Unpredictable!

Thur., Feb. 24/22

“I hate having to do this,” I texted my buddy, “but I’m going to have to cancel our plans for coffee this morning. Something’s come up!”

Somethings” do come up, don’t they? You had plans for one thing, got body and mind all set for it, but then. POW! — a “Something” happened! Perhaps it was the weather, or a sick child, or a car battery gone dead. But now you’re a stay-at-home… a nurse… an auto mechanic… Life can be so unpredictable!

We can launch ballistic missiles half-way round the planet to hit a target with minute precision. We can land a man on the moon at exactly the spot intended, or send satellites to orbit distant planets at exactly the time and place desired. We can thrust a neutron at the nucleus of an atom at just the right speed, under just the right conditions and split the nucleus into two! You may be holding in your hand this moment a calculator capable of displaying a mathematical accuracy beyond your comprehension! (Just how much is 3.73823423E+136 anyway?) Precision, predictability, perfection!

But life? Life just isn’t so precise… so predictable – and most certainly not perfect!

But consider this: Do you really want a precise, predictable, perfect world, one that runs with scientific accuracy? Do you want every sunrise at precisely the same hour, every snowflake, carnation, beetle and beagle utterly identical, every day a replay, every potato a perfect sphere, every opinion alike, every hairstyle a clone? Do you really want your life to be predictable? Would you really enjoy a life trajectory as predictable as the path of a ballistic missile? Horrible things can drop into our lives, changing them for ever! True, but also… Wonderful things can drop into our lives, changing them for ever! You don’t know what a day holds because it is unpredictable.

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle,” writes Solomon, “for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” (Eccl. 11:6). Unpredictability motivates us. It allows us to be creative, to hope, to strive, to choose.

God knows. And for the believer that outcome is very good. To the prophet He said, “I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11). Unpredictability gives us the possibility of hope, and the choices of faith or doubt.

Well, all that because of a failed coffee klatch!

I guess… you just… never know…!

Press on…

How to ‘Rise and Shine’

Wed., Feb. 23/22

Did your mom or dad ever say that to you, perhaps some sleepy school day mornings as a child, or the Saturdays when it was your turn to do chores? When you finally surrendered to the summons and swung your feet to the floor how did you do it? What was required? In short, how does one “Rise?”

In Isaiah 60 the prophet calls the righteous to this very feat: “Arise, shine, “ he says,

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and His glory appears over you.” (Isa. 60:1-2, NIV)

First, we do something: “Arise.” Then, like that eye-squinting sunlight the riser encounters, God does something: “the Lord rises upon you.” In fact, we Arise to find He has already acted, “your light has come,” and now we enter into it… by arising… By sheer dint of decision we arise and find ourselves instantly enlightened by what He has already done.

Oswald Chambers comments on this action of pulling ourselves out of sleep (drudgery) and into light…

“…we have to take the first step as though there were no God. There is no point in waiting for God to help us— He will not. But once we arise, immediately we find He is there. …taking the initiative becomes a moral issue— a matter of obedience.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, Feb. 19 entry.

Is God calling you to do something? Do not wait for Him to force you to do it. He is not a Father to come into your room and pull at your shoulder. No. You… get up… “Arise,” and you will find all the Father’s resources are there to greet you!

The theme repeats throughout scriptures: “…revere my name, [and] the sun of righteousness will rise…” (Mal. 4:2); “…put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Rom. 13:12); “…pay attention to [the prophetic word], as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Pet. 1:19); “Those who look to him are radiant…” (Ps. 34:5); “A person’s wisdom brightens their face…” (Eccl. 8:1); “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens …” (Dan. 12:3); “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18).

So, “Rise” Christian, and “Shine,” for, as He says, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). 

Press on…

Trust your ‘Tingle’

Tue., Feb. 22/22

Spiderman was my superhero of choice during my teen years. A teen himself he had typical teen problems. In addition to saving New York (or the world) from similarly super-powered menaces, Peter Parker (Spiderman) had on his heart the guilt of his Uncle Ben’s death, the welfare of his Aunt May, and the keeping of both his job and girlfriend while maintaining the secrecy of his alter-ego identity. Spiderman too had his problems. Once during battle he ran out of webbing fluid, and in one comic book he was detained from ‘superhero-ing’ because of a serious rip in his Spidey suit!

Spiderman’s radioactive spider-endowed powers include superhuman strength and agility, the ability to cling to surfaces, web-slinging, and a special sort of sixth sense or “Spider-Sense” which alerts him to danger.

A spider can lift as much as 170 times its own weight, and a jumping spider can leap as much as 50 times its own length. Microscopic organs at the ends of the hairs on the legs of a spider enable it to cling to and climb walls and ceilings. Spiders can produce several types of webbing, both sticky and non-stick Some spiders can make a web sail to catch the wind and transport them. And spiders also truly do have a sort of “spidey sense.” Their body hairs can detect vibrations of both movement and sound warning them of potential danger.*

There have been a good dozen Spiderman flicks over the past twenty years** and the terms “spider sense,” or “spidey tingle” have come into fairly common use. But alas, Spiderman is not real. The Christian, however, has an inner power not unlike Peter Parker’s “spidey sense.” This source can likewise signal the attentive saint to dangers others do not detect. This “sense” is the witness of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.

Before leaving this earth Jesus promised the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “He” for the Holy Spirit is indeed a Person, the third Person of the God Head. The Gift of God (Luke 11:13; James 1:17) whom the world cannot receive (1 Cor. 2:14).

This divine “tingle” alerts us when something is not of God. He assures us with peace when we are in the Will of God. He unites us when we are with other believers, directs us at our crossroads, prevents us when we are close to making a bad move, and gives us wisdom and insight in times of need. But we must listen to Him… trust Him… and obey.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” said Jesus (John 10:27). This Voice is every believer’s “spidey tingle.” So I say again, listen to Him… trust Him… and obey.

Press on…

*Source: National Wildlife Federation.

**Spiderman movies since 2002:

  1. “Spider-Man” (2002) – Tobey Maguire
  2. “Spider-Man 2” (2004) – Tobey Maguire
  3. “Spider-Man 3” (2007) – Tobey Maguire
  4. “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012) – Andrew Garfield
  5. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014) – Andrew Garfield
  6. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) – Tom Holland
  7. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017) – Tom Holland
  8. “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) – Tom Holland
  9. “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) – Tom Holland
  10. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2019) – Tom Holland
  11. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021) – Tom Holland
  12. Bonus: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) – animated film with multiple Spidermans across the Spider-Verse (multiple universes, or, the multiverse).
  13. A sequel: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One)” coming later in 2022.

If Jesus walked down Main Street…

Mon., Feb. 21/2

If Jesus walked down Main Street, or whatever other name your ‘main’ street may have, would He be pleased or grieved? Would He look with interest at the brightly dressed windows? Would He stop to shop in the fashion store? Would Jesus like a latté along His way?

If Jesus walked down Main Street, or Central, or Broadway, would He bear a smile? Would He sport a tear? When He passed by a beggar, or two, or three, would He indeed pass by? Or would He, homeless as they, sit down awhile on concrete mat and tell of mansions yet to come?

If Jesus walked down Main Street, would He with sadness drag His feet or join with gladness the hastening pace? Would He glance beyond the nameless passing by, seeing only “crowd” and press on through? Or would He gaze at each… son and daughter… deeply knowing, loving, missing one, on one, on one…, longing to linger or walk slowly at each side?

If Jesus walked down Main Street would He change His robe to match the tide? Would He learn the latest hip-hop beat? Would He with cellphone text to kings? Would He like tacos, Macs, or sweets? Would He go to church and silent sit? Would He cause a stir, or fit right in?

Jesus does walk down Main Street. He shops where you shop, and He stops where you stop. He goes wherever you do, be they places for kings or paupers. He trods with your feet, moving on or pausing a spell. He speaks with your tongue, touches with your hand, prays from His heart through yours and tears from your eyes.

The great mystery revealed and true fact of redemption is this: “Christ lives in you.” (Col. 1:27, NLT). Where you go, He goes, and when you allow Him, He speaks through you, looks and loves through you, touches, and even heals through you! We know it now in fits and starts. We know it now perhaps as much as we allow! But He says in truth to His own today, “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.“ (John 14:20, NIV).

Now go… walk down Main Street and let Him shine!

Press on…

Respect

Fri., Feb. 18/22

The book of 2nd Samuel opens with David learning of the death of Saul by an Amalakite messenger who had been on the scene and who in fact was the agent in finishing off the wounded and agonizing king. This messenger may well have thought himself the bearer of good news to David for Saul had become David’s most persistent and untrustworthy adversary repeatedly seeking to kill him. But such respect had David for the first king of Israel that he had the messenger slain for the role he had played in Saul’s demise.

David recognizes the divine appointment of this man. Though kingly rule had not been God’s intention for His people, He granted them a king as a concession to their unceasing whining to be like the nations around them. If second best was what they demanded then the Lord would select the best second best available. He commissioned Samuel to anoint Saul. Hence David rightly refers to Saul as “the Lord’s anointed” and as such worthy of respect.

This sort of respect for authorities is most uncommon in our world today. In a society where the notion of a sovereign God is abandoned no enduring standard of right and wrong remains. We are left to our own disparate imaginings. As the psalmist asks, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:3).

Christ asks that we demonstrate grace to the undeserving; God Himself will settle the final accounting… “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Rom. 13:7, NIV). “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”* (Rom. 12:18-19).

Jesus clearly taught  “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Why? “…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.” (Matt. 5:44-45). Why? Because God’s acts are not based on human merit, they are based on Who He is.

Grace to the undeserving — isn’t that exactly how He has treated us?

Press on…

*Deut. 32:35

The Devotion of Hearing

Thur., Feb. 17/22

I’m up, early as usual again. Do my few morning exercises: a few leg stretches, knee bends, kneeling push-ups. Can’t expect much from this besieged old body. But I do what I can, record it when done, and in this way hope to encourage myself on. I was about midway through this recording it bit when the thought (?), call (?) came to me to look up a particular passage which had also just then popped into to my head.

“Just a minute, Lord… almost done here,” I thought (?), prayed (?). Whatever it was I dialogued it in my head. Then I thought another thought. “Wait a minute,” this time consciously addressing myself. “What am I just doing here? Did I just put the Almighty on ‘hold?’”

Never quite sure what I had done… or imagined… I decided to obey. I stopped what I was doing – well, actually no… by now I was done what I was doing – and I looked up the reference. Wouldn’t you know it. It took me to 1 Samuel 3:10. “Speak, for Your servant hears.”

The boy Samuel too had yet to learn the discipline of hearing and responding to God. Chambers calls this the devotion of hearing. We hear best the ones we love. Ask any mother.

“If I love my friend,” writes Chalmers, “I will instinctively understand what he wants. And Jesus said, ‘You are My friends…’ (John 15:14)… The goal of my spiritual life is such close identification with Jesus Christ that I will always hear God and know that God always hears me (see John 11:41).”

“What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things. It is not that I don’t want to hear God, but I am not devoted in the right areas of my life. I am devoted to things and even to service and my own convictions. God may say whatever He wants, but I just don’t hear Him… I become deaf to Him because my attention is to other things— things which I think I must do.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, Feb 13 entry

I don’t hear Him because my attention is on other things… things, I suppose, like recording my morning stretches. Or, I don’t hear Him because there is too much ‘noise’ in my world… too many other things trying to adulterate my devotion. Or perhaps I don’t really love Him at all? Hearing God then demands both — both discipline, and devotion. — What is He saying to you, right now?

Press on…

The Effluence of Influence

Wed., Feb. 16/22

Oswald Chambers writes,

“The people who influence us the most are… those who live their lives like the stars in the sky and “the lilies of the field”— simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mold and shape us.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, May 18 entry

Can you not testify to this? What persons stand out in your experience as those who influenced you most? Was their great testimony not that they were beautiful of heart yet lived out that beauty “simply and unaffectedly,” that is in humility and with constancy?

These are those of whom we say, “Goodness! I don’t know how he/she does it…” Yet we do know; they do it by faith, simply and unaffectedly. They are those to whom unbelievers sense to apologize for a foul word spoken.

Job was such. Ask him if his life had meaning — if he though himself a man of influence. I doubt he would think it. Or consider the women whose purity and reverence of life marked by “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” not only won their husband’s to faith but Peter writes “is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Pet. 3:1,4, NIV). Ask such a woman what is her service to the kingdom of God and she too will not know it.

Consider those we know such as Mother Teresa, the faithful martyrs, our prayer warrior shut-ins, your mother, and mine! What was it that made their influence great? Was it not their nearness and consistency of walk with Christ?

Jesus says to His faithful, “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world…” (Matt. 5:13,14). He does not ask us. He says “You are…” Paul writes, giving thanks to God, Who “uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16).

Salt, Light, Aroma – these are the realities of every believer in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells. Though none of us may know it, Christ is sprinkling, emanating, wafting out from us… to those around us… strongly or weakly, tainted or pure… whether one knows it or not.

Summarizes Chambers,

“If you want to be of use to God, maintain the proper relationship with Jesus Christ by staying focused on Him, and He will make use of you every minute you live— yet you will be unaware, on the conscious level of your life, that you are being used of Him.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, May 18 entry

Press on…

The Invitation…

Tue., Feb. 15/22

A lone ox plods wearily through the mud dragging behind it a burdensome wagon load of hay. It’s back aches from the taskmaster’s whip, and now something worse threatens. The master seeks to place a heavy wooden burden around its neck. No, No, my load is enough, thinks the animal. Surely the adding of this will only cause me more grief! It’s rubbing against my neck will certainly add to my sorrows. It will constrict my free movement. It will limit where I turn and what things I may wish to gaze upon. I must escape it at all cost!

And so the beast tries…

But soon, in its struggles, the beast grows weary. Perhaps surrender would be less tiresome than resistance. I may soon collapse anyway, it reasons… exhaustion making the bearing of it all the more troublesome. Resigning itself to this, the beast relents. The dreaded thing is draped across its neck!

But what’s this? Another beast is brought alongside it. A much larger, more muscular bovine than itself. Immediately the yoked beast began to push forward, a slight longer stride thus bearing the greater brunt of the load. In this way the task of the first is made much lighter. The larger animal adding the greater strength… Why had I fought this thing so long, thought the ox?

Thus to us our Lord invites,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30, NIV)

Press on…

The Aroma of Valentine’s

Why Valentine’s Day?

“…it has been suggested that the holiday has origins in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, held in mid-February. The festival, which celebrated the coming of spring, included fertility rites and the pairing off of women with men by lottery.” – Encyclopaedia Britannica

“Lupercalia originated as a ritual in a rural masculine cult involving the sacrifice of goats and dogs and evolved later into an urban carnival. During the festivities half-naked young men ran through the streets of Rome, streaking people with thongs cut from the skins of newly killed goats.” – Smithstonian magazine

“…Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. …others insist that it was Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop, who was the true namesake of the holiday. He, too, was beheaded by Claudius II outside Rome…. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons…” – History.com

Clearly there are some uncertainties as to the origin of this day. Perhaps the best answer of all to the question, “Why Valentine’s Day?” is this: “Why not?” Do we really need a reason to set aside one day a year expressly to express expressions of love? Why not every day?… every hour? Why not just be at all times persons who love?

This is the example seen in our heavenly Father. Love is not a thing God does; it is a thing God is. John sets forth this case expertly,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8).

Early in His ministry Christ taught,

“…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.” (Matt. 5:44-45).

God is Love just as a flower is fragrant. God is love and His love is not selective. God is Love, and so ought we to be. “By this,” said Jesus, “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35).

Now, I’m not a cupid crusher. Be sure to bring your sweetie some flowers today! But tomorrow… and the next… and the next… let us keep that agapé fragrance flowing.*

Press on…

  • (See also 2 Cor, 2:14-16).

“Snapchat Dysmorphia”

Fri., Feb. 11/22

An August 2021 report by FinanceBuzz reports that U.S. millennials (persons born from 1981 to 1996) will take more than 25,000 selfies during their lifetimes. This translates to approximately 38 hours annually, more time than that spent walking or engaged in social events.* Google has reported that 93 million selfies are taken daily by their Android devices. One-third of all photos taken by 18-to-24-year-olds are selfies.

The media has coined a phrase for the phenomenon, in fact several: “Snapchat Dysmorphia,” “Social Media Dysmorphia,”  “Zoom Dysmorphia,”  “Selfie Dysmorphia,”  “Instagram Dysmorphia” —  you get the idea.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition in which a person has an unhealthy and excessive fixation with perceived defects or flaws in physical appearance (particularly the face) that are unnoticeable or appear slight to others. – Singh AR, Valerie D, Understanding and treating body dysmorphic disorder It is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and often accompanied with social anxiety and depression.

As a member of the “Baby Boomer” generation (those born from 1946 to 1964) I recall being dubbed also as included in “the ‘Me’ generation.” But where “the ‘Me’ generation.” was all about being lovers of materialism and putting self interests first, the millennial generation is all about being lovers of the ‘self’ – the body, and in particular the face.

This is precisely what scripture foretells, “You should know this,” writes Paul to young Timothy…

“…in the last days there will be very difficult times…. people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.“ (2 Tim. 3:1-5, NLT).

The term “dysmorphia” derives from “dys-“: bad, abnormal, imperfect,” (Greek dys-) and “morph”: change of form or structure, originally by witchcraft, (Greek metamorphōsis). Put together it suggests a distortion from what is normal.

Try as we may, we can never transform ourselves into the ideal creation. In fact, we can’t even grasp what that “ideal” is. But this is exactly why Christ came into this world. He came to make us perfect, complete, like Himself. He came to make us holy… to restore us… to give us eternal life.

Look to Him instead yourself and you will find your ‘self’ truly transformed!

Press on…

* American Time Use Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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