Tuesday, October 31, 2017

If the Bible Were Being Written Today

I'm not a force to be reckoned with on Twitter, but I did recently fall in love with something tweeted by @AshleaDavis, who describes herself as follows: "Wife, raising boys, avid reader & coffee drinker. Breaking rules, loving Jesus, & laughing when I shouldn't. I want a nap."

While I don't condone or recommend breaking rules, I do enjoy a nap now and then and really appreciate this quotable quote from Mrs. Davis:

I'm glad the early church isn't now. The book of Acts would be called the book of Thoughts & Prayers.

Truth is...I probably like that statement because it correlates to an earlier post of mine on the subject of Thoughts and Prayers. But it also has served to remind me of a song performed by the now-defunct group, 4 Him: A Man You Would Write About.

Thank You, Lord, for stirring up this kind of passion again within this old guy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

When God Picks Out Your Worship Partner

I've got another story from CASH: The Autobiography that makes me smile at the mysterious ways of Yahweh.

     I was walking down 57th Street with June one Sunday morning when we happened on the First Baptist Church of New York, which we hadn't noticed before because its entrance doesn't look like a church's. We saw from a sign outside that services were just about to start, so we went in, and the strangest thing happened. The congregation was seated as we entered, but about halfway down the aisle a young boy was turned around watching the door. He saw us, immediately jumped up, and yelled, "JOHNNY CASH! Johnny Cash has come to church with me!"
     As it happened, the only free seats were right next to him and his parents, so we took them, and that's when we saw that the boy was mentally handicapped. He was so excited. "I told you!" he kept saying to his parents. "I told you he was coming!"
     The preacher came over and explained to us that, yes, the boy had told his parents, and the whole congregation, repeatedly that I was going to walk into that church, sit down beside him, and worship with him. And that's what I did. Being next to him was such a pleasure. He was so happy.
     When the service was over, we walked down to the corner with him and his parents, and they filled in the story. They were Jewish, they said, but their son had decided to become a Christian after listening to some of my gospel recordings. That's why they were in a Christian church on a Sunday morning. They were in that particular Christian church because that's where he knew I was going to walk in the door.
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Truth is...I've got no great lesson to share from this story, other than to be more willing to speak boldly what God whispers in your ear.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Virtue Reality

Virtues are funny things.

Virtues are the fruit of faith and whenever paraded, become parodies of themselves and the worst kind of vanity imaginable. When they are not the fruit of faith they become its greatest obstacle....

Take, for example, wisdom. Wisdom has at its source the "fear of the Lord"  -  the highest regard and reverence for Him. The tendency among many of us, though, is to confuse wisdom with omniscience and to think ourselves wise in proportion to how much stuff we know. God calls us to be wise and provides us with Christ. We pressure ourselves to be all-knowing and fret over where Cain got his wife and how the earth can be as young as the Scriptures claim when geologists say that it takes millions of years more than that to produce a barrel of oil. We tend to suspect that wisdom lies in the ability to answer imponderables rather than in Christ. And we sometimes end in self-contempt and even abandonment of our faith, not because our faith is false, but because we focused on a wisdom that is not a virtue but a vanity.

It is the same way with strength. God calls us to "be strong" and we mistake that for a call to omnipotence. We confuse strength to endure trials with an ability to walk unfrustrated through life. We convince ourselves that if we were strong we would never fail, never tire, never hurt, never need. We begin to measure strength in terms of ease of progress, equate power with success, endurability with invincibility and inevitably, when our illusion of omnipotence is shattered, we condemn ourselves for being weak.

God has called us to be lovers and we frequently think that He meant us to be saviors. So we "love" as long as we see "results." We give of ourselves as long as our investments pay off, but if the ones we love do not respond, we tend to despair and blame ourselves and even resent those we pretend to love. Because we love someone, we want them to be free of addictions, of sin, of self  -  and that is as it should be. But it might be that our love for them and our desire for their well-being will not make them well. And, if that is the case, their lack of response no more negates the reality of love than their quickness to respond would confirm it.

Love is a virtue and not a feeling. It is fed and fired by God  -  not by the favorable response of the beloved. Even when it doesn't seem to make a dime's worth of difference to the ones on whom it is lavished, it is still the most prized of all virtues because it is at the heart of the very character of God. By loving we participate in His Life and Essence. When we stoop to bait and buy good behavior we are no longer loving as God loves. We are manipulating and cheapening the dignity of the person whom we are called  -  not to save, not even to change  -  but to love. If real salvation is possible (and we know it is) it is because real love is there. And love that is real, love that is truly a virtue and not just an act  -  agape love  -  gushes from God through those who know Him. It is not strung along by those who don't.  (Rich Mullins, "Virtue Reality", Release Magazine, July-August 1994)

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Truth is...The more we try to knuckle down hard and produce good fruit like wisdom and strength and love, the more disappointed in ourselves we will be. That's called walking by sight and it's a recipe for depression and disaster. Our call is to allow the Holy Spirit  -  "Christ in [us], the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27)  -  to grow His goodness within us...and then let it spill out and drench everyone we come in contact with.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

When Johnny Cash's Voice Changed

I'm in the midst of reading CASH: The Autobiography, by Johnny Cash with Patrick Carr, and particularly enjoyed The Man In Black's account of when his voice went from a boyish tenor to his manly baritone/bass.

     I was singing as I walked in the back door, and [my mother] wheeled around from the stove in shock and said, "Who was that?"
      I sang some more for her, exploring my new range, and as I found out how deep I could go, her eyes teared up and she said, "You sound exactly like my daddy." Then she said, "God has His hand on you, son. Don't ever forget the gift."
     I don't think Moma really wondered who was singing; she knew it was me. And that was the first time I remember her calling my voice "the gift." Thereafter she always used that term when she talked about my music, and I think she did so on purpose, to remind me that the music in me was something special given by God. My job was to care for it and use it well; I was its bearer, not its owner."

Truth is...any innate ability or talent any of us has can rightly be called a gift. We have not, nor cannot, create them. We can certainly develop them, harness them, and train ourselves to use them with excellence, but their existence within us is absolutely dependent on the grace of God.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17 (NIV)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Taking a Knee

According to every sports-related movie I've ever seen  -  and when it comes to sports, watching movies is the only experience I have to go on  -  to "take a knee" means to gather around the coach and listen up because he's about to lay some important words on you.

Of course, for the past several weeks, the idea of football players taking a knee carries a totally different meaning.

For those on one side, it is a form of silent protest against the inequality and injustice that exists within the borders of "the land of the free and the home of the brave". For those on another side, it is a disgusting show of disrespect for those who have fought and died for the star-spangled banner that is our nation's flag.

For me, taking a knee is something completely different.

  • It is the first step in retrieving one of Beloved's earrings from under the bedroom dresser.
  • It is a necessary posture to get eye-to-eye with my grandchildren; either to let them know I love them or to let them climb onto my back.
  • It is a sign of humility before the almighty Creator God.

If I were to kneel in protest of anything it would also be completely different.

  • I would kneel to protest my lack of kneeling to pray.
  • I would bend my knee to protest the bending of my will toward the things of this world instead of the things of God.
  • I would collapse in grief to protest the sickness of human hearts and the greatness of my own selfishness, greed, and gluttony.
  • I would lay spread eagle on the ground in utter amazement at the One who sacrificed all so I could be free from sin's stranglehold.

Truth is...my life could do with a little more of that kind of humility, amazement, and life-changing grief.