God Never Stops Inviting Us To The Banquet Table

I’m unapologetic in my admiration of Pope Francis. His Argentine background, admittedly, probably plays a par. But, I also admire the clarity of his public statements. I saw this most recently in the coverage of Pope Francis’ canonization mass of 35 priests on October 15. (One Voice. October 20, 2017, published by The Birmingham Catholic Press, Inc. of Birmingham, AL.

Hannah Brockhaus’ lead article, “God Never Stops Inviting Us To The Heavenly Banquet”, precisely lays out Pope Francis’s issue. She says,

“No matter how often we reject him, the Lord will continue to love us and invite us to participate in his heavenly banquet.”

“The Gospel tells us that, even before constant rejection and indifference on the part of those whom He invites, God does not give up, but continues to invite. . . . When God hears a ‘no’, He does not close the door, but broadens the invitation. In the face of wrong, He responds with an even greater love.

“When we are hurt by others, we often harbor grudges and resentments. But God, while pained by our rejection of Him, does not give up. He tries again and again.

“He keeps doing good even for those who do evil, because this is what love does. Because this is the only way that evil is defeated.”

“Today, our God never abandons hope. He tells us to do what He does, to live in true love, to overcome resignation and the whims of our peevish and lazy selves.”

Francis’ argument is not naïve. It is not the portrait of a helpless God. It is the portrait of God in His moral greatness. It is not the portrait of a helpless God vis a vis evil. God is not helpless concerning evil. Rather, God is SO TRUE to HIMSELF, that even human rebellion of every sort, evils and depravities of all forms cannot seduce God to be other than a completely loving God.

Back to the starting point – God loves His creatures. – past, present, future. DON’T expect God to treat even the most malignant of sinners with anything less than the LOVE of God.

Just remember – God’s love. The banquet room is always open. May we never try to “out-God God and close the door to His banquet room!!!!

 

 

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Have you ever promised a friend with . . . ???

“Have you ever promised a friend with . . .

Perhaps you have concluded a conversation with a friend with something like, “I’ll see you next week. OK?”. “Sounds fine. I’ll be home all week, so whenever it is convenient for you.”

But, what if you said had said to your friend, “I would like to stop by “within a month”, or “before the snow falls, or “within a year”, or “before the next decade”, or “before I get married.” ???.

In those kind of cases, would you expect your friend to be sitting in the living room all those days, weeks, seasons, or with a cup of hot coffee waiting for your arrival?  Of course not. The more tenuous the closing statement, the less concrete your plans will be. That is how communication goes. With that being said, allow me to go to my point.

We read [in the Gospel of Luke 12] that Jesus, during His time on earth, told His followers (disciples / apostles) that He would depart from the earth. (a colloquial way to say, “Guys, they are going to kill me).   Of course, that someone is eventually going to die should not surprise anyone. We all know that death eventually comes our way. We will only live for so long.  But, Jesus also said that at some time in future, He would return to be with them.

We should keep in mind that Jesus didn’t tell them how long He would be gone; that seems to have been left open!!  Of course, as we read in the Bible, Jesus was only dead for three days (which is long enough to be thoroughly dead!! It is true that Jesus clearly told His followers, albeit in cryptic and symbolic language, where He was going.  He also made it clear that His followers could not go with Him.  Jesus’ people would, in their minds, be on their own, fending for themselves. To say it pictorially, the One who could feed 5,000 would be gone!!

So, where are we at this point? It has been over 2000 years since Jesus physically left His followers here on the Earth.  We have had over TWENTY centuries to get the message of Jesus out across the world. That seems to me to have been plenty long enough for the followers of God to get the truth about God spread around the world.

How well have we Christians done in accurately shaping that message about God? Are we satisfied with the honest answer????

I leave with the reader to confront the answer.

Reference: Luke 12.35-59 (in the New Testament of the Bible)

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Trust Me with every fiber of your being ! !

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Trust Me with every fiber of your being!!

What I can, and do, accomplish in and through you is proportionate to how much you depend on Me.

One aspect of this is the degree to which you trust Me in a crisis or major decision. Whereas some people fail miserably at this point. others are at their best in tough times.

Another aspect is even more telling: the constancy of your trust in Me. People who rely on Me in the midst of adversity may forget about Me when life is flowing smoothly. On the other hand, difficult times can jolt you into awareness of your need for Me. But, smooth sailing can lull you into the stupor of self-sufficiency.

I care as much about your tiny trust-step through daily life. But, I also care as much about your dramatic leaps of faith. You may think that no one notices, but never, never forget that the One who is always beside, seeing you and accompanying you, rejoices with you. Consistently trusting in Me is vital to flourishing in My presence

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, not looking to the proud for support, nor turning to false gods. (Psalm 40.4)

When afraid, I will trust in You, Oh God. With Your word I praise You and express my trust in You. What can mortals do to me? Nothing!! (Psalm 56.3-4)

Trust God at every moment. Pour out your heart to Him. He is, after all, our refuge!! (Psalm 62.8)

God, You will keep in complete peace all those mind is mind steadfastly fixed in You. Thus, we acknowledge that You are the eternal Rock. (Isaiah 26.3-4)

Paraphrased from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, pg. 380

Shepherds??? . . . Kings??? MERRY CHRISTMAS

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Shepherds?? . . . Kings?? . . . MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Shepherds?? . . . Kings?? Do they have anything in common? Kings make the rules; shepherds do their best to not break the king’s rules (. . if they want to have breakfast tomorrow!!)

It is true, in the history of the Old Testament, there was a young fellow who was a shepherd. Later, he became a king. But, David was not both a king and a shepherd at the same time.

In fact, his status was elevated when he ascended in rank.

He left behind the shepherd’s menial task of caring for those “dumb” sheep. David, once a  king, had other people taking care of the sheep. And, of course, David the king had his choice of beautiful women, one of them being the beautiful wife of faithful Uriah, a soldier. (Kings can choose their prey!!)

Who would surrender the kingly role for the very lowly shepherd’s role? No one, of course. Let’s be realistic. “I want to rule. I want to make the rules. I want to enforce the rules I make.” Thus speaks and acts out, the one who claims, “I AM THE KING.”

BUT, is history only the narrative of unknown chump shepherds enviously yearning to be a dominating king? Fortunately, there is more to the story.

I am King of Kings and Lord of lords, dwelling in dazzlingly bright Light!  I am also your Shepherd, Companion, and Friend – the One who never lets go of your hand. Worship Me in My holy Majesty; come close to Me, and rest in My presence. You need Me, both as God and as Man. Only my Incarnation on that first, long-ago Christmas could fulfill your neediness. Since I went to such extreme measures to save you from your sins, you can be assured that I will graciously give you all you need.

“Nurture well your trust in Me as Savior, Lord, and Friend. I have held back nothing in My provision for you. I have even deigned to live within you!  Rejoice in all that I have done for you, and My light will shine through you into the world.”

1 Timothy 6:15-15 . . . . . Psalm 95:6-7 . . . . Romans 8:32 . . . . 2 Peter 1.19

MERRY CHRISTMAS  — dear family and friends

“Dogma and the Universe”, by C S Lewis (from GOD IN THE DOCK)

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“Dogma and the Universe”, by C S Lewis  . . . (from GOD IN THE DOCK (God on Trial))

It is a common reproach against Christianity that its dogmas are unchanging, while human knowledge is in continual growth.  Hence, to unbelievers, we seem to be always engaged in the hopeless task of trying to force the new knowledge into molds which it has outgrown.  I think this feeling alienates the outsider much more than any particular discrepancies between this or that doctrine and this or that scientific theory.  We may, as we say, ‘get over’ dozens of isolated ‘difficulties’, but that does not alter his sense that the endeavor as a whole is doomed to failure and perverse: indeed, the more ingenious, the more perverse.  For it seems to him clear that if our ancestors had known what we know about the universe, Christianity would never have existed at all.  And, however we patch and mend, no system of thought which claims to be immutable can, in the long run, adjust itself to our growing knowledge.

That is the position I am going to try to answer.  But before I go on to what I regard as the fundamental answer, I would like to clear up certain points about the actual relations between Christian doctrine and the scientific knowledge we already have.  That is a different matter from the continuing growth of knowledge we imagine, whether rightly or wrongly, in the future and which, as some think, is bound to defeat us in the end.

In one respect, as many Christians have noticed, contemporary science has recently come into line with Christian doctrine, and parted company with the classical forms of materialism.  If anything emerges clearly from modern physics, it is that nature is not everlasting.  The universe had a beginning, and will have an end.  But the great materialistic systems of the past all believed in the eternity, and thence in the self-existence of matter.  As Professor Whittaker said in the Riddell Lectures of 1942, “It was never possible to oppose seriously the dogma of the Creation except by maintaining that the world has existed from all eternity in more or less its present state. (1)   This fundamental ground for materialism has now been withdrawn.  We should not lean too heavily on this, for scientific theories change. But at the moment it appears that the burden of proof rests, not on us, but on those who deny that nature has some cause beyond herself.

In popular thought, however, the origin of the universe has counted (I think) for less than its character—its immense size and its apparent indifference, if not hostility, to human life.  And very often this impresses people all the more because it is supposed  to be  a  modern  discovery — an  excellent  example of those things which our ancestors did not know and which, if they had known them, would have prevented the very beginnings of Christianity.  Here there is a simple historical falsehood.  Ptolemy knew just as well as Eddington (2) that the earth was infinitesimal in comparison with the whole content of space.(3)  There is no question here of knowledge having grown until the frame of archaic thought is no longer able to contain it. The real question is why the spatial insignificance of the earth, after being known for centuries, should suddenly in the last century have become an argument against Christianity.  I do not know why this has happened; but I am sure it does not mark an increased clarity of thought, for the argument from size is, in my opinion, very feeble.

When the doctor at a post-mortem diagnoses poison, pointing to the state of the dead man’s organs, his argument is rational because he has a clear idea of that opposite state in which the organs would have been found if no poison were present.  In the same way, if we use the vastness of space and the smallness of earth to disprove the existence of God, we ought to have a clear idea of the sort of universe we should expect if God did exist.  But have we?  Whatever space may be in itself — and, of course, some moderns think it finite — we certainly perceive it as three-dimensional, and to three-dimensional space we can conceive no boundaries.  By the very forms of our perceptions, therefore, we must feel as if we lived somewhere in infinite space.  If we discovered no objects in this infinite space except those which  are of use to man  (our own sun and moon), then this vast emptiness would certainly be used as a strong argument against the existence of God.  If we discover other bodies, they must be habitable or uninhabitable: and the odd thing is that both these hypotheses are used as grounds for rejecting Christianity.  If the universe is teeming with life, this, we are told, reduces to absurdity the Christian claim — or what is thought to be the Christian claim — that man is unique, and the Christian doctrine that to this one planet God came down and was incarnate for us men and our salvation.  If, on the other hand, the earth is really unique, then that proves that life is only an accidental by-product in the universe, and so again disproves our religion.  Really, we are hard to please.  We treat God as the police treat a man when he is arrested; whatever He does will be used in evidence against Him.  I do not think this is due to our wickedness. I suspect there is something in our very mode of thought which makes it inevitable that we should always be baffled by actual existence, whatever character actual existence may have.  Perhaps a finite and contingent creature — a creature that might not have existed — will always find it hard to acquiesce in the brute fact that it is, here and now, attached to an actual order of things.

However that may be, it is certain that the whole argument from size rests on the assumption that differences of size ought to coincide with differences of value: for unless they do, there is, of course, no reason why the minute earth and the yet smaller human creatures upon it should not be the most important things in a universe that contains the spiral nebulae.  Now, is this assumption rational or emotional?  I feel, as well as anyone else, the absurdity of supposing that the galaxy could be of less moment in God’s eyes than such an atom as a human being.  But I notice that I feel no similar absurdity in supposing that a man of five-feet high may be more important than another man who is five-feet three and a half—nor that a man may matter more than a tree, or a brain more than a leg.  In other words, the feeling of absurdity arises only if the differences of size are very great.  But where a relation is perceived by reason it holds good universally.  If size and value had any real connection, small differences in size would accompany small differences in value as surely as large differences in size accompany large differences in value.  But no sane man could suppose that this is so.  I don’t think the taller man slightly more valuable than the shorter one.  I don’t allow a slight superiority to trees over men, and then neglect it because it is too small to bother about. I perceive, as long as I am dealing with the small differences of size, that they have no connection with value whatsoever.  I therefore conclude that the importance attached to the great differences of size is an affair, not of reason but of emotion — of that peculiar emotion which superiorities in size produce only after a certain point of absolute size has been reached.

We are inveterate poets. Our imaginations awake. Instead of mere quantity, we now have a quality — the sublime. Unless this were so, the merely arithmetical greatness of the galaxy would be no more impressive than the figures in a telephone directory.  It is thus, in a sense, from ourselves that the material universe derives its power to over-awe us.  To a mind which did not share our emotions, and lacked our imaginative energies, the argument from size would be sheer meaningless.  Men look on the starry heavens with reverence: monkeys do not.  The silence of the eternal spaces terrified Pascal, (4) but it was the greatness of Pascal that enabled them to do so.  When we are frightened by the greatness of the universe, we are (almost literally) frightened by our own shadows: for these light years and billions of centuries are mere arithmetic until the shadow of man, the poet, the maker of myth, falls upon them.  I do not say we are wrong to tremble at his shadow; it is a shadow of an image  of God.  But if ever the vastness of matter threatens to overcome our spirits, one must remember that it is matter spiritualized which does so. To puny man, the great nebula in Andromeda owes in a sense its greatness.

And this drives me to say yet again that we are hard to please.  If the world in which we found ourselves were not vast and strange enough to give us Pascal’s terror, what poor creatures we should be! Being what we are, rational but also animate, amphibians who start from the world of sense and proceed through myth and metaphor to the world of spirit, I do not see how we could have come to know the greatness of God without that hint furnished by the greatness of the material universe.  Once again, what sort of universe do we demand?  If it were small enough to be cozy, it would not be big enough to be sublime.  If it is large enough for us to stretch our spiritual limbs in, it must be large enough to baffle us. Cramped or terrified, we must, in any conceivable world, be one or the other. I prefer terror. I should be suffocated in a universe that I could see to the end of.  Have you never, when walking in a wood, turned back deliberately for fear you should come out at the other side and thus make it ever after in your imagination a mere beggarly strip of trees?

I hope you do not think I am suggesting that God made the spiral nebulae solely or chiefly in order to give me the experience of awe and bewilderment.  I have not the faintest idea why He made them; on the whole, I think it would be rather surprising if I had.  As far as I understand the latter, Christianity is not wedded to an anthropocentric view of the universe as a whole.  The first chapters of Genesis, no doubt, give the story of creation in the form of a folk-tale — a fact recognized as early as the time of St Jerome — and if you take them alone you might get that impression. But it is not confirmed by the Bible as a whole.  There are few places in literature where we are more sternly warned against making man the measure of all things than in the Book of Job: ‘Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?  Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant?  Shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?’ (5)

In St Paul, the powers of the skies seem usually to be hostile to man.  It is, of course, the essence of Christianity that God loves man and for his sake became man and died.  But that does not prove that man is the sole end of nature.  In the parable, it was the one lost sheep that the shepherd went in search of:” it was not the only sheep in the flock, and we are not told that it was the most valuable — save in so far as the most desperately in need has, while the need lasts, a peculiar value in the eyes of Love.  The doctrine of the Incarnation would conflict with what we know of this vast universe only if we knew also that there were other rational species in it who had, like us, fallen, and who needed redemption in the same mode, and that they had not been vouchsafed it.  But we know none of these things.  It may be full of life that needs no redemption.  It may be full of life that has been redeemed. It may be full of things quite other than life which satisfy the Divine Wisdom in fashions one cannot conceive. We are in no position to draw up maps of God’s psychology, and prescribe limits to His interests.  We would not do so even for a man whom we knew to be greater than ourselves.  The doctrines that God is love and that He delights in men, are positive doctrines, not limiting doctrines.  He is not less than this. What more He may be, we do not know; we know only that He must be more than we can conceive.  It is to be expected that His creation should be, in the main, unintelligible to us.

Christians themselves have been much to blame for the misunderstanding on these matters. They have a bad habit of talking as if revelation existed to gratify curiosity by illuminating all creation so that it becomes self-explanatory and all questions are answered. But revelation appears to me to be purely practical, to be addressed to the particular animal, Fallen Man, for the relief of his urgent necessities —- not to the spirit of inquiry in man for the gratification of his liberal curiosity.  We know that God has visited and redeemed His people, and that tells us just as much about the general character of the creation as a dose given to one sick hen on a big farm tells it about the general character of farming in England.  What we must do, which road we must take to the fountain of life, we know, and none who has seriously followed the directions complains that he has been deceived.  But whether there are other creatures like ourselves, and how they are dealt with whether inanimate matter exists only to serve living creatures or for some other reason whether the immensity of space is a means to some end, or an illusion, or simply the natural mode in which infinite energy might be expected to create — on all these points I think we are left to our own speculations.

No. It is not Christianity which need fear the giant universe.  It is those systems which place the whole meaning of existence in biological or social evolution on our own planet.  It is the creative evolutionist, the Bergsonian or Shavian, or the Communist, who should tremble when he looks up at the night sky.  For he really is committed to a sinking ship. He really is attempting to ignore the discovered nature of things, as though by concentrating on the possibly upward trend in a single planet he could make himself forget the inevitable downward trend in the universe as a whole, the trend to low temperatures and irrevocable disorganization.  For entrophy is the real cosmic wave, and evolution only a momentary tellurian ripple within it.

On these grounds, then, I submit that we Christians have as little to fear as anyone from the knowledge actually acquired.  But, as I said at the beginning, that is not the fundamental answer. The endless fluctuations of scientific theory which seem today so much friendlier to us than in the last century may turn against us tomorrow. The basic answer lies elsewhere.

Let me remind you of the question we are trying to answer.  It is this:  How can an unchanging system survive the continual increase of knowledge? Now, in certain cases we know very well how it can.  A mature scholar reading a great passage in Plato, and taking in at one glance the metaphysics, the literary beauty, and the place of both in the history of Europe, is in a very different position from a boy learning the Greek alphabet. Yet through that unchanging system of the alphabet all this vast mental and emotional activity is operating.  It has not been broken by the new knowledge.  It is not outworn.  If it changed, all would be chaos.  A great Christian statesman, considering the morality of a measure which will affect millions of lives, and which involves economic, geographical and political considerations of the utmost complexity, is in a different position from a boy first learning that one must not cheat or tell lies, or hurt innocent people. But only in so far as that first knowledge of the great moral platitudes survives unimpaired in the statesman will his deliberation be moral at all.  If that goes, then there has been no progress, but only mere change. For change is not progress unless the core remains unchanged.  A small oak grows into a big oak: if it became a beech tree, that would not be growth, but mere change.  And thirdly, there is a great difference between counting apples and arriving at the mathematical formulae of modern physics.  But the multiplication table is used in both and does not grow out of date.

In other words, wherever there is real progress in knowledge, there is some knowledge that is not superseded. Indeed, the very possibility of progress demands that there should be an unchanging element.  New bottles for new wine, by all means: but not new palates, throats and stomachs, or it would not be, for us, ‘wine’ at all. I take it we should all agree to find this sort of unchanging element in the simple rules of mathematics.  I would add to these the primary principles of morality.  And I would also add the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.  To put it in rather more technical language, I claim that the positive historical statements made by Christianity have the power, elsewhere found chiefly in formal principles, of receiving, without intrinsic change, the increasing complexity of meaning which increasing knowledge puts into them.

For example, it may be true (though I don’t for a moment suppose it is) that when the Nicene Creed said ‘He came down from Heaven’, the writers had in mind a local movement from a local heaven to the surface of the earth — like a parachute descent. Others since may have dismissed the idea of a spatial heaven altogether.  But neither the significance nor the credibility of what is asserted seems to be in the  least affected by the change.  On either view, the thing is miraculous: on either view, the mental images which attend the act of belief are inessential.  When a Central African convert and a Harley Street specialist both affirm that Christ rose from the dead, there is, no doubt, a very great difference between their thoughts.  To one, the simple picture of a dead body getting up is sufficient; the other may think of a whole series of biochemical and even physical processes beginning to work backwards. The Doctor knows that, in his experience, they never have worked backwards; but the negro knows that dead bodies don’t get up and walk. Both are faced with miracle, and both know it.  If both think miracle impossible, the only difference is that the Doctor will expound the impossibility in much greater detail, will give an elaborate gloss on the simple statement that dead men don’t walk about.  If both believe, all the Doctor says will merely analyze and explicate the words ‘He rose.’  When the author of Genesis says that God made man in His own image, he may have pictured a vaguely corporeal God making man as a child makes a figure out of plasticine (playdough).  A modern Christian philosopher may think of a process lasting from the first creation of matter to the final appearance on this planet of an organism fit to receive spiritual as well as biological life. But both mean essentially the same thing. Both are denying the same thing — the doctrine that matter by some blind power inherent in itself has produced spirituality.

Does this mean that Christians on different levels of general education conceal radically different beliefs under an identical form of words?  Certainly not.  For what they agree on is the substance, and what they differ about is the shadow.  When one imagines his God seated in a local heaven above a flat earth, where another sees God and creation in terms of Professor Whitehead’s philosophy, (7) this difference touches precisely what does not matter.  Perhaps this seems to you an exaggeration.

But is it?  As regards material reality, we are now being forced to the conclusion that we know nothing about it save its mathematics.  The tangible beach and pebbles of our first calculators, the imaginable atoms of Democritus, the plain man’s picture of space, turn out to be the shadow: numbers are the substance of our knowledge, the sole liaison between mind and things.  What nature is in herself evades us; what seem to naive perception to be the evident things about her, turn out to be the most phantasmal. It is something the same with our knowledge of spiritual reality. What God is in Himself, how He is to be conceived by philosophers, retreats continually  from  our  knowledge.  The  elaborate  world-pictures which accompany religion and which look each so solid while they last, turn out to be only shadows. It is religion itself— prayer and sacrament and repentance and adoration — which is here, in the long run, our sole avenue to the real.  Like mathematics, religion can grow from within, or decay.  The Jew knows more than the Pagan, the Christian more than the Jew, the modern vaguely religious man less than any of the three.  But, like mathematics, it remains simply itself, capable of be applied to any new theory of the material universe and outmoded by none.

When any man comes into the presence of God he will find, whether he wishes it or not, that all those things which seemed to make him so different from the men of other times, or even from his earlier self, have fallen off him.  He is back where he always was, where every man always is. Eadem si omnia semper. (8)  

Do not let us deceive ourselves.  No possible complexity which we can give to our picture of the universe can hide us from God; there is no copse, no forest, no jungle thick enough to provide cover. We read in Revelation of Him that sat on the throne ‘from whose face the earth and heaven fled away’. (9)  It may happen to any of us at any moment, the twinkling of an eye, in a time too small to be measure, and in any place, all that seems to divide us from God can flee away, vanish leaving us naked before Him, like the first man, like the only man, as if nothing but He and I existed.  And since that contact cannot be avoided for long, and since it means either bliss or horror, the business of life is to learn to like it. That is the first and great commandment.

Notes

(1) Sir Edmund Taylor Whittaker, The Beginning and End of the World Riddell Memorial Lectures, Fourteenth Series (Oxford, 1942), p. 40.

(2) Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944) who wrote The Expanding Universe (1933)

(3) Ptolemy lived at Alexandria in the 2nd century A.D. The reference is to his Almagest, Book 1, chapter 5.

(4) Blaise Pascal, Pensees, No. 206

(5) Job 41.1,4,9.

(6) Matthew 18. 12; Luke 15.4

(7) Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), who wrote, among other works, Science and the Modern World (1925) and Religion in the Making (1926).

(8)  ‘Everything is always the same.’

(9) Revelation 20. 11

 

 

Walk with Me on Paths of Trust

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WALK WITH ME ON PATHS OF TRUST

From Sarah Young’s JESUS CALLING: Enjoying peace in His presence

“Walk with Me along paths of trust. The most direct route before point A and point B on your life-journey is the path of unwavering trust in Me. When your faith falters, you choose a trail that meanders and takes you well out of our way. You will get to point B eventually, but you will have lost precious time and energy.

“As soon as you realize you have wandered from your trust-path, look to Me and whisper, “I trust You, Jesus.” This affirmation will help you get back on track.

“The farther you roam along paths of unbelief, the harder it is to remember that I am with you. Anxious thoughts branch off in all directions, taking you farther and farther from awareness of My Presence. You need to voice your trust in Me frequently. This simple act of faith will keep you walking along straight paths with me.

Trust in Me with all your heart, and I will make your paths straight.”

Isaiah 26.4   Psalm 9.10   Psalm 25.4-5   Proverbs 3.5-6

Published by Thomas Nelson, 2004, page 265

 

Accept each day exactly as it comes to you

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from Sarah Young’s JESUS CALLING Enjoying peace in His presence

“Accept each day exactly as it comes to you.

“By that, I mean not only the circumstances of your day, but also the condition of your body. You assignment is to trust Me absolutely, resting in My sovereignty and faithfulness.

“On some days, your circumstances and your physical condition feel out of balance. The demands on you seem far greater than your strength. Days like that present a choice between two alternatives – giving up or relying on Me. Even if you wrongly choose the first alternative, I will not reject you.

“You can turn to Me at any point, and I will help you crawl out of the mire of discouragement. I will infuse My strength into you moment by moment, giving you all that you need for this day.

“Trust Me by relying on My empowering Presence.”

(Psalm 42.5,  2 Corinthians 13.4,  Jeremiah 31.25)

 

Published by Thomas Nelson, 2004, page 263

 

“I AM YOUR BEST FRIEND”

From Sarah Young’s JESUS CALLING: Enjoying peace in His presence

“I am your best friend as well as your King. Walk hand in hand with Me through your life. Together we will face whatever each day brings: pleasant hardship, adventure, disappointments. Nothing is wasted when it is shared with Me. I can bring beauty out of the ashes of lost dreams. I can glean Joy out of sorrow, Peace out of adversity. Only a Friend who is also the King of Kings could accomplish this divine alchemy. There is no other like Me!

“The friendship I offer you is practical and down-to-earth, yet it is saturated with heavenly Glory. Living in My Presence means living in two realities simultaneously: the visible world and unseen, eternal reality. I have equipped you to stay conscious of Me while walking along dusty, earthbound paths.”

John 15.13-15, Isaiah 61.31, 1 Corinthians 6.10

Published by Thomas Nelson, 2004

 

DO EVERYTHING IN DEPENDENCE ON ME

DO EVERYTHING IN DEPENDENCE ON ME . . . .

From Sarah Young’s JESUS CALLING: Enjoying peace in His presence

The desire to act independently – apart from Me — springs from the root of pride. Self sufficiency is subtle, insinuating its way into your thoughts and actions without your realizing it. But apart from Me, you, can do nothing: that is nothing of eternal value.

My deepest desire for you is that you learn to depend on Me in every situation. I move heaven and earth to accomplish this purpose, but you must collaborate with Me in this training. Teaching you would be simple if I negated your free will or overwhelmed you with My Power.

However, I love you too much to withdraw the godlike privilege I bestowed on you as My image bearer. Use your freedom wisely by relying on Me constantly. Thus you enjoy My Presence and My Peace.

John 15.5, Ephesians 6.10, Genesis 1.26-27

Published by Thomas Nelson, 2004, page 262

When we leave His place of worship

WHEN WE LEAVE HIS PLACE OF WORSHIP . . .

I admit to being ignorant about many things. And, that ignorance also extends to many things about God.

On the other hand, some things I do know about God are clear and comforting.   God’s presence is one of the Big Ones.

In that regard, just several weeks ago, Margaret asked me to listen to one of her favorite songs: “Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this place.”   One of the song’s stanzas is the following:

In the midst of His children, the Lord said He would be.

It doesn’t take very many; it can be just two or three.

And I feel that same sweet spirit that I felt oft time before.

Surely I can say I’ve been with My Lord.

(click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcZ1yEXd5fc for Tanica Campbell version of the song)

A day after listening to this song, I was preparing the benediction for our upcoming Sunday service.   I asked myself, “Who is the Lord with whom we share our worship? Who is the God with whom we leave the place of corporate adoration to then enter the rooms of our homes, of our employment, of our places of trials or joys?

The answer to these questions is not part of my ignorance bank. Rather, the answer is secure.

Who is the God we worship?

It is the Lord God, the God who used the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul to affirm to us the following:

“Come to Me – when you are weary and weak. Rest snugly in My everlasting arms. I do not despise your weakness, my child. Actually, your weakness draws Me close to you as it stirs up my compassion, and my yearning to help.

“Accept yourself in your weariness, knowing that I understand how difficult your journey has been.”

“Allow the gift I have given you to blossom in my presence. Accept this gift as a sacred treasure – Allow Me to bless you richly through it.” (paraphrased versions from Isaiah 42:3 . . . Isaiah 54.10 . . . Romans 8. 26)

 

I want to know what love is! Thanks, Celtic Thunder

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I want to know what love is – Thanks, Celtic Thunder

This morning while I was running, the Celtic Thunder’s version of “I want to know what love is” started playing in my ear buds.   Having heard other artists’ renditions, was familiar with the lyrics; my mind went naturally with the music’s flow.  Do you want to listen also while reading the lyrics?  Click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4vqSfRQ8G4&list=PLoemii1jXdeCOvYG3zUPyyy_ss1rAcsoQ&index=6

Gonna take a little time, a little time to think things over.
I better read between the lines in case I need it when I’m older

Now this mountain I must climb. . feels like a world upon my shoulders.
Through the clouds I see love shine; it keeps me warm as life grows colder

In my life there’s been heartache and pain . . I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now, I’ve travelled so far to change this lonely life

I wanna know what love is, and I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is, and I know you can show me

I’m gonna take a little time. . .A little time to look around me
cause I’ve got nowhere left to hide

It looks like love has finally found me
In my life there’s been heartache and pain. I don’t know if I can face it again
I can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far to change this lonely life

I wanna know what love is
And I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
And I know you can show me

bis

The lyrics are provocative.  They convey, depending on the listener, a variety of sentiments, hopes, and dreams.  And, that is fine.

In my case, and even more so as I listen again and again to “I want to know what love is”, I continue confirming that the life of love is a process, a dynamic and joyful process.  Changes and new experiences don’t merely happen.  They also offer opportunities of what love is, and what love can be.

As the song declares, love takes time.  Love also offers us the heights of mountain peaks to glimpse both how far we have come and what can still be ahead.  We take joy in learning from each other, giving to each other, and receiving from each other.  That joy, that sense of completeness, that opportunity to not only be loved, but to give love, stands behind the deep desire of wanting to know what love is

And, Margaret Cameron also knows.

“My truth is. . . ” they told him, and “the better love.”

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Once upon a time – the better love

Once upon a time, there was a man whose life’s path took him many direction. While still a youth, his roots in the Ohio Buckeye soil were replanted in the Blue Ridge mountains and streams. His “how are you?” gave way to “how y’all do-n?”

After some more transitions which took him to Cornhusker land, the Empire State, the land of Lincoln, and Mary’s Land, he left the Land of the free and the brave, ending up in the land of beef, tango music, and vaqueros.   But, his years still were not finished. The land of 10,000 lakes were still to be explored, as was the land of the Illini.

During those many years of ongoing transitions, the man picked up some key and vital lessons and principles in life. One, in particular, is the one the man wants to mention at this point.

Over time, he learned and incorporated the fact that not all people saw life as he did.   They made decisions in critical times and in rather easy times. But, they used different values. Some people seemed to live basically to pursue various pleasures; at least they called them pleasures. They diligently followed those desired pleasures until the pleasures’ thrills paled into boredom. And, then they began the search for a different pleasure or thrill.

Then, there were the folk whom he met who told him that they wanted “the truth” – the ideas that helped them make sense out of the vagaries and puzzles of life. They were looking for the “keys” to life, the secrets to success. They read the biographies of the greatly admired people, hoping to latch on to the clues to social success.

Well, the man thought to himself, “That sounds somewhat vague”, and so the man began asking for examples. They told the man things like:

“My truth”, one person told the man, is ‘happiness is the consequence of having enough riches to buy whatever I want and whenever I want it.”   Then another person told the man, “My truth is that happiness comes when I am out fishing with my friends.”

Well, it didn’t take the man any time at all to realize that this kind of search for “the truth” wasn’t going to get anywhere; it had become so personalized that there was no overarching reality holding things together. There was no North Pole which would allow every one to have a specific location point on Earth.

Where am I going with these comments? Simply to this: All our personal reality must be anchored to the God of love. God created and maintains love. God created us to live in love. That created, maintained, restored reality of love is where life finds its resting place, its joy, its solace, and its ability to strengthen us.

Don’t get me wrong – Although we should rest and take joy in God’s love, my point is this – As good as it is to be loved, it is even better, and greater, more satisfying, and even more God-like to love.   Let’s not forget – God’s love is not His response to our love for Him. God loves us humans when we don’t even love Him!

God loves even those that hate Him. God loving us is the key to Godly life.   To say it just a little differently – To love in response to being loved may be nice and appropriate. BUT, to love even those who do not love, is even better and more God like.

 

Dennis, Elvis, and Jesus (thanks, Ray Stedman)

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“Dennis, Elvis, and Jesus” (thanks, Ray) 

When Elvis Presley died, people all over the United States and the world were shocked at the passing of one they called “the King.” Following his death, there surfaced a great number of young men who gave evidence of how they had idolized Elvis Presley and sought to imitate him. One young man, Dennis Wise, actually had his face surgically lifted and his hair contoured to look exactly like his idol. Dennis had learned to play the guitar and had even made a few dollars by appearing as a Presley look-alike. In a newspaper interviewed about his passion to be like Elvis Presley, this is what Dennis said:

  • “Yes, sir, Presley has been an idol of mine ever since I was five years old. I have every record he ever made — twice over. I have pictures in the thousands. I have books, magazines, pillows — I even have a couple of books in German and Japanese about him. I even have tree leaves from the front of his house. It was embarrassing to me when I was in school for the kids were always teasing me. When Elvis was wearing white boots I went out and bought white boots. The kids called them “fruit boots.” Teachers would always send me to the office because my two top buttons were unbuttoned. I’d button them and then, when no one was looking, I’d unbutton them again.
  • “But I never got to meet Elvis Presley. I saw him on the stage four times. Once I tried to run up to the stage and once I stood on the wall of Graceland [the Presley mansion] and tried to see him. For 12 hours I stood there trying to get a glimpse of him. But he had so many people around him that I could never get close.”

Dennis’ words describe sheer idolatry, the longing to be intimate with some great person. This is widely contemporary today. Young people are doing the same thing with their rock starts, and with other figures in the music, the movie, and the sports world. But the tragic element in the story of Dennis Wise is captured by his words, “I could never get close to him.”

Imagine how difficult it would be to see Jesus if he were on earth today. Think of the press of people you would have to get through to even look at him, let alone talk with him. Millions would be clamoring for his attention so that you wouldn’t stand a chance to get close to him. But the good news of Easter is, not only can you know him, but he can be close to you all the time, through every situation.

The risen Lord offers to share his victory with you, to take you through whatever you must face as your close and competent Companion who will never, never leave you.

 

( An edited excerpt from “The Incredible Hope” by Ray Stedman [http://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/john/the-incredible-hope] )

 

Joe and Nick – mostly unknown, but certainly important on Good Friday

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Joe and Nick – mostly unknown, but certainly important on Good Friday

They weren’t part of Jesus’ band of apostles.  They aren’t mentioned much in the Biblical story of Jesus. Nonetheless, they had a critical role in Jesus’ history.  Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were the men who buried Jesus.  Warren Wiersbe, in his comments on Jesus’ death and burial (1), explains the situation this way:

  –   –   –   –   –   –   –

How did Joseph and Nicodemus know to prepare for His burial? What follows is only conjecture on my part, but, to me, it seems reasonable.

When Nicodemus first visited Jesus, he was impressed with His miracles and His teaching. After that interview, Nicodemus searched the Scriptures and asked God for guidance concerning the important spiritual matters he had talked about with Jesus.

At the critical council meeting recorded in John 7.45-53, Nicodemus boldly stood up and defended His Savior. His associates ridiculed him for thinking that a prophet could come out of Galilee. “Search and look” they said, and that is exactly what Nicodemus did. It is likely that Joseph quietly joined him and revealed the fact that he too was more and more convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed Israel’s Messiah, the Son of God.

As Nicodemus and Joseph searched the Old Testament, they found the Messianic prophecies and discovered that many of them had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Certainly they would have seen Him as the Lamb of God and concluded that He would be sacrificed at Passover. Jesus had already told Nicodemus that He would be lifted up (John 3.14), and this meant crucifixion. Since the Passover lambs were slain about 3 pm, the two men could know almost the exact time when God’s Lamb would die on the cross. Surely they would have read Isaiah 53 and noticed verse 9, “And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death.” Jesus would be buried in a rich man’s tomb!

Joseph arranged to have the tomb hewn out, and the men assembled the clothes and spices needed for the burial. They may have been hiding in the tomb all during the 6 hours of our Lord’s agony on the cross. When they heard, “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” they went to work. They boldly identified with Jesus Christ at a time when He seemed like a failure and His cause hopelessly defeated.

–   –   –   –   –   –   –

(1)  The Bible Exposition Commentary, Volume 1, p. 386 (Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press, 1989)

Kisses, Love, and God

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Kisses, Love, and God

The couple had lived long enough to know that kisses come in many forms, can have many meanings, and can convey a variety of messages. They also knew that their kisses involved two pair of lips acting at the same time. That is all the further this part of these comments needs to go ! !

The point I want to make is that love, not just kisses, between the lovers is also a mutual experience. Yes, love between two people normally involves one of them taking the lead with “I love you”, which usually motivates an equal “I love you, too”.

But, then we all hope that the love we have with our soul mate will be faultlessly reciprocal. We want to go far beyond using our “I love you” as a means to hear the other one to say “I love you, too.” We want to love without being forced or pressured to proclaim our love. We want to freely say, and freely hear it said to us, “I love you”, with no manipulation on either side.

And, when that “want” is realized, we will know something about God, whether we recognize it or not. It will be something that we will not know otherwise.

What a privilege it is to love someone else! What a joy to incarnate God’s love in our relationships with someone else. What a thrill to, in some way, have demonstrated that love is the dominant force in life, and we have participated in God’s approach to us, His creatures.

There is, without a doubt, a reason behind the expression, “God is love.” The reason is God Himself ! !

Seen in the Post Office

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Seen in the Post Office

His eyes were drawn to the two children, of about 2-3 years of age. The third child must have been very young, as it was covered in the baby basket, and never made a peep.

The children and the mother sat near the Passport Office door. Although playing with some of the items in the display counter, the children were quiet, yet clearly happy. The mother spoke softly with the two children.

The observer’s eyes were fixed on the sight, and thought to himself, “These children did not magically drop from heaven as perfect children.” “This mother has invested time, graciousness, kindness and confidence into these children.” Then, the mother, so quietly that the man did not hear what was said, gathered the children to her, softly taking their hands, and began to walk toward the post office’s exit.

The man, watching all of this display of the children’s unusual behavior was compelled to comment to the mother. “Ma’am”, he began, ”permit me to congratulate you on how well you are educating your children and how you are guiding them when in public places.” Her face broke into a broad smile as she said, “Thank you, very much.”

“I am very impressed,” said the man. The mother continued to smile; it was clear that she felt gratified that a stranger had complimented her.

The mother and the young boys continued to walk toward the exit door, and the man said to himself, “those young boys have a good future ahead of themselves; their mother is doing it right. And, I was given the privilege of being able to congratulate her. This day is going well!! Thank you, Lord.”

 

Nine letters, two spaces, and a question mark

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Nine letters, two spaces, and a question mark

Who are you? Nine letters, two spaces, and a question mark. It occurred to me as I was leaving the Fitness Center. From what and where did the question arise to my consciousness? A lot of potential answers, I suppose, as to the origin of the question, “Who are you?”   But, I forced myself to not deviate, at least right now.

“Who are you?” The question was brief and direct. Other times, I was asked the question by someone else. But this time I was asking myself. “Who are you, Vernon?” – Nine letters, two spaces, and a question mark.

In a torrent of thoughts, multiple answers came rushing to mind. And many questions also began to flood my consciousness. How much should I reveal? How much can I trust other people when answering, “Who are you?” How much history is involved when answering “Who are you?” Does the answer include my motivations, my dreams, my failures, (and which of my failures since there are so many?) my impressions of others, my frustrations, my successes (but what are the reasons to consider something a success?), my income tax reports?, my Curriculum Vitae?, what I think other people would say about me if asked ‘who is Vernon?’ (regardless of the rightness or wrongness of their answers to these questions since I suspect their answers would impact how they have treated me and thus how I have responded to them), my limitations (physical, mental, social, psychological, spiritual), how do you employ your time? To what degree are you fearful, and if so, fearful of what and/or whom?   AND, this is just a starter list!!!

Yes, who am I?

We frequently ask the question to other folk. For example, in my online courses, I commonly ask students in the first week of the course, to introduce themselves to their classmates, using a threaded discussion format. I suggest several options or parameters for them. Some students are very brief. Others are verbose. I can’t help but ask myself (but not them), “Why did they respond in the way they did?

Three little words – “Who are you?” Nine letters, two spaces, and a question mark. When did you last ask yourself that question? And, as importantly, when did you attempt to answer it? And, even more importantly, why might you not want to go there???

 

The New Testament in ONLY 39 days, 30 minutes a day

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The New Testament in ONLY 39 days (30 minutes a day)

An invigorating experience!! It brought the New Testament alive to me like never before !! . . . Costs – not a penny. . . .  Entirely flexible schedule. . . . Read by the superb Max McLean. . . . The text – the New International Version (NIV). . . . No references to verse or chapter separations . . . .Access the day you choose with a click.

Lent and Jesus

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Lent and Jesus

In this season of Lent, it makes sense to ponder some of Jesus’ characteristics. I am especially thinking of Jesus being 1) very focused, and 2) being given entirely to loving people. I am not prepared to identify the degree to which we mere humans can emulate Jesus’ love and His focus. Furthermore, I am not even able to identify the degree to which I emulate Jesus. But, I am prepared to say that not recognizing the role of love and focus in Jesus is a serious mistake.

Being loved is a beautiful experience. Loving someone else is also a beautiful experience. Are the experiences of being loved and of loving others always easy, a walk in the garden of pleasure, or a high five congratulatory event? Of course not. To put the well being of the other above our own well being can be very costly. It might cost us a night’s sleep. It might cost us some of the reputation we have so meticulously nourished. It might even cost us some employment opportunities.  It may cost us our life. Nonetheless, when the well being of someone else is at stake, the loving person says, “Yes, I can and I will surrender my well being for their sake.” This self-surrender is not a quid pro quo transaction. It is not a negotiation technique. It is not an image stunt. It is not an investment maneuver. Love is as Jesus lived. Love is as Jesus died.

And, Jesus was focused. His completely focused life was not a case of mistaken values. His being focused was not a mental illness. Nor, was it a result of bad theology. He was not entirely focused because He misunderstood Father God, or because He had a sick Messianic complex. He wasn’t completely focused out of jealousy for the Roman court’s opulence or their power.

The fact is that Father God had given Jesus a task to do, and the task was so absolutely essential for human wellbeing that Jesus would not deviate from its completion, be it by action, attitude, or values.

That kind of approach to life, to duty, to thoroughness, to intense connection to Father God, to personal relationships – all put Jesus in a unique position. His single mindedly focused dedication was essential for Jesus. Long Live His Uniqueness!!

May our Lenten season be, among other things, a time to consciously meditate on the loving and focused Jesus.

 

When words are superfluous, and love is beautiful

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When words are superfluous, and love is beautiful

When lovers’ fingers mutually stroke the other’s prints.

When loving eyes wistfully gaze.

When “thank you” is conveyed by a loving look.

When an embrace is tenderly accompanied by a soft kiss.

When a snuggle communicates, “I love you, honey.”

When the hands find each while walking and the resulting smiles are warm.

When “I love you” is voicelessly mouthed and received with a joyful wink.

When each knows what the other desires.

When Cameron softly laughs while touching your lips.

(dedicated to the one who knows)