem made between shouting "Hosanna!" on Sunday and "Crucify him!" on Friday.
  • Second, the words of James in chapter 3, verses 7-10: "For every wild animal on earth including birds, creeping reptiles, and creatures of the sea and land have all been overpowered and tamed by humans, but the tongue is not able to be tamed. It’s a fickle, unrestrained evil that spews out words full of toxic poison! We use our tongue to praise God our Father and then turn around and curse a person who was made in his very image! Out of the same mouth we pour out words of praise one minute and curses the next. My brothers and sister, this should never be!" (The Passion Translation)

Truth is...none of us should be surprised at the behavior of the British bear-baiters or the Jerusalem crowds. We all carry the same tendency.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

I Can't Believe It!

Sometimes, even song lyrics that are meant to express spiritual truth cannot be taken for their literal meaning.

Case in point: Keith Green's second song on For Him Who Has Ears to Hear, "I Can't Believe It!" It's meant to be a confession of new-found faith, much like Randy Stonehill's "First Prayer," but it's titled "I CAN'T Believe It!" Whaaaaat?

There is nothing new
I could give to you
Just a life that's torn
Waiting to be born

Rivers overflow
Friends may come and go
But you've been by my side
With every tear I've cried

Oh, I can't believe that You'd give everything for me
I can't believe it no, I can't believe it no, no
I know You've never lied and so it's just my foolish pride
That won't receive it yeah
It's so hard to receive it in my heart and make the start with You

Help me, help me now
I just don't know how
You know, I've been so alone
Please melt this heart of stone

Lah, lah, lah, lah

Oh, I can't believe that You'd give everything for me
I can't believe it no, I can't believe it no, no
I know You've never lied and so I'm giving up my pride
So I can receive it yeah
I just want to receive it in my heart and make the start with You
©1977 April Music

Truth is...the overwhelming, neverending graciousness of God really is "unbelievable"...even in the midst of believing it.

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.

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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.

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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!