The Buzzard

If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.

The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.

A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look up!

A friend sent that to me today. I needed to read it. Maybe you do to.

Obstruction of Justice

I’m a big fan of obstruction of justice. In fact, I am a beneficiary of obstruction of justice. I have done things for which I deserve eternal damnation. Where it not for obstruction of justice, I would be spending eternity in hell.

I am thankful beyond belief that Jesus has obstructed the justice I deserve. By his death and resurrection and my faith in Him, I not only escape the penalty of hell but receive the glorious benefit of life eternal with Him.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking I deserve good things instead of the justice I, in fact, deserve. It’s easy to complain when it rains for several days when others have bigger houses, nicer vacations or faster cars. I have, and will forever have, so much more than I deserve. In addition to providing me with much more than I deserve for eternity, God gives me glimpses of His glory now, that I don’t deserve. I see snatches of his beauty in the world in which He has placed me. Rainy weeks are followed by days of glorious beauty. He has hinted at his great love in the hugs of kids and the touches of loved ones. We sample His goodness in the loving sacrifice of his people and the faithfulness of His children. 

It’s amusing to consider that the common belief is that we can somehow obstruct justice. Eventual and eternal judgment is only in the hands of God and only He will administer it. Our attempts are at best futile and comical.  “Obstruction of Justice” got to love it.

Radical

Radicals have gotten a bad name. The Muslim radical terrorists are mostly responsible for this. Their murdering of innocents in the name of Allah is headline-garnering stuff. It’s made it easy to say that radicalism is bad and moderation is the way to go. It fits in with our general feeling that “moderation in all things” is best. 

Moderation is clearly the way to go in eating, drinking, exercise, and maybe in politics. Moderation is politically and socially correct. Moderation leaves room for other things.

There is just no place for moderation in following Jesus. Jesus was a radical. So are his true followers. The words in red in Scripture call for a radical faith and following. The life of Jesus was in no way moderate; in every way radical. Lukewarmness calls for vomiting. Divided loyalties are condemned. There is no room for Sabbath only religion. The tithe concept that ten percent is God’s is replaced by everything is His.  Jesus radically died, not in a destructive suicide, but in a life-giving sacrifice.

Jesus’ radicalism is far different from Muslim radicalism. It’s mind-blowing that anyone would give their lives to a philosophy of hate and death. It’s incredible that we can’t generate that level of commitment to a life of love. It’s disturbing to see how

It’s disturbing to see how hate generates hate. Check out the response of “Christians” to the wave of terrorism. The response is generally hate. There is nothing wrong with defending ourselves, even with deadly force. It’s the cultivating of hate our hearts that’s non-Christian. In this dark world, a loving life generates interest, fascination and eventually conversion and discipleship.

Radical love doesn’t mean warm and fuzzy inaction. It means confronting sin. It means sharing Jesus. It means insisting that Jesus is the only way in the face of hateful political correctness. It means loving in the face of hate.

We need to be as radical as the terrorist, as willing to give our lives as they are. It’s more courageous to live for Christ than to die for Allah. We don’t act and sacrifice to gain, but to respond to something that’s already been given. 

Let’s show the world what radical love is. Let’s show them Jesus.

Sunday

For centuries now, Christianity has been centered on Sunday. In fact, now it seems it’s all about Sunday. I am not really interested in how that happened historically. I am concerned that it has happened.

 

Following Jesus isn’t about what happens on Sunday. It’s not about getting dressed up, dragging the family out of bed, listening to a sermon, singing a few songs and dropping something in the basket. It can’t be about lying to people that you don’t really know that well, how wonderful (blessed) your life is. I don’t see anything in scripture that dictates or justifies any of that. 

I have had the opportunity recently to experience Sunday in several churches. Most of them do Sundays really well. The experiences are uplifting and encouraging. They are just not all that much about following Jesus. In some churches, the focus is on the singing and worship, most others are all about the pastor’s sermon. In fact, in most churches, it’s really all about the Pastor.

Pastor Francis Chan, after leading one of the most “successful” churches in America for 14 years, walked away after realizing that he was hearing his name more than that of Jesus around the church. He took his family to China and tried to explain the church there how we do church in America. He was laughed at. “Where do they get that from this book?” persecuted members of the underground church asked in astonishment.  Where indeed?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against gathering on Sunday morning. I am against making it the essence of Christianity with no relationship to real world following of Jesus. I love to worship and enjoy a good sermon. Maybe that’s part of the problem. It’s so easy to use Sunday morning as a confirmation of our Christianity. I’m trying to figure out how to use Sunday as a tool in my spiritual arsenal and not the totality of my spiritual life. 

I guess this is what I want on Sunday:

  • An opportunity to bring something not just get something.
  • A motivation to share Jesus during the week.
  • Education about opportunities to serve.
  • An atmosphere that promotes honest sharing instead of “blessing” lying.
  • More prayer and worship, less pastor preaching.
  • A budget with more outreach and less structure maintenance.

I am not real optimistic that I’ll get that.

 

The Voice Within

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. … He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. John 16: 13-14

Truly blessed are the ears that listen— not to the sounds surrounding them— but to the voice of Truth inside.

Watkins, James (2016-01-12). The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language (Kindle Locations 564-571). Worthy Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Shutting out the noise of the world and learning to hear the voice of the spirit is the most valuable skill we can get. Just eliminating the world noise is of tremendous advantage. Our world is louder than ever. It seems we are addicted to noise. It’s like we can’t stand silence. We have to have the television on, even if we are not watching. We stick pods in our ears when possible. What is it we are trying to shut out?

We love the idea of the quiet solitude of the forest or mountain tops, yet we avoid every daily opportunity for silence. In silence, we can find peace and direction. In silence, the Holy Spirit can hold our attention and give guidance to our walk. In silence, we can avoid the stress and confusion production of our loud and distracting world. 

Let us practice the wonder of silence. Let’s get up early and resist the temptation to turn on the television and soak in the silence. Let’s seek silent times and places. Let’s practice listening above speaking, contemplation above confrontation.  

In the blessed silence, the still small voice we will hear will be the wonderful guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

Do Right

O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6: 8

I was doing pretty good in writing from a new section of Imitation of Christ but fell out of the habit. I repent and will try to do better. In fact, I will try to DO RIGHT.

Are you old enough to remember Dudley Do Right? He was a Canadian Mountie cartoon character when I was a kid. He was such a straight shooter that it was almost sickening. I guess Hollywood was trying to negatively impact the lives of the young even then, by holding do-gooders up to scorn.

We tend to look down on folks who “do right.” I guess because we consider such folks to hold themselves better than others and prideful in their good deeds. Micah has it right. He encourages us to do what is right but also to love mercy and to walk humbly. Perhaps the toughest thing about being a do-gooder is not lording it over others.

The trick is to realize that any good we do, we don’t do on our own. It flows from a humble walk with God, always giving Him all the credit. If we can keep that in mind it’s easier to be merciful to others who have not been as blessed. 

We don’t need to don a Mountie uniform or have a chiseled chin to “do right.” We just need to walk humbly with Our God. 

Dark Night of the Soul

In life there are times of darkness. Sometimes things are just not as bright as we would like, but at other times,  the darkness is complete, pervasive and overwhelming. As Christians we tend to deny the existence of such times as they challenge our faith and our hope. This failure to recognize the truth of dark nights, isolates those of us who suffer from such times. I suspect such sufferings, though denied, are actually universally suffered. If we could acknowledge the occurrence of such times in ourselves, perhaps we could better guide each other through them.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir has a song which proclaims the current Christian view on Dark Nights. It’s called “I Never Lost My Praise.” The song proclaims that despite bad times that hope, joy, faith, and praise were never lost. I think that’s a lie. I think we all at times lose our grip on hope, joy, faith and praise. We shouldn’t lie to each other about that. It increases desperation and loneliness in our brothers and sisters. It makes us believe that when we lose sight of such blessings, that God has somehow lost sight of us.

When Mother Teresa died and her uncovered writings revealed her own struggles with dark times, this was not used to encourage struggling believers. Instead, it was pointed to as evidence that this saint of God was not everything we had thought she was. I guess that made us feel better temporarily, but denied us the consolation that we all need.

Let me get the ball rolling. I have dark times. They don’t just occur at night. Sometimes, like today, they hit in the middle of a church service when I catch sight of something that brings a great personal loss to mind. A “dark night” can occur at 10 a.m. and in church.  I think they attack more frequently as we age, but the teenage suicide rate makes me think they are not unknown by the young. 

It can happen when a great memory is challenged as being mis-remembered. It can occur because the sky is gray or because it is crystal clear blue. It can happen when we feel ill or when there is nothing physically wrong. I think it can often happen when we are approaching a spiritual breakthrough or when our pride makes us think we are doing just fine. 

The truth we need to hang on to is that we aren’t alone. Our darkness is not evidence of our abandonment by God or the failure of our faith. It usually can be fought off if we can get our eyes off of circumstances and catch a glimpse of the bright river of God.  Even when the dark nights occur in the brightness of daylight, if we can hang on, the spiritual day eventually dawns. 

 

In the Hands of God

But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands. Psalm 31: 14-15

The person in the home who has possession of the remote control is king. We love the sense of control. We shrink from the idea of giving it over to God. Even when we do it’s not a one time transfer. 

Putting ourselves in the hand of God is a process. For most of us, a very slow process. We tend to want to fly our own planes. If things get rough, we may “allow” God to sit in the copilot seat. It’s a giant step to let him fly the plane. It usually requires a series of incidents which make it clear that our lives or out of control and that we have no other choice. 

Even when we go so far as to trust God, we usually do so only temporarily. We grab back the steering wheel as soon as we think we are back on course.  Deep down most of us are control freaks. We aren’t satisfied trying to control our own lives we usually try to guide others as well. 

Folks don’t much like being controlled so we exercise our “control” attempts in indirect ways. We seek to manipulate with hints, and suggestions and guilt. We grant and withhold approval. We offer to help with paths we approve of and block those we don’t like. Perhaps our compulsion to control others flows from our dismal failure to control our own lives. 

Control is an illusive reality. We can’t control because we can’t really see the road ahead. Our vision is limited. Our perspective is off. Unlike with controlling our driving, in life we don’t have the vehicle necessary to get us from place to place. We are directionless, vehicle less and fuel less. Yet we insist on control.

How foolish we are and how close is the answer to our useless wanderings.