I was invited, but I did not go.
It was bad timing, at least I thought it so.
Business at hand and things to do,
I turned down the invite and perhaps you would too.
Funny thing happened just now,
A crowd of folks that I knew from town,
Passed by my home with that man from our doors,
Enthused as if they'd been offered the store!
I grind my teeth at people like them,
Offered a chance that was mine.
I ran to the venue but found the door locked,
I, and the others like me, started to chime -
"Why them and not us? We're better you'll see!"
But the guard at the gate said,
"Complain as you please,
The host and His guests have no ear for your pleas."
Don't think this a fable.
If an invitation arrives;
There's a knock and you're able - Go!
Though generous grace in the Host you'll find,
Should you balk and fail to make it in time,
He will label your place reassigned.
I was recently reminded of the great respect the Islamic faith shows their holy book the Koran as I watched a character on a popular television show wrap and bury a personal copy that had been desecrated having been torn and dropped on the ground.
From very early on in my Christian sensitivities toward the Bible as the Holy Scriptures, to be revered as the word of God, I was eager to mark mine up with a pen to provide lasting annotation from my studies for the sake of teaching others. That later proved to be less than efficient for my taste, but I thought nothing of defacing the printed page with pencil and ink to connect ideas and words for my future meditation.
At some point in my scouting years, probably closer to the beginning at age 12 or 13, the manuals included U.S. flag and Holy Bible etiquette for care when disposing of them. As I recall, if a flag touched the ground or had worn to become threadbare or tattered, and if a Bible had been ruined by use or abuse they were to be burned. We have several flags that are aged but in pristine shape and I can't say we have had occasion to dispose of one, at least not that I can remember. Of Bibles however there have been many that I have used and most have in some way been abused by dropping especially. One of my favorites that I still have in my library has several pages stained with grape jelly that somehow spilled in the back of my VW Beetle while on one of my cross-state runs to girlfriends, youth rallies or camp events. I kept a Bible tucked among my change of clothes, English Leather cologne (which also leaked) and other assorted accessories for my semi-frequent weekend jaunts. I wiped it from the pages of Isaiah and began using those stains as reference markers in sword drills (contests to see who can find a Scripture reference the fastest). It never occurred to me to burn it.
Perhaps from an outside view one might think my use and care hasn't improved that much. I use what I call my "Bible on tape" even today. Bible on tape is a play on the former way, prior to compact disks (c/ds), when we may have listened to the Bible being read on cassette tape recordings. I have repaired the binding with duct tape more than once. And yes, I still read from a hard copy, black and white inked, paper page book form of the Bible. I am less inclined to write in current use versions since I want categorized retrievable notes for future use and I carry the one of choice for the day in my man purse, an attaché of sorts, but it will still be put away with other things of use and usually can be found with my latest scribblings for notes and folded messages from recent assemblies stuffed in its pages.
The primary difference in use and respect between a passionate Muslim and a devoted and particularly western bred Christian is the focus of our devotion. The western Christian is likely to be more absorbed with the content rather than the material book itself and wishes to avoid idolizing the material over the divine author. We are rather blessed to be so affluent as to possibly own several copies of the Bible in a variety of versions and even languages. The typical view in Islam is that there is only one version and one holy language for it to be read in for the fullest truth of it. The Christian will likely be of the mind to find all the versions they can and get them into the hands of as many as they can. We don't tend to throw away or burn used or abused copies (do we?), we give them away to those who may not have one to read because it is the message and not the material book itself that is vital to enlightenment.
This is all complicated so much the more with so many of us turning to the convenience of an electronic device for nearly unlimited access to versions of the Bible and everything else. Growing numbers in our assembly audiences no longer carry their hard copy Bibles.
"He said to me, 'Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll I am giving to you.' So I ate it, and it was sweet like honey in my mouth." Ezekiel 3:3
No one should be other than respectful of other books even of opposing faiths. It does nothing for our witness to them of the supremacy of the Scriptures to disrespect them. Admire the reverence given to their holy things and maybe let some of that rub off, particularly in how we handle things in public, but remember to save your reverence and your love for the Lord Himself and His precious words of instruction to us.
"All Scripture is breathed out [in words] by God and profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in what's right so the person of God can be well furnished and equipped for every good work." II Timothy 3:16, 17 [brackets mine]
Grace today y'all!
"Every word of God is purified; he is like a shield for those who take A necessary question of veracity
"Every word of God is purified; he is like a shield for those who take refuge in him"
A veracity dig
The celebrated author Truman Capote had a birthday September 30th. His true crime novel In Cold Blood brought him a good deal of praise from the literary community and quite a bit of money. A few hounds, however, took it upon themselves to dig in and fact-check the events he reported. One such was Phillip K. Tompkins, who stated in an Esquire article from 1966 that as he dug through Truman's sources he turned up some discrepancies.
"Capote has, in short, achieved a work of art. He has told exceedingly well a tale of high terror in his own way. But, despite the brilliance of his self-publicizing efforts, he has made both a tactical and a moral error that will hurt him in the short run. By insisting that "every word" of his book is true he has made himself vulnerable to those readers who are prepared to examine seriously such a sweeping claim."
Jack Olsen, also an author in the true crime genre gave his personal take on Truman's fabrications: "I recognized it [In Cold Blood] as a work of art, but I know fakery when I see it. Capote completely fabricated quotes and whole scenes..." Olsen went on to say, "The book made something like $6 million in 1960s money, and nobody wanted to discuss anything wrong with a moneymaker like that in the publishing business."
Capote's reply was, "Jack Olsen is just jealous."
October is Reformation month, a celebration of the Protestant Reformation, a central tenet of which was the declaration Sola Scriptura! - Scripture alone. It's also the month owe Christian believers remember the death of William Tyndale, burned for translating the Scriptures into the English language. The Bible with all its long history of worldwide accolade has its critics too. How much trust can we rest on the Bible as the Christian Scriptures?
Is every word true?
Perhaps, as in the words of Mr. Tomkins and Owens, the Bible is merely a good work of art, even a great one or the best of them, but not wholly true. Some, many, probably most, have their doubts. We too may be among those motivated to tear the book of books apart out of jealousy for its unparalleled success, or jealousy for our own endangered viewpoints.
No doubt mistakes and discrepancies abound in our modern Scripture versions - perhaps more than we realize. The question though is, after digging them up, whether they amount to a hill of beans in importance? Do they in any way endanger the Bible's integrity and claim to divine origin?
Thanks to the critics for keeping us awake to the need for an ever better apologetic!
To help put our fears to rest, persistent research and adept scholarship have shown the vast majority of mistakes to be unintentional, and most, by far, are typos as we would call them, the common errors of human copyists. Where there are insertions that don't fit the author, as far as can be presently assessed, none have much effect on anything important. It must also be taken into account how some authors of holy writ may have been assigned a unique theological point to write toward which may have led them to add or subtract details from incidents, or to arrange events according to the value of their contribution to the goal of the book.
Also, failure to properly esteem the Hebrew's high regard for their law which states "You shall not bear false witness or take the name of the Lord your God in vain," is to grossly impugn their integrity! Their law insisted they be careful how they testified and what they attached His name to.
The following indictment of Jeremiah, quoted here in the form of a personal question is sobering: "[Are] you misrepresenting the words of our God, the living God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies?" Jeremiah 23:36
A jealous lover
Even if by way of credible witness and thorough research we feel compelled to render a verdict of truth on the Bible it will no doubt stir up some jealousy. Having found comfort in the arms of a requiting lover such as a long held belief system we may be very slow to believe our beloved worldview has betrayed us.
Opening to the possibility
The Apostle Paul pressed the importance of being open to Scripture's veracity by insisting we "Let God be proven true, and every human be shown up as a liar…” Romans 3:4
In the long run
"The Scriptures will our live our doubts and feeble attacks and thus remain alive and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword. Ever able to pierce us deeply even to the dividing of our soul and spirit, and they will remain a discerner of the thoughts and intents of our heart (Hebrews 4:12 paraphrase mine)."
Further, I Timothy 3:16 reminds us that the Bible will prove profitable to teach us the nature of God and us humans. It will fulfill its function as a rebuke where we've been wrong, of correction when we have mishandled truth and for instruction to lead us toward what is right.
No worries then
"…No one who believes (trusts) in Him will be put to shame!" Romans 10:11
"Rather than lean on our own understanding in rebel opposition, better to put our whole hearted trust in the Lord and His word to aid our ill affected thinking. Then in all our life's choices acknowledge Him and He will lead us so things ultimately turn out for the good." Proverbs 3:5, 6 [conceptual importing and paraphrasing mine]
Grace today y'all!
On a recent evening Karen (my wife) dutifully rolled the trash receptacles out to the edge of the parking area at her workplace. While positioning them for pickup she stepped back into the brush line that borders the pavement. By chance, and without realizing it, she wrapped her pants leg in a spider's web. The mishap was discovered on her way home. Once she was able, she gathered and rolled the web and its all but invisible contents into a ball, and tossed it in her trash bag that hangs from the dash of her truck. The next morning when she slid behind the steering wheel to leave for work she discovered, stretched between the dash and a point on the bench seat, a fresh new web spun by an apparently resilient little spider.
There you go; former business location and enterprise destroyed, and life rolled into a tight ball by forces unpredictable and stronger than can be resisted. Given the damages, how can one spider cope and go on?
Awakened to the possibility of life after disaster we imagine one might ask, "Why has this happened? This is not where I want to be! What possible productive living can be made inside the cab of a GMC truck - is it even worth trying?"
Go to the spider O saint of God and learn from her for…
Some creatures never give it a second thought.
Grace today y'all!
Over this past Christmas Karen and I were passing by a new assisted living apartment complex that is going up behind the gated villa community in Florida where my mother-in-law has a home. Each time we came in and out during our stay we had plenty of opportunity to observe the progress of construction. At the time they were at the stage where they were boxing in a form for the header at the top of the cement block walls. Once that form is in place they tie off the steel reinforcing rods to form a web that literally ties the header to the wall. They'll then pour concrete to cover the tied steel rods. The pour will bring the header up to a perfect level so that when the concrete is dry and the forms are removed the top of the wall will be prepared to hold the weight of the roof or second story.
Stay with me a moment…
Quite a few years ago, I had occasion to service a washing machine in the garage of a Florida home. As is typical of much of the building in S. Florida this one was also a CBS or Concrete Block Structure.
More often than not both the exterior and interior surfaces of the walls would be finished. In this particular case the inside of the garage had been left unfinished and you could easily see the block and mortar lines.
While waiting for the washer to run through a diagnostic cycle there was a point at which I began looking up and around taking particular note of the wall to my left. I was a bit taken back by what I saw. Somehow a couple of courses of blocks up from the foundation the block masons had apparently lost site of the level (story) lines they were to follow. By midway up a long wave took shape which continued in the successive courses until it was engulfed in the header.
Were they drunk? What unseen issue so affected assembly that the blocks were set off course?
What was so interesting to me was how they overcame the problem. They simply formed the header so that the final pour of concrete perfectly leveled the wall. The header tied it together and made the otherwise incurably crooked wall level.
There are many things in life I don't have the ability to control. Sometimes, even when I think I am doing the best I can things don't turn out so well under review. Then too I have been known to be downright belligerent, insisting on my own way.
At the heart of the story we call the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this fourfold truth: Our hearts are crooked; God loves us; Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners and Heaven is populated by crooked saints leveled by the pouring out of God's grace into our lives.
What's your story; sunken footers, crooked courses, facing a failed inspection?
Take careful note here. We cannot take an irresponsible view of the Gospel and say that it doesn't matter how we live because we can get it all leveled out by the grace of God in the end of it.
No, not at all!
In life there are very real consequences to crooked courses and life is so very much more complicated than a simple block wall. What the illustration does serve to say, and say well, is that when a life is turned over to God through trust in Jesus Christ, He will pour in His Spirit, make course corrections and warranty His work for final inspection.
Let God pour Himself into you and let His words have their way. Tell Him that's what you want, then trust Him to do it…
I Corinthians 3:9b,13a by way of personal application, "We are God's building...[And] every builder's work will be plainly seen because it will be revealed..."
Grace today y'all!
In every election cycle the debate amongst well-meaning saints resurfaces. Should Christians vote?
Here are a few ideas to include in our thinking…
1. The privilege to participate in our government
Given that we currently have the privilege to affect government policy through our vote, should we not take advantage of it?
Jesus’ well-known beatitude “Blessed are the peacemakers” supplies a directive for human participation in the divine value of interpersonal peace. How far should we take such directives? Could it be that in the case of systems of government that provide for voter participation we should use our power to vote the politics of peace?
2. The priority of love
In the enduring words of Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?”
Not love for a favorite candidate but for God and our neighbors.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself…Do this, and you will live.” Luke 10:25-28 [ESV]
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34 [ESV]
The great commandments have now since Christ become a trinity of directive. “Love God with all your person;” then, as a priority for His students the Savior inserted, “Love your brothers and sisters – fellow believers –as I have loved you;” and to fill out the love trinity, “love your neighbor – any fellow person, even a personal enemy – as yourself.” Love compels me to support that which glorifies God, the well-being of my Christian family and that of our neighbors in general. Casting an informed vote may help.
3. Lifting policy over preference of persons
If we can get both a holy person and great policies all the better.
Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, is rumored to have become famous for two things. First, that he lived in a bathtub and took it with him wherever he went, and second, that he possessed a lamp. It was said that with his lamp he went throughout Athens looking for a man who was honest. Legend says that before he could attain success his lamp went out. His search ended in futility.
Our favored leaders may be nice, well-spoken, charismatic and our favorite color but immoral in policy.
A believer knows it is the Spirit of God and not government policy that bears the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Wherever love exists, even in its weakest expression, God is the reason.
However, on the other side of that coin we are instructed to pray for our ‘king’ for the sake of a continuing atmosphere conducive to living peaceably and the freedom to share Christ (I Timothy 2:1-5). To pray for what we want, yet to do nothing to advance a policy that would support the answer may be considered irresponsible.
4. The prompting of conscience
“How can we expect people to “vote their values” when they can’t even define what those values are, and they struggle to articulate what they believe and why they believe it?” Ruth Malhotra, Public Relations Manager at RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Mission)
“We face a worldview challenge that is far greater than any political challenge, as we must learn how to winsomely convince Americans to share our moral convictions.” Dr. Al Mohler, “Aftermath: Lessons from the 2012 Election” (November 7, 2012)
Our consciences resonate according to what we value morally. For example: Do we care about abortions and infanticide, or that our freedom to define perversions (wrong behavior) according to our own understanding of the will of God is at risk? At risk is our freedom to teach those definitions in our assemblies, and our freedom to deny participation to those that refuse to comply. Others are eager to band together to take your freedom away by voting for leaders and policy makers that support their viewpoint – what about us?
Oz Guinness warns us that "in the end the ultimate threat to the American republic will be Americans. The problem is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor. The future of the republic depends on whether Americans will rise to the challenge of living up to America's unfulfilled potential for freedom, both for itself and for the world.”
Oz Guinness, A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future, InterVarsity Press, 2012
5. The practice of faith
We know perhaps most clearly from the Apostle Paul that the Lord is the originator of governments as inherent to our existence. The very idea of authorities and policies that govern us is from Him - so are the outcomes of coups, revolutions, conquests and elections. Most of us are unable to predict them, but we know from many places in Scripture that the Lord is the one who ultimately decides. The Queen of Sheba knew this about Solomon (I Kings 10:9), Daniel knew this about Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:32) and Solomon wrote it in proverb form saying, “The lot is tossed into the lap, but their every decision is from the Lord.” Proverbs 16:33
We also know that faith without works is dead (James 2:17, 18). All living faith is recognizable by the behavior that acts it out. So, when the Christian votes they vote by faith, trusting the hand of the Lord to lead them, and entrusting the outcomes to Him.
Grace today y’all!
“If I had a chance to do it all over again, I would never want to be considered a role model. It was like a game that was stacked against me and there was no chance that I could win.”
(A quote snatched from an interview filmed as a segment during Episode VI in the documentary series "The Last Dance".)
And so it is for all of us.
Had we the ability to sample a cross section of humanity from all people groups and cultures through all human existence we would find Mr. Jordan is not alone in his sentiment. Given time we all become very much aware of our failure to live up to anyone's standard, including our own - much less that of a perceived deity.
Hence the truth in the words "There is no difference, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God"
Watching a documentary on a superstar athlete and the team he played on in the NBA (National Basketball Association), and seeing segment after segment of footage depicting the swarming crowds and media personnel pressing against him, I honestly began to feel a combination of disappointment and anger. Disappointment, because the flaws of my hero of the basketball courts were exposed, and angry because he could not escape it. It was such harassment.
The scrutiny in the repeated questions, microphones up in his face, renewed my admiration for our Savior Jesus for the 33 years of His earthly tenure. The multitudes that pressed on Him to get his attention as He approached the ultimate championship contest of His crucifixion - WOW! Folks could see Him and touch Him, watching Him earnestly for flaws. Yet He could say at any time throughout His unique vocational life as a perceived superstar, "Come unto Me and learn of Me…for I am meek and lowly."
The game was stacked against Him
Recently, CNN news commentator Don Lemon stated, "…Jesus Christ admittedly was not perfect when he was here on the Earth." I pulled this quote from the report of his interview with fellow CNN journalist Chris Cuomo at townhall.com
We're inclined to say things like that from ignorance, but also from incredulity. Don't you find it difficult, on the basis of your own experience, to believe any man could possibly be free of fault?
In Galatians 4:4 the Apostle Paul pointed out that Jesus was "made of a woman, made under the Law (referring to the Law of Moses)." So according to this statement Jesus was human in birth and under the strict scrutiny of an impossible code of morality and ethics which his fellow countrymen were more than willing to hold Him to.
Peter, a student of Jesus for three years, once stated in a missions conference what a relief it was that forgiveness of sins against that Law was now offered to everyone through faith in Jesus Christ. The Law, he intimated, is "a yoke which neither our ancestors nor we could bear (Acts 15:10)."
Yet this same Peter, in a letter of his own also insisted emphatically,
"…Christ…suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example, so that [we] might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth." (1 Peter 2:21-22 [NET] brackets mine)
It's not that it can't happen, it's that based upon my experience and that of everyone around me I've never seen anyone even come close to moral perfection. This is precisely why we are told that common persons like us must "walk by faith and not by sight." (II Corinthians 5:7)
Add to this Luke's record of the Apostle Paul's message to some folks in what is today modern central Turkey. There he related the words of a proud Father in Heaven upon the accomplishment of His unique son's impeccable life and mission, "You are my beloved son, this day I have begotten You." (Acts 13:33 [NASV])
Perhaps you have some other references that come to mind from your Bibles. Suffice to say our Savior is the one and only person that could ever say, "Whoever believes in [ME] will not be disappointed (ashamed by the failure of the One we trust)." (Romans 10:11 [NASV])
For this reason He invites us to trust Him.
Grace today y'all!