Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Week 12 Day 1

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Deuteronomy 4: 15 You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore, watch yourselves very carefully, 16 so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman,

            Have you ever considered the many ways in which modern Christians disobey Commandment number 2 (Exodus 20:4) We create images of Jesus, of Mary, of the cross, images of the resurrection, ascension, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Why, against the clear command do we persist in such disobedience? Even within the most conservative of Churches there is always a prominent placement of a (nearly) life size replica of Jesus’ crucifixion. Many of our songs tend to express a worshipful attitude toward this horrible means of execution. (“O’ the wonderful cross”?)

            God has expressed his love for us in such a way that we should be free of the need to bow down before any idol, whether it be some “golden calf” or a statue of the virgin Mary. Remember if you will Jesus’ own words; So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Free from the bondage to idols.

            Here, we need to examine our lives and root out our idolatry and image worship, those things to which we submit with reverence and reverie. Imagine if you will what it means to be truly free to enjoy God’s love in the midst of his creation. We can then look at the beautiful and less beautiful (to our limited perceptions) with the same degree of love that Jesus has for what He has made. Not every person is a “finished product”.

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Week 11 Day 7

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Matthew 6:23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

            Happy that it is fairly easy to say that many people are living in complete darkness. It is equally sad that the answer to “eye” health, and I speak of spiritual health when I speak of that,  is as easily obtainable as merely reaching out and picking up a Bible so that we might see with our eyes and hear with our ears. In the current jumble of messages coming at us today the Word of God is so readily obtainable in most Western cultures as to be the easiest of these messages to appropriate, and yet, so few actually avail themselves of this tremendous resource.

            For me, the Bible is where I first met God, and through his mercy His son Jesus. I have chosen to make this book the premier reading of my life for in it I find every truth about every subject I could ever hope to understand. Without this amazing Book, I am like the citizens of Laodicea (Revelation 3:18) “wretched, poor, pitiful, blind, and naked.”

            My prayer is that you, my readers, may be part of a fellowship of believers who lift up and share the Word, study the Bible, and live by His precepts.

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Week 11 day 6

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Ezekiel 33:But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.

10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of[a] them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

            How is it that we have lost the understanding that the results of our efforts to help people “discover” Jesus for themselves are not our responsibility. We cannot at least for very long coerce a confession of Jesus as Lord. The question asked many years ago by Francis Schaefer and again later by Chuck Colson; “How then shall we live?” really begs this question. Christian history is littered with the spiritual remains of human effort to force people into the mold of “faith.”  One evangelism teacher put it this way. Our obedience to be witnesses secures our “reward” in heaven. Did you note that whether or not your “success” led to a life of faith for the person you witnessed to was not your responsibility? (I will add that, if e only witness for the sake of a “reward” we have this whole thing backwards.)

            Let’s make out goal to have the entirety of our lives bear witness to the race and love of Jesus our Christ. Irish priest now Saint, Patrick created enclaves of faith amidst the pagan druidic tribes of Ireland. People were allowed entry into these enclosed villages and offered the gracious hospitality of the nuns and priests and residents. They were free then to choose to stay or leave. Many stayed, and while we tend to lionize Patrick, the results are still God’s. It is the same with any luminary of the Christian faith who legitimately leaves the results to Jesus.

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Week 11 Day 6

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

James 1: 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

            Some readers may be too young to remember “letterman sweaters”. Way back in the dark ages I received award letters for wrestling and band. To say that I wore the letters as a means of identifying myself as a wrestler or athlete of any kind is going way beyond the scope of what they may have ever meant. The award was a moment. The identification as a wrestler was only for brief moments on the mat, and during the grueling hours of practice. Oddly enough, the band letter did more to forge my identity for the long term in my life.

            So it is with Christians. In the rush of euphoria and celebration that comes with acknowledgement of our need for the forgiveness of God, so too, there is at hand for each one the possibility of a transformed life. I never “became” a wrestler. But I wrestled. I did become a musician and remain so to this day. The difference? When we “become” a Christian there is the temptation to see everything through the filter of the wonderful acceptance that often comes “in the moment” from the other Christians around us. Many, however, are often left wondering, “What do I do now?” What we have rather ineffectually called discipling has merely become an exercise in handing somebody a reading assignment and telling the to “come back when you’ve completer A,B, and C”.

            If we are to take the words of James seriously, we have a responsibility to not only “be Christians” but to do what the word requires of us in three critical areas. First, the obligation to know what the Word says. That is the whole of the Bible. Second to do what the Word says, even to the point of great personal sacrifice. Third, to live our lives in love for God, love for others, and love for ourselves. (Matthew 22: 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”)

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Week 11 Day 4

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Isaiah 6:9He said, “Go and tell this people:

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
    be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
    make their ears dull
    and close their eyes.[a]
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

            Some days it is really difficult to understand just exactly what Jesus would do in a given situation. Don’t feel bad. Israel was utterly unable to discern god’s will, His righteousness, His plan and purpose for their lives. They had gone so far down hill in their secularism and greed that nothing would do but their destruction which ultimately came about around 586 BC. What you may not understand is that Isaiah wrote between 100 and 150 years before the events of Jerusalem’s fall to Nebuchadnezzar II.

            Isaiah literally ended up “talking to the hand” so to speak. People did not want to hear. People refused to listen. Ultimately the whole of the nation paid the price. In the end even the just, were carried off to Babylon.

            With sadness I look out over a world that is very much like the world Isaiah lived in. Amazingly, I listened to a sermon today on the “love chapter” (13) from 1st Corinthians. The message, “Love is not self-seeking”. I was powerfully reminded today that love is not a feeling, it is an act of the will. Love will cost you everything. Not choosing love will lead only to condemnation. “What more horrible word could ever be heard than to hear Jesus say “Away from me, I never knew you”. (Matthew 7:23) To pay the price to love is far better than any alternative I can think of.

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Week 11 day 3

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Colossians 4:5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

Ephesians 5: 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

            We often hear with subtle applause in the background “He or she is able to think outside of the box. Of course, this is mostly an acknowledgement of someone’s creative ability within a rigid or fixed system of operations. That being said, there have been many Christian folk down through the centuries. We have applauded them, celebrated and lionize them as heroes of the faith, all to seldom considering their willingness to ACT outside of the box.

            Many missionaries I have met through the years had this ability. They could assess the situation on the ground and use the means at hand to accomplish their purpose which was and is the evangelization of the people they encounter. I am speaking of their willingness to adapt to the reality of where they are, something which I fear has largely been lost as we become more deeply entangled in our “enclave” mentality inside the Church walls.” Yeah, I know you’ve heard it all before. But think for a moment was there ever a time in your life like this. Has there ever been a time when, between the pressing demands of immigration, the tensions between races and cultural ideologies, financial need and dissolving employment, and worst of all the separation and anxiety brought about by the plague of the covid-19 virus, when the Church was more needed, when new and creative ways from virtual worship, to simple phone calls, e-mails, text messages might be our way of sharing the love of Jesus with  people  with whom we cannot enjoy direct contact.

            What are your opportunities? What ideas could you share with somebody who is wondering what they can do?

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Week 11 Day 2

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Abundance and famine?

Genesis 41:27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.

            “It’s zucchini time. Hooray!”  Six weeks later, “It’s still zucchini time, when will it ever end?”

            God has created the world to produce such an abundance of life giving sustenance that I often wonder at the kinds of famine we have seen in out lifetimes. For thirty five years I was involved in various “compassionate” feeding programs. Many were helped, some took advantage dishonestly. Regardless, most shortfalls in the capacity to have people able to feed themselves, I believe, are attributable to human greed, criminal corruption, and ignorant indifference.

            We see massive movement of peoples from one hemisphere to another and decry the “invading immigrant”, but looking to scripture, we see that the concept is not new. Time magazine several years ago published and interesting article about the so called “mother tongue”. The article hypothesized that every language of the world could be traced back through antiquity to the so called “Rift valley” in Africa. (Curiously, this assertion also lines up with the creation story found in the book of Genesis.) From the very beginning peoples were motivated by the constant quest for better living conditions. What we are seeing today should ,therefore,  come as no surprise.

            I have always loved the spirit of sharing that comes about this time of year. People everywhere are willing to share their zucchini with you. Back in upstate NY we would often find the abundant vegetable tossed in our cars as we came out from Church on a Sunday, or left surreptitiously on the door step of our homes while we were out running errands. Cheer up, tomato season is coming.

            While we busy ourselves with one thousand recipes for zucchini, and prepare for one thousand and one recipes for tomatoes, give a thought for one moment to the larger reality of the movement of peoples around the world. Pagan cultures are increasingly coming into contact with at least nominally Christina cultures. Is this perhaps one of the greatest missionary opportunities God has ever brought about. Let’s be on our toes here. Maybe, a little grace, a little zucchini bread could go a long way down the road of sharing the love of Jesus.

Finding God in the Mysteries of every Day

Week 11 Day 1

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Galatians 1:Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

How often I have read these salutations from Paul’s letters and not given them a second thought. Grace and peace, what a wonderful way to welcome a reader into the mind of the writer. It is as if to say that the writer has an awareness, a concern for the well being of the ones who receive the greeting. That in itself is sufficient to cause a reader to regard with some favor whatever it might be that the writer has to say.

The next part of this greeting is even more compelling to me because it speaks of Father God’s great concern and love for us through His only son Jesus who “gave Himself up” in the most daring and risky rescue attempt ever recorded in history. Can you imagine? Think back, if you are reading this it is my hope that you have come to know Jesus as friend, brother, Lord and God. When did you become aware of your peril in this life? What prompted you to reach out?

            Without indulging in any of the myriad eschatological arguments prevalent out in the universe of Biblical thought I just thought it might do us all well to take a moment to reflect here on God’s great love which made this all possible.

Grace and Peace to you indeed!

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Week 10 Day 7

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Making it clear-

2 Corinthians 2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.

            Humankind has busily been weaving a tapestry of science, myth, truth, supposition and outright deceit into the collective psyche of each and every age of our species. We have, in scripture some very clear and pointed references which although social pragmatists have done their best tp debunk, deny, and obscure, which nonetheless cannot be denied. I have been exposed to any number of “Biblical scholars” who, in reality, function as little more than apologists for secular thought denying any manifestation of spirituality, whether good or bad. I have known still others who, perhaps in learned, and undisciplined credulity tend to see spiritual “bogey men” behind every human action.

            The supposedly second century heresy of Gnosticism is far too large an issue to indulge in this context. I would instead make two points to you. I believe the scriptures are the inspired Word of God. Second, I believe as did Peter that “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

            Please now, follow this thought. Since Jesus is the Word ( logos) of God, and He is also the Truth ( aletheia), then what he did and says is also reasonably considered to be the truth. Jesus, I do not believe was expressing idiomatically, a belief in spirits when he spoke to the people. He was not just waiting until some future time when in our “great wisdom” we “explained” away anything of a metaphysical nature scorning the clear statements in scripture.

            So, what am I saying. Perhaps the best way to approach this conundrum without going down either road of skepticism of Gnosticism would be to regard Scripture, which is the most proven, accurate, openly honest document we have found, as God’s exact representation of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. That means, “in for a penny, in for a pound”. (Ephesians 6)

      “There’s a battle ragin’ ‘round me. In a realm I cannot see And I cry “Dear Lord deliver me!” And his Spirit flows, Yes His Spirit Flows. (Walk in the light. 2009 LMLawrennce Music

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Week 10 Day 6

Finding God in the Mysteries of every day

Genesis 1: 20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (KJV)

It is coming on August as I write this today. I was reminded the other day of the necessity of not giving up on the beauty of God’s creation simply because in this hemisphere we have entered a time that can bring what feels to us as oppressive heat. All to frequently this is also our response when relationships, particularly with those who are closest to us morph into something that feels monstrously different than how we have envisioned that relationship should be.

We have struggled through the teen years with our children having experienced the pain of their rebellion and rejection. We have watched as lives, which we cherish still, have spiraled out of control as they sought to discover their own “unique” path through life. One of the most difficult parts of that experience has been to watch as these beautiful creatures, which God saw fit to place in our care, stumbled down one blind alley after another seeking the kind of fulfillment and joy that can only be known in our Lord Jesus, the Messiah.

I have found comfort down through the years, as usual, in the Word of God as stated in the book of Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.. Note that the scripture does not say that everything will be easy, or rewarding, but it does at the very least imply that training in godliness will come full circle. We dare not give up no matter what the age or what has gone “down the river”.  If we have been wearied with trying, fatigued by sorrow, we must seek to be re-energized with power and wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Love in action is the light that will point them to the Way.