God’s Upside-Down Economy

How many of you love this?…

I remember as a young boy, my grandmother preparing this cake. Upside-down cake…I was confused…the cake was still upright. Where’s the part where we flip it on its head and make a total mess?

I am often reminded that God has His own “upside-downedness.”

  • The last shall be first, and the first shall be last
  • He or she who would be great, must be a servant
  • To truly live, we must die (to ourselves)
  • The proud are humbled, but the humble are exalted
  • She who had the least to give (the widow), gave the most
  • And of course, the ultimate example where God used a killing machine (the cross) to save the world

There are many more examples in the Bible. I encourage you to share your favorites.

Jesus simply turns the conventional wisdom of the world, about success, happiness, love — on its head. The cake is finally flipped!

Poem:

Upside-Down

Christ has flipped
these two worlds
on their collective heads

Last is first
the humble instead
of the prideful perch

To truly live
I must be dead

Walking

Jer 7:23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people; and walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, so that it may be well with you.

Jer 6:16 Thus says Jehovah, Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths where the good way is, and walk in it, and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk in it.

I am not walking well. Physically, I mean. My back issues have cropped up again and I am hobbling at best. Soon I will have surgery again. Twice in two years, almost exactly a year apart is not a good trend! Maybe I can skip August from now on…

Let me clarify that I’m not asking for sympathy, although I do covet prayers. God will see me through.

But thinking about my difficulties in walking with my back and legs led me to think about walking with my heart and my soul. My walk with the Lord. I confess I am sometimes hobbling and stumbling here too.

My prayer is this: “Lord Jesus, help me to walk in the way You have established for me. Let me not deviate from the path of righteousness and holiness and obedience to You. And when I stumble, when my spiritual walk is weak and hobbling along, lift me up and strengthen me in your Spirit as I cry out to You. Unlike the people in the time of Jeremiah, I desire to find and walk the old paths. Restore the beauty, wonder, and peace of a faithful walk with You. Let me bask in the fullness of Your grace. In the strong name of Jesus, Amen.”

God bless you today.

Poem:

Sense

I sense in you the supernatural gift

the divine essence

the touch of the Almighty

the breadth of forgiveness

the calm of those who walk with the Lord deep into the night

And arise with a joy magnanimous

beyond this life

11/23/15

The Mockingbirds

“God is not mocked.”  Gal 6:7

But seemingly He is.

  • The Democratic Party booed God at their national convention in 2012
  • Students at Columbine High (CO) were asked if they believed in God before being shot and killed by a couple of their classmates
  • Athlete Tim Tebow was relentlessly vilified and ridiculed for publicly expressing his faith in Christ

There are just a few examples off the top of my head.  You might think of others as well.

“God is dead.”

So declared Friedrich Nietzsche in the latter part of the 19th Century.  How wrong he was, he quickly ascertained one second after his death.

And those who would pick up Nietzsche’s declaration today are wrong as well.  The more man attempts to stamp out and kill the Christian faith, the more it grows and multiplies.  It’s like a harried man trying to stomp out a fire, only to have three or four pop up in its place.

Let the mockingbirds sing their anthem.  We, whose faith is minimized, marginalized, maligned, and worse – are praying for their souls.


Gal 6:7
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.

Contemplations of a Savior – Part I

Imagine you are the perfect Being.  Complete.  Holy.  All powerful.  All knowing across the spectrum of time.  Perfection personified within and beyond the universe.

How humbling must it have been to be born as a baby human?!  To obey and submit to flawed earthly parents.  To get along with imperfect, grumbling, jealous siblings.  To grow up in a backwater town in a conquered nation.  To talk and listen among people who for the most part just don’t get it.


To live a routine, hum-drum life as a son, a carpenter, a Jew.  To be basically invisible for most of his youth, adolescence, and young adult life – among fellow humans.

  

And all the while, He never sinned.  Although tempted just as we are on a daily, hourly, or constant basis.  40 days of incessant temptation directly from Satan.  Yet never to have (even once) given in to his earthly human nature – I cannot fathom such a man!


Children learn at such an incredibly young age the tools of manipulation, behavioral modification and reinforcement, and the desire to have it my way.  Me, me, me!  Tantrum, fake tears, jumping up and down.  All to get WHAT I WANT.  This is nothing more than infantile greed, lust for things, desire for control.  The Father of Lies, the Prince of the Air, the roaring lion of destruction – Satan himself – begins early to plot our downfall.  Maybe even at the moment that we are conceived, Satan is assigning demons to bedevil us for our entire earthly existence.


But Jesus, receiving mega-doses of temptation, never gave in and sinned.  And because of His faithfulness, He was able to present Himself as a spotless sacrifice for our sins on the Cross.

  

Unbelievable.  Amazing.  Unfathomable.


Only Jesus.

The Lost Art of Being Patient

The desire for the instantaneous, or even pre-fabricated  satisfaction, has tainted our society to expect, nay demand the unattainable.   What has been lost is the art of being patient.

Even though it’s called “fast food.” it’s really not that fast.  At least not by the standards of many in the drive through lane.  Imagine this scenario; you have probably witnessed it.  Many times.

  • A customer speedily enters the parking lot of his or her chosen brand of fast food. Despite encountering a long line of cars winding back from the drive through order board, they take their place in line because its “more convenient.”
  • As the line seems to move slower than Christmas for a 7 year old, the customer begins a process of huffing and puffing, followed by fits of rage when the car in front does not immediately move up when the other cars move.  Ranting and cursing may ensue.
  • When finally reaching the spot to place an order, the customer is fit to be tied when the employee fails to hear the order properly.  When reaching the pay window, the employee is regarded with contempt.  The last straw occurs when the customer is asked to wait a few more minutes in the drive through parking space.  Oh the humanity!

You get the idea.  More, now.  Better, but not any slower, now.  We have become a society of convenience on its own terms, and they aren’t up for negotiation.  And, when disappointing results occur, well, that’s license for a tantrum or conniption fit.  And of course, we are implanting these traits in succeeding generations. Especially if they see us as parents and grandparents acting this way.

And of course, now comes the rub.

The reason that I am writing this is precisely because I have been the person yelling at the slow car that won’t get out of the passing lane and is holding me up.  Or been abrupt and unfriendly to people working in fast food that receive 99 comments about how awful and slow things were, and not one thank you or word of encouragement.  Now, of course there are people who are poorly trained or who just don’t care about doing a good job.  I’m not minimizing that.  But I also know how far a word of encouragement can go in lifting people’s spirits.  We ought to be more intentional about that.

And it starts with that lost art of being patient.  Paul had a lot to say about that in the New Testament:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.  [Philippians 4:11-13]

But godliness with contentment is great gain.  [1 Tim 6:6]

Yes, I need to be reminded of this.  At times, we all do.  If you read my last post, you know that I am dealing with pain that just doesn’t seem to want to go away.  My wife has lovingly reminded me of times when I have been short, impatient, and downright cantankerous.  Mostly because I have forgotten the lost art of being patient.

God wants us to wait.  Not to be mean, but to help us grow into people that are kind, encouraging, understanding, compassionate, and who are able to lift another’s spirits because we have been in that valley before.  Of course I want instant pain relief; but that’s just not God’s timetable.  And Father knows best.  Perhaps, one day, I can encourage someone else dealing with pain.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.  [Gal 6:2-3]

How about this?  I will pray for your patience, and you pray for mine.  It’s a practice worth developing.

 

Poem:  Test of Patience

People who seemingly cannot drive

But on the highways seem to thrive

…and multiply

Forgive my thoughts and epithets

Take them home with care

and still my mind

cool my jets

that I might love

those who drive me insane

The Purpose of Pain

One could easily say that the past month of my life would fit in the category of “thrown for a loop, and then run over back and forth by said loop.”

For 50+ years, I prided myself on my general good health.  And this from an infancy where I was sickly, had to drink soy milk, and began to see an ophthalmologist at age two.  But for most of my adult life, I had little if any health problems, never saw a family physician [I did ask my father – who was the epitome of the rural general practitioner – general health questions], and praised God for my good health [except when I was running from Him, nee Jonah].  I had a record of never spending the night in a hospital, that I intended to keep.

As I got to age fifty, I celebrated a half a century on earth with continued good health.  I did have one issue that was not bothering me too bad, but finally underwent surgery to correct it last year.  But I convinced the surgeon to send me home same day, thus keeping my record intact!

And then there was the latter half of August, 2016.  The pain in my right leg went from nagging to intolerable.  It would be later diagnosed as a bulging disc in my back doing a number on the sciatic nerve that runs down the leg.  I was unable to walk.  To get to the car, my wife and my brother-in-law had to support me as I took one baby step [or dragging of the leg] at a time.  Then a whirlwind week of ER visits [yes, multiple – a story for another time], painful MRIs, and finally referral to a Neurosurgeon who fixed the disc.  But my record came to an end with an overnight hospital stay.  Oh well – age…

God was working through this entire ordeal and has been exceedingly good to me; I truly am forever grateful.  I can walk!  Hallelujah!

And that would be the end of the story, but for…

Pain.  Despite a successful surgery that has allowed me to walk again, I have a lingering neuropathy on my foot.  The surgeon was hopeful that this would go away on its own, but that has not been the case.  I have asked God to take away this nagging, sometimes burning, sometimes shooting pain.  My foot is ultra-sensitive.  Medication prescribed has little effect.  Sleep is difficult.  Wearing a shoe is extra painful.

I am hopeful that as I return to see the surgeon this week that some other course of therapy – medication or otherwise might be helpful.  And my prayers are still that God would heal as he did for the leprous man in Matthew 8:2-3

Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared

But God may have a greater purpose for my pain.  I am steadied in my resolve, that if God does not heal me and this pain continues to beset me – He is still holy, glorified, and sovereign.  He is still worthy to be praised!

The Bible tells us that God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.  Paul certainly knew this with his “thorn in the flesh.”

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
[2 Cor 12:9-10]

Is this easy?  Not at all.  But I am confident in God’s plan for my pain.  Whether He takes this nagging thing away is irrelevant.  His plan, His purpose, His Word; my obedience, taking up my cross [light as it is], and becoming more Christ-like are the issues.  Thy will be done.

Amen.

 

Late great United States?

We stand on the precipice of a new year.  The last 12 months have been tumultuous for the United States of America in many ways; culturally, politically, but most of all morally and spiritually.

Once could fairly and adequately state that [using Charles Spurgeon’s analogy] America is on the down-grade.  Christian bakers and photographers are fined and threatened with worse for conscientiously objecting  to participation in a same-sex ceremony.  The slaughter of unborn babies, which has continued unabated since 1973, was brought into sharp display with grisly videos depicting infant body part transactions.  And where does one begin regarding the treatment of veterans?

But the United States can be great again.  Its’ citizens must begin again to:

  • remember and honor the triune God who has continually watched over and blessed the nation from its inception
  • respect the Constitution and the rule of law
  • convey honor and dignity to all human life, regardless of its age from conception to natural death

And demand of the government to:

  •  act as a sovereign nation; protecting its citizens and securing its borders
  • treat those who serve in  our military, police, and first responder units with honor and respect, taking special care of the wounded in their ranks
  • serve again as the principal leader of free nations, advancing the cause of liberty and redress of wrongs against the oppressed

This list is not even close to exhaustive by any means.  That fact is unfortunate and is cause for sadness.  Above and before all of our efforts, however is the need to pray daily for this nation.  Pray for those in authority and positions of leadership.  Pray for the election of new leaders that we will face in the not too distant future.  Pray that we would return to God, and that His judgement upon us may yet be stayed.  Pray without ceasing.

 

Late Great United States?

 

I fear for this place

the late great United States?

where innocent babes are torn asunder

harvested in pain, for plunder

When did our hearts grow fangs

How long since our souls surrendered?

 

The fact that God has not yet brought us low

gives me cause to hope

Still yet a remnant of The Way holds sway

within His heart, judgement held at bay

 

But how long can His righteous anger be subdued

against the tide of evil and depravity unglued?

Hardly ever has the Devil found such fertile ground

We make it far too easy for evil to abound

 

Yet, lest we forget

when sin covers this land

in the barrenness of desert sand

We who faithfully follow Christ

can offer Living Water

and plant the seeds that bring

fertile valleys of righteousness

in the Land of the King

 

12/09/15

Zombie Euphoria

No denying it.  I had heard the frequent buzz about the hit show, The Walking Dead [AMC], but always from the periphery.  Not much into television drama, my viewing runs from sports to World War II documentaries.  That about covers it.  Finally I decided to check out a recent episode, but I didn’t watch long.  Too violent for my taste.  Perhaps it was this particular episode; I will leave that to the show’s devotees to confirm or deny.

Still, I was interested in the name of the show.  It reminded me of an idea that I had been cultivating for several years.  It began with the concept of convicted prisoners on death row.  Such are often labeled as “dead men walking.”  Although still breathing on earth, these prisoners are yet condemned to die.

I believe that a parallel exists in describing the state of unbelievers.  There are many all around us who have not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, Redeemer.  One might accurately state that these individuals are dead men and dead women walking.  Breathing daily the earthly atmosphere.  To all outward worldly appearances, many of them are models of prosperity.  Secure, successful, and strong.  Others have made trainwrecks of their lives through a string of poor choices, with disastrous consequences.

Yet all have this in common.  If any of them died with their next breath, they would face an eternity in Hell.  The Bible is unambiguous about this.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  [Heb 10:26-27 NIV]

One might say today that the “foolishness “ of Christianity is trumpeted more loudly than ever, although it’s probably been prevalent throughout the history of two millennia.  God is mocked, Christians are mocked [or much worse depending on the spot on the globe], and hedonism and evil have their way.  For a while at least.

For argument’s sake, suppose the atheist or unbeliever is correct.  There is no god, no heaven, no hell.  This life is all there is, and when we die the body, mind, and spirit are simply annihilated and disappear.  Believers in Christ such as myself are fools.

If the above is true, then my life (although considered foolish) would have been on balance a fairly decent one where I attempted to serve my fellow man, love my family, and leave a legacy of selflessness for my grandchildren.  The downside if the above were true – believing in an eternity that doesn’t exist [i.e. a victim of a sham].  But I would rest uneventfully in non-eternity just as everyone else.

Yet if I am right [and I firmly believe that I am], the downside for the unbeliever is not only probable lack of peace in this life but eternal and everlasting torment in Hell.  It is a bad place to be.

I pray for any and all who do not know Jesus as their personal and eternal Savior.  Those who are the “walking dead” and seem not to know it.  Lord, convict them of their immediate need.

Never forget:  there is forgiveness, peace, love, mercy, and joy in Jesus the Messiah.  Freedom from guilt, anger, and the many side effects of sin.  Just believe in Him!

Zombie Euphoria

Not a clue, or at least not a care

of the coming judgment and

    Holy wrath

None spared, save those saved

    by Christ and His death

The remnant gone in a flash

the wider highway awash in walking dead

Blissfully unaware of what lies ahead

05/30/13

Man to the Moon…And back again

My life [at least this temporal one] runs parallel to the space age of mankind.  Just a few months before my birth, President John Kennedy laid down the gauntlet of flying to the moon and returning our astronauts in one piece.   A year from my advent in this world, the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted.  Kennedy and others diffused the missile crisis, but of course he did not live to see Apollo astronauts meet his deadline in 1969.

During my junior high years, I was excited to be able to travel to Florida.  Besides visiting Aunt Sarann [best cool Aunt ever] and Uncle Kenny, a highlight for me was visiting Cape Canaveral.  I will not forget the experience of standing next to the massive Vehicle Assembly Building and looking up.  I nearly fell over backwards.  As I recall, a dirigible of some kind was inside the VAB.

Suffice it to say that I grew up in an age of technological advancement.  Dad’s Super 8 movies were really high tech for the period.  We later had them converted to VHS.  Now we need a DVD conversion.

We humans have made multiple trips to space and countless other discoveries and advancements, yet in our own cleverness we have made no advances in solving our sin problem.  Precisely because we cannot.

Each of us lies trapped in a device of our own making, out of which we are completely and utterly unable to extricate ourselves.   And of this plight, there remains only one recourse.  Bizarre as it seems, we must cease our pitiful attempts at self-rescue.

By confessing our sin and placing our trust in the Creator of the world ( and Creator of us), we open the way for forgiveness, redemption, and restoration.  Life as it was meant to be lived.  Not a bed of roses, but roses above the thorns.  And the moon thrown in for good measure.

Psalms 8:3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained…

Hammerhead

Chiseled with perfection

Precision roughness with a purpose

Made to swim in the Master’s sea

Today it feels like me

 

If I am to plunge to the murky depths

where light seems scarce

and there is no rest

 

In this trench let me shine

with the glory of Jehovah

the paramount preoccupation

of this hammer-headed mind

 

08/05/14