Thursday, October 24, 2013

Good = ?

When you've got a hard heart, only one thing will break it...
     I have been struggling with bitterness this week;  I was passed over for a promotion at work.  And even worse, the guy who got it is a good friend and a strong believer!  So, my battle with self-pity and dissatisfaction has been severe and recurrent, like a bad case of gastroenteritis. 
     A few days before the hammer of rejection fell on my head, my wife and I were discussing a relative who has been never been married and would very much like to be.  My wife has strong matchmaking tendencies, and expressed her desire to "just see my relative happy!";  I responded with Ps 84:11 & 85:12:

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly...Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase."

     What my relative needs to do, I explained to my feisty wife, was change their definition of "good";  if God, in His inexpressible wisdom, has providentially denied us something we want, that thing must be bad for us.  In every society, there is a worldly definition of "good"... so when we are presented with the opportunity for more riches, romance, prestige, entertainment or the physical appearance of a 25 year old, the obvious question is "How can God NOT want me to have that???"  This disconnect between our perspective and God's goes all the way back, of course:  "So when the woman saw that the tree was good..." (Gen 3:6).  What God defined as death, Eve, in her sinful desires, defined as good.  Then there are the instances in Scripture where God gives unbelievers "good" things to blind them and accomplish their damnation (Ps 73:17f, Isa 2:7-12, 10:12, Rev 18:2-8). 
     So in the pit of my self-absorbed dejection, God brought to mind this point and I realized a false
Of course God wants me to have this!
seed of redefining "good" had crept into my heart and was sprouting its poisonous fruit.  No matter how much we want a new job, a new spouse, or new children (especially new children!), God knows exactly what circumstances and/or finances will conform us to the image of His Son.  For Paul, the Great Physician prescribed a full dose of suffering and crushing responsibility for His patient (2 Cor 11:23-28).  If anything, we can be happy that we get a little less!  Whatever toy or temporal pleasure He withholds from us must be, by definition, "bad".  So the next time you're frustrated with the allure of something you can't have, ask yourself:  "Is this good for me?"

Photos courtesy of stebulus, 401(K) 2013

Persecution, anyone?

     Isn't it incredible when you see God's promises come true?  The wonder and renewed certainty of the truth of God in Scripture is one of the many ways He upholds us and nurtures us in the middle of this "la vida loca".  Less than an hour ago, a notable verse came true for me...
"Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,..."  (1 Tim 3:12)
Our suffering is nothing compared to His...
    No, I wasn't crucified or flogged, nothing that would merit inclusion in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.  But according to our verse, the hatred of the world against God must find expression in some way, so I got a tiny dose of civilized Western persecution today.  Yesterday, I had an extended conversation with a JW at work, the most recent of many.  The last point he made was to ask for one instance in the Bible where Jesus was called Jehovah (or Yahweh).  So I walked him through Isa 6 and its N.T. exposition, Jn 12:41:  in Isa, the glory is explicitly emanating from Jehovah, and John just as explicitly tells us that the Person Isaiah saw was Jesus and he prophesied about Him for us.  My coworker had never seen this connection before, and was a little speechless (he usually gets mad when I stump him).  So today, he asked where I had gone to school (he meant my religious education).  I held up my hand in a big, fat zero, and told him that I had no formal training in theology.  He asked about my mentor, where did he study?  I was able to repeat my gesture, and his response was classic:
"Well, that would explain why you're so confused!"
     I said nothing, and he quickly told me he was just joking, and so I goodnaturedly chuckled and mentioned that's exactly what they said about someone else:  "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus."  (Acts 4:13)  I too am a common, uneducated man.  But I know Jesus, and His words about the work of the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant ring true:
"It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me..." (John 6:45)
"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you."  (John 16:13-14)
     We live in an unparalleled age of information, and we must avail ourselves of this incredible access and bounteous documentation.  But no education, formal or informal, can replace the supernatural Presence of God in His people.  The Holy Spirit is our divine Expositor, so learn to listen to Him as you preach the One who sent Him.

Photo courtesy of Bo Insogna

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Letter to the Senator...

     I have never cared about something enough to write to my legislators... or it could be that I've been deeply pessimistic about liberal legislators listening to a Christian conservative.  But the recent budget battle got me thinking about a political issue that transcends parties and that will quickly reduce us to financial ruin and slavery.  Please consider contacting your elected officials to beg them to take immediate steps to wean us off our national addiction.
 October 18, 2013                                                                                        
I'm begging you two for some sanity...
Dear Senator Murray,
     I am writing to convey my deep concern over our nation's economic path.  I, like most of the country, was unable to avoid the media frenzy surrounding the recent congressional battle to raise the debt ceiling, and I can't help but feel that we are one step closer to the complete ruin of our country;  but my angst is not rooted in the strife between the 2 sides, or the amount of procedure, committees and red tape utilized by our government.  The impending sense of doom I feel is rooted in what was not said, what was not mentioned or even hinted at on one channel, or printed in one article I read in the last 2 weeks.  The Tyrannosaurus Rex in the closet is the obvious reason why we need to raise the debt ceiling:  we spend more than we earn
     I am not a CPA, and I don't have a degree in finance, but this is one thing that every teenager getting his first paycheck learns pretty quickly:  you can borrow only so much before your friends get mad at you, the bank repossesses your car and the bankruptcy court forces you to sell your assets/toys.  For decades, we as a nation have elected representatives from both parties that enable us to enjoy a lifestyle significantly more expensive than the one we can afford, a privileged existence buoyed by subsidies, entitlements, legislative pork like the AEP dam project, etc. 
      So like any junkie being confronted by their caring, pleading family, we are faced with a simple choice:  cut back on the flow of destructive, addictive spending and start paying off the mountain of debt we already have, or we will overdose and kill ourselves and our nation.  This is the subtext of the last 2 weeks that has gone unspoken and thus unheard... this is the huge clot in our national artery, unseen and deadly.  No one wants to discuss it, but you of all people can't be ignorant of it.  As Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, you are uniquely positioned and qualified to join the conversation on how we can save our country... I beg you to join me in correctly diagnosing and treating our national disease.
Brett Schlee
Photo courtesy of orcmid