Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Brand New for 2021 - The Nicene Creed


The statement of beliefs articulated in the Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) is the most widely accepted statement of Christian faith in the world. That is partly why my church family has adopted it as her "Statement of Beliefs".

To "sign on" to an ancient creed was kind of a big deal for the congregation, seeing as how one of the founding bumper-sticker-worthy rallying cries of the Restoration Movement (which is the genetic background of my church) was "No book but the Bible. No creed but Christ." So to help folks be more comfortable with the idea, Pastor Dave published an appendix listing Scripture references for each phrase in the Nicene Creed.

For the next 32 weeks, Truth is... will be dedicated to going through these Scriptures and these ideas and these foundational Truths of Christianity.

I hope you'll come along for the ride.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...no condensation of thoughts or tidy list of beliefs can do the entire breadth of Scripture justice, but maybe this will help get things into bite-sized chunks suitable for digestion and life-change.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Jesus Is the Answer: Jesus Quote #1


Since August 6, 2019, I've been periodically commenting on the top 25 quotes about Jesus, as listed at azquotes.com.

And today, in the penultimate post of 2020, we come to the "most popular" quote...from the pen of Timothy Keller:

"Jesus didn't come to tell us the answers to the questions of life, he came to be the answer."

Truth is...this Christianity thing isn't about agreeing with the right ideas or doing the right actions or believing the right philosophical line of reasoning. It's about meeting and falling in love with the most genuine person ever...who just happens to be God in the flesh.

Take me, Jesus. I'm yours.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Are You In or Out?: Jesus Quote #2

According to Groucho Marx, "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

While that is no doubt true, it is far less life-changing than the outside/inside comparison drawn by Chinese evangelist, Watchman Nee:

"Outside of Christ, I am only a sinner, but in Christ, I am saved. Outside of Christ, I am empty; in Christ, I am full. Outside of Christ, I am weak; in Christ, I am strong. Outside of Christ, I cannot; in Christ, I am more than able. Outside of Christ, I have been defeated; in Christ, I am already victorious. How meaningful are the words, 'in Christ.'"

It reminds me of an old Sunday School song I sang as a child: "One door and only one, and yet its sides are two: Inside and outside; on which side are you?"

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is..."Truly, truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All those who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly."

(Jesus  -  John 10:7-10 NASB)

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Life is Messy: Jesus Quote #3

I'm writing this BEFORE the November election, but I'm pretty confident in being able to say that life as we know it is still full of uncertainty, conflict, and unresolved issues.

Am I right?

The thing is, all of that is nothing new. We are not the first generation to be dealing with first one thing and then another.

Which brings up today's Jesus quote from Louie Giglio:

"Life isn't perfect and that's the kind of world where Jesus showed up. He wasn't born in a palace on a perfect day. He was born in the middle of the night during tax season to an unwed couple in a stable or a cave in a sheep field. That was God's way of showing us that nothing is perfect. Life is chaotic. It's messy. That's what Jesus was stepping into."

Truth is...God knows what we are going through and cares enough to send the very best.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

It's Safer to Have a Baby in the Czech Republic Than the U.S.

While this particular entry is more concerned with Facts than with Truth, it certainly gives me pause.

From The Body, by Bill Bryson:

"Despite its lavish spending, the United States has one of the highest rates of both infant and maternal death among industrialized nations," according to The New York Times. The average cost of childbirth in the United States is about $30,000 for a conventional birth and $50,000 for a Cesarean, about three times the cost for either in the Netherlands. Yet American women are 70 percent more likely to die in childbirth than women in Europe and about three times more likely to suffer a pregnancy-related fatality than women in Britain, Germany, Japan, or the Czech Republic. Their infants are no less at risk. One of every 233 newborn babies dies in the United States, compared with just one in 450 in France and one in 909 in Japan. Even countries like Cuba (one in 345) and Lithuania (one in 385) do much better.

The causes in America include higher rates of maternal obesity, greater use of fertility treatments (which produce more failed outcomes), and increased incidence of the rather mysterious disease known as preeclampsia.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Paul Simon said it in his song, "A Simple Desultory Philippic": All of my wealth won't buy me health.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Something for When Things Seem a Little Rough

Second Timothy 1:8-13

Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.

This is a trustworthy saying:

If we die with him,
    we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship,
    we will reign with him.
If we deny him,
    he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot deny who he is.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...following Christ does not promise to be a carefree life, but it does promise to be really, really worth it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

There Seems To Be Only Three Choices: Jesus Quote #4

If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you've read this quote from C. S. Lewis before, but it certainly belongs on this list of Top 25 Quotes about Jesus (per azquotes.com)and deserves a second look.

It's been called a tri-lemma; three options, one of which must be chosen.

"You must make your choice: either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

These words are the conclusion of a line of reasoning within Lewis' book, Mere Christianity.

Given that Jesus claimed equality with God...okay, I know that's a premise that some are unwilling to concede, but in order for that unwillingness to make sense, it's necessary to throw out accepted conventions of historical document verification and claim the gospel accounts in the New Testament are wishful thinking; made up by a church that formed because of a Jesus myth...okay, I know there are sincere individuals who would argue with that generalization and say they are NOT ignoring accepted conventions of historical document verification and, and, and...

And that's the real issue with apologetics and atheism and reasonable doubt and almost anything else a person can have an opinion about. We believe what we believe and we find reasonable arguments to support our beliefs and cast aspersions on any opposing views. It's called confirmation bias and it's real and I confess to it.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Christianity, while being a reasonable faith, cannot be arrived at through spreadsheets and if-P-then-Q logic. That's probably why it's called faith. There is reason enough to believe, but it's not iron-clad...same with "the opposing view". 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

All of Nature and Me

It's getting close to Thanksgiving here in the U.S.A. and if you're running short on things to be grateful for, let this song by Chris Rice prime the pump.

A purple sky to close the day
I wade the surf where dolphins play
The taste of salt, the dance of waves
And my soul wells up with hallelujahs

A lightning flash, my pounding heart
A breaching whale, a shooting star
Give testimony that you are
And my soul wells up with hallelujahs

Oh praise Him all His mighty works
There is no language where you can't be heard
Your song goes out to all the Earth
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

O cratered moon and sparrow's wings
O thunder's boom and Saturn's rings
Unveil our Father as you sing
And my soul wells up with hallelujahs

Oh praise Him all His mighty works
There is no language where you can't be heard
Your song goes out to all the Earth
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

The pulse of life within my wrist
A fallen snow, a rising mist
There is no higher praise than this
And my soul wells up
O my soul wells up
Yes my soul wells up with hallelujahs
©1995 Clumsy Fly Music

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Truth is...You and I are examples of Yahweh's mighty works. Every breath we take, every move we make, we'll be praising him.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

It Was Finished!

Never heard Jesus' words "It is finished" explained quite this way before. Courtesy of Illustrated Life of Jesus by Herschel H. Hobb:

This was Jesus' word of completion. It means "it is finished and stands finished." It was a word of full and final completion. Nevermore will Jesus die on a cross. Nevermore will He suffer for the sin of the world. He had made the once-for-all sacrifice. All that was necessary for the Son to do for man's redemption had been accomplished.

The Greek word tetelestai belongs to a family of words used in the legal and commercial life of Jesus' day. One word of this family was used to express the idea of completing a legal deed by dating and signing it. In a very real sense, before the foundation of the world, God had drawn up a deed of redemption for all men who would receive it, but the deed had never been dated or signed. So just before Jesus died He inserted the date of His death, and He signed it in His indelible blood.

The word uttered by Jesus was used in the sense of making full and final payment of a note. Again, in eternity the Son had made out a promissory note of redemption. In this light, one may understand the manner of salvation for those who died before Calvary. They were saved on credit, the credit of the Son of God, looking toward that day when He would pay the note. Therefore, all the Old Testament righteous, like Abraham, had looked forward in joy to Messiah's day.

Now on the cross the promissory note had been paid. So Jesus wrote across it TETELESTAI! Nevermore can payment again be demanded! All who lived before that hour, and since that hour, may in faith receive the redemption God in Christ provided as He died on the cross.

Even more to the point is an ancient usage of this verb where a father sent his son on a mission, saying, "Until you accomplish this for me." It is inferred that upon the successful completion of the mission the son reported, "It is finished." 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Three words can pack a powerful punch.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

You've Got a Choice to Make: Jesus Quote #5

Jesus has always been a polarizing person.

As much as pop culture wants to paint Jesus as this first-century hippie, roaming the land sounding like Ringo Starr ("Peace and love"), he always demanded an either/or choice from those who wanted to hang around him.

"Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." (John 3:3)

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51-58)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...This whole train of thought was brought about by the following 17 words:

"Who is Jesus? The answer to that question is a matter of eternal life and eternal death." ~ Stephen Nichols

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

What Are You Dragging Around?

Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis, is usually heavy on the snark and light on the poignancy, but this time...

Truth is...whether it's a dull, psychological heartache that thwarts all attempts to infuse lightness and joy into your life or the burden of unforgiveness toward another or yourself, you really do "gotta let that go."

The song, "Lay Your Burden Down", by seminal Jesus rocker Chuck Girard, may be just what the doctor ordered for you. Have a blessed day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

What Are You Hiding From?

What lies about yourself are you believing? And who told them to you?

I've been asking myself these questions since reading the following section of Scary Close by Donald Miller.

A few years ago I let a friend stay in my house for a weekend while I was traveling. She had some friends over for a party and I think one of them did something to [my dog] Lucy.

I didn't realize it for a few days, but one night when I was making dinner I realized Lucy wasn't around. She normally lies on the kitchen floor waiting for a scrap of food to fall, but she wasn't in her usual spot. I checked the living room and she wasn't there, and she wasn't in the dining room either. Finally I found her in the bedroom, hiding half under pillows, shaking. I sat down next to her wondering what had frightened her, but nothing seemed obvious. After an hour or so she returned to normal until the next night when I was making dinner and she did it again. After a while I realized that whenever she heard a pan being pulled from the drawer under the stove she ran into the bedroom and hid. Each night I'd go and sit next to her and rub her ears and talk softly to her, but the damage had been done.

I'm not sure what happened, but what likely explains it is that one of my friend's friends decided to teach Lucy to stay out of the kitchen. Probably some party trick he learned about dogs, that if you scare them you can get them to do what you want.

But it bothered me. I didn't like the fact somebody had trained my dog, somebody had gotten to her. I didn't like the fact that every night she had to experience terror over nothing.

I know Lucy's just a dog, but the experience caused me to wonder how many people have been made to fear something because somebody else had an agenda.

With a dog, it's pretty simple. You can just scare them and they run and hide. With people, though, it's more complicated. The way manipulative people train others is by attacking their identity. They clang pots and pans of lies about who they are, how terrible they are, and send their victims running into the bedroom, shaking.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I bet our heavenly Father doesn't like it when somebody gets to His children and scares them into thinking badly about themselves. Jesus thinks you're to die for! Get out from under the pillows and gleefully gobble the abundant morsels being served up from the Master Chef!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Holy Obsession: Jesus Quote #6

Before seeing the quote I'm about to share, I had never heard of Leslie Ludy.

Apparently, she and her husband, Eric, wrote a book, When God Writes Your Love Story, that was pretty popular around the turn of the century. It wouldn't surprise me if that book is the source of this quote:

"Until Jesus Christ is the obsession of your heart, you'll always be looking to mere men to meet your needs that only He can fill. Only when you make Jesus Christ your first love, will you be ready for a love story that reflects His glory."

That's a pretty bold claim. But then, Jesus is pretty bold, too.

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, I am the Door for the sheep, leading to life. All who came before Me as false messiahs and self-appointed leaders are thieves and robbers, but the true sheep did not hear them. I am the Door; anyone who enters through Me will be saved and will live forever, and will go in and out freely, and find pasture/spiritual security. The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance, to the full, till it overflows. -(John 10:7-10 AMP)

Truth is...That doesn't sound like the words of a "good teacher" or "an example of loving and accepting everyone." That sounds like someone obsessed...and someone worthy of obsessing over.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

What I Learned by Painting Myself Blue

I've been looking through old posts in my humor blog, Almost the Truth, and found this little gem that turned down the humor and turned up the Truth, originally published June 24, 2008.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

I just finished the first of two weekends full of performances with Giant Step Theatre. (Current production: Aladdin's Lamp, in which I appear as the Genie.) It's always an interesting experience taking the stage surrounded by 70-90 3rd-10th graders, especially when your head is shaved and you've painted yourself blue, but I've actually been led into a slightly deeper mode of thought than normal because of something that happens fairly frequently with Giant Step. . .

It's not unusual (Tom Jones, anyone?) to enter the auditorium and be instantly confronted by a 2 foot, 10 inch, cherub-faced pixie sadly proclaiming, "Dewey? I can't find my prop. I'm supposed to have a rubber chicken for the market scene, and I can't find it." Translation: Dewey? I just remembered that I need to have a rubber chicken for the market scene, but when I stood still and looked around at my feet, I couldn't see it.

The solution is normally to encourage the treasure hunter to actually go to the backstage tables that hold all of the props (physical PROPerties that actors use as part of their onstage roles: a purse, a cane, a golden lamp full of genies, etc.) and look at the spot that has been outlined and labeled "rubber chicken" or "Persian gold" or "Shabeeb's whip." 99.44% of the time, the hopelessly lost prop is found right where it belongs.

This is what got me thinking about Real Truth and not just almost.

It strikes me as odd when people go off in search of themselves. Um...aren't you right there? Isn't it true that, "Wherever you go in life...that's where you are?"

Okay...settle down...I get it. Searching for oneself is actually searching for meaning and trying to find one's place in this gobbledy-gook mess we call life. And the serious point here is that to stare at your own navel and attempt to find purpose and meaning is like looking for a rubber chicken in the dressing room instead of the prop table.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...there is a Creator, and it only makes sense that the Creator would have a better handle on what we've been created for than we do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

How Hot Is Your Relationship?

Don't worry. This isn't one of those Cosmopolitan quizzes that promises to out you as a hopeless fuddy-duddy.

In fact, it's not a survey at all. It's a quote from an older gentleman named Vernon, whose short piece, "By the Fire", is in Philip Yancey's book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

     We shouldn't expect a relationship with God to remain on a constant plane all the time. Not long ago I celebrated my sixty-fifth wedding anniversary. Believe me, when you've been married that long, you don't stay on a plane of ecstasy all the time. Romance starts as a blazing bonfire  -  you know, "You light up my life." After a few decades it settles into something more like a heap of glowing coals. Sure, some of the heat dissipates, but coals are good, too: you can roast marshmallows, or warm your feet. A different level of companionship opens up.

     For as long as I can remember I've spent at least a half-hour daily in prayer. There have been experiences when, as the old hymn puts it, "heaven came down and glory filled my soul." Those are rare. Most of the time I persist because I value the relationship with God, just as I value my marriage relationship. I gratefully warm my feet by the fire.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...the comparison of a marriage and a relationship with God is apt. In both, what matters is not the intensity but the integrity.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Bull-headed Belief: Jesus Quote #7

It's a great, big "Can't we all just get along?" world.

It's a culture where "what's true for me may not be true for you."

It's a society where we "agree to disagree" and "celebrate diversity of thought" with no thought of absolute truth or undeniable reality.

Cartoon credit: Judy Horacek

And then along comes a quote from one of the most well-known preachers of all time that dares to suggest otherwise:

Depend on it, my hearer, you never will go to heaven unless you are prepared to worship Jesus Christ as God. ~ Charles Spurgeon

How dare he say such a thing?

Well...maybe because Jesus said the same thing?

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. ~ Jesus of Nazareth (John 14:6)

Truth is...Jesus didn't stop there. He also made it clear that the "worship Jesus Christ as God" part of Spurgeon's statement was totally appropriate:

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me." (John 14:8-10 NLT)

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

What I Learned from Penguin-Watching

Consider, for a moment, the lowly penguin...

The penguins' farcical walk is quite deceptive. Those stiff feet, so ill at ease on land, act as a rudder underwater, allowing penguins to make hairpin turns at speeds of over thirty miles per hour. They are the fastest maneuverers and deepest divers of any bird; emperor penguins can reach depths of over sixteen hundred feet. These seabirds spend 80 percent of their lives as slick predators, but we only get to see the 20 percent spent staggering around on land like Charlie Chaplin.
     "Our perception of animals is based on where we are able to ob­serve them," Dr. Rory Wilson explained. "Seeing penguins stumble around being failures on land is like seeing the world's greatest athletes stumble around in the dark and never re­alizing what they are capable of. It's impossible to swim like a penguin and run like a cheetah on land." (From The Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke ©2018)

Take your pick as to what lesson you want to waddle away with from this:

  • You can't judge a book by its cover.
  • Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their moccasins.
  • Never compare your best moment to someone else's worst day.

Truth is...Yahweh is able to avoid all these cliches. "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)

And the really good news is, even though God knows us so clearly, He still loves us so dearly. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31)

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Gospel According to You

I was cleaning out the inbox of one of my email accounts and found a poem I had sent to myself back in 2006. There was no author named, so I went searching on the poem's main phrase to see if I could find out who wrote it.

I found a couple different versions, one credited to Paul Gilbert, one to Arthur McPhee...neither an exact match for what was in my email, which I happen to prefer:

Men read and admire the Gospel of Christ
With its love so unfailing and true.
But what do they say and what do they think
Of the Gospel according to you?
You are writing each day a letter to men -
Take care that the writing is true;
‘Tis the only Gospel that some men will read,
That Gospel according to you.

It immediately brings to mind a song my wife has been singing for years as she presents talks and concerts around the country. It's on her fourth album, living letters of HOPE, written by Gordon Jensen and titled "You're the Only Jesus".

If not in you, I wonder where
Will they ever see the One who really cares?
If not from you, how will they find
There's One who heals the broken heart
And gives sight to the blind?

You're the only Jesus some will ever see
And you're the only words of life
Some will ever read
So let them see in you the One in whom
Is all they'll ever need
'Cause you're the only Jesus
Some will ever see

And if not you, I wonder who
Will show them love
And love alone can make things new?
If not from you, how will they learn
There's One who'll trade their hopelessness
And give joy in return?

You're the only Jesus some will ever see
And you're the only words of life
Some will ever read
So let them see in you the One in whom
Is all they'll ever need
'Cause you're the only Jesus
Some will ever see

So let Him shine, let Him show
Let them see Him in you
You've gotta let them know

'Cause you're the only Jesus
(You're the only Jesus)
You're the only Jesus some will ever see

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...we are Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us (2 Corinthians 5:20). And people pay far more attention to how we live than what we say. So let's get out there and live our lives so full of the Spirit that when someone bumps up against us, they can't help but get sloshed on.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Loving Like Jesus...Yikes: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #8

I'm not sure what I expected when I started writing about the top 25 quotes about Jesus as listed at azquotes.com, but I certainly didn't expect to be challenged to the extent that these words of Ravi Zacharias challenge me.

"Love is a commitment that will be tested in the most vulnerable areas of spirituality, a commitment that will force you to make some very difficult choices. It is a commitment that demands that you deal with your lust, your greed, your pride, your power, your desire to control, your temper, your patience, and every area of temptation that the Bible clearly talks about. It demands the quality of commitment that Jesus demonstrates in His relationship to us."

You might read that and think that Jesus has an easy job of loving us. He doesn't HAVE any lust or greed or pride that he has to deal with.

Think again.

He has to deal with OUR lust and greed and pride and, and, and....

And that can be a pretty tough row to hoe.

Let's put it in terms you can relate to: What if your special someone came and admitted that they have been cheating on you? How easy would it be for you to forgive? How easy would it be for you to swallow your pride and your sense of being betrayed? How easily could you die to all those feelings of hurt and keep on loving them?

Not easy...but worth it.

Worth it because the alternative would be to continue living in a stagnate pool of low self-esteem and high expectations; wallowing in the muddy sludge of holding a grudge; drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.

Truth is...Jesus loves us in spite of how we treat him. His commitment to desiring what's best for us never wavers. And we are called to love each other the same way. Paul wrote Ephesians 5:25 to husbands, but it can certainly apply to wives as well:
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Surprising Darkness of Peter Rabbit and Friends

If you remember the literary work of Beatrix Potter as cozy little children's books, you may want to rethink your memories.

From The Heroine of Hill Top Farm by John Lanchester:

"Potter's work was always tinged with a bleak realism about death, right from the opening of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, in which we learn that Peter's father has had 'an accident' and ended up in one of Mrs. McGregor's pies. ...

"Even in the lighter stories, such as Two Bad Mice, the main characters experience 'no end of rage and disappointment,' and that is before we encounter the outright evil of the fox in The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, who encourages Jemima to pick the flavorings and seasonings in which she is to be cooked — a gesture of macabre cruelty which would give pause to Hannibal Lecter.

"This darkness and violence is a central reason to why children like Beatrix Potter. Her bright, brisk, no-nonsense sentences, her sharply observed and beautifully tinted images, and her strong feeling of coziness and domesticity are all underpinned and made real by underlying intimations of darkness, cruelty, and sudden death."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Something similar can be said about the Bible. It's not just a collection of interesting stories about talking donkeys and floating menageries. If we were to make an accurate movie with Scripture as the script, it would certainly be rated R.

In the words of Rich Mullins, "The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart -- it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that befits mankind. It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice -- it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask."

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Jesus Seems a Little Needy: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #9

At first glance, a lot of what Jesus says seems kind of narcissistic and self-serving.

I mean, "If you love me, keep my commands," (John 14:15) is just a churchy way of saying "Come on, prove you love me by doing what I want," right?

Wellll...I guess I can see why a person might think that way. It is certainly what came to mind the first time I read this quote from the 19th-century bishop of Liverpool, J. C. Ryle:
"Abide in Me says Jesus. Cling to Me. Stick fast to Me. Live the life of close and intimate communion with Me. Get nearer to Me. Roll every burden on Me. Cast your whole weight on Me. Never let go your hold on Me for a moment. Be, as it were, rooted and planted in Me. Do this and I will never fail you. I will ever abide in you."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...The second half of that quote is when Jesus' true intent starts becoming clear. Pretty amazing that the creator of the universe invites us to give our burdens to him and to use him as a firm, trustworthy foundation for our whole existence. It's not about feeding Jesus' ego. It's about living our best possible life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Lion, the Zoo, and My Father

It was a warm, sunny, summer day in Northeast Indiana. The factory where my dad worked was having a company-wide picnic in the city park next to the zoo.

Part of the festivities was free admission to the zoo, and we gladly took advantage of the situation; strolling past exhibits of spider monkeys, prairie dogs, and venomous snakes.

In one cage, all by itself, was a mountain lion. In front of the small group of people gathered at the cage, a teenaged boy was locking eyes with the cat and quickly moving back and forth, with the mountain lion jumping side to side to keep up with him.

I turned to my father and said, "That's sad. He shouldn't be teasing the lion like that."

My dad said "Nah, he likes it. That cat's having fun."

Fast forward 20 minutes or so. I was walking through the zoo on my own, having convinced my parents that animal-watching was far more beneficial than having seconds of now-warm potato salad.

I found myself in front of the mountain lion's cage and decided it looked bored and needed some of that chase-the-boy-back-and-forth action.

Less than 60 seconds later, I was being firmly reprimanded by a zoo employee for teasing the big cat.

"But my dad said -," I choked out before quickly walking out of the zoo with tears on my cheeks, feeling embarrassed and ashamed and somehow betrayed.

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Truth is...there comes a time in most folks' lives when they realize their parent is only human, after all. It's shocking and disappointing, but it's also part of growing up and a step toward appreciating that parent in a new way.