A Matter of Royalty

Thur., Mar. 10/22

MerEEOoow!” Molly screamed adamantly! The zip-top lid of the Pampers can had roused her from royal sleep, an injustice demandIng immediate recompense. A warm scoop of salmon paté with catnip treats on the side, perhaps? “MERerEEOOOoow!” she emphasized drowning out the T.V. newscaster.

“Alright, alright,” I responded, enraging her more. Such insolence from her majesty’s staff should not be tolerated! But she was much too hungry to deal with that now. The dish was ready and just as she liked it. Oh the indignities!

Source: BioWeb

Entitlement — the sense that one has a right to something. A land claim perhaps? A property deed? Something to which one holds title. Britannica.com defines it as “any government-provided or government-managed benefit or service to which some or all individuals are entitled by law.” In our cat’s case I suppose she deems her rule is by monarchy. As “Felis Catus” on the Phylogenetic tree (Are you impressed?) Molly is of the Lynx family of the Leopardis group which falls under the Felidae group of the Carnivora. The Felidae group also includes the subgroup Panthera from which, as I’m sure you all know, we have the Lion family* – the KING of the Beasts!

“MerEEOoow” indeed!

But, The Lion King aside, we all know quite clearly that Molly is not Royalty. She is not entitled! She is a creature of a Great Creator! A wise, loving, all powerful, all present, all loving and just God. Deep down the animal kingdom knows this. “All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time,” wrote the psalmist (Ps. 104:27). Even “the young lions… seek their food from God” (Psalm 104:21). – Molly, take note.

God is in charge. He looks out for the oxen (Deut. 25:4), the sparrows (Luke 12:6), and all birds of the air (Matt. 6:26). “O Lord, You preserve man and beast,” observed David (Ps. 36:6). If anyone is entitled to obedience and praise it is Him! He is the King. The animal kingdom knows this, and so should we!

Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth.” (Gen. 9:9-10).

Stop howling and be thankful!

Press on…

*Source: BioWeb

Three ‘dos,’ a pause, One ‘don’t’

Wed., Mar. 9/22

Psalm 37, a psalm of David, is one of nine* psalms which, in the Hebrew Bible, are written as acrostic poems. – i.e. each stanza beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Presumably this was done to make memorization of these psalms easier, which suggests their content is of particular importance.

Three times in the first nine verses of this psalm we are told not to fret – i.e  to be constantly and visibly worried or anxious — over the apparent successes of evil people in this world (v.1, 7, 8). To combat this tendency we are given three attitudes we must take and one we must avoid.

The first of these is Trust. Trust in our Lord. Only He knows the whole story, sees it from beginning to end. The Christian knows the evil will not ultimately succeed. “Trust in the Lord and do good,” enjoins David (v.3). The race is not yet over. Better to run your best in the right direction than fastest in the wrong.

The next attitude is to Delight. “Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (v.4). But we must be careful with this one. You cannot make a deal with God! Now you may “desire” vengeance on the wicked and think: God, I will “delight” in You, praise You.. talk about You… so that You will grant my “desire” of vengeance.

But that is not the equation to apply! Rather, we “delight” in the Lord by adopting the heart of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the heart of the Lord. We do this by surrendering our desires for His desires, aligning ourselves with His, as yet often unclear, purposes. In this way we become useful instruments in His best plan. Many wicked persons may yet be saved! (cf Luke 23:42-43; John 7:5 & James 1:1; Acts 9:1-20).

Finally, the psalmist urges us to an attitude of commitment to the Lord… “Commit your way to the Lord,” he says (v.5). Though Frank Sinatra boasted in song “I did it my way,” the Lord Almighty says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isa. 55:8). Rest in Him to guide your steps. Follow meekness, desiring nothing of this world. Then, surprisingly.. ironically, you will inherit it! (Matt. 5:5). Then you will know better what to do with it!

All of this takes some mindset adjustment, more than any of us can muster in the moment. So He says, “Be still before the Lord” (v. 7). Just sit there with Him. “Be,” not “do” in His Presence: soak, steep, surrender… “Vengeance is Mine,” says our Lord. When we arise from our stillness, we find the final point (v. 8) possible. His heart in ours, our anger and wrath is subsided.

Psalm 37:1-9, NIV

Press on…

*The other acrostic psalms are Ps. 9, 10, 25, 34, 111, 112, 119, and 145.

A Cynic’s Alternative

Tue., Mar. 8/22

Do not become cynical…  Cynicism makes your heart hard… it makes you like those to whom you became cynical. Cynicism weighs worthiness. It is essentially a legalism: The cynic measures a pound of kindness for a pound of demonstrated faithfulness, but if the other exhibits self-interest and deceit, the cynic metes out only scorn! Cynicism is a tit for tat sort of thing.

But Christ modelled something quite different… something radical. Rather than live life like a weigh scale Christ shows us how to live like a flowerbed. His social intercourse was more a fragrance than a balancing. Mind you, a day of balancing will come, but for now He seeks – and desires that we too seek – to woo others to His garden.

He taught of this transition early on in His first recorded sermon:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:44-48).

This sounds like a very hard thing at first, but is in fact most easy. Fragrancing, as I might coin it, requires doing only one thing. Actually, it is not so much a thing one does as it is a sort of person one becomes. No assessment of those benefitting from it is necessary.

It does, however require a complete turnaround, a turnaround made possible only by the indwelling Holy Spirit Who inhabits all believers. A turnaround from darkness to light (where you will see things you missed before), from night to day – “children of the light and children of the day,” wrote Paul (1 Thess. 5:5). Having turned full round you see better the signposts, you see them frontwards instead of only their backsides as before. Indeed all things are now illumined by the rising sun, and you are no longer overwhelmed by the glare of bitterness.

Beware that “bitter root” (Heb. 12:15). Beware lest “love grow cold” (Matt 24:12). Instead be unjustly gracious! Let the fragrance of Christ be your continual scent! “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15).

After all, was it not such sweet aroma that first wooed you?

Press on…

“I have never known a man who received Christ and ever regretted it.” – Billy Graham

No Evidence of Absence

Mon., Mar. 7/22

My wife and I have become great fans of the CBC Television detective drama series Murdoch Mysteries. Set in Victorian era Toronto the Sherlock Holmesian detective William Murdoch solves murders by wit and inventions. In one episode (Season 6, Episode 7, “The Ghost of Queen’s Park”) a politician is rumoured to have been killed by a vengeance-seeking ghost. In one scene the more gullible Constable George Crabtree discusses the case with the ever practical and scientific-minded detective William Murdoch:

  • Crabtree: “Sir, I think we may be… premature in eliminating the supernatural element from this investigation. At least two people have said they’ve seen a glowing ghost in recent days.”
  • Murdoch: “George, there is absolutely no scientific basis for the existence of ghosts.”
  • Crabtree: “Yes, sir, but you yourself have said the absence of evidence is not necessarily the evidence of absence. You yourself believe in God and heaven for instance.”
  • Murdoch: “Neither of which I’m bringing into this investigation.”
  • Crabtree: “Yes, sir…”

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.” — The line is sheer brilliance. It states concisely the truth that one’s inability to find evidence of a thing, does not mean the evidence does not exist. It only means that as yet the evidence has not been found, or realized.

The statement is easily applicable to the existence of God. A skeptic may wrongly conclude that because he sees no evidence of the existence of God, God must not exist! But this is very poor reasoning. To paraphrase Murdoch, Absence of evidence of the existence of God is not evidence of His nonexistence! It merely means that this investigator has not yet found such evidence, or realized the indications of the evidence which is all around him. And indeed there is much evidence: creation, consciousness, conviction, and our innate sense of the wrongness of death – that inner suspicion that humanity was made for something higher.

Christians do not believe in God because they think it a nice fantasy or philosophy. They believe in God because they have become aware of His Presence, His Works, His Purposes, Plans, and Redemption. As the old Loretta Lynn song expresses, “If God is dead, who’s this living in my soul?

Press on…

Link to watch Murdoch Mysteries S6,E7, “The Ghost of Queen’s Park?


Thur., Mar. 3/22

“Utilizes Chisanbop” read the clue, and four blank squares stared back at me awaiting my answer. Having never, at least to my knowledge, Chisanbopped, I was somewhat at a loss to define it, so I went on… In time, the intersecting words mArble, ceDar, and hanDler revealed themselves. I added an “S” and it became clear that a Chisanbop-er must be one who ADDS. Adds what to what though remained a mystery. I completed the crossword then began to investigate.

Turns out “Chisanbop,” or “Chesenbop” as some prefer, is a method of finger counting; it works much like an Abacus. The fingers of the right hand represent 1,2,3,4, with the right thumb representing 5. The fingers of the left hand represent 10,20,30,40, with the left thumb as 50. Lay your hands palms down, add the appropriate number of ‘tens’ and ‘ones’ and you can sum correctly to 100.

In 2013 The Economist published data resulting from tests of some 2 million adults whose native tongue was English. The data showed an average vocabulary range of 20,000-35,000 words. It further showed participants learned almost 1 new word a day until middle age and that vocabulary growth stops at middle age. The average four year old had a vocabulary of 5,000 words and the average eight year old knew approximately 10,000 words. A different study published in May 2016 showed word recognition of 50 words by age one, 1,000 words by age three, and 10,000 words by age five.

Words are everywhere and new words are constantly being coined. Just this past October (2021) Merriam Webster added 455 new words to its dictionary lexicon – e.g. super-spreader, vaccine passport, digital nomad, doorbell camera, bit rot and teraflop!

Whether you know all the latest words, 50 or 50,000 words, One Word is essential for you to know. That Word is Christ! John opens his gospel narrative “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). He goes on to say all things were made by the Word, life and light were in the Word… The Word is God expressing Himself, Creating, Enlightening. Then, in verse 14 John writes,

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NIV).

Here is a Word that lives… a Word that not only may we know personally, but a Word that knows us intimately! He is a Word that transcends all languages, a Word that pierces deep into us, and says new things to us at every utterance. He is a sure Word, a reliable Word… One you can count on – even if you have no fingers at all!

Press on…

Shaky Legs

Thur., Mar. 3/22

The birth of a baby giraffe is most traumatic. After falling some 6 to 8 feet from the mothers womb the 200 lb newborn may rest up to an hour. Mom giraffe nudges and kisses it, then, when she deems the time is right, she kicks it forcefully.* Shocked, the newborn giraffe struggles to stand but mom kicks it again! Again and again the offspring strains to its feet. Finally the ordeal ends and household harmony is restored.

The mom giraffe does this to strengthen her calf’s legs. She knows how essential the skill to get up quickly, and the strength to run strongly are to giraffe survival.

Many times since stepping down from church ministry I have been tempted to jump in, to give a point of support to our temporary team, or to initiate some overlooked action. But immediately the Spirit prevented me. “No,” He said, “they must learn it themselves… they must strengthen.” These have been difficult moments, but God has proven faithful.

When challenging moments and lessons from the Lord confront us we are told “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees” (Heb. 12:12). Do not doubt God’s love. Though we may not understand in the moment, it is for our good that He causes or allows such adversities. Get up… get up again… then again. With the insight the Lord gave him Habbakuk writes, “…He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Hab. 3:19). Sometimes that process requires we take some knocks. When it does our best strategy is to simply get up… as many times as required.

Press on…

*A giraffe’s kick can kill a lion!

P.S. A giraffe’s heart weights 25 lbs! This is needed to pump blood up 8’ neck with a pressure that would rupture the blood vessels of other animals. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps. 73:26)

Frankenstein is Fiction

Wed., Mar. 2/22

You don’t HAVE a soul; you ARE a soul. You HAVE a body – for now, this body.

I’ve written around this insight many times now and regular readers may groan at my taking another run at it. But I find it a truth I simply cannot set down for long. Our world today is obsessed by the body and gives little thought, if any, to the soul. Instead, many believe a person IS one’s body, in which one HAS a heart (replaceable mechanically if necessary), HAS a set of lungs (one of which could be spared), two kidneys (ditto), four appendages (any of which could be replaced artificially), teeth, hair, etc. Replace the whole lot of them and the “person” is still the “person.”

But what makes the whole thing run? A corpse too has still all these things, yet the “person” has gone. Something once there is there no more. The body now stiffens, decays, in time becomes dust. Why?

Mary Shelley’s 1818 classic has scientist Victor Frankenstein enliven his Monster with huge bolts of electricity, a ‘kick start’ so to say of dead tissues knit together. Is that all life is? A shocking ZAP to get things going? I can hardly believe so. But when you believe you ARE a body you need something to get it going… to make it run.

The Bible teaches that “the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7). The Creator had the whole body built, made from “the dust of the ground” but it needed something more. It needed breath  — life! That life was spirit, and it originated with God. Solomon wrote that at death “the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Eccl. 12:7). Jesus taught “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:6). And Paul clearly states “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50).

Your body is not “you.” Your body is something that “you” have.

Bishop William Walsham How writes in the mid-19th century book Plain Words to Children “What a wonderful thing the soul is…You cannot see it: you cannot hear it: you cannot touch it. Yet you know it is there… It tells you itself.”

I believe this to be true. The moment a person agrees to listen to one’s soul cry, one will find this to be true. We were made to cry “Abba.” We were made to love God. Sin made us rebels, and the only way back is to surrender. When we do, we find not a prison camp; we find our true home!

To Whom do we go to turn ourselves in? To Christ, the One Who makes rebirth possible. To Nicodemus and to us He says, “You must be born again.” (John 3:7). A new breath, a clean and pure breath from God must enter you. He says, surrender, ask, receive, and follow Him. “You… know how to give good gifts,” He says, “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).

You are not merely this temporary body of dust. You were made for eternity, and you know it. Give up your own pursuits. Embrace Him. Only He can lead you home.

Press on…

Photo by Pixabay

When God plays ‘Hide & Seek’

Tue., Mar. 1/22

Our cat sometimes plays ‘Hide & Seek.’ She will come to us, then when we reach out to give a favorite scratch, she runs away… sometimes she stops a few meters away and looks back at us. She wants us to chase her, and when we do she will run and hide. Eventually, she let’s herself be found and the game is over.

God, it seems, also at times plays ‘Hide & Seek.’ But unlike playing with our cat, these times may not be much fun at all!

Job desperately wanted to find God… to dialogue with God about very serious things indeed. Job was also suffering, suffering greatly as each painful day slowly ticked by. But, try as he may to find Him, God remained securely hidden.

But if I go to the east, He is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find Him. When He is at work in the north, I do not see Him; when He turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of Him.” (Job 23:8-9).

David, on the other hand, found God at every turn!

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.” (Ps. 139:7-12).

It is a wonderful thing to know the omnipresence and immutability of God. That is, He is present everywhere and at all times for He does not change. David invited the presence and scrutiny of God. He prayed, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:23-24).  For the sinner, however, the fact God is inescapable brings only terror!

Job knew in his heart that God truly was everywhere – the east, west, north, and south. What disturbed Job was that he could not feel Him, hear Him, sense Him. But Job knew, despite his own numbness, that God still saw and heard him. Job declared, “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10).

God is like the sun. The sun is always present, always shining. Though it be hidden behind clouds, or out of view in the night, the sun ever shines. Holding to this truth sustains us no matter our emotions or circumstances.

”Never doubt in darkness what you knew to be true when the sun shone bright.” – Neil Anderson

Press on…

“Ads – Shop radiators…” “Shop flowers…” “Shop Jesus???”

Mon., Feb. 28/22

Do any Google search on almost anything and odds are pretty good that the first few hits listed will be Ads, Ads cleverly disguised as information sources. You click, and are met with a promotional onslaught of services and/or products allegedly “for your convenience,” but definitely for someone else’s profit.

Turn a magazine page and the heading announces a great breakthrough / discovery / ancient secret uncovered… of life-changing / health-promoting / wealth-enhancing benefit! Then there, at the bottom, in finest print yet, you see the required disclosure: ‘Advertisement.”

I could go on – and so could you. Luckily, you and I are the smart ones. We know how the devious minds of advertisers work. We’ve learned to skip over the traps at the top of the screen… take note of the statement at the bottom of the page. We won’t be duped. We’ve matured.– We’re cynics now!

Cynicism has become a growing hallmark of industrial societies around the globe. The first response to good news by many is “So what’s the catch?” Doing a thing “for goodness sake” is now highly suspect.

Some years ago (and some readers will recall) my wife thought it a nice gesture of Christian love if our church were to make many dozens of muffins to bring to out-of-province construction workers repairing one of our city’s major bridges. The workers were taking a lot of criticism from the locals due to the extended closure of the bridge and their out-of-province status. In arranging for the delivery I was asked, “So what do you want in return? – press coverage, cash? What?” It took some convincing before they understood we just wanted to encourage these hard-working laborers. Word of our actions did pique the press, though not by our doing, and a newspaper article was written. Evidently “goodness” these days is news!

Into this, Jesus still says, “Come to Me…” He asks us to have “faith,” to trust Him. A seeming foolhardy step in a world of cynicism. But His offer persists…

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28). / “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). / “…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.” (John 7:37).

Yes. It is that simple. Childlike simple. Trans-generational simple. Trans-cultural simple: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Trust Him today. In this world of charletans He is still trustworthy.

Press on…

Questions mortals ask

Fri., Feb. 25/22

A 2012 survey by the retailer Littlewoods of 1,000 mothers with children between the ages of 2 and 10 found children ask their mom an average of 228 questions daily! Girls, age 4, ask the most: 390, and boys, age 9, ask the least: 144. Most parents have experienced the unending ‘Why’ questions that kick in around age 3. Answering these is like defining pi! “Why is the sky blue?“ “Why do you go to work?” “Why do you need money?” “Why do you peel potatoes?” “Why does the kitty say ‘meow’?” “Why can’t the birds talk?” “Why can’t people fly?” — That’s about the first 15 minutes worth of a very long day!

In the 9th chapter, Job asks three most fundamental questions: “How can mere mortals prove their innocence before God?” (v.2), “Who has resisted Him and come out unscathed?” (v.4), and “Who can say to Him, ‘What are you doing?’” (v. 12). In short these questions boil down to

  • How can I accept my guilt and become righteous?
  • How can I dispute my guilt and be judged innocent?
  • How can I dispute God’s right to judge?

As Job learned, God’s ultimate answer to all questions is this: “I am.”

Now it takes some head twisting by us mortals to see how this is any answer at all. But it truly is… and it truly is the very best answer possible, though it leaves us mortals (like Job) standing gape-mouthed and awed by the new and true perspective it demands.

God is loving, kind, just, merciful, holy and many more things. And He exists holding all these things in perfect unity and balance without being at cross purposes. While God’s justice demands an accounting for sin, and while His mercy and grace make possible forgiveness, His Holiness cannot accept any blemish into His presence. Christ’s sacrificial death and  resurrection satisfies all aspects of the divinity. “I am” asserts the perfect and simultaneous expression of all of these things in His One Tri-unity. “I am” is the best, most comprehensible answer to what we call “the problem of evil,” to our questions about origin and the meaning of life, and the eternities to follow.

If I’ve lost you in the above paragraph, try this: “God is too kind to do anything cruel, too wise to make a mistake, and too deep to explain Himself.”

God is God, not us. Ours is the great privilege of becoming His children through faith… trusting in His Being…. honoring Him forever, and calling to Him as children, “Abba, Father.

Acknowledging the truth of “I am” is the dynamic that makes this transformation possible.

Press on…

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