Sunday, November 21, 2021

Crown

 . . . but as for him, his crown will shine. 

 - From Psalm 132

We begin to focus more now, and the coming King. It is certain that we will have a king!

And isn't that really at the heart of all of human history? Human kings are horrible. Sure, occasionally, every couple hundred years or so, a kingdom might get lucky and have a good king. A lot of humans, maybe a majority of them, are willing to put up with ten lousy, evil kings; as long as the eleventh is a good one. 

The people protesting against the American system today, the empowered sliver of our society that has managed to attain dominance in Washington, in reality, wants a king. They want a single powerful person to gather all power to him or herself. They hope that this king wipes out the "mean" people in our communities . . . or anybody that may remind them of someone rich, or favored, or popular, when they were little. Perhaps they were bullied once. They never got over it and want retribution to this day. 

And so, a King! Yes! A King could do this for them! And once the people they don't like are out of the way, they plan to get back to talking about things like freedom and human dignity. 

We just . . . really want a king. 

Jesus is a Good One. He's eternally good. He's the got the power to fix things, and the humility to do it wisely and fairly. And he loves us all evenly. 

We enter Thanksgiving week. And we do so, with the King on our mind. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Favor

Let your servant find favor in your sight.

 - From I Samuel 1

Let's look at an attitude that God favors. This phrase: "Let your servant find favor in your sight," is rather frequently employed in the Old Testament. It's a very humble disposition. First: when you say this, you're making others more important than yourself; Second: you have made it your goal to make the other person happy. 

Your wish is that the other person approves of you. You want their happiness before your own. 

What if politicians in 2021 thought like that? What if married people did? What if news channels did? 

But wait . . . isn't that a little enabling? Aren't we opening the door to being used by a narcissist?

Maybe so . . . but I really don't believe narcissists are so common for this to be a problem. We do want healthy, functional relationships. We certainly don't want to enable wrong behavior. But at the same time . . . I think that it's unquestionable, that humility itself is too rare. We've puffed ourselves up so much, as a culture; that we don't see anything good in humility, at all. 

Is it possible that . . . in our overwhelming move to let every single individual do whatever they want,  even if it's to commit violent and destructive crime, we're actually dealing with forces we don't understand?

What if our responsibility as citizens, really, is to care (at least a little) what others think of us? What if the practical rollout of the biblical principle of seeking the favor of others, meant that we really should make adjustments, so that others could be comfortable?

We may be erecting a generation that is so self-focused, that we're missing the profound need for humans, to feel (once in a while) that other people really do care what we think . . . and that the need to be liked is a hard-wired need that we do not understand. 

A little more humility, please. 


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Devour

They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers . . . 

 - From Mark 12

Our generation is vying to be the most notorious, in history, in identifying, weeding out, and punishing heretics. 

First: I think that I would avoid even the word "heretic," or "heresy" in our times. It's too easily used, in debate. 

Second: I'd put "hypocrisy" in the same category. Just don't. The words "heresy" and "hypocrisy" even sound similar, and they both sound ugly. They are not uplifting words. 

Third: You'd think that the more educated people would be the least likely to toss these words around casually. But the opposite seems to be the case. 

These are not times for ugly-sounding words. But now . . . lest the reader think I'm entering into a "warmth-for-everybody" theme here, I'm not. 

These educated, and highly-credentialed people, that love these words, are the same that enjoy the best seats in the house. They make sure you address them with their lofty professional title, usually "Doctor." (A side comment - an Engineering PhD of many of our acquaintance, said that you can tell how non-technical the doctorate is, by how much they insist you call them "Doctor.")

They don't mix it up, at all, with mechanics, farmers, hunters, beer-drinkers, patriots, proud Americans - - - the modern equivalent of fishermen in the time of Christ. They can't see it, but they are the very descendants of the Scribes and Pharisees. Look at their profession: Scribes. Writers. Journalists. Historians. They write the narrative and they record the history. We (blindly) trust them to tell the truth. 

What is this: They devour widows' houses? I think that we could unpack that statement for some time. But the implication is that the Man and Woman of God; the spiritual servant-leader, the person of any worth whatsoever, should be mostly concerned about their elders. I heard Dennis Prager assert, last night,  assert that one of the most important things we need to do, right now, is to restore the respect of children for their parents. Their first loyalty should be to mom and dad, and family. If that is in place, then free republics may thrive. 

And maybe this is why the care of our elders is so consistently stressed, from the "In the beginning," to "Come, Lord Jesus."

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Near and . . . Far

So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near . . . .

 - From Ephesians 2

A Facebook friend of mine loves to hate Donald Trump. By extension, he likewise expresses hate towards people that voted for Trump. He doesn't think he hates. He certainly does not believe he hates people that voted for Trump. But hate is what is felt, in the way people are treated. If we are to believe the victims in the #MeToo movement, then that means we should believe people that say "You are being hateful to me."

And as we have learned in the social justice movement . . . when someone says "You have stepped over the line," we are expected to change course, and even apologize. Make things right. Swallow your pride. 

This friend is a self-described evangelical. But he hates Christians that vote for Trump, so much, that he eschews being called an evangelical, if it puts him in the same camp as Trump voters. But he's also a retired professor in a Christian seminary (which should clarify the picture somewhat). He also had a career in journalism (which should clarify the picture totally). 

The mark of Christian purity should be evidence of humility. This friend is not at all interested in being proven wrong, in making things right, in admitting he's human, in apologizing. 

Let's see if we can get to Paul's point, in the letter to the Ephesians. In fact, let's see if we can understand any Scripture that talk about unity in the Church, or how to handle people from other cultures (like Samaritans, for instance). Let's try to identify a short-cut to empathizing with Samaritans, or Women at the Well, or Greeks, or Gentiles, or people of color, or white people, or males . . . . 

How can we tap into these emotions that have made people so hateful, so bigoted, so racist. Is it possible?

 Let's start with how you think of trump voters, (if you're a woker). Let's start with how you think of progressive millennials (if you're a traditionalist).

Now you've got it. That's what we're talking about. It's what Paul was talking about. It's what Christ talked about, and still talks about. You hate people without thinking. You want to separate from them. You are not with them, or of them. You look down on them.

And you must stop. 

Those who are far off will unite with those who are near. Near and Far are a very long way from each other. They are farther away, than a Trump voter is, from a San Fransisco liberal. God tore down the division between us. 

Let's start acting like it. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Curtain

You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak and spread out the heavens like a curtain. 

 - From Psalm 104

The truth of God is often presented, as though covered by a veil. Most people will look at God, and His Word, and see only a curtain. They see nothing. They can't see what's just beyond the curtain. 

It may be a common trait of humanity - - - to not want to look beyond. To be satisfied with the curtain. 

Why do we hide from the truth? Why don't we dig deeper? Why don't we want our knowledge to be more complete? Why don't we want our perspectives to be enhanced by the unique purview of others? 

Just today, I saw on some Cable TV show, a true story about a guy with a large cyst on his arm. He let it grow until it was the size of a grapefruit. When asked why he didn't take corrective action a long time ago, he said "I don't want to find out there's something bad under there. I'm happier not knowing."

How much harm comes into the world, into our lives, because people are afraid to dig? What damage comes from not wanting to find out?

God's truth is veiled, yes. God Himself comes as a stranger in the night. He is a stealth God . . . 

 . . . but only to those that are afraid to dig. 

Once you get past the veil, you see that God Himself is so open, so approachable, that even the light around him is like a vast curtain. Even the openness of Heaven itself, is like a cloak around God. 

We find paradox everywhere in Scripture. The truth of God is often found in the paradox. You have to part with your parameters. You have to question your assumptions. You have to be open to new information. This is the path to Truth. Is God hidden from us? Yes . . . but in reality, the cloak around Him is actually light itself, so that He is clearly seen by those passing beyond the veil. 

And so in the symbolism found in describing the Lord Himself (and God is Love, and God is Light) we see that He does not cover His Face, the source of Light. The path beyond any human danger is a lighted path, illuminated by the light emitting from the Face of God. 

And if God shows us His Face . . . then we also should show our faces, to one another. We have come to a point in history, where even the showing of a face is an act of faith. 


Monday, September 27, 2021

Woke

 Then Jacob woke from his sleep . . . 

 - From Genesis 28

Jacob's dream is legendary. Even in 2021, it may be hard to find a person living in a Western society, that has not heard the phrase "Jacob's Ladder." There was even a song so titled, by Huey Lewis and News, back in the 1980s. 

The idea is that Jacob happened upon a gateway, or portal, into "Heaven," and accordingly, by drawing so near to the Lord Himself, was forever changed by it. Jacob still had not done much except be kind of a cheat and a scoundrel. But God promised him, in the dream, that the land upon which he is resting, would be his one day, and that "all the nations of the earth would be blessed", through him. 

And all the testimony we have, that this dream actually happened, is Jacob's word. 

How many historical figures list as their chief credential, a "dream" that they once had?

But it's this closeness to another dimension, or to eternity itself, that occurs within the dream, that merits a closer look. Some have suggested that the dream state does, in fact, place you near a realm above and beyond our own. Some dreams are so life-like, it's hard to argue otherwise. 

Eventually, you wake up. This is the boundary from dreamfulness, to being "woke," or back to reality. 

Now think about that for a second. The woke state, compared to the dream state, is where your feet are back firmly planted. You are no longer in the fantasy world of dreams. 

Can a person claim to be "woke" whose objectives include setting up Utopia on earth, in these limited lifespans? 

Or should a "woke" person, instead, be practical, present, attentive to their surroundings and to others? 

When Jacob "awoke," the dream was gone. The angels, the ladder, the Voice of God. The ideal state occurred in the Otherworld of Dreams. But, while woke, Jacob got back into his routine. He worked. He rested. He played. He studied. He had aches and pains. He got hungry and thirsty. He dealt with what life had handed him, right there before him. 

Woke should mean . . . serving the people around you, cheerfully. 

It should not mean . . . stirring up discord because everything's not as perfect as you want it to be. 

WOKE. A concept that should be re-assessed. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Take

and taking [the child] in his arms . . .  

 - From Mark 9

If you were going to "take" something . . . what would you do? How would you do that?

You can "take" a left turn. This means you will steer your vessel to port. 

If you "take" a week off . . . you will not be reporting back to work for at least seven days. 

You can "take" a fast pitch, which means you don't swing at it. 

"Take" is an active word. You "take" your medication, which means you will ingest it. 

Jesus took a child in His arms, to make a point about humility and servanthood. And this picture in your mind is, the Lord has lifted a child up, and is holding him or her close to His chest. In holding the child, He is protecting him. He carries her . . . which means she goes where He does. 

Jesus equated this act with welcoming. And we are to welcome others. We are hospitable. We open our doors. We bring them in and care for them. We feed them. We shelter them. We provision them. We take them. And we do so actively. We do it to the "least of these." We help those most needy. We swallow our pride, and serve them.

Our emphasis is not on being right, or popular, or strong, or attractive, or clever, or well-educated. 

It is on becoming lowly, so that we can help the lowliest. We get them what they need. 

We take them.

I'm sorry. In talking about the neediest person, Jesus demonstrates what to do . . . and He lifts the needy person into His arms. He gets as close as He can, to them . . . because in the end that's the most needful thing of all. 

The separation of humanity from itself, for any reason, is a parameter that must not be permitted. Care for the sick. Put them away from others, so that their illness doesn't spread. But do not compel forced distancing from others. Someone has to go in and serve. Someone has to get close. Someone has to serve. 

Someone has to touch. 

Someone has to take