Adversity, Bible

Big Tom

This coming Saturday my nephews, our family, our friends, and I celebrate the life of my Brother Tom. Our loss on March 26th was heavens gain. A few days before he left, I was reminded of something I learned from him…

“As I sit here at Tom’s bedside watching him sleep comfortably, I’m reminded of a family reunion on our Mom’s side. All the aunts and uncles were there except Aunt Peggie (we were all reunited with her many many years later). The gathering was held at Grandma Alpha’s and her latest husband Emory. They had a small farm somewhere in the outback of Idaho. Among the many incredible memories is one of both love and pain. While it never needed any help remaining seered in my memory, our Uncle Chuck kept it alive for everyone else as he would regale us with it absolutely everytime we had the pleasure of visiting either by phone or in person.

All the dad’s and boys were camped out one night in a big tent (in fact, I think it was actually an old white parachute, however I’m reaching the downward years of memory so I’m more than willing to be corrected on this little tid-bit of the story). Of course, there were all the usual suspects in that testosterone fueled environment…boys, teen males, and men on vacation. So there’s no need telling what it sounded and looked like…mayhem was afoot should suffice as a descriptive picture.

However, the hour finally approached when the dads finally obeyed the hollers from the moms in the house, “Paul, Chuck, Ed, John, get those boys settled down. It’s time for some sleep!” It took awhile, but sure enough the grunts, shouts, belches, woops, yee-haws, and laughs began to subside. I, on the other hand, was in rare form. Big Brother, Tom, joined Dad and the uncles in giving me increasing demands to pipe down. Nothing doing.

Through out the years Uncle Chuck held us all spellbound over and over with his telling of the tall tale that grew a little taller with each telling. It always concluded with Chuck’s final line and his acting out the scene…

“Then Tom reached the end of his rope and said, ‘Rick, if I told you once, I told you a thousand times…wham!!!!'”…as he acted out Tom’s blood producing punch to my nose.

Now as fond memories go this should rate rather low on the Human Fondness Scale, but oh nay nay. It’s one of my greatest childhood memories. Here’s why…it has come to represent for me the balanced dance of two unlikely partners…pain and love. Tom meant well. He loved me. Still does. I knew it then. I know it even better now. He knew I was well on my way to Dad’s end game. Much more shenanigans on my part were bound to arouse the flames of the old sarge. It was time for me to invite sleep into my disposition. Sure, there would be some crying as Tom carried me into the house to assist Mom in cleaning up my bloody nose, but there would also be some sweet brotherly reconciliation as he brought me back to the overnight camp out. Pain and love…like the Lord offers…the same Lord we read of in the Bible: “Who the Lord loves he also disciplines.” Hebrews 12:6

And now, now my brother’s love continues to instruct through the pain. He sleeps and I admire him all the more as I reflect upon his life time of overwhelming patience and compassion. He has offered them to everyone he has ever known…and I love him for it no matter the agony I feel now nor the grief which is to come.

Sleep well, Tom. Please wake up again. I have more to learn.”

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Bible, Culture

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

 

I like progress. I like it when we improve and make things better. I like conservation. I like it when we conserve what is right and good and necessary.

I hate abusive political progressivism. It uses the word progress for the relativism people seem to love so much. It seeks change for the sake of change regardless of whether it’s helpful or not. It seeks change based on the emotional appetites of its possessors. It seeks to conserve the tired, worn out ways of The Dark Triad: machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. It leads to oligarchy and suffering…oligarchy for the few, suffering for the many. I hate abusive political progressivism.

I hate abusive political conservatism. It uses the word conserve for the dogmatism people seem to love so much. It seeks maintenance for the sake of maintenance regardless of whether it’s helpful or not. It seeks maintenance based on the emotional appetites of its possessors. It seeks to progress the tired, worn out ways of The Other Dark Triad: legalism, nepotism, and sociopathy. It too leads to oligarchy and suffering…again, the former for the few, the latter for the many. I hate abusive political conservatism.

Both abusive political progressivism and abusive political conservatism are on full display these days. They both use and abuse privilege…especially the privilege of truth. This is why great documents like The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution get bandied about by both groups. They become documents of first rejoinder…not for truth and clarification, but for clout, agitation, and propaganda.

I hate both abusive political progressivism and abusive political conservatism…and apparently they both hate me and you. They both fail. There is hope in neither, but there’s hope in Jesus.

Jesus loves me and he loves you.

He also loves progress. He loves it when it advances the purpose of his Father’s love and truth. He also loves conservation. He loves it when it too advances the purpose of his Father’s love and truth. In fact, he abides in his Father’s truth and he invites his followers to do likewise. His joy from progress and and his joy from conservation are not political. They are personal. What he said and did as well as what he says and does are ever the same. He was, he is, he ever shall be immutable. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He cannot be changed, swayed, or bandied about. He loves life and eternal life. He offers both. Jesus loves me. He loves you too.

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Bible

The Real Time Apologetic of the Holy Spirit

psalm 119 105

Dear Christ Follower,

When would you like for the Holy Spirit to whisper these words to your heart, “Hey, that’s not who you are. ‘For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, Abba! Father! The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are the children of God'” (Romans 8:15,16)

A. When you hear yourself saying, “How could anyone ever love me?”

B. When you hear yourself saying, “Man, just who do you think you are to think you can tell me anything?”

C. When you hear yourself saying, “Just this one time, then never again. I mean it. Tomorrow, I’m done with this…I’m never gonna do it again.”

D. When you feel yourself slipping back into that defense mechanism you learned during your neglected childhood.

E. When you find yourself thinking, “Arrrgh, I just don’t get it. Why did I yell at her again?!”

F. When you keep asking yourself, “Why am I so stupid?”

G. When someone asks, “What is wrong with you, seriously, you can’t be that __________ (fill in the blank)?”

H. When you and another find yourselves shouting, “Oh yeah? Well, what about…?”

I. When you find yourself worried about how you’ll ever get out of the mess you feel you’re in.

J. All of the above and so many, many more.

Would you be surprised if I told you the Holy Spirit will often whisper, even shout, God’s written word to your heart of hearts? Would you be surprised if I told you it is in fact the Holy Spirit’s primary means for leading you? Would you be surprised to know you can expect this routinely? Hmmm?

Spend some time in John 14:1-27. Be amazed. Be blessed. Then, if you’d like, share your thoughts or questions. Let’s talk.

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Bible

Abide

abide in the lord preposition jpeg

At church we’re learning more and more how abiding in the word of God is closely tied to actually abiding in him. This reality literally fills the pages of the Bible. For example, most folks get John 15 in which we learn about abiding in Christ, however an equally large group of folks have missed the context of John 14 through which we learn much about abiding in the word. Go on ahead. Read it a bunch of times. Look at it carefully. Be amazed. Then, for a bonus, travel on over to the following link to get a glimpse of John 15 through the great service of Ligonier Ministries:

What Does It Mean To Abide In Christ

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Bible

1000 Times Better

11:30pm, November 10th.

I approach the end of my anniversary…my wedding anniversary…the 19th without my beloved. Like every day, I miss Vanita more than I’ve ever been able to adequately express. And, while I know this is often said by many, no part of my life on earth ever was or ever has been better without her. Don’t get me wrong, life is good and full, because God is good and all sufficient. The fulness of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit knows no boundaries. However, it’s not life as it was intended. Death is an enemy. It was never suppose to happen. More still, death as the result of crime, of sin, of careless, wreckless, wayward action residing far outside the will of God is tragic. It hurts on every conceivable front. So, truly, with well thought out consideration of all the facts and without reservation, I can say had that awful event never happened life would be one thousand times better…one thousand times one thousand times…and not one part in a thousand was made better by the loss.

Be careful.

Watch your step.

Don’t drink and drive.

Don’t smoke dope and drive.

Don’t pop pills and drive.

Don’t snort, huff, shoot or whatever and drive.

Just don’t do it. Please. Please. Please.

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Adversity, Bible, Culture, identity

Missing the Mark

woman w blood issue w blck brdr

Sin sometimes gets a bad rap. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not my intention to water it down. Sin hurts. It’s just that we actually minimize sin’s assault on humanity when we limit it to all those ugly things we do against God and one another. Of course, unfortunately, it’s often exactly this kind of  action and attitude that defines sin. It can entail seriously egregious stuff. However, not always. The whole story is a little more intricate. In fact, the most basic idea about sin in the Bible is “missing the mark” with God. For some that meant wholesale crime, iniquity, and transgression. The Bible doesn’t pull its punches regarding this kind of sin. For example, David’s sins against Bathsheba and her husband and the later sins of David’s children are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to biblical history regarding egregious sin.  For others, the story is not quite the same. For example, there was a lady who suffered with a physical calamity for years and years. She looked everywhere for a solution. Finally, she saw him…the Messiah…Jesus. She reached out to touch the hem of his robe… “for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well'” (Matthew 9:21,22). She wandered far and wide missing–always missing–the mark. Then, at last, she met him…and she was healed. Sometimes we forget, that while it can be far more complex, the simple meaning of sin in the Bible is missing the mark with God. This is good news, because whether one’s sin is off the chart ugly and abusive or as simple as someone believing he or she is not lovable to anyone, Jesus came to ransom us from our slavery to such things.

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