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“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12b)

The video, which has gone viral this week, shows a young woman verbally abusing a tall man in a winter hat on a subway. She mocks his hat, his shoes and other things as her friends and other onlookers look on and smile.

The young man does nothing for a while except stand there and take it. Having apparently had enough, he finally responds by calling her a not-so-nice name commonly used to verbally abuse females.

The woman then rolls her tongue outside of her mouth and smacks him in the head with the end of a stiletto. Reacting, he hits her with a forceful slap to her face. This action sets off a brawl on the train.

My first reaction to this episode was quite judgmental, especially toward the woman. Then I walked through a McDonald’s parking lot the other morning to grab a quick breakfast on the way to work.

This parking lot is not particularly large and is usually crowded with cars and pedestrians. Apparently some young man in a black coupe took offense at me walking in front of his car after he left the drive thru window. I knew he wasn’t happy because he let loose with some curses at me.

Of course, I responded with Christian humility. Uhhh…I wish I could say so, but the fact is I responded in kind. In fact, I was so mad that if he had come out of his car I would have been willing to duke it out with him right then and there, come what may.

Ironically, my next stop was to pick up my antidepressant. As I walked toward the pharmacy, I attributed my behavior to being off my meds for a few days. That’s probably true, but I also know there was something else at work. I just wasn’t sure what.

I have spent a good part of today reflecting on this.  My musings began with the life of Josiah in the Old Testament. He was the Israelite king who created personal and national reforms after a priest discovered the long lost Scriptures (to that time) in the temple in Jerusalem. (See I Chronicles 34).

Here is what the Life Recovery Bible says about him:

When the Scriptures were discovered, Josiah initiated a recovery program for himself and his people immediately.

It is fair to say that Josiah grew up in a dysfunctional and destructive situation. Idolatry and other forms of sinful behavior were an established norm. Josiah had to begin by discovering what God’s ideals for living were.

In time, he was able to break the cycle of sin that had ensnared Israel. He had faith, commitment to God and the courage to pursue both personal and national recovery.

Josiah began his recovery program when he delved into the  Scriptures. As a result, he is considered by Christians to be one of the more godly kings of Israel.

Another godly king, whose story comes a few pages in the Bible before Josiah,  was Hezekiah.  As was typical of ancient Israel, they were threatened by a powerful invader during his reign. Hezekiah began a large defense project he hoped would fend off the enemy. The Life Recovery Bible compares this work to that of building defenses of our own in order to live the Christian life:

Recovery involves repairing or building healthy boundaries that have become weak, defective, or torn down through abuse.

For some of us our boundaries have grown weak as we have let people walk all over us or we have let down our guard against our destructive behaviors.

Part of the recovery process involves repairing our boundaries. We can also construct a second wall of defense by developing a strong support network around us.

…..There is someone on our side who is far greater.

The lessons I learned from the Life Recovery Bible’s commentary are twofold. First, I was right to have set boundaries with that fellow in the McDonald’s parking lot. In fact, I was kind of backed up by this when my landlord told me later,”I’m proud of you.” Now, I think he was proud of my being willing to stand up for myself and fight the guy if necessary.

However, I believe that my response could have been something like this: ‘Why, my good man. Why are we upset. Don’t you see this is quite a full lot and we all have to show some common courtesy.”

The second lesson I learned from the Life Recovery Bible was that the reason I did not respond in a godly manner, other than my lack of a prescription, was due to my lack of boundaries against destructive personal behaviors. I suppose my meds are one form of boundary against them. But I lack the support network and the sort of relationship with God that would build a  further line of defense against self destruction. (And yes, I could have ended up in jail–or worse.)

Saul of Tarsus was no stranger to destructive behaviors. Unfortunately for Christians, his havoc was directed at them. The Bible says he uttered threats against them (although I am sure he didn’t do it on a subway or McDonalds since those didn’t exist at the time.)

Saul had his comeuppance, however. Acts 9 describes his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus that left him blind and totally dependent on others. The Life Recovery Bible once more gives us some insight on this Scripture:

Saul was suddenly confronted with the fact that his life wasn’t as perfect as he had thought. Self righteousness had been his trademark. By letting go of his illusions of power, however, he became one of the most powerful men ever-the apostle Paul.

When we are confronted with the knowledge that our life isn’t under control, we have a choice. We can continue on in self denial and self righteousness or we can face the fact that we have been blind to some important issues. If we become willing to be led into recovery, and into a whole new way of life, we will find true power.

For me, the key word from the good people at the LRB is “willing”.

Obedience to Christ has always been an issue with me. When I was in college I went to a conference and learned that Christ wanted to be my Lord, not just my Savior. I drove home angry, feeling I had been “had”. “No one told me about this,” I thought.  My concept at the time I think was that I only needed “fire insurance” and I didn’t think much about Jesus’s desire to change me.

I have had problems with obedience to Christ ever since. I have never learned to obey Him. More importantly, this comes I believe from not knowing why I should obey, other than that I am told to by Christian leaders. This hasn’t been enough of a motivation for me.

This morning during my reflections I came new a new understanding from the words of a  praise song I listened to. It told me  why Jesus is worthy of my obedience. It opens with these lines:

“Worthy is the,
Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song, to Him who sits on
Heaven’s Mercy Seat” (words by Kari Jobe)

The bottom line is that Jesus, by nature of who He is and His work on the Cross for me is worthy of my obedience.  How Jesus must tire of my recalcitrance. I’m even proud of my stubbornness, irascibility and curmudgeonly ways, thinking of them as an eccentric family trait.

Like Josiah, I see the importance of obeying the Word of God.  To me they are a road map for living. However, Jesus points out in the Scriptures an error of the Bible believers in His day that can be just as true of me and I suppose other believers.

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” (John 5:39-40).

RC Sproul makes this point in a sermon on John 5, noting how we modern day believers still try to maintain some sense of self importance and control over their own lives. He decries the use of a bumper sticker with this message.

God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

“How arrogant is that,” says Sproul. “I want them to write a new bumper sticker: ‘God says it. That settles it.’ It doesn’t matter whether I believe it. It was settled long before my assent and long before I concur with the message. If God Almighty opens His holy mouth and says something, we don’t need another witness. It’s over. It’s settled.”

Sproul further explains the primacy of Jesus Christ and obedience to Him by referring to Paul’s statements to a group of Athenian philosophers:

“God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him.  For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”(Acts 17:30-31).

This message is in contrast, says Sproul, to the current evangelistic techniques  of today which emphasize our “receiving” of an “invitation” from God.

What is needed is for me is  to “sing a new song” to Him that sits at the mercy seat at the Father’s right hand.  This should be a song of willful, happy obedience to Jesus.

Why? Because He is worthy of my obedience, and it is not an option.  Oh, and did I say “He is worthy?”

“With all creation I will sing praise to the King of Kings and I WILL  adore You.”(Kari Jobe)

I have some ideas how this obedience will translate into my daily life, but more importantly, I now have a reason for this submission to the authority of Jesus.

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery (Kari Jobe)

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To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:31).”

I finally did it for good. I deactivated my Facebook account.

I had done it before. Once I unfriended everyone and THEN deactivated it.

One person thought they had offended me and wrote me. They hadn’t. I had just had it with Facebook.

However, not long after that “killing” of Facebook I activated it again and got new friends. Meet the new friends, same as the old friends.

This time I am serious though. Facebook just isn’t giving me any joy or fun. Indeed, it is doing the opposite.

I was reminded of this when I responded to a blog written by Tim Chailes, a pastor. He had written about what he calls “the lost sin of envy”. I wrote in his comments section:

Tim, this is great stuff. And as a blogger, I’m envious of you. (Just kidding–really.) U know where I got envious this week: looking at people I knew on Facebook from the old days, people whom I haven’t seen in 40 years. They looked happier than me, more prosperous, and so on. It did begin to rot my bones…. I think one of the faults of FB is its false sense of what’s true and real. Heck. I have no idea if those people are really happy or not.

Tim Chailes responded by giving me his link to his earlier blog post called Facebook Makes Us Miserable.  In this piece Chailes notes that instead of making us happy as we intend it to, Facebook conjures up bad feelings when we see other people portray their successes.

What drove me to drop Facebook for good was a photo which included several people I knew. They were posing, showing off a successful activity of theirs.

I knew most of the people in that photo. In fact, except for what I deem an injustice I could have been with them.

There’s nothing really wrong with the people in the picture. I just didn’t care for some of the rottenness beneath it.  I finally thought that then and there that it was time to say goodbye to Mark Zuckerberg’s fantasy land.

Facebook isn’t the only place filled with posers. Today I was on the bus and encountered two people that made my life tough this year.

One of those persons got on the bus and glanced at me and went on. The other never saw me, as they were riding by on a bicycle.

Both of these people had been dishonest in my dealings with them. When I exposed them, things got difficult for me.

In fact, the bus rider came out smelling like a rose in the community in which we participate. I, on the other hand, am on my way out of this group, having been forced out.

The alternative  to constant musing about all these Facebook friends and other less than forthcoming people  is to look to God. However, as Erwin Lutzer pointed out in a sermon to his church this year, this task can be daunting.

Pastor Lutzer decided to preach on this text:

One of the teachers of the lawcame and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

 Lutzer told his congregation that thinking about teaching on this Scripture sent him into what he called “emotional convulsions”.  He told them why:

“I thought to myself, ‘this is an awesome passage of Scripture. Who in the world could love the Lord his God with all of his might, with all of his strength, and with all of his heart?  That seems like an impossible dream.’  And I thought to myself,’I’d like to be able to love God like that’, but I looked within my heart and I saw coldness and indifference and thought “who could love God with such passion?’. It seemed impossible.”

I had those same feelings at the time I sought out Lutzer’s message. I had felt led to look at the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) because I knew my bad feelings about the photos and messages on Facebook violated the last one:

“You shall not covet  your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (v. 17)

However, as I looked them over I determined that I daily broke about half of them. Oh, I may not commit murder for example, and thus violate the sixth one seven days a week, but I sure get angry at people in my heart. Jesus equated the two (see Matthew 5:21-24).

Indeed, Jesus calls us to an even higher life than pure actions. He wants holy hearts as well.

Lutzer’s message added another disobeyed commandment to my already full portfolio. I learned from the pastor that I am committing idolatry when I value other people, things or circumstances above God. I sure do this a lot, too.

Thus, I have felt like the Chief of Posers this week and Facebook has contributed to that.  Chailes says it all when he comments about our reactions to the messages we get from Facebook. We believe we are the only ones that are miserable when we view Facebook, and drag ourselves down. He writes:

“What a ridiculous lot we are. What a sad, jealous, envious, idolatrous lot.”

We believe the lie. And the world system we live in is indeed a lie.

It tells us that while we are looking at the loving Facebook couples that our marriages aren’t good enough. It communicates that we don’t measure up while we notice the old friend on a world tour. Yet, if truth be told, what I see on Facebook of other people’s lives is just an illusion, only part of the whole picture.

This constant lying in our midst should not surprise. Lying is the native tongue of Satan, the ruler of this world (John 8:44).  We’re all just using our mother tongue.

I know I need to learn a new language: God’s truth.  It’s main textbook is the Bible.

The Bible tells me who God, who I am and who other people are. It tells me what I am supposed to believe and to do.

I’m better off spending my time in the Bible than on Facebook, which Chailes tells us “sucking 700 billion minutes between the lot of us every month.”  At least in the Scriptures I’ll learn the language of truth.

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“As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me.  Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.  He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me (Psalm 55:16-18).”

Sometimes you watch a movie which, right after you have finished, you realize you will have to watch again. Either the flick was just plain enjoyable, or it was so complicated you will need another viewing just to understand it.

The hit movie “Inception” is one of those productions which needs to be seen another time. It is fun and full of action.

In addition, the plot is difficult to analyze in one sitting. Fantasy flicks like this one sometimes are. As writer Ben Bova says, in a science fiction or fantasy you are asking someone to believe and comprehend the unknown.

In “Inception”, a team of thieves led by a man named Cobb enter the mind of a  corporate executive’s mind through his dreams to plant an idea which will benefit one of his business opponents.  This planting the seed of an idea is what is termed “inception” in the movie.

It is an additional and seemingly impossible step for the crooks. Usually, they are just asked to extract valuable information for their clients.

What makes “Inception” complex is that there are numerous people entering each others’ dreams. Furthermore, in the attempt to suggest an idea to the businessman, a man named Fischer, the thieves must convince him he is participating in his own dream and not someone else’s.

Where “Inception” really gets sticky is when the wife of the team leader enters the dreams.  She is a projection of Cobb’s mind, and appropriately named Mal.

She seeks to get rid of anyone in dreams in which Cobb participates. This is because she wants him to remain with her in an eternal dream state.

The truth is that Mal is dead. She is a projection of Cobb’s mind.

Mal killed herself when she could not seperate reality from her dream world. She became confused as to which world was which.

When she came out of a long dream with Cobb (one which in dream time lasted a lifetime) to the real world, she still thought she was dreaming. What is worse, it is Cobb who planted the idea during the dream that her world wasn’t real.

He did this so he could get her to wake up from the dream, which was so pleasant. As a result, Cobb is riddled with guilt and carries her around in the dream states he enters.

In “Inception”, the team probes so deeply into the corporate executive’s subconscious that they need to be deeply sedated. In such a case, if one dies in the dream, he or she enters a state called “limbo” and are unable to awake. They stay in the dream and grow old, with their minds becoming increasingly addled.

At the end of the movie, the man that hired the team in the first place ends up in such a conditon. He meets up with Cobb, however, who has come to “limbo” to rescue him, and the thief convinces him of the truth. They both awake and come back to reality.

In the confusing world we live in today, I sometimes have a difficult time seperating truth from untruth. I know others do as well.

Indeed, this week I have been dealing with a person who, when I talk with them, it seems as if they exist in another world. When I say something is black ,they say it is white.

An associate of mine met up with this person as well. My friend told me that the person is either not behaving normally, or is playing some kind of very intelligent game.

I would have never noticed. I tend to be very obtuse when it comes to reading people.

In the Scriptures, there is a story of a relationship similar to the one I have with this either deluded of game-playing person. It is the account of David and his wife Michal.

Michal is the daughter of King Saul. She was given to David as his wife by Saul after one of the young man’s successful military exploits.

However, David and Saul had a falling out and Michal’s father gave her to another man. As the Life Recovery Bible notes, this led to years of separation and pain.

Eventually Saul was killed, David became King of Israel and Michal was returned to him. The Life Recovery Bible mentions that Michal and David never really addressed the problems in their relationship.

This led to a well-known incident recorded in II Samuel 6.  Right before this encounter between David and Michal, David had just brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, a major spiritual achievement and one with profound meaning for Israel.

Michal wasn’t so excited. In fact, the Bible says she looked out and David dancing and celebrating and “was filled with contempt for him (II Samuel 6:16b)”.

It didn’t matter one iota that David was successful outside his home. He was a bust to her as a husband, and that’s all that matters.

Here is the conversation that transpired shortly afterwards:

 When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!”

 David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord.  Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished!” So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life. (II Samuel 6:20-23)

I don’t know whether the failure to produce any children was due to her break in her relationship with David or whether it was a judgment from God over her abuse of David’s pursuit of God’s work. In any case, she had quite a different view of reality than David.

As the Life Recovery Bible indicates, David was at fault as well.  The commentary on this incident says that it was representative of David’s failure in relationships in general.

When I think of this story, I struggle to make a right judgment. It makes me even more uncomfortable when I think of my own life and how difficult it is to unravel some of the complicated messes I have made.

What is true in my case? What is reality?

I understand that Satan can enter into my head just as Cobb and his team moved into people’s dreams in “Inception”. He can plant ideas in my brain and even make me believe they are mine.

It is scary, frankly. How am I to ever fix my relationships if I can’t get at reality in them?

There is something that does give me at least a glimmer of hope, however. It is the Scriptures.

They act similarly to an object used regularly in the movie “Inception”. In the flick, each person entering a dream had what they called a “totem”.

A definition of the object as used in the flick is provided by Inception’s Wiki:

A Totem is an object that is used to test if oneself is in one’s own reality (dream or non-dream) and not in another person’s dream. A Totem has a specially modified weight, balance, or feel in the real world but in a dream of someone who does not know it well, the characteristics of the totem will very likely be off. In order to protect its integrity, only the totem’s owner should ever handle it. That way, the owner is able to tell whether or not they are in someone else’s dream. In the owner’s own dream world, the totem will feel correct. Any ordinary object which has been in some way modified to affect its balance, weight, or feel will work as a totem.

For example, Cobb has a spinning top as a totem. One of it characteristics is that if it acts normally and stops spinning, he is awake. If it continues to spin, he knows he is dreaming.

The Bible is my focal point of reality. It is the truth as written by God, whose Son Jesus is the “way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). When things are too convoluted and tangled for me to grasp truth, I can look to it to establish my sanity.

In “Inception”, a lot of the action comes from Fischer’s dream projections of armed men who seek to protect him. He has been trained to prevent incursions into his mind by such people as Cobb and the projections are part of his defense. Cobb and his teams are constantly under attack from these defenders in Fischer’s mind.

If I want to keep my own mind sound, I need to simultaneously concentrate on God’s truth from His Word, cry out to Him, and listen to His Holy Spirit within me  (John 17:17). And I need to do it all the time.

It’s the only way I can defend against mental invasions from the Evil One or anyone else who wants to warp reality addle my brain.

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“We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:19-21).”

It’s only about 7oo0 words long, but its impact on the world is enormous. I am talking about the Constitution of the United States of America.

George Washington, the first President of the United States, said of the document,” The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.” Thomas Paine said of  it, “The American constitutions were to liberty what a grammar is to language: they define its parts of speech and practically construct them into syntax.”

The main issue with understanding the Constitution today is that it was written by men using English of the late 18th century in America. In addition, while the Constitution is said to be a paper which the common man of  the time could grasp, it still contains some specialized legal vocabulary.

Indeed, the website USConstitution.net says,”The Constitution is often hailed as a marvel of brevity and of clarity. It was, however, written in the 18th century, and many of the ideas, concepts, words, phrases, and euphemisms seem odd to us today, if not down right foreign.”

Furthermore, the website USConstitution.org adds that the words of the Contitution are the ideas of people long dead. As a result, interpreters  note that we must develop “mental models of their mental models” in order to come to a proper understanding of the document.

The website expands on the “foreign” nature of the language of the Constitution:

This leads to the admonition that the English used in the Constitution and other legal documents of the 18th century should be read as a foreign language, putting aside today’s meanings of what seem to be the same words we use today, and attempting to decode the meanings from various clues we can find. This is not only wise for 18th century English, but for almost any communications, even among people who communicate with one another daily, because no two people mean precisely the same thing by the same words on every occasion. When both speaker and listener are alive they are able to interrogate one another to arrive at a common meaning, but when the author is dead we have to find evidence in other things he or his correspondents wrote.

There are those today who want to interpret the Constitution as a “living, breathing document”.  Proponents of this view believe that the Founders wrote the document in broad terms so that it could evolve in later generations.

Thus, the essence of those who see the Constitution as “living” is that its meanings can change over time. This allows for pragmatic interpretations consistent with the times.

Personally, I tend to come down on the side of the originalists, i.e., those people who rely on the original sources and intentions of the authors. I suppose this is because I hold to this view when I interpret an even larger and more important document: the Bible.

The same kind of debate concerning interpreting the Constitution is common today among believers in Jesus Christ. Thus, hermaneutics is an extremely important aspect of a student’s training in a Christian Bible college or seminary.

I was taught in a school which held the Bible to be inerrant and infallible. It saw the Bible as the Word of God. I still personally hold to this teaching.

One of the former presidents of my biblical seminary, Robertson McQuilkin,  and one my former professors, Brad Mullen,   have written: “Although Scripture is infallible, one’s intepretation of it is not infallible in every detail  because understanding is limited by one’s preunderstanding, spiritual receptivity, level of intellectual acumen, mastery of and faithful adherence to the disciplines of hermaneutics (classically defined) and the amount of hard work invested in the effort.” Thus, as an individual Christian I have to be careful how I interpret the Bible and not lean to hard on my own personal understanding of it.

However, my former seminary professors, while noting the necessity of using valid hermaneutical principles to delve into hard to understand pasasges, also say,”But the major teachings of Scripture are so plain that Bible believers have uniformly recognized and affirmed them, as seen in the great catholic creeds of the Church.”

 The authors add that there are at least 600 clear commandments in the New Testament alone. Here is the rub.

The real problem with my Christian life is not one of understanding, but one of obedience to what is clear in the Bible. Somehow, over the course of my life, I have gained some vague sense of questioning when I think of what the Scriptures clearly say. I sometimes question the validity of these truths somewhere in the recesses of my mind.

This questioning or perhaps lack of faith in the clear words of Scripture has  lead to my personal disobedience. “Why, God doesn’t understand my situation”, I might say in such incidences where I  succumb to temptation.  This is only one  example of  an excuse I might use for sinning.

Yet, I agree with McQuilkin and Mullen when they write that the words of the Bible correspond to reality. They also add another aspect besides the truth of the text itself which should influence my obedience: my ability to receive it.

McQuilkin and Mullen note:

Any bilingual person knows how words lack precision, especially when referring to incorporeal or abstract concepts. But evangelicals have traditionally held that words can convey truth without error, can express accurately what is in the mind of the speaker. Merely because one can demonstrate that we are incapable of comprehending all truth, even about any given subject,does not prove that we cannot apprehend a portion of the truth with accuracy. Our contention is that God’s nature as the determined Communicator,and his deliberate plan to create us on his pattern so that we can receive that communication with saving efficacy, demands some correspondence theory of truth. But it is not merely that our theology demands this. The Bible views itself in this light.

Take for example the biblical exhortation for me to pray. I do pray, but part of me questions why I should do it. After all,  God knows what I need.

However, when I read about godly men in the Bible, they don’t ponder such ideas as mine. They just pray because they believe God responds to prayer.

An Old Testament story illustrates what I mean. Samuel was a the chief justice  of his day, and he called all of Israel together. He told them to gather in one town and he would intercede with God for them (I Samuel 7:5).

The Israelites were facing a tough enemy in the Philistines. When their enemy mobilized, they were afraid.

However, they had learned their lesson from Samuel. They told him,”Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines (I Samuel 7:8).”

I read nothing in this story of Samuel and the Israelites about a debate over the need for and the efficacy of prayer. It was obviously a part of Israelite tradition in their role as God’s people, and there were numerous earlier Scriptures testifying to its use and powerful results.

 While the Constitution is a wonderful document, it is not the Word of God and I cannot necessarily apply biblical interpretation principle to understanding its meaning..  Still, I get a little nervous when I read such statements as those from the website USConstitution.net:

“The Constitution is many things to many people.”

” There is no one right way to interpret the Constitution, and people often do not always stick to one interpretation.”

I try to imagine believing these ideas in the realm of Scripture interpretation. Such thinking applied to approaching the Bible gets me extremely frustrated.

I also get shaky when modernists rely on their own opinions or the opinions of those they trust instead of on the written Constitution. The Founders made a provision for updating the Constitution. They’re called amendments.

I would rather trust in the words of the Constitution and the intent of those who wrote it. The document has served us well for over two hundred years.

The Constitutions as written is powerful today. One of the principles of constitutional construction (interpretation) is that its words have power.

One constitutional source notes:

None of the words are without force and effect, except those superseded by amendments, unless such amendments are repealed. Except for the statement of purpose in the preamble, every word was intended by the Framers to be legally normative, and not just advisory, declaratory, aspirational, or exhortatory. Verba intelligi ut aliquid operantur debent. Words should be interpreted to give them some effect. (www.constitution.org)

Furthermore, Abraham Lincoln said of the Constitution,”Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.

The written Word of God similarlly protects my freedom in Christ. How much more should I put my trust in the words of the Bible. They are the supernaturally powerful words of the living and breathing God, whose Spirit is in my heart.

The Bible isn’t just advisory or a source of inspiration, although it can be both at times. It is authoritative.

Therefore, I ought to closely heed its words and obey them. What I think doesn’t matter.

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“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.  I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God (I Corinthians 4:1-5).”

Last night at a bluegrass jamboree, I heard this old gospel musician tell this joke:

“When I was young, I got the call to preach. However, I didn’t have much opportunity. I would go anywhere, though.

Once a minister asked me if I was a preacher. I told him ‘yes, I do the best I can”.  He said, ‘Do me a favor. I have two services this weekend. I will take one and you take the other’. I told him, ‘Sure’.

The minister told me my service was a funeral. He told me it was way out in the country and gave me directions.

When the time for the service came, I drove out to the country looking for the funeral. I went down some really windy roads, deeper into the ‘hollers’.

Finally, I saw two men sitting up on their backhoe, eating sandwiches. I said to myself, ‘Yep, this is the place’.

I got out of my car and walked to the hole dug in the ground. I thought, “This man deserves to be sent out well. I’m going to give him my best.

I preached up a storm. I talked for over 30 minutes.

When I was done, I walked to my car. I heard one of the backhoe operators say,’That was amazing’.

The other man said,”It sure was. I have been laying septic tanks for over 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like that’!.”

Life can be really confusing.  Even with the best intentions, we take the wrong step.

Sometimes we are just plain stuck. Despite the opportunities, we don’t have the wisdom or resources to make something out of them.

Life is not only confusing, it is not fair. Some people are on easy street, and others struggle along.

For those struggling, the frustration is great. It is palpable  in these lyrics sung by Eric Burdon and The Animals in the 1960s Vietnam War era:

“In this dirty old part of the city
Where the sun refuse to shine
People tell me there ain’t no use in trying
Now little girl you’re so young and pretty
And one thing I know is true
You’ll be dead before your time is through

See my my daddy in bed, He’s dyin’
Yeah his hair been turning gray
He’s been working and slaving his life away
We gotta work
work
We gotta work
work, work, work

We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
Girl, there’s a better life
For me and you

 I know it is true…
You’ll be dead before your time is due
Yes You Will

We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
Girl, there’s a better life
For me and you

Hey!
We gotta get on out…
outta this place…
You know its true Girl.”

According to that great Internet source, Wikipedia, the song ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place” resonated especially with U.S. fighting forces in Vietnam. Indeed, research done among Vietnam veterans a few years ago showed the song struck a chord among them more than any other of the period.

The researchers said,” “We had absolute unanimity is this song being the touchstone. This was the Vietnam anthem. Every bad band that ever played in an armed forces club had to play this song.”

The reasons are obvious. No one wants to be in a combat zone.  It is a deadlly and confusing place to be.

We all want a better life. In fact, in America, we have something we are to pursue called “The American Dream”.

We in America have been little touched by war, at least on our home soil. Only when we are foreigners fighting on foreign soil do we meet up with its horrors.

 War is exactly where we Christians find ourselves in this world. We are foreign fighters on foreigh soil because we belong to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and are in His army. The only way out of the conflict is total victory.

Unfortunately, we tend to mistake who the enemy is . Like grumbling GIs, we cite God as the source of all the troubles we face in this war.

First, we blame Him for all the confusion we face in the battle. Second, we think God is not just and fair in His decisionmaking.

The only place to gain the truth about what is going on is the Scriptures, our Christian Army Field Manual.  It says that it is our Enemy Satan and his demonic cohorts who are  causing all the problems in this war (Psalm 11:2).

In addition, the Manual says our confusion is not from God, but from demons (I Timothy 4:1), the other army’s rank and file.  God is not the One who is writing our bewildering part in the script of life (I Corinthians 14:33).

When I look around at my fellow soldiers in this battle, the human ones, whether ones who belong to the enemy or the ones in God’s army, I regret to say  I am not impressed. With a couple exceptions, I think we are a slovenly bunch.

Yet, sometimes I think my own General, Jesus Christ, is handing out medals to the undeserving and putting guys like me the stockade. To my mildewed brain, I would expect this of Field Marshal Satan, but not from my Commanding Officer.

Again, my Field Manual, the Bible, gives me my operating instructions. It tells me that God is just and good, and if I want medals, I need to be the same (Psalm 11:7).

However, as a griping doughboy, what gets to me is when my comrades in arms take it upon themselves to make judgments about me. These unsolicited utterances hurt, though they may indeed be true.

Part of the reason I feel wounded is that they come from “friendly fire”,  from people I love.  These  fellow grunts  who share my foxhole speak as if they are authoritative –like they themselves are prophets of God.

Again, turning to my Field Manual, I notice that the Author has given me an illustration of how to respond to this kind of incident on the battlefield. The story is about three people: General Moses, Colonel Aaron and Women’s Army Corp leader Miriam.

Aaron and Miriam decide to take oral potshots at Moses. First, they slam him for his personnel choices. Then, they themelves decide Moses isn’t worthy of his post, and that they are just as capable.

Moses, interestingly enough, doesn’t pull rank on Aaron and Miriam. He doesn’t bark at them or throw them in the brig for insubordination.

In the Field Manual, there is a parenthetical sentence that tells me why Moses  doesn’t respond this way. He is the most humble man on earth (Numbers 12:3).

Moses knows that where he is in life is from the Lord. He knows he is nothing special (I Corinthians 4:7), even though his comrades believe THEY are.

Moses is a good general because he is just like his own Commanding Officer, Jesus. He is rewarded for being on the same page as his leader. Because he is like his Lord, Moses gets face time with Him that others don’t (Numbers 12:6-8).

When God struck WAC Miriam with a wasting disease as  punishment for her insubordination, Moses showed some real class. He went to his Commanding Officer and asked for a lighter sentence.

Occasionally, we see others in our modern age like Moses, who have the right perspective on who they are in God’s army. 

Ray Stedman, in his book “The Fight of Faith”, tells the story of a young man whose wife was seriously ill. He woke up in the middle of the night to write these words:

“My wife may die before morning, but I have been with her for four years. Four years! There is no way I can feel cheated if I didn’t have her another day. I didn’t deserve her for one minute.

And I may die before morning. What I must do is die now. I must accept the justice of death, and the injustice of life.

I have lived a good life, longer than many, better than most. I have had 32 years. I couldn’t ask for another day.

What did I do to deserve birth? It was a gift. I am me.  That is a miracle. I have no right to a single minute.  But some are given a single hour, and yet I have had 32 years.

Few can choose when they will die, but I choose to accept death now.  As of this moment, I give up my right to live and I give up my right to her life.”

My role in this spiritual war I am in is to accept my orders from my General Jesus and leave the sniping around me to Him to resolve eventually. My response should not be to go AWOL and seek to douse the hurts of the friendly fire and the enemy through immoral means. It will just land me in God’s stockade.

No, when I am hurting and wounded, I need to go get my instructions from General Jesus on what to do because He is NOT  unfair, unjust or the source of my confusing existence as the enemy propoganda would have me believe.

Instead, I need to see Jesus as the origin of right thinking, action and judgment (Psalm 111:10). Lastly, if I am going to take any opinions regarding who I am and my performance to heart, it should be His, not those who share the battlefield with me in this life. 

In the meantime, it is my role to conscientiously, loyally and lovingly man my post.

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But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps;  I have kept to his way without turning aside.I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread (Job 23:10-12).”

Today is the 67th anniversary of D-Day, in my view the most important battle involving America in the 20th century. Victory on that day led to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

I had the opportunity to visit the D-Day beaches with my oldest son a few years ago. It was the main item on my travel “bucket list” and I was very satisfied with my tour.

The anniversary of D-Day conjures up images in my mind of soldiers zigzagging their way up the beach to avoid enemy fire. Even animals know the importance of zigzagging.

Have you ever wondered why squirrels zig zag back and forth in front of your car?  It’s not, as one Internet wit notes, because they have been put up to it by their squirrel fraternity brothers as a form of hazing.

Squirrels aren’t stupid, even though they have small brains and it appears they have a death wish when they run out in front of your car. In their animal brains, they believe your car is a predator and the zigzag maneuver is meant to confuse you.

Why do you think the British called one of their most successful spies in World War II “Agent Zig Zag”?  Eddie Chapman was a double agent, tricking the Germans into believing he was on their side, being hailed as a hero by them, and at the same time passing information on to England.

Eddie Chapman’s actions were hard to cipher. The Washington Post called him  “an endlessly fascinating figure, a man who would save your life one day and steal your watch the next”.

Indeed, Chapman was a criminal who was in prison when the Nazis captured the British Channel Island of Jersey. It was after his release that he began to supposedly spy for the Germans.

Chapman is an enigmatic figure. On the one hand, he was a rogue, and on the other a hero, saving a lot of lives with the information he gave his country.

Despite his heroism, a  British officer had him  hounded out of the British spy service after  World War II because he believed Chapman to be a degenerate. The Washington Post says of him: “It’s amusing, at this point, to see how the more aristocratic Brits couldn’t quite believe that this degenerate, this criminal, could be a patriot. But Eddie Chapman was a patriot, in his fashion..”.

I believe a lot of Christians are like Eddie Chapman, including yours truly at times. In fact, many of us could be called “Saint Zig Zag”.

One minute we believers are following Jesus heroically, and the next one we are making a sharp turn the other direction and going Satan’s way. We’re like double agents in the spiritual war we are in.

I think sometimes we zig zag because we see God as the enemy. Because of this, we make  quick alterations in our course to avoid Him.

We mistake the enemy fire we are undergoing as coming from the Lord. In fact, it is the Devil who is taking shots at us.

Other times we are zig zagging, helter sketler,  because we are looking for God, but can’t find Him. This is how Job described this type of zig zag.:

“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 23:9).”

The ancient people of God, the Israelites, were noted zigzaggers. At times they followed God and at other times…well, you know.  For example, because of their sinfulness and lack of courage, they had to zig zag their way through the desert to the Promised Land instead of going straight to the target.

God could have defeated the enemies the Israelites feared up ahead. However, they  had their own double agents who spread a bad report, and their people believed it. They had to alter the course God had planned for them as a result.

God said this of the Israelites at one time:

 “Woe to the obstinate children,”
   declares the LORD,
“to those who carry out plans that are not mine,
   forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,
   heaping sin upon sin (Isaiah 30:1);”

Isaiah records how the Israelites allied themselves with Egypt for protection instead of God. They paid Egypt a nice bounty, sending them riches on donkeys (Isaiah 30:6-7).

Israel could have used Balaam’s donkey. Even his donkey knew enough to zig zag when you make an enemy of God.

God had told Balaam not to curse the Israelites as their enemies in the Promised Land wanted. Balaam went ahead anyway to meet the Israelites, although God instructed him to only say what was commanded.

God didn’t like the fact that Balaam made the trip at all and put an angel in the way on the trail. The donkey tried to avoid the angel and Balaam beat him.

This is when God gave the donkey the ability to talk. It complained to Balaam of his mistreatment.

In fact, the donkey was protecting himself and Balaam. The angel would have killed Balaam and spared the donkey. (See Numbers 22 for this story.)

This morning I was walking and praying on a recreational trail in our county. I was enjoying my hike next to the railroad, listening to a train whistle in the distance.

I was about to walk over the place where the tracks crossed the trail when I spotted movement on the crossing. Right in front of me was an animal I knew to be a skunk.

I had no desire to tangle with that little beast. I know from the smells emanating around our area this morning what it could do.

I backed away and waited for it to mosey off into the high grass before I continued on.  When God or a skunk stands in your way, you’d be stupid to go on.u

God isn’t up there like the skunk to oppose us, however.  He is leading us on our path in His grace to protect us.

He told the Israelties, despite their zig zagging:

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
   therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
   Blessed are all who wait for him!

 People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.  Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:18-21)

On D-Day the Germans were duped, not by Agent Zig Zag, but by another double agent named Agent Garbo. Garbo led Hitler to believe that the attack on the Normany beaches was a diversion and Hitler did not respond as he should have.

Garbo was a complete fake. In fact, he gained the trust of the Germans by sending them reports about Britain he researched in the public library in his city in Portugal.

At the moment, I feel as if I am a soldier zig zagging his way up Omaha  Beach on D-Day. There’s all kinds of information coming at me  from different sources.

I know God is up there leading me somewhere, but like Job, I can’t see him. There’s too much smoke from the combat and a lot of disinformation from the Enemy.

It would behoove me, as I make one of my zigs or zags, to turn my head and listen to God, as Job did.  I can’t see two feet in front of my face because of the smoke of battle, but He is up ahead and He knows the way. It’s the way to safety and victory.

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 “You turned my wailing into dancing;  you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever (Psalm 30:11).”

“I write about misery.” That’s what David Bowie told the New York Times in 2002 when his interviewer asked him what he believed to be the central point of his work.

Bowie chuckled when he made this statement, but like in all humor, there must be at least a grain of truth to his comment. Like any good writer, I am sure he writes what he knows.

A look at David Bowie’s life and lyrics will show an attempt to learn to know himself. Whatever he has found along the way he must not have liked, because he is known as “The Chameleon of Rock”.  He has  changd personas like most people change underwear.

Changing himself has been a focus of his music. One of his big hits in the early ’70s was “Changes”:

I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strain)
Ch-ch-Changes
Don’t want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strain)
Ch-ch-Changes
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time”.

In his own misery in the 1970s, Bowie admirably saw the problem: himself. If he understood that if he wanted to change, he would have to look in the mirror, even if he didn’t like what he saw and it caused him pressure and stress.

Like a lot of rockers of his era, Bowie became addicted to drugs. In an attempt to clean up his act, musically and chemically, he moved from Switzerland to Berlin in the mid 70s.

In his New York Times interview, he said of this time:

”At that time, I was vacillating badly between euphoria and incredible depression. Berlin was at that time was not the most beautiful city of the world, and my mental condition certainly matched it. I was abusing myself so badly. My subtext to the whole thing is that I’m so desperately unhappy, but I’ve got to pull through because I can’t keep living like this. There’s actually a real optimism about the music. In its poignancy there is, shining through under there somewhere, the feeling that it will be all right.”

 In 1980, after the Berlin period, David Bowie collaborated with Queen to write a song sung for charity, “Under Pressure”.

“Pressure, pushing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man asks for
Under Pressure
That burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets 

It’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming let me out
Pray tomorrow takes me higher
Pressure on people
People on street

Chippin’ around
Kick my brains ’round the floor
These are the days
It never rains but it pours.

Turned away from it all
Like a blind man
Sat on the fence but it don’t work
Keep coming up with love
But it’s so slashed and torn
(Why, why, whhhhhyyyy??)
Love love love love

Insanity laughs under pressure we’re cracking

Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love give love give love?
Give love give love give love give love give love

Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care
For the people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way
Of caring about ourselves.”

At this point in time, Bowie seems to have hit on a way out of his misery: caring for others in the same shape.  Yet, in the 90s he sought to distance himself from some of his  old music. However, he found he couldn’t.

Bowie relased a new album during the period of his 2002 interview, and he told the New York Times:

‘I tried to make a checklist of what exactly the album is about and abandonment was in there, isolation,” he said. ”And I thought, well, nothing’s changed much. At 55, I don’t really think it’s going to change very much. As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?

”When it’s taken that nakedly, these are my subjects. And it’s like, well, how many times can you do this? And I tell myself, actually, over and over again. The problem would be if I was too self-confident and actually came up with resolutions for these questions. But I think they’re such huge unanswerable questions that it’s just me posing them, again and again.”

It appears David Bowie has come full circle. His comments harken back to the final lyric of his song “Changes”:

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strain)
Ch-ch-Changes
Oh, look out you rock ‘n rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strain)
Ch-ch-Changes
Pretty soon you’re gonna get a little older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time.”

Time seems to have not changed David Bowie, at least much. He seems as lost and miserable as ever.  Bowie would do well to look back over his own writing,

He was right. It’s difficult to sketch time, the past, the present, or the future. Our memories fade, and we spin things from the past in our favor.  Thus, it’s hard to learn much from our history.

Furthermore, no person knows his or her  future. We are unable to outline it.

However, we can make some choices.  Our futures aren’t resigned to fate, as Bowie in his false humility seems to intimate. There are answers “out there”.

Today, as I face my future, I find myself under pressure. I can either turn and face the strain, or run from it. The old me would have done the latter,

However, as Bowie wrote, in the midst of current changes, I just have to be a different man than the one I have been before. The key to doing so has to be taking his dare.

I have to dare to be different than I have been before. This means caring for loved ones who are “on the edge of night”.

It also means changing the “way” I have cared for my loved ones, and for myself for that matter.  My old ways certainly haven’t been too effective to date. I need a new way of thinking.

I would do well to heed God’s instructions to Joshua in this time of pressure from people and circumstances:

” No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:5-9).”

 I haven’t been very faithful in meditating on God’s Word day and night. Forget about doing what it says, since it hasn’t been much in my thinking.

The effect has been fear and bad choice. It’s time to turn and face the strain, and lead my loved ones out of the mess I have created

Joshua did. He made a plan right after God told him how to be successful. He didn’t waste any time (Joshua 1:10-11).” 

Ray Stedman writes that a mature person doesn’t trust in himself. In this respect, Bowie is correct. He just has the wrong answer, which is no answer.

Stedman to me has the right answer. He writes,”God will not use human flesh to bring about success in his kingdom. Anything that is not built by the power of God, through the wisdom of God, according to the will of God,will not succeed.”

I am not much younger than David Bowie is today. I don’t have to be lost like he seems to be because I have a God who has provided a way to success in my life.

God tells me to lead in love, through His power and wisdom, and in His will.

Here’s Bowie final words of “Under Pressure”.

“This is our last dance
This is ourselves under pressure
Under pressure.”

Like David, my last dance in my remaining days should be before the Lord. As I move, I need the girdle of truth and wise counsel from Him around me as David did, also (II Samuel 6:14).

 After all, He’s the Lord of the dance. I can’t keep living like this, kicking my brains around the dance floor, and coming up with bad answers to my life problems. It’s time to let Him lead in the dance.

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