Thursday, November 30, 2023

Calvin & Hobbes: What's Good for the Goose...


Bill Waterson's beloved comic, Calvin & Hobbes, had a Sunday strip that pointed out the flaw in some people's definition of right and wrong.

It begins with Calvin making a declaration and following it up with a string of cliches to support his worldview.

Hobbes then puts Calvin's beliefs into practice.

Which leads to Calvin spilling the beans on the particular self-centeredness of his philosophy.

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Truth is...The way the world is, it's amazing we aren't ALL covered with mud.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

How Do You Spell "Thanks"?


Time is a gift that only Yahweh can give. It bears witness to his patience.

Hope is the life force of a heart that is currently broken, but optimistic about the future.

Application of God's promises to the circumstances of my life wipes out all fear.

Nazareth was a backwater village that folks didn't ascribe much potential to, but it nurtured the world's savior. I may not hold a lot of promise in the eyes of some...and neither may you...but God can use even us to accomplish his will.

Knowledge of the love of God is an experiential thing, not an intellectual exercise. And it's something I can grow in!

Songs speak to the human soul in ways the spoken word cannot. I praise Yahweh FOR and WITH music.

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Truth is...The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. (Psalm 28:7)

Thursday, November 16, 2023

For When You Think It's Too Late For You


As I slowly make my way through The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, most of John Koenig's made-up words are accompanied by a short definition and etymology. For example:

alazia n. the fear that you're no longer able to change [Greek allazo, to change + dysplasia, abnormal development of tissue. Pronounced "uh-ley-zhuh or "ah-ley-zee-uh."]

But every so often, Koenig includes a short essay to further comment on the observations that led to him creating the word. In the case of alazia, that essay is packed with truth and needs to be pondered.


"When you were born, you could have been anybody. So quick and malleable, your parents could look at your face and see a future president. They tried to mold you as you grew, but they could only work with what they had. And when their tools stopped working, they gradually handed them off to you, asking, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'

     "There's a certain art to becoming who you are. There's no standard kit you can use to assemble yourself, swapping out parts as needed. Instead, it feels more like a kind of stretching, a teasing out at the edges, like a glassblower standing at the furnace.

     "A teenage personality is a delicate medium, its emotions almost too heavy to handle. You had to figure out a way to keep yourself together and tease out the good parts without falling out of balance or stretching yourself too thin. You couldn't stop everything to try to fix your flaws, but you couldn't just ignore them either. Luckily, you were nothing if not flexible, softened by the heat of youth, which kept you warm on a dingy couch or a night in the wilderness. You knew that you weren't just you, you were also the person you would one day become. So even when you failed, you could still be whatever you wanted to be. As long as you kept moving.

     "Inevitably you got hit, and you got hurt. You prided yourself on how well you absorbed the blow, bouncing back as if nothing had happened. But the pain changed you, in little chips and cracks that might take you years to notice. Over time you learned how to position yourself in very specific ways, protecting the most vulnerable parts of your psyche, even as you knew they were still a crucial part of the real you. Gradually you became more and more reluctant to move from that position. Growing a little harder, a little more brittle.

     "And now here you are. Sometimes you find yourself wondering if you can change, even if you wanted to. If you still have enough fire in the belly to surprise yourself, or if you're already set in your ways, too tough and cynical to stretch without shattering. Maybe you spent so long wondering who you were going to be one day, you forgot that that question actually has an answer, and that 'one day' would soon arrive.

     "Maybe it's too late for you to change who you are. Or maybe you're just entering a new phase, undergoing a change so profound that even your understanding of change is becoming unrecognizable. Maybe now is the time to stress-test your own assumptions about yourself, stripping away all the flourishes and ornaments that you don't really need, honing yourself down to the core of who you are. And even if it's true that you're no longer flexible enough to be anybody, you might be getting strong enough to finally be yourself."

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Truth is...There's no need to fear. Jesus Christ is here. He has been called the Lord of Second Chances for good reason.

Isaiah 43:19 - "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"

Revelation 21:5 - "He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new'.”

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Does God's Voice Sound Like Morgan Freeman?



It's not every day that Hollywood makes a deeply truthful theological observation, so I thought I'd better not let this one disappear into movie history unnoticed.

The movie was Evan Almighty  -  the 2007 sequel to Jim Carrey's film, Bruce Almighty. In Evan, God (played by Morgan Freeman) contacts Congressman Evan Baxter (played by Steve Carell) and tells him to build an ark in preparation for a great flood.

As might be expected, Evan's wife (Lauren Graham) has a hard time wrapping her head around this major change in her husband.

It's at this point the following conversation takes place:

Just to make sure you didn't miss it, here's the main point:

Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they prayed for courage does God give them courage or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?

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Truth is...Sometimes we are the answer to our own prayer.

Bonus truth...Now you know why I never ask God to give me patience. (wink)

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Hello Darkness My Old Friend


When Paul Simon started the song Sound of Silence with the words "Hello, darkness, my old friend," I'm fairly certain he had no idea he was paraphrasing Scripture.

And when the Sons of Korah ended the song that came to be known as Psalm 88 with the words "Darkness is my closest friend," they probably had no idea it would get put into Israel's hymnal.

Sad guy in a dark place

And if you take the time to read all of Psalm 88, you may rightly wonder why it did.

Here are some highlights:

  • v3 - I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.
  • v5 - I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.
  • v8 - You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them.
  • v13 - But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?

If you're like me, as you read this you keep waiting for a sharp right turn.

At the beginning of verse 13, you perk up and think, "Okay, here's where this is going to come around," but nope. Verse 18 ends the song in the same depressive mood it began in: "You have taken from me friend and neighbor — darkness is my closest friend."

Why is this in the Bible?!!?

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Truth is...Even though I don't know why this sad song is part of Scripture, I'm glad it is. It teaches me that it's okay to be completely honest when I'm praying. There is no need to sugarcoat my pain, confusion, anger, or grief. God's not going to be shocked by my honest emotion and doubt.

And that right there is a reason to praise him, even in the midst of my pain, confusion, anger, or grief.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Apostles' Algorithms Are Absolutely Applicable


In order to get a springboard in creating a response to a friend's Facebook post, I went to ChatGPT and typed "Apply Acts 4:1-22 to living in current North American society."

What follows are the exact words this piece of artificial intelligence spewed out in a matter of seconds...and I'm speechless.

Image generated by LimeWire

Acts 4:1-22 in the Bible tells the story of Peter and John being brought before the religious authorities in Jerusalem after healing a man and preaching about Jesus. The authorities questioned their actions and teachings, and Peter and John boldly proclaimed their faith in Jesus Christ. Here are some ways you can apply the principles from this passage to living in current North American society:

Boldly Share Your Faith: In Acts 4, Peter and John didn't back down from sharing their faith in Jesus, even when faced with opposition. Similarly, in North American society, it's important to be bold in sharing your faith with others, while respecting the rights and beliefs of those who may not share your faith. Be willing to have open and respectful conversations about your beliefs.

Stand Firm in Your Convictions: Peter and John refused to be silenced or compromise their beliefs. In a diverse society like North America, it's important to stand firm in your convictions while also being willing to listen to and engage with different perspectives. This doesn't mean you have to abandon your faith, but it does require a willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue.

Trust in God's Power: The healing performed by Peter and John in Acts 4 was attributed to the power of God. In North American society, trust in God's power can provide a source of hope and strength. It can also inspire you to engage in acts of compassion and service to others, just as Peter and John did through the healing.

Seek Unity: While Peter and John stood firm in their faith, they also sought unity among believers. In North American society, where there is a wide range of religious beliefs and backgrounds, it's important to find common ground and work towards unity in the broader community. This can be done through interfaith dialogue and cooperation on social and ethical issues.

Be Prepared for Opposition: Peter and John faced opposition from religious authorities, but they were prepared to give an account of their beliefs. In North America, there may be times when your faith is challenged or opposed. Being prepared to articulate your beliefs and values in a respectful and thoughtful manner is essential.

Embrace the Opportunity to Witness: Acts 4 shows that opposition can provide an opportunity to bear witness to your faith. When faced with challenges or questions about your faith in North American society, see it as a chance to share the hope and love that comes from your beliefs in a way that can inspire others.

Pray for Boldness: In Acts 4:29, the early Christians prayed for boldness in their witness. In North America, you can also pray for the courage and wisdom to live out your faith effectively and to be a positive influence in your community.

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Truth is...I can't improve on these points nor on this summary: Overall, Acts 4:1-22 encourages Christians to be bold, stand firm in their faith, seek unity, and engage with the diverse society of North America in a way that reflects their beliefs while respecting others. It's a call to be both faithful and respectful ambassadors of Christ in a pluralistic society.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Is This the End?


The Saturday morning of the most recent outbreak of violence against Israel, a co-worker asked, "Are you ready for World War III?"

My response was a little more dismissive than it should have been, but I stand by its basic premise:

"You will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come." -Matthew 24:6-8

Global War

Since my spiritual awakening in the 1970s, every time something drastic happened in the Middle East, a new load of books would be released talking about how the end was near and how such-and-such ruler or such-and-such military campaign was the fulfillment of certain verses in Daniel or Revelation. And then things would die down and people stopped buying the books until their new editions were released a few years down the road at the next outbreak of violence.

It didn't take long for me to stop getting anxious about "wars and threats of war" in the Middle East.

Adding to my lack of anxiety was a book I read as part of my college class on eschatology. It was titled The Meaning of the Millenium and was authored by four people who held four different convictions about how the world is going to end. They each wrote a short paper supporting their view with Scripture references and charts, and then the other three would write rebuttals "proving" the view false.

There they were, four guys who were way smarter than me, each dedicated to the Bible as the inspired word of God, and each coming to a conclusion directly opposed to the other three. It taught me the depth of the truth of Jesus' words in Matthew 24:36  -  "No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself."

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Truth is...None of this is meant to say that this latest conflict couldn't possibly be the beginning of the end. It certainly could be. But you know what? I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to boldly join the Apostle John, praying with his words from Revelation 22:20, "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"