Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Black Hole of Greed

 

One of the things I like about science fiction is its ability to make a strong, moral statement with very few words.


And in this case...no words at all.



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Truth is...you may have seen the ending coming from a mile away. We're good at that when it comes to other people. Lord, help us to monitor ourselves with as much foresight.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Prayssip


Giving thanks today to our friends at Coffee with Jesus for calling out the following all-too-common scenario.

Maybe you've been in a small group of Christians and someone has "felt led" to share something:


Of course, another believer needs to bear witness to the validity of the first statement:


Then, in an effort to redeem the conversation, you hear:


If only the comic strip's final panel would come true:

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Truth is...Gossip is gossip and prayer is prayer and never the twain shall meet.


Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Overwhelming Fury of God's Love

 

Rich Mullins sang about the love of God being a "reckless, raging fury"; an ocean of both joy and sorrow. That is so much more than an encouraging thought. It is meant to be a transforming truth.

Brennan Manning makes the point in powerful prose from his book The Furious Longing of God.


Jesus cried from His heart, nails in His hands, and poured out His blood that we might believe His love for us. Significantly, Jesus chose the giving tree, His cross, as the demonstrative sign of His absolutely furious love for men and women. In the words of one early church father: "the mightiest act of love ever to arise from a human soul."

How is it then that we've come to imagine that Christianity consists primarily in what we do for God? How has this come to be the good news of Jesus? Is the kingdom that He proclaimed to be nothing more than a community of men and women who go to church on Sunday, take an annual spiritual retreat, read their Bibles every now and then, vigorously oppose abortion, don't watch x-rated movies, never use vulgar language, smile a lot, hold doors open for people, root for the favorite team, and get along with everybody? Is that why Jesus went through the bleak and bloody horror of Calvary? Is that why He emerged in shattering glory from the tomb? Is that why He poured out His Holy Spirit on the church? To make nicer men and women with better morals?

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creations. Not to make people with better morals, but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friends, is what it really means to be a Christian. Our religion never begins with what we do for God. It always starts with what God has done for us, the great and wondrous things that God dreamed of and achieved for us in Christ Jesus.

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Truth is...It's easier to type this than to live it, but if God's love is an ocean, I long to drown in its reckless, raging fury.


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Marty Feldman Speaks Truth

 

I'm pretty sure most folks over a certain age will recognize the name and face of Marty Feldman. He's the actor who co-starred as Igor in Mel Brooks' film, Young Frankenstein.


I learned something about Feldman that most folks probably aren't aware of, though.  According to the administrator of the Classic Monsters Facebook page, "Feldman suffered from thyroid disease and developed Graves' ophthalmopathy, causing his eyes to protrude and become misaligned. A childhood injury, a car crash, a boating accident, and reconstructive eye surgery may also have contributed to his appearance.

"He later described his appearance as a factor in his career success: 'If I aspired to be Robert Redford, I'd have my eyes straightened and my nose fixed and end up like every other lousy actor, with two lines on Kojak. But this way I'm a novelty.'"

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In a world full of folks who consider themselves more important than anyone else and snub their noses at not only their fellow humans but also the creator of all things, I am so glad there are millions who have decided to stand apart from the crowd and gladly bear the title "special" as in First Peter 2:9, "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

Truth is...In the King James version, the word used instead of "special" is "peculiar". I think that serves to more fully emphasize the thought that being normal isn't all it's cracked up to be.


Thursday, November 4, 2021

Is Jesus In Me Or Am I In Him?

 

A couple of things are swirling around in my head and creating this week's post.


Thing 1: I once heard Juan Carlos Ortiz comically express exasperation at the cognitive dissonance inherent in some times of musical worship. Translation: Ortiz made me laugh once when he joked about how the songs we sing sometimes don't make any sense being sung together.

A rough paraphrase: I hear these people all happy and bouncing around singing "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart," and just so excited. And then two songs later, they're all somber and pleading, "Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart Lord Jesus." Well? Is he in your heart or isn't he?!!? Do you have his joy in your heart, or do you need to plead with him to be there?

Thing 2: On a recent Sunday morning, as part of an excellent message, Pastor Brad asked this pointed question: "How audacious is it to expect a king to fit into my life instead of me diving headfirst into his?"

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I'm pretty sure that when Jesus says that he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15), he's not alluding to any kind of horticultural miracle where the branches exist on their own and are gracious enough to allow the vine to connect to them.

Yes, there is that bit in Revelation 3 where Jesus is asking to be invited in, but balance that out with "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved" (John 10:9). Metaphors can only be taken so far.


Truth is...Jesus made it abundantly clear in Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Do I Amaze Jesus?

 

In the sixth chapter of Mark's gospel, there are two uses of the word amazed that caught my attention.

The first is in verse two and doesn't come as a surprise at all:

When the Sabbath came, [Jesus] began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?"

Well, who wouldn't be amazed at the things Jesus said and the things Jesus did? The Scriptures were being brought to life and personally applied in ways never heard before. Cripples were walking; the blind could see; the deaf could hear!

True, the source of their amazement was that they couldn't fathom how all this wisdom and all these miracles they had heard about could be springing forth from a local boy they had known simply as "the carpenter's son."

Honestly, that might be connected just a little to the surprising second usage of amazed, found in verse six:

[Jesus] was amazed at their lack of faith.

Wait...what? Jesus was amazed?!!?



Well, who wouldn't be amazed at anyone who had heard what they heard and seen what they had seen and yet didn't believe?

But the story isn't over. In Mark's very next paragraph, he tells us how Jesus gave the twelve disciples an opportunity to put their faith into practice. Because you see, it's one thing to say you believe something and another thing to actually take action in alignment with that faith:

Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff — no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.


Truth is...The story still isn't over. I say I believe in Jesus, but do I really have the faith to think the Holy Spirit could work through me the way the Spirit worked through him?


Thursday, October 21, 2021

Only Jesus

 

I know one can't believe everything that gets posted on social media, but I have no reason to believe my son would lie about the results of a recent poll.

We don't know who was polled or what the exact questions were, but the published findings state that 60% of self-proclaimed, born-again American Christians between the ages of 18 and 39 believe that Buddha, Muhammed, and Jesus are all valid paths to salvation.

I liked Curtis' translation of that statistic. Saying that 60% of self-proclaimed, born-again American Christians between the ages of 18 and 39 believe that Buddha, Muhammed, and Jesus are all valid paths to salvation actually means that 60% of self-proclaimed, born-again American Christians between the ages of 18 and 39 are NOT Christians.

Make no mistake, all religions do not teach the same thing, being sincere is not the same thing as being right, and all paths do not lead to the same place.

Acts 4:10-12  -  Know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. [Jesus] is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.


That's what Peter said and that's what all true Christians must say.

Buddha did not sacrifice his body on a Roman cross.

Muhammed did not shed his blood to purify us from our sin.

Philosophers and philanthropists cannot transform us into representatives of righteousness.

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Truth is...this kind of non-pluralistic message sounds narrow-minded and exclusive to the modern ear. But it is actually as expansive and all-inclusive as "whosoever will may come."