Many have sought to recapture the moment in art, drama, and music. All attempts, while ultimately failing to completely tell the story, point to the experience of it from the perspective of Paul and of the artist.
It is the experience, before, during, and subsequently upon reflection, that Paul testifies to before the commander.
Saul, the Jewish scholar, known by the masses as Paul, the apostle, was changed forever by one moment in time. It was a time of encounter with the living Jesus and with himself.
All of his life coalesced into that moment and that moment lived with him for the rest of his life.
It was always alive, always active, always transforming.
He told the story to any who would listen.
He was on one road with one purpose when something happened to cause him to change roads and purpose.
It does not happen to all people the same way, but we all have moments - maybe one, maybe many.
In those moments, everything suddenly makes sense and is redefined in the light of the vision we receive.
Think about your own moment of clarity. How would you tell the story?
Acts 21:37-22:16 New Living Translation
As Paul was about to be taken inside, he said to the commander, “May I have a word with you?”
“Do you know Greek?” the commander asked, surprised. “Aren’t you the Egyptian who led a rebellion some time ago and took 4,000 members of the Assassins out into the desert?”
“No,” Paul replied, “I am a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city. Please, let me talk to these people.” The commander agreed, so Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence enveloped the crowd, and he addressed them in their own language, Aramaic.
“Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “listen to me as I offer my defense.” When they heard him speaking in their own language, the silence was even greater.
Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today. And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the followers of the Way from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished.
“As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
“‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
“And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting.’ The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me.
“I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’
“And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.’
“I was blinded by the intense light and had to be led by the hand to Damascus by my companions. A man named Ananias lived there. He was a godly man, deeply devoted to the law, and well regarded by all the Jews of Damascus. He came and stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And that very moment I could see him!
“Then he told me, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and hear him speak. For you are to be his witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard. What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.’
La conversion de Saint Paul (vers 1690), par Luca Giordano (Naples 1634 - Naples 1705).(Le haut du tableau a été supprimé sur la photo pour éviter un reflet.) Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy.
I am what I am, but I am not Popeye, so that is not all that I am. I am not all that I have become, but I am also more than I have become and I am all that I am becoming and less.
I am more than I was in spite of the fact that I have lost some of that along the way ... but You never did.
And as confusing as this all seems to me, it make perfect sense to You in Whom all things make sense. So, make me a slate upon Which You can write what needs to be read by those I meet today. You choose the ink, indelible or erasable. I am willing to be or become what You have in mind, to be significant or incidental in the eyes of those who, like myself, are too blind to judge what is or is not significant. This is out of my hands and in Yours.
Teach me whatever in in Your curriculum for me today and I will seek to learn it.
Thank You for another opportunity to fail and succeed and move forward either way. I lay before You this, my feeble prayer of humble consecration and utter confusion with deep clarity of soul and peace of mind and heart.
I know that You have forgiven me all and given me all and that my confidence in all things is in You.
So I commit my family, my church, my friends, my hopes, my dreams, my strengths, my weaknesses, and all that I am and have to You today.
That alone, makes perfect sense to me, My God and King, My Lord, My All, in Jesus' Name. Amen.
And forgive this prayer about me when I know fully well that it is all about You.
Jesus found a tax collector and called him. His name was Levi, but that was his Jewish name. We know him as Matthew, but Luke is telling his story here.
He was a Jew who collaborated with the occupying Romans. He had many friends out in the world that he wanted to introduce to his new rabbi, Jesus. So, he threw a party and, at the party, Jesus did some powerful teaching.
And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. – Luke 5:34-35
When I first scribbled these thoughts, it was the season of weddings. Love was in the air and young lovers’ eyes were glazed over with anticipation of their marriages. They had chosen their brides and grooms and, with eager anticipation, await their nuptials.
Jesus was born for an arranged marriage. He is the bridegroom of a precious bride, betrothed by his Father from the foundation of the earth and adorned in beauty and regalia. He is the husband of the church. His eyes glow with love for his bride.
His presence is of such value that the members of the wedding party mourn while he is away and rejoice when he arrives. The hosts of Heaven understand this and even nature responds with glee at his arrival. The earth was darkened when he died, and his friends grieved with despair. His resurrection brought unspeakable joy and his ascension was no source of pain for with it, he sent his Spirit to abide with and in us forever. He is always present as he promised in his Great Commission.
We are cast in this drama as both the collective bride and friends of the bridegroom. In both roles, we have within ourselves the desire to adore him. It may disguise itself as something else. The flesh will distort that desire and pervert it, but the essence of desire is that we would desire him.
The New Wine
Luke 5:27-39 NRSV After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me."
And he got up, left everything, and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus answered, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance."
Then they said to him, "John's disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink. Jesus said to them, "You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days."
He also told them a parable: "No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, 'The old is good.'"
Source: NASA - Lacerta’s Star Outshines a Galaxy -A little-studied star, TYC 3203-450-1, upstages a galaxy in this Hubble Telescope image from December 2017.
We’ve No Less Days to Sing God’s Praise Then When We First Begun
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. – Psalm 95:6
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. – Luke 2:15
Eternity baffles me.
Why not? Even the finite cosmos overwhelms my cognition and imagination.
If Heaven and eternity occupy the same dimension, then I have no idea what to expect except the undiluted presence of God in all of God's love and glory.
So, will Heaven be an eternal choir rehearsal? I doubt it, but if it is, we’ll love it – because we’ll be singing God’s praise and we won’t be bored, tired, or fidgety. We know that because once a thousand years have passed it will seem like we just started, and the praise will be real and from a joyful heart.
Impatient folks will be focused and engaged; the lethargic will be energized; overachievers will be relaxed. All ears will be tuned, and all voices will harmonize. There will be no frustration and no straining to hear or be heard.
Everything we do and everything we say will give praise to God.
When we play, it will be a symphony. When we walk, it will be a ballet of praise. When we converse with one another, it will be sacred opera. There will be one great song where every breath will be a celebration of the glory of God.
Words cannot describe it; no thought can contain it; no description can ever be adequate.
There will be no less days to sing God’s praise and no less praise to fill the days than at the beginning. Everything will always be fresh and new. The seven-step scale will be obsolete as new tonalities emerge.
It is going to be exciting!
I plan to be there whatever "there" means. I hope to recognize you in some way and there is one way. It is the way of grace – amazing grace that saved a wretch like me and every other soul that has taken the journey.
What is your response to God’s grace in your life? Embrace it. Accept the gift and begin the journey.
Father ... I am a "dis-tractable" soul. You know that and I know that and I am amazed how You have accommodated that in me and taught me to manage within the margins of my "dis-tractability" to find a tract within which I can live and seek you and find traction for my journey.
I don't slip as much as one might expect. I don't wander as far as I might. I don't fall off as many cliffs as I might fear and I don't lose sight of You as much as I would were it not for Your hand upon me.
I live by grace, in grace, and with much grace poured over me.
I swim in it, drink of it, and am refreshed daily by it.
Grace, grace, God's grace.
Father, You know why I am up so early. I need not be commended. I need this to survive.
It looks like I am doing many things .,. many things ... many distractions creeping in ... but in fact, I am up for One Thing.
I am here to meet You.
And I do.
Around every corner, You are there. In the thoughts and words of friends, You are there. In the prayer requests that tumble down into my lap. the scriptures that emerge constantly, the thoughts that come and go, the words that linger and are recorded, You are there!
You are there and I get to spend this time with You and some of it with some of my dear and precious friends who, I pray, will share in this blessing.
You are HERE! You are in this space, this large space that I must make for meeting you, this block of time, this TRACT where I can find some TRACTION because I am so dis-TRACT-able.
Keep me on tract today, Lord.
I am Yours.
In Jesus' Name.
Life as it is ... "Let us face life as it is, not as we feel it ought to be, for it never will be what it ought to be until the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ. --Oswald Chambers
Fire Out of Hand
Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! - James 3:5
There is a negative fire that the tongue can ignite. It is the destructive fire of gossip, malice, slander, and discord.
Keep plenty of water on hand when there is much talk. There is likely to be an inferno arising. Satan will fan the flames and itchy ears will provide the fuel. Before long, lives will be left to ruin and churches will be turned to ashes in the name of speech that might even masquerade itself as prayer requests, concerns, and opinions.
Watch your speech. You may not be able to tame your tongue, but you can give it to God. You can ask Him to catch you before you go too far and to season your words with grace, mercy, and love. You can practice the art of complimenting, edifying, and uplifting in your words. If you are always speaking words of truth in love, you’ll have no time for gossip and negative whispering.
Be more critical of yourself than you are of others. Seek accountability. Ask someone to help you “catch yourself.” Put a rubber band on your arm and snap it every time you are tempted to say something that would not be pleasing to God or nurturing to His people.
Ask yourself, “Does this really need to be said and, if it does, would it be better spoken to God?”
If someone wants to gossip, criticize others, or speak ill of God’s servants in your presence, graciously change the subject. If they persist, say something like, “Call me after you have prayed and spoken to John (or Sally) directly about this. If you still feel this way, we can go to him (or her) together. Until then, I think it is best that we not discuss this.
Stop the fire before it starts.
A Psalm of Asaph.
God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods.
How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy; Free them from the hand of the wicked.
They do not know, nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are unstable.
I said, You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High.
But you shall die like men, And fall like one of the princes.
Arise, O God, judge the earth; For You shall inherit all nations.
Father may the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight.
You LORD, are our strength and redeemer. In Jesus' name. Amen.
A prophet, a psalmist, a Savior, and an apostle all attest to a great truth is today's scriptures. Wealth has no eternal value. It will fade away, or sometimes, be quickly snatched away.
Bernie Madoff enjoyed all the best that life could offer, luxury, respect, power, and unlimited funds - until he was caught. He had acquired his unjust wealth at the cost of many innocent victims. His lifestyle at the end of his days was dank and barren space in a prison.
For Bernie, it was a great reversal of fortune.
Yet, it was not fortune. It was an apocalypse, that is, an unveiling of reality and truth.
Amos begins with "woes."
Amos 6:1 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria, the notables of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel resorts!
At ease in Zion. These are the folks who believe that because of their special relationship with God, that they are entitled to the best life has to offer. Furthermore, nothing will ever shake them from their position of entitlement.
To these, Amos cries,
Amos 6:4-7 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and lounge on their couches and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the stall, who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David improvise on instruments of music, who drink wine from bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.
Exile, he warns, is their fate, and they will be first to go. That period of time, God's people, was a time of both judgment and redemption. It was a great reversal where the nation learned what it was to be deprived of privilege and to value what was truly valuable.
Psalm 146 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!
Do not put trust in princes, the psalmists sings. Trust God. God alone is the help of the people, God sets prisoners free. God restores sight. God lifts, loves, and restores. God watches over the downcast and the broken, yes, ever strangers, aliens., and all generations.
The LORD reigns.
The wicked are brought to ruin.
It is a great reversal.
Then Jesus tells a story of a great reversal.
He merges a Greek myth of Hades, the underworld overseen by a deity of the same name with a Jewish tradition of the righteous dead being gathered to the fathers. In this case, a poor man, embraced by Father Abraham. One tradition draws from the reality of revelation and the other from a pagan world view.
The irony is, that in this story, the rich man thinks he has a special relationship with Abraham, the father of his faith and that Lazarus, the poor man is somehow excluded and unworthy of attention.
Yet, when life is over, there is a great reversal. The rich man is separated and the poor man is embraced.
Let's let Jesus tell the story.
Luke 16:19-31 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.
He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.’ But
Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things and Lazarus in like manner evil things, but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’
Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’
He said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”
Without attempting to cover everything here, we notice a few things.
Lazarus' life is miserable. He is outside the gate, excluded, tormented, hungry, ignored, never called by name, hoping for crumbs from the rich man's table. The rich man, who is not named in the story, just passes him by.
In death, Lazarus has a name and a family. He is the one included. He is a true son of Abraham, He is inside. He is in the family.
There was a chasm before and Lazarus could not cross it to reach the rich man's life blessing and the rich man would not cross it. He loved his position, and privilege too much to stoop down.
In death, there is still a chasm that no one can cross. Lazarus may desire to reach the rich man, but cannot. The rich man still sees Lazarus as a member of the servant class, unworthy to be addressed directly. Send him to me with a drop of water, he asks Abraham.
"We cannot cross" is the reply.
"Well, then,. send him back to my brothers as a messenger."
"They will believe if you do."
"I am afraid they will not, even if someone comes back from the dead."
Why, we ask, would they not believe?
What would they not believe?
They would not believe what Moses and the prophets had to say about God's enduring truth, about love of God and neighbor, about justice, mercy, compassion and righteousness. They were motivated by their own greed and pride and viewed all of life through that lens.
They will not believe that eternity is a great reversal. They will not believe that what we think matters most in this life matters not at all in the real realm of eternity. They will not believe that there are ultimate values that endure through and beyond time.
They will not believe that the real world is the unseen world.
They will not believe in ultimate righteousness, judgment, and truth or in the LORD of truth.
By now, the rich man wants his brothers to have a change of heart, mind, and direction, which is what it means to repent.
Abraham says, and it is Jesus' point, that they are too stubborn in spite of all the evidence.
we need a great reversal in this life to prepare for the great reversal that shall be imposed upon us by eternal reality. And it is not an easy thing.
Remember when Jesus painted the visual picture of the rich man being like a camel trying to be threaded through a needle? It was an impossible scenario.
Yet, when challenged on the impossibility, he said and I paraphrase, "With God, all things are possible."
So, we bring in Paul, to help us apply this truth with hope:
1 Timothy 6:6-19 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it, but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
Pause in the reading: Contentment.
All of us are called to and enable to be content.
Real contentment comes from understanding our relationship to "stuff." We did not bring it with us to this world and we will not take it out in the great reversal.
Don't love what you cannot keep. It is the root of all sorts of evil.
It gets you in trouble.
It disorients your life.
It devalues the life of others.
It causes you to wander from faith and life itself.
It leaves you empty, thirsty for a drop of water. It causes you pain.
But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
Pause Number Two - Shun and Pursue.
Shun the junk and pursue what is of great value.
Have a reversal in your thinking. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness,
As you meditate upon and study these verses this week, consider each of these qualities. Contemplate Pau's benediction here and what it means to live in immortality and eternity. What does it mean to confess Christ? What will it mean for tyou to fight the good fight and take hold of eternal life with an eternal perspective?
That is your homework this week and for the rest of your life.
As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches but rather on God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
Final Pause - What if you are the steward of wealth?
Money is not evil. The love of money is the root of, not all, but all sorts of evil.
Money is neutral. In fact, that is the point the prophet, the psalmist, the Savior, and the apostle are iterate. Even the rich can have an attitude that great riches are found in God who provides all we need.
Some people are called to generate and manage great wealth, but Paul says they need to use it to do good, to be generous, and to share.
But their calling is the same as everyone else's, to build a sound and eternal foundation and take hold of the life that is truly life.
The message of the great reversal is that it is already here and it is coming.
It is a calling to have a great reversal in your heart mind, and life. In Christian tradition, we call that conversion. Jesus is standing before us calling us to turn from our turning away and turn toward him.
It is a great reversal.
It is possible at his bidding and he is bidding you come.
In Jesus, the Christ, there is forgiveness of sin, grace, mercy, peace, joy, and eternal life.
There is no need to fear being stripped of our riches, privileges, or life we we find those things in the arms of God. What we have in God, lasts forever.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
"And he said unto them, 'I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.'" - Luke 4:43
The phrase, “I must” appears 16 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Jesus said, “I must preach” in Luke 4, “I must walk …” in Luke 13:33, and “I must be about my Father’s business” in Luke 2:29.
John the Baptist said,
“He must increase and I must decrease “ (John 3:30).
These were driven by something greater than the urgency of the moment. Urgency is a poor substitute for purpose and priority. When we establish an understanding of what is truly important based upon God’s abiding principles and mission, we need to stick with it. The reality is that the moment we prioritize our ministries, diversions will emerge, distractions will appear, and urgency will shout in our ears, “Stop and take care of me NOW!”
We need to be able to say “no” to urgency any time it steps outside the boundaries of our priorities as given to us by God. Yes, there will be emergencies that must be faced as they arise.
There will be extraneous details that must be handled. The problem arises when every urgent matter presents itself with the same emergency motif and both ministry and the spiritual life become one great series of emergencies. We have fire departments to put out fires.
What is your focus? Make sure it receives a prominent place on your calendar and that you do your best to follow your calendar. Leave time for incidentals. Leave cushion for emergencies. Live by grace because you won’t meet all of your goals. But, know this, if you heed every urgent cry, you will meet none of them because your life will be controlled by something far less than your God-given priorities.
Live on purpose, directed by God’s master plan for your life.
A few years ago, I blogged om biblical admonition to pray, seek God's face, and turn from wicked ways.
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14
There is no disputing that this is a mandate for those who are "called by God's name."
So, believers must comply in order to be consistent.
This often raises eyebrows and blood pressure for my non-believing friends - and perhaps, rightly so.
That is because they advocate transparent decision making processes in public life that are subject to scrutiny and visibility.
The assumption is that if a leader seeks divine guidance, that instructions will come that are not subject to that sort of public evaluation and accountability. They wonder if the person seeking God will claim some sort of personal revelation from God that is contrary to logic and ethics.
There is a short answer to that from the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 14:32. It is binding upon Christians and potentially comforting to those who are not Christians:
"The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets."
Paul was dealing with the same dangers at the local church level in Corinth. People were saying things like, "God told me," "God told me to tell you," and"The Holy Spirit MADE me do it."
They thought that would excuse them from all sorts of misbehavior, rudeness, and lapses of good sense.
Public people who seek God and follow Jesus are bound by the law of love and expected to exercise good sense whatever they perceive God saying to them. They are required to operate within the laws and social contracts of society.
They are subject to public scrutiny. Their devotions and prayers in private are to provide them grounding, clear their minds, reinforce their values, and provide insights. There is no magic here and no free pass to act badly.
I can't speak for all believers, but I believe that there is adequate permission in the scriptures for society to hold their leaders accountable for the actions even if those leaders base their decisions on insights they received in prayer.
No one in this world operates in a vacuum. Every human being cultivates an inner life that helps guide him or her in the process of decision making. Everyone needs to quiet his or her soul to think and act clearly. For the Christian, that happens in prayer.
There is a very funny video in circulation that claims, as evidence that God does not answer prayer, the testimony of a former leader that he prayed daily for guidance. It is funny, but flawed. The bases of decision making for Christians are not mysterious. Guidance is filtered through our human minds and ethical sign posts. Our spirits are subject to our selves.
Relax. If we truly pray, seek, and repent, the world will be a better place for you as well and God will never lead us to trample upon your dignity - not the God I know in Jesus Christ.
"He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand." -Psalm 78:70-72 ESV
Are you "stuck" in work you feel is insignificant and at the lowest place on the chain of importance?
Are you doing menial work when you feel you have a greater calling?
Look at David. His entire schooling was doing what kids do in a family like his - chasing ewes, shepherding sheep.
Yet David, apparently, grasped the parallels. He realized that the lowest work was really at the heart of the greatest work. To serve, to lead, to protect a great people was really just a larger context of what he had been doing in his youth - shepherding people, like he shepherded sheep.
He emerges from obscurity from among hundreds of thousands who had great potential.
He emerges to lead. His significance was not hindered by his lowly position. He did that faithfully. The greater work came later --- yet sooner than he expected.
He was taken from the sheepfolds.
Once we experience God, who is our Shepherd, we discover a quality of leadership that defies common wisdom: compassion. It is shepherd leadership. It is an aspect of godliness. It is the essence of empathy. It is is the core of heart of a servant leader.
"Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again." - Psalm 78:38-39 ESV
I am glad that God does that for me.
Of course, it is completely unfair ....
I do the wrong and He atones for it. That means, He bears the brunt and makes it right.
What kind of wonderful craziness is this?
Grace and mercy.
To Be a Godly Leader
To take our hints from David and God himself, the qualities of godly leadership might be:
A sense of being chosen.
An upright heart - a heart that makes us want to do the right thing.
An awareness that we are leading God's people, not just our people.
A desire for atonement, reconciliation, and restoration.
An awareness that we are dealing with human beings who are not perfect.
These are some hints from the two selected portions of the psalms.
Use them as points of exploration for how we might become more effective leaders.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” - Luke 4:18-19
“…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: …” Acts 10:38
To be anointed is to be a messiah. To be a messiah means to be anointed. Kings were anointed in Old Testament times. Saul was anointed as was David. The prophets told of an anointed one who would be the ultimate Messiah of Israel.
Jesus came as King, but, in Him, Messiah meant much more. Kings can be benevolent or malevolent. They can carry a concern for the larger family of humanity or be entirely parochial in their concern. They can lean toward violence or toward peace.
Jesus would first be a servant and a savior. His anointing was as redeemer, liberator, healer, and announcer of good news. His message would be, first, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but that was merely to set the stage for something larger and more universal.
The Spirit of God upon the one who had emptied himself, was the source of his power. He is the King who humbles himself in obedience.
He is the Master who serves.
He is the Lord who liberates.
He is the Anointed One of God.
Jesus is Messiah, to the Christian, God’s anointed. The word “Christ” in “Christian” means Messiah in Greek.
The name speaks of his character, his calling, and his mission and has implications for who we become as we align with Him.
In Nazareth, his hometown, Jesus takes up the mantle of a revolutionary liberator but refuses to use violence or coercion to accomplish his righteous ends. He wears the garb of a radical populist but refuses to be swayed by the fickle politics of His times.
He is, from beginning to end, God’s Anointed on God’s mission using God’s means and bringing God’s message.
And the truth is that God cares about the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind, the bruised, and those so heavily in debt to life and sin that only a Year of Jubilee (the acceptable year of the Lord) will free them.
We must take these words somewhat literally and apply them at a higher level. When he speaks in the synagogue, he is talking about those who are oppressed in this world, but he elevates the meaning to include all of us who are bound by sin and absorbed by the constrictive cares of this dark world.
He includes the people who were excluded from the family of ancient Judaism and holds them up as examples of faith.
For that, people who were cheering him on, suddenly want to stone him for his offense.
They had begun to define themselves by comparing themselves to a common enemy. Jesus was ripping that from them. Anger burns when our sense of supremacy or normalcy is threatened.
One of the implications of the larger context of this story is that we must deal with Jesus. We cannot consign Him to a benign manger and silent angelic scenery. He is the backdrop to no landscape. He is the ONE anointed by God as the agent of reconciliation and redemption. Avoid Him and avoid life.
Jesus, Messiah, I need Your liberating power in my life today.
"If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." (James 1:26-27 ESV)
Worthless religion? That connotes that our religion ought to be worth something to someone other than ourselves. It is not just our eternal life insurance policy. It is to have value to other people, to our communities., to our fellow believers, to the world.
There are many unbridled and unkind tongues in the world today who justify their bitter speech by saying that they are speaking truth and truth hurts.
Truth does hurt - but it is healing hurt and it is the truth itself that hurts, not the delivery of it.
When I had to give myself injections of a blood thinner after a blood clot some years ago, I soon discovered that the needle itself was very gentle and did not cause me pain. Once inside my body, the medicine had a sting and actually causes some bruising. It was quite bearable because I knew it was healing me and helping to keep me alive.
Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. Luke 3:7-8
From the fruitless, John required fruit. From a brood of vipers, he demanded an answer. From complacent religionists, he called for a willingness to get real. Just because they had enjoyed the benefits of covenant, it did not mean that could not be replaced. Everyone is dispensable – even those who think they are not.
Multitudes had come to be baptized. John was not impressed with his own ability to draw a big crowd. Crowds filling space do not equate to revival. Something more was necessary.
If he had had a headquarters to report to, his report might have been quite impressive, but as we said, he was not impressed. He was looking for something more because God is looking for something more.
John was preaching the possibility and necessity of life change.
Why did they come? Was it a curiosity? Was it a desire to follow the crowds? Was it a fad? Or was it fear of being left out or worse – wrath?
Some come out of wrong fear and some out of right fear. If you do not know the difference, read the book of Proverbs or visit the Grand Canyon. Right fear is awe and reverence; wrong fear is manifested in fight or flight reflexes. It is concerned only with self preservation and avoidance of trouble.
John knows there is something more and so should we. Fruits of repentance are those changed attitudes and deeds that reflect faith in the possibility of life change. They grow out of lives that have been moved by a deep desire for a more fruitful life.
Abject terror will not change our hearts. Judgment is real, but fear of judgment will not, by itself, bring us to repentance. God can do that inside of us and He is ready and willing to do so, but we must desire it and believe that it can happen.
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. - Luke 3:9
Once a thriving industrial plant, the factory had ceased to be productive. Chaos was the order of the day. Supervisors could not predict who would show up for work and when. Even the unions were in a state of panic.
The problem was attendance. It was the first time I’d ever heard of an adult business with an attendance committee. People were not showing up for work; but neither were they quitting or getting fired. Because of contractual clauses, they were remaining on the company and union roles and bleeding both dry in benefits.
They wanted to be employees, but they didn’t want to show up for work. They wanted the benefits of employment, but none of the obligations. They didn’t even show up.
That is the way John viewed the “generation of vipers” who came to be baptized. Some of them wanted the benefits of association with God and the symbols of covenant relationship, but they did not see the relationship between that and being useful.
Fruit trees exist to bring forth fruit. That is their nature and that is their function. God’s people exist to bear fruit as well. It is both the nature and function of covenant people to be useful in the kingdom of God.
John was harsh. He knew what orchard owners did with barren trees. They cut them down to make room for more productive crops. He considered it presumptuous of people to think that they should be allowed to continue being useless and not be replaced.
Remember that John was preparing the way for the Lord. He was the voice that God used to flatten hills and make crooked roads straight. And he was telling it straight. He, like the law, was a schoolmaster to prepare the way of the message and messenger of grace. His role was to amplify the need for repentance and make it plain that God was not pleased with the status quo.
We need to hear this word today. God wants our lives to bear fruit. If they don’t we are simply occupying space on Heaven’s roster. Show up!
Asking the Question
And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? - Luke 3:10
John got the response that he must have hoped for. It was the right response. It was the only logical response from a people who had been touched and pierced by the penetrating Word of God:
“What shall we do?”
It is a word of hope and desperation. It is a word that reflects sincerity and contrition. It agrees with The messenger of God that all is not right and needs to be made so.
What shall we do when we look at our lives and see no fruit? What do we do when we realize that we are part of the problem, obstructing rather than constructing, reaping benefits without bearing responsibility, failing to live out the true purpose of our lives?
What do we do when it becomes clear that we are keeping our names on the roles, but doing nothing to be productive?
We ask the question.
When we ask the question, we take a giant leap forward because it is pregnant with contrition and intention. The question opens us to what God wants to do in us and through us. It expresses repentance and prepares us for adventure.
We can be more, do more, experience more, receive more. When we ask the question, we are on the verge of discovery that the real benefits of covenant relationship are intertwined with its obligations and opportunities for service. The real privileges come with embracing our calling.
What we must do is ask what we must do.
God loves the question and has an answer prepared, but He cannot or will not deliver it to us until we ask because we will not receive it.
The application to the Christian life is the call to serve – more so, to BE servants, available, cheerful, ready, willing, even eager to be co-opted into His program.
The good news is that God wants you. The questions is: Are we ready to ask the questions?
Live Simply and Share
He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. - Luke 3:11
Sometimes we are ready for a really complicated answer to the big questions and all we get is something like this.
It’s like Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
Live simply and share what you have.
We’d really like it to be more complicated than that – and in some ways it is. But this was a start. It would certainly be a major change for the folks John was addressing as it would be for many of us.
God always starts where we are. He doesn’t try to overwhelm us. He gives us small bites first and eases us into complexity and difficulty.
For instance, when Thomas wanted to know where Jesus was going and to understand the way, Jesus simplified it for him as if He was saying, “Thomas, you don’t have to figure it all out – All you need to know is that I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life. If you want to get to come, just come by me and only by me.”
He was simplifying things for Thomas and for all of us.
John is saying that he would like to see some small indicators that folks meant business – indicators of a change of heart and mind which he could call repentance. “Show me,” he declares.
What must we do? We must do something in character with heart change. Somehow, our lives, once moved by a new relationship with God, must reflect a transformation of values.
Suddenly, there is something more important than having more than we need. Maybe one coat is enough – or one car per driver or a few less toys.
Turning our lives over to God is not rocket science. It is not a burden that none can bear. The Christian ethic is simple: Live simply and share what you have. Do the right thing.
Zeroing In and Meaning Business
Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. - Luke 3:12
There are different things that different folks must do – but it is always very simple to take the first step.
Stop doing the most blatant thing you are doing wrong. In the case of the hated publicans/ tax collectors: Stop cheating.
To receive this message meant that they had to agree that they had been cheating – even extorting from their own people on behalf of a foreign power for their own enrichment. To do so would have been to come clean and mean business with God.
Life change for the publicans would be a radical departure from the norm. As simple as the command was, it was not easy. They had valued profit above all else like the “Ferringis” in Star Trek – a race of humanoids who were the most cunning and ruthless merchants in the galaxy. They lived by “The Laws of Acquisition,” one of which might be paraphrased, “Love is good, but money is better.”
The publicans had to learn that love is best and everything else is a distant second.
Part of repentance is to recognize that you are doing wrong and stop doing it. But we say, “I just can’t; It is too hard; it is too engrained into my identity; it is who and what I am.”
John says, “Hogwash! You can change. Life change is possible. Repentance is the norm. Stop cheating people.”
Every sector of society has its own inherent temptations to sin. Every individual has a unique set of hot buttons that create pitfalls and weaknesses of the flesh. For each of us, fruits of repentance take on a different color and flavor, but they all share one thing in common – Possibility.
We can do with God’s help and by His grace. The salvation that He wants all to see comes with the possibility of change. If we mean business, and zero in on our own vulnerabilities, we can embrace it.
Life Change in Public Life
And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, and what shall we do? And he said unto them, do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. -Luke 3:13-14
There were men of influence and power who came to John to be baptized, men who wielded authority over common people, who carried the sword and were authorized to use it to subdue, torment, and enforce.
These men also had the capacity to abuse their power, to punish their enemies, to extract unfair compensation, to be bribed, to extort, ad to oppress. No one would challenge them. They had free reign to inflict violence and abuse people.
John tells these soldiers to be very careful how they used their power. They would need to humble themselves and realize that they were called to live by a higher power than that of their captains or their swords. Having power would no longer be a license for them to misuse it to their own selfish ends.
It is an awesome responsibility to have authority. It takes more grace to carry greater power. To be a covenant man or woman in a position of great influence requires fruits of repentance reflected in a servant’s attitude.
One’s coworkers and fellow soldiers/officers may not be willing or able to reinforce such life change. Only God can and he will.
We all have arenas of temptation that are unique to our stations in life. The same call is present for each: Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance: Stop doing what is wrong; live simply; share what you have; live for God.
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. – Luke 3:15-18, NRSV
Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 8:18 My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. 8:19 Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: "Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King not in her?" ("Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?") 8:20 "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." 8:21 For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. 8:22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? 9:1 O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!
Psalm 79:1-9 79:1 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins. 79:2 They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the air for food, the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth. 79:3 They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. 79:4 We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us. 79:5 How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealous wrath burn like fire? 79:6 Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call on your name. 79:7 For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation. 79:8 Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low. 79:9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name's sake.
Amos 8:4-7 8:4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, 8:5 saying, "When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, 8:6 buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat." 8:7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Psalm 113 113:1 Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD; praise the name of the LORD. 113:2 Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time on and forevermore. 113:3 From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised. 113:4 The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens. 113:5 Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, 113:6 who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? 113:7 He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, 113:8 to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. 113:9 He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!
1 Timothy 2:1-7 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 2:3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 2:4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2:5 For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, 2:6 who gave himself a ransom for all--this was attested at the right time. 2:7 For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Luke 16:1-13 16:1 Then Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 16:2 So he summoned him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' 16:3 Then the manager said to himself, 'What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 16:4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' 16:5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' 16:6 He answered, 'A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' 16:7 Then he asked another, 'And how much do you owe?' He replied, 'A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill and make it eighty.' 16:8 And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. 16:10 "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 16:11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 16:12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 16:13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
A Simple Lesson from the Parable 1. Make friends. 2. Be faithful. 3. Serve God.
"The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary …" – Isaiah 50:4
Scripture reminds us often of the power of the tongue to build up or to destroy.
What a gift to be able to use the tongue of the learned, as a gift from God, to encourage and strengthen a weary brother or sister!
He goes on to exclaim that God awakens him every morning with new instructions and wisdom.
You can have the tongue of the learned as well if you will listen to God, read God's Word, keep an open heart and mind, and be willing to share a word of blessing with those who have grown tired of living.
The greatest privilege in the world is found in lifting someone else up and moving them forward on their road to spiritual success. There is no greater honor or joy than to be a part of someone else’s life story of God’s blessings through grace.
Often, all it takes is a word to bring spring time to someone’s winter of discontent. To give it, we must be willing and ready to receive it from God, to listen intently, and share generously.
There are always things we do not want to forget even though remembering is painful.
There are always people that we always want to remember and honor.
There are always lessons from the past that we want to build upon.
There is nothing in our past that is tragic that we want to define or confine us.
9-11-2001 was one of our collective travesties and tragedies and it brought to light the best of those folks who united across all sorts of lines to make a positive difference in the darkness.
Tragedies and travesties continue around the world. Our past is cluttered with them. We have perpetrated some as a people. Our ancestors from most every culture have done so, likewise.
We do not live in shame or regret. But we do not forget our shame or regret. We find redemption, reconciliation, and resolve to be better people individually and collectively by the grace of God.
We look for areas where we, in agreement, can stand together and work together.
We are human. We are frail. My theology teaches that we a "mark-missers (sinners in translation)."
But we are also beloved and called.
Grace, mercy, and peace are God's gifts to us in the gaps that our resolve cannot fill. As a follower of Jesus, I am always looking through the lenses of God's desire for the redemption of everyone and everything, the call to a possibility and necessity of mind/life change (repentance) as good news, and the message of the rule of God (the Kingdom) as always present and imminent in every situation.
That is my bias and leaning and it opens doors to vast possibilities of love in the presence of hate, peace in days of war, hope in times of despair, light in darkness, possibilities at the place of dead-ends, handshakes and hugs when the gloves are off, and salt on the unseasoned mundanity of humanity.
911 was a day and is an emergency number. We do not live in a world dominated and ruled by emergency, but possibility.
Let us live!
Let something positive emerge from the emergency.
Another perspective on 9-11 is crisis.
Payne described a day of crisis and crisis always tries both the pen and the soul.
It tries the soul because all of life is caught up in processing the critical moment.
It tries the pen because we struggle to formulate an appropriate response.
Every generation is riddled with crisis.
There is no way it could not be true of our times as it was true of my parents' times and those of their parents'. It will be so for my grandchildren.
Crisis is a cyclical perpetuity.
Something is emerging - emergency!
Reflections from Past Years
We Have Not Forgotten
We are being reminded to remember, but I would suggest that we also reflect. It is something I do on this day every year.
I wrote most of this in 2009. I am just touching it up a bit and maybe adding a thing or two or three or four or more.
After all, it has been two decades and we have hopefully learned something.
We have not forgotten what happened on September 11 in our recent past.
It has now been twenty years.
I remember where I was when the first hint of news came across the wave via NPR. I remember my thoughts.'
I remember how we came together and put our differences aside.
As Randy Sparks wrote in a song, "On September the 11th, we became just Americans."
It was sort of true, but we had some conditions and there was an expiration date on the sentiment.
I remember how some folks said that nothing would ever be the same again ... but they are in most ways except the ways that time and progress change everything.
Would that we might capture some of the spirit of empathy, caring, helpfulness, and community.
Then, we started using the tragedy to move from being a people who valued freedom above everything else to being a people who would surrender freedom for safety and security.
And we started a couple of wars, at least one clearly in response to a very real threat of terrorism in the world.
And we started rethinking the meaning of our Constitution - not that we shouldn't from time to time. We just need to hold on to what is true and just and good.
And we started bickering again.
We bicker a lot now and we divide entire groups of people along rather arbitrary lines.
Yet, we have not forgotten.
We are not exactly sure what the lessons were, but we learned what it meant to share a common heartbeat and a common heartbreak.
Let me say that again because words slip by:
They go together.
We remember what it was like to deeply care about one another.
I know, I said that. Some things bear repeating.
We remember what it was like, for a moment, to respect our leaders and give them a great deal of leeway and trust along with much prayer.
But, in the long run, we must also hold them accountable while also honoring their humanity and respecting their capacity to be wrong.
What stands out for me in my memory is a heightened value for the heroes among us, in and out of uniform who are willing to lay down their lives for others. Many of these are still placing themselves in daily harm's way.
Again, there is a balance. With any uniform, assignment of limited authority, and permission to use force, there comes great responsibility, accountability, and expectation for a higher degree of integrity and restraint.
We flew flags.
We did not always understand what those flags meant and sometimes forgot that they meant the right not to fly them or bow to them.
flags are great reminders and rallying points and very poor masters. What they symbolize at their best are ideals that are essential to what it means to be free.
We sought the comfort of God and of one another.
We sang together, mourned together, and worked together.
We can remember, but we cannot be defined by tragedy. Nor can we live in a perpetual state of emergency.
The world is dangerous. Horrible things could happen. We could all die -- but that is not the most important thing.
The most important thing is whether or not we will choose to live, and to live as free people until we die.
Will we love each other?
Will we pray when we are not in crisis?
We will show each other respect?
Will we be "just Americans" and not blue or red or whatever that is and whatever that means?
If we will remember, then we can commit to being our best as Americans and working together for common good.
The pictures that move me most are those of tears and hugs and moments of silence, workers tirelessly digging through rubble, first responders moving toward the danger, and people helping people.
You can't bomb any of that away.
For now, let us pause to remember.
And let us grow and keep growing.
Years ago, Mad Magazine parodied an attitude that I so often see cropping up. It is of a caricature of a man who boldly proclaims how much he love America with the Mad editorial tag, "while hating most of the people in it."
Remember this, that patriotism is not about you loving your self-interests, your group, or your ideologies. Patriotism is about loving the central ideas and people that honor people, protect their dignity, and create an environment where we can love one another.
Patriotism is about love and loving people.
God bless you as we all remember and reflect today.
9/11 - I remember well. It touches a place of sadness. It also touches a place of admiration and appreciation for the humanity that was so much stronger than the inhumanity and the courage, heroism, and sacrifice that have been an example to our generation. I also pray for peace and justice and a world where we demonstrate God's love to each other and receive love, even across the great divides of strong convictions. May God bless our country during these days of division and ideological sparring. If we could but join hands for the things that are not in dispute, we could find the time for our disputes, but always come together again as fellow citizens who esteem each other.
1o Years Ago
I had written something profound & when ready to post, the dog & 5 yr old conspired in play to disconnect my plug. Upon reflection - Who cares? What I say, what I remember, where I was - everyone has their own. We are here - still here - same heroism, courage, compassion, love, grief, anger, more love, and grace of a present God as then - at the ready to be summoned. The summons is now, daily. We can be great. We can love & work together. We must do it now. The plug could be pulled any time.
Also 10 or 12 Years Ago
My friend got me thinking about something in a Toastmaster meeting as he was lamenting the controversies and perceived restrictions in the open arena on religious symbols.
We think a lot about symbols these days..
There are lots of protests for and against the cross as a symbol of Christianity being displayed in public places - as a symbol, or even as a decoration. It made me think. Just thinking,
His question was, "Just where is the cross lately?"
My musing answer was, "Hopefully, it is on our shoulders."
I think we sometimes think the cross is a symbol or a decoration rather than something we are called to take up daily and bear --- that it is always bearing, as did Jesus, the burdens of others. I suspect that if all Jesus followers would do that .... well, you can finish the sentence "
I am thinking, with this 2021 interjection, about symbols, flags, crosses, and others.
I am going with this thought.
If all the symbols came down and all the decorations disappeared, would the cross still be visible in America?
And, in light of the day, would there still be the liberty represented in our flag?
Would Jesus followers bear the cross into the streets of our cities?
Into hospital rooms?
Into jails and homeless shelters?
Into homes and workplaces?
Would it be visible in our selfless services? In our willingness to suffer? In our willingness to forgive? In Our love for people that Jesus loves?
The right to display the cross is not in the hands of any government or anyone outside of ourselves. the display of the cross in entirely on the shoulders of believers who decide to bear it upon their shoulders.
Are we taking up our crosses daily and going on display?
Just thinking ... and praying...
And asking myself as well.
11 Years Ago - Why I Never Called it a War on Terrorism
On 9/11, over 40 nations lost citizens.
Among these, Australia lost 11, Bangladesh, 6 Canada, 24, Colombia, 17, Germany, 11,Jamaica, 16, Mexico, 16, Philippines, 16, South Korea 28, and United Kingdom, 66.
Some were secular in religious persuasion; some were Christian, some Jewish, some Muslim, and some other.
The perpetrators were criminals who distorted their own religious teachings for their own fanatical and political ends.
They represented no legitimate government and no official religion.
To call it war legitimizes what they did. It was a crime inspired by irrational hate.
Many heroes rose to the occasion and went up the stairs to save as the masses (many of whom were also heroic) sought to go down to safety.
These we honor and remember.
They said nothing would ever be the same. Not true. Things settle down. We mustn't forget what happened this day, but it does not define us.
It refines us.
Some of our responses have been noble, pragmatic, wise, necessary, and compassionate.
Others have been driven by fear, irrationality, and unbridled anger.
We cannot live in fear, hate, suspicion, and anger. Nor can we cling to grief. Ours is to live and love.
I heard Barry McGuire sing this and so, I dropped him a note asking about it. His wife got back to me and said it was Randy Sparks' song. Thanks, Randy Sparks!
"On September the eleventh We became Just Americans Other names were rendered obsolete All I know about my neighbors Is that they are Just Americans Shoulder to shoulder, now, the circle is complete And we will fight, side by side, in the trenches of the universe The cause of precious freedom to defend And let it be remembered that We are Just Americans May this day never end And I pray this day will never end" - Randy Sparks
God, help us to overcome our legacy of racism, classism, along with our vestiges of bigotry, partisanship, nationalism, and pride in order to welcome one another into an idea of America that is bigger than all of these distractions. Amen
Remember your word to your servant,
because you have given me hope.
This is my comfort in my trouble,
that your promise gives me life.
"God reigns over the nations; God sits upon his holy throne." - Psalm 47:8
Oswald Chambers put life on hold to become a YMCA chaplain in WWI. Egypt, 1917: He suffered an appendicitis but would not go to hospital for 3 days, unwilling to take a bed from wounded soldiers. He died of complications at 43 years old. 100 officers carried his casket. Mostly unknown during his lifetime, his wife spent the rest of her life transcribing his lectures including, "My Utmost for His Highest."
Read the scriptures, this morning, and learn these lessons.
From Psalm 14, we learn that fools declare the absence of God in their hearts.
From Jeremiah 4, we learn that fools do not know how to do good.
From Exodus 32, we learn that fools, left on their own, make gods and dance around in a frenzy.
From David, in Psalm 51, we learn that God is merciful to fools.
From Psalm 14, again, we learn, that fools are not seekers.
From Paul, in I Timothy 1, we learn, that fools can change.
From Jesus, in Luke 15, we learn, that God is seeking fools to redeem them.
At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward the daughter of my people, not to winnow or cleanse, a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them.
“For my people are foolish; they do not know me; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil but do not know how to do good.”
I looked on the earth, and it was complete chaos, and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger.
For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation, yet I will not make a full end.
Because of this the earth shall mourn and the heavens above grow black, for I have spoken; I have purposed; I have not relented, nor will I turn back.
The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, and of you I will make a great nation.”
But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
To the leader. Of David. Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt; they do abominable deeds; there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.
They have all gone astray; they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?
There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the company of the righteous. You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.
O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.
To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
1 Timothy 1:12-17
I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he considered me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience as an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Psalm 14:1 - The fool says in his heart, “There is no god.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.
There are many reasons why this statement is so obviously true.
Denial is not a river in Egypt. Denying God will not make God go away.
Whether or not you believe in God or confess Him as God will not change who He is and that He is the sole determiner of what is wrong or right, corrupt or authentic, pure or vile.
The fool, according to the psalmist, is not a theoretical atheist or philosophical agnostic. It is not someone who is struggling with the existence of God on the intellectual level, but the man or woman who has, in his or her heart, determined to be a practical atheist – to live as if there were no God or as if His existence did not matter.
He is concerned with how this statement of the heart manifests itself in our lives.
Now the question: Is there some area of your own life, where in your heart, you are declaring, “There is no God?”
Have you pushed Him to the side in your deliberations and decision-making? Have you excluded His influence in areas where there is conflict with your own desires and lusts?
God calls that foolishness and identifies the results as corrupt and vile- rotten and degraded to the core.
Do business with God today in this area of your life and allow Him to scrutinize you and bring you healing grace.
Psalm 14:2- The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand any who seek God.
Well, what does He find in me? That is the question I must answer.
That is the question you must ask yourself. When he looks down upon me does He find understanding and seeking? Some don’t understand and don’t know that they don’t understand. Some understand and have locked their understanding into a formula and have stopped seeking.
Others know that they don’t understand but have acquiesced to a position of irrational hopelessness and have given up seeking.
None of these responses pleases God when He looks down upon the sons of men. There are others who both understand and seek. They understand enough to know that there is much that they do not understand and so they seek in those areas.
When God gives some understanding, they don’t stop seeking and become self-satisfied with their limited knowledge, but they keep seeking – even more earnestly. That pleases God so very much. Examine your heart today using this criterion and keep seeking God – more and more.
Psalm 14:3 - All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
It is the universality of the fall and of sin that the psalmist is struggling with here. We were not designed to be corrupt. We were created in the image of God. But sin corrupts us to the very core.
The rottenness of perverted intentions stains our lives beyond repair. We cannot fix ourselves. Our attempts at doing good to win some favor with God are also corrupt and drive us deeper into separation from God. Not even one person does good.
That is amazing. But it is the reason why Jesus came and died, rose again and returned to the Father to send His Spirit to indwell us. We need the righteousness of Christ to be imparted and imputed to us. And we need His presence within us to work His goodness out through us. These words are a reminder to long-term believers not to become proud, boastful, or self-righteous.
If our salvation and acceptance by God depended upon our own goodness, we would be hopeless. But God sees us not looking down from above. He looks upon us directly through the face of His Son. Thank God today, as you pray, for His mercy.
Psalm 14:4 - Will evildoers never learn - those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the Lord?
We are flabbergasted at the inability of some to learn the futility of their ways. We are surrounded by masses who do not call upon the Lord and who devour believers in many ways The temptation is to bulge out our chests and lift our noses in pride proclaiming, “I’m glad I’m not like that”
That’s the wrong approach. The response of faith would be to look within with the searchlight of God’s truth and pray, “Lord, is there an area of coldness and rebellion in my heart where I am refusing to learn? Am I devouring the person you made me to be?”
What distinguishes and delivers the believer is that he or she calls upon the Lord.
Psalm 14:5 – There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.
Sooner or later, even the wicked come to their senses, sometimes too late, and realize that God is present in the company of the righteous. That realization brings dread unless the message of God’s love and forgiveness intervenes.
Some will fight it.
Others will flee from it. But there will be some who, out of the fear and dread of judgment, will come into the flow of grace through repentance and faith. The plight of the oppressor is far worse than that of the oppressed. Therefore, we must pray for sinners to come to a knowledge of truth and live out the credibility of the gospel so that we never bring discredit to Name of Jesus.
Pray today for someone who is overwhelmed with dread and examine your own life as well.
Psalm 14:6 - You evil doers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.
The complaint of the poor man is often that, as hard as he tries, he just can’t get ahead. Something or someone is always thwarting and frustrating his efforts. So it is with anyone who tries to “get ahead” spiritually on the clout of his or her own spiritual reserves.
Our plans come to naught because they are wrought in the flesh and human effort. God is our refuge. That is a constant. In Him we have hope and a future. In Him, we are rich beyond our dreams. His resources cannot be depleted. Jesus said, “blessed are the poor.”
The poor in Christ know where the riches lie and rely upon God’s storehouse to supply all that they need. They trust all their plans to Him and rely on Him for every breath.
Psalm 14:7 - Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
The psalmist prays for His people and, perhaps unwittingly, all who will be blessed by them. Indeed, the salvation of Israel and all people has come out of Zion and David’s longing prayer is answered in Jesus Christ.
Today is a day of worship and praise. We pray for the day when Jesus comes again to set all things right. May the words of this psalm evoke deep praise and anticipatory joy in our hearts and we lay ourselves bare before God. What fortunes of spiritual treasure would you have Him restore for you today?
What is the longing for His presence in you that is most personal for you as you pray?
I wanted only to deposit one check and cash another. It took an inordinately long time at the teller window. When the supervisor helped the teller do an override, she asked me “And how are you today?” - Easier for Whom? | Sanborn and Associates - Customer Service/Golden Rule
Sanborn tells the rest of the story and recounts how he did not have an ATM card with him for identification.
He received this response:
“Well,” the supervisor responded, 'if you had your debit card it would make it a little easier for us…'”
Those words tell all.
Just who is "US?"
If I am waiting on you, the customer and us is me then I am already starting the process of decline in business. The moment my service becomes about my convenience, profit, well being, peace of mind, or anything about me, I have lost my purpose for being in business and I will eventually lose my business.
But this seems to be a trend. Us-based decisions seem to be trumping all manner of you-based concerns.
U - Un-everything: unsuccessful, uncreative, uncooperative, unmotivated, uninspired ... un ... un ... un ... and eventually undone.
S - Stalled by selfishness and stuck on stupid (I told my friend Kenny Higgs I'd give him credit when I used that term).
Y - Yes! Yes! Yes! Whenever possible, YES! We make it work for the customer because that is why we exist.
O - Opportunity - Your problem is our opportunity to serve you and to grow in our service. If we can become more valuable to you, we become more valuable to all.
U - UP - We lift people up and they lift us up. The Golden Rule teaches individuals and others to treat our neighbors well and the great Servant taught us that the way up in down.
I have been writing about the call to renew civility in our society and I think we can start anywhere as long as we include commerce and business.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.”
If you prefer YouTube
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So, I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lord: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you, from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall certainly perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him, for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path that sinners tread
or sit in the seat of scoffers,
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous,
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To our beloved coworker Philemon, to our sister Apphia, to our fellow soldier Archippus, and to the church in your house:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God always when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. I pray that the partnership of your faith may become effective as you comprehend all the good that we share in Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.
For this reason, though I am more than bold enough in Christ to command you to do the right thing, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me so that he might minister to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back for the long term, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
Bob Utley on Philemon
Tom Wright encourages us to think Christianly about all things.
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Now large crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
In other ways, I would say we are always working on that.
We are always working on over correcting our over correction.
And then we re-correct and under correct and go back and forth and back and forth.
And so, at any given time as we are reading the news, as we are reading about new ways of saying things and new ways of monitoring our speech and new ways of regulating our behavior, new ways of looking at our old assumptions, new ways of considering.
“Was that a sensitive remark or was it an insensitive remark?”
“How can we better do things?”
“How can we better say things?”
And someone will pop up, “Aren't we going too far with this?”
And I would say, “Of course we are!”
But it is necessary to overcorrect. It is necessary because we really do not have the metrics or the fine tuning or the human engineering skills to correct exactly back to where we exactly and precisely need to be.
So, the answer at any given time is, “Yes, we have probably gone too far.
And the answer is also that in the future we will probably go too far in the other direction.
That is life.
But when we see a wrong and we see something that we have missed in our blind spots of life, it is far better to over correct than not to correct at all.
Over the years of working with my mechanical engineer father-in-law, E.H. "Chub" Rogers on various household projects, we would make occasional errors. We would have to go back and correct them rather precisely. He would have a saying which I later came to place in context.
I must confess that I dislike controversy. I can tolerate it in others, but I realize dislike being controversial.
I think the reason is that I know that when i am most controversial, I stand as much chance as anyone of being wrong.
I don't even agree with myself some of the time.
I also know that when I criticize anyone I am often just as guilty of the same sins in other contexts. I know that there is a measure of good in me and I believe it is Jesus within me. I also know that there is plenty of not-so-good in me and I am totally responsible for that.
The other problem is that the moment one takes a position about anything, people jump to all sorts of conclusions and start associating you with positions you did not even address.
"Everyone who thinks this way about that thinks that way about the other and holds this view about thus and so and is a died in the wool you know what."
As absurd as that sounds, it is how we think. Take away our neat little boxes that have been constructed in our ideology factories and we feel naked, exposed, and lost in a world of ideas.
Our solution is to get in our boxes and force others into theirs and start pulling out our labels and along with those labels, characterizing this one as 100% good and the other as 100% bad.
Most of our parents and grandparents knew better than to do that.
There used to be a graciousness, courtesy, and gentility in America that I long to see again. People thought the best of each other. They had patience with human foibles. They made allowances for the weaknesses of their fellow human beings.
Or am I idealizing the past?
Whether I am or not, it is the kind of future I desire to see and the kind of present I want to work on.
In the meantime, I need to work on my reluctance to being controversial. My good friends will like me no matter what I think or write.
Here is something decidedly NOT controversial. One hour of Nat King Cole. Listen and mull things over.
May you be blessed today, people of truth, souls of deep longing, heart walkers of grace, grace walkers of broken hearts, life livers and life givers. May you be blessed.
May you be blessed, people of the edge, marginal pilgrims, shaky saints, trembling travelers, limping leapers, and lovers of humanity whose hands are extended into the darkness to those who dwell there, who enter the abyss with a light that gradually dissolves the fog of ambiguity and despair.
Be blessed soul travelers, guided guides, voices of hope, fellow stragglers who stagger toward something that glimmers in the darkness and the distance, swerving, swaying, yet mercifully, on course.
Be blessed, you who often fall down and mostly, rise up. Be blessed, wounded neighbor, scabbed, scarred, healing healers. Be blessed, you faithful doubters and doubting faithful who continue and thus, shake off the weights of those doubts to confidently live on.
Be blessed, witnesses of The Presence, who, with myopic eye, have seen and see and say, "Here is God and God is here."
My comrades, my kinsmen, my fellow lovers of God and people who continue and conquer through the One who loves you, Jesus people, followers of that Way and those called to follow whose calling has not be heard or comprehended, but who are being drawn or shall be drawn, my beloved. Be blessed.
" Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!""