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Archive for the ‘Omniscience’ Category

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (I Corinthians 13:11-12).”

Conor Sullivan is a high school lacrosse player with an attitude. When his life begins to fall apart, his attitude doesn’t get any better. In fact, it falls apart with his life.

As portrayed in the movie “A Warrior’s Heart” Conor is a star attack man for a west coast team when his military officer father, just back from Irag, gets transferred to the east coast.  Conor, his mother and his brother go with him.

Conor’s Dad enrolls him in a posh private school, the one he attended and where he himself played lacrosse. Although the coach and Conor’s Dad don’t get along  (the latter stole the former’s girlfriend, now Conor’s mother), the coach agrees to at least give the boy a look. No promises, though.

Even though Conor’s Dad tells him to go into the situation with humility, Conor enters the locker room as if he were God’s gift to lacrosse. Conor less than politely tells the boy holding the position he plays that he will be losing it to him.

Conor already has a temper, and when his father is sent back to Iraq and killed in combat, it explodes. When given a hard check on the f ield, he doesn’t respond in kind. Conor seeks to hurt.

Conor eventually gets tossed from the team due to his unsportsmanlike ways. On his way out, he destroys the school’s trophy case, including the awards given to his Dad’s team.

This last act lands Conor in jail. However, he is retrieved from his cell by a soldier who served with his father, Sgt. Major Duke Wayne.

Sgt. Wayne doesn’t get Conor out of the hoosegow to coddle him, though.  American Indian Duke takes him out to a lacrosse camp run by his tribe.

However, Conor doesn’t see lacrosse for a while. Sgt. Wayne has him tear down an old shack with a sledge hammer for an entire week.

At one point Conor complains he is getting blisters. Duke just laughs at him. He also stays on the boy to get the job done.

Conor assumes that this whole job is just some metaphor meant to show him the error of his ways.  Duke doesn’t own up to any of Conor’s thinking.

In fact, he communicates very little. He just tells Conor,”Don’t speak unless spoken to.”

After his week of shed ripping, Conor plays in a game with counselors and others at the camp. The rough stuff in this game is nothing like he has encountered before, and at one point Duke puts a hold on him that causes him to lose consciousness. Conor wakes up alone on the field.

Eventually, Sgt. Major Wayne drives Conor home.  He is warmly greeted by his family, but no so much by the players on his prep school team.

However, when the school makes it to the national title game against Conor’s former west coast team, the players insist that to the coach that he be allowed to participate. He is talented after all, and also has won them over somehow.

Of course, we all know how this ends. Conor is the hero of the game, and indeed has seemingly learned his lesson. Even though he is roughed up during the context, he doesn’t respond in kind.

As the movie closes, he is still checking in with Sgt. Major Wayne about the purpose of the rough treatment at camp. “Was it a metaphor?”, Conor asks. Wayne refuses to respond, leaving Conor clueless.

Speaking of metaphor’s, I believe Conor’s experience is very much like ours in the Christian life. God gives us a hard situation and we assume we know exactly what He has in mind. We always seem to think we have to learn something from our trials, especially if we think our suffering is self inflicted.

This thinking is really just our attempt to make sense of what has happened to us. We are trying to put the God if the universe into our mental box.

What is scary is that this effort is not just a waste of time. It actually leads us further away from the truth.

Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22,23)

The truth is that in this life we don’t see so well.  We think we know, but our view of reality is skewered by our upbringing, experiences, sinful natures and just place mental denseness.

Our attitude is the ultimate in hubris. Ultimately, if what we are going through is to teach us anything, it is to depend completely on the wisdom of our Coach, Jesus Christ. Our task is to just get the job done, which is done by just doing what He tells us to do.

We need to leave the “whys and wherefores” to Him.

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“Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind (Psalm 66:5)!”

I watched a movie the other night which I had been wanting to see for a long time. I am a fan of alternate history novels, and this flick portrayed how a seemingly chance delay could change a woman’s life.

In the movie “Sliding Doors”, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Helen, a woman who gets fired from her job and heads home on the subway.  In one scenario, she makes the train. In the second, she misses the train because a small child gets in her way as she runs down the steps.

In the first storyline, the child’s mother moves the child out of the way, giving Helen enough time to enter the train car.  This slight interruption in the second situation changes everything.

The Helen who makes the train ends up getting home early and discovering her boyfriend in bed with another woman. She breaks up with him, and begins a romance with a man she met on the train.

The Helen who misses the train does not discover her boyfriend’s infidelity, and continues on in the relationship. As this Helen’s story develops, she suspects something, but isn’t sure.

The Helen who caught her boyfriend is encouraged to begin a new entrepreneurial career by James, her new love. She becomes successful.

In the other parallel universe, Helen works two jobs to support her cheating boyfriend Gerry. Supposedly the man is writing a novel, but is really having dalliances with his ex-girlfriend.

SPOILER ALERT

In both stories, Helen becomes pregnant by the loves in her life. Also in both scenarios, Helen is hit by a car and loses the baby.

It is the ending of the two stories that confused me. James is shown holding Helen as she lays in a hospital bed, promising to make her happy.

Gerry is in Helen’s room in the other situation, telling her he will do anything for her. Since she has learned about the infidelity, Helen tells him to turn around and walk out the door.

When this Helen is discharged, she walks into the hospital elevator and meets James for the first time. This event occured with the other Helen at the beginning of the movie.

The thing I didn’t notice because it happens so fast is that the Helen who made the train and fell in love with James dies. He is making promises when, as the scene switches away to the other Helen, the monitor she hooks up to flatlines.

I went two days thinking Helen would live happily ever after with James in both scenarios. It caused me to think seriously about how God, in His providence, can take such things like hindrances to catching a train and still work things out according to His plan in the end. It boggles my mind as I think about it.

Even though I was wrong about how the movie really ended, I am not dissuaded by that. The possibility makes such stories as King Saul in the Scriptures much more imaginable.

Saul was the king of Israel, but he blew it. Unlike David, his successor, Saul’s heart wasn’t in the right place.

When he had finally had enough, God told Saul that he was taking the kingdom away from him. Knowing what I do now, that King David was the ancestor of Jesus Christ, and not Saul, this makes sense.

What jiggles the brain is God’s message to Saul when he rebuked him through Samuel. After the sin that led to Saul’s downfall, Samuel told Saul:

  “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.  But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.” I Samuel 13:13,14

I understand that David still could have been the ancestor of Jesus through God’s machinations and Saul remain king. For example, David could have had a child through the daughter of Saul to whom he was married and this child could have been of the line leading to Jesus.

In any case, had Saul remained faithful, the Bible could have had a whole different storyline. However, the main goal of God’s plan, salvation through Jesus, could have still taken place.

The “what if” possibilities in life are fascinating to me. This is why I like alternate histories I suppose.

What if, for example, a time traveler had introduced the modern machine gun into the American Civil War on the southern side?  This is the plot of a novel of one of my favorite authors in this genre. 

Ironically, it is in the news today that Gywneth Paltrow had a true-to-life “Sliding Doors” experience that saved a woman’s life inadvertantly during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

A woman was late for work at the World Trade Center and jaywalking when Paltrow came down the street in her car. The woman and the actress just stopped and waited a long time before either one of them moved on.

Recently, Paltrow got  a letter from the woman telling her that she had saved her life.  The actress told the Huffington Post:

Ten years later I got a letter from her saying that she had been late for work and we had that thing and she went down to the Christopher Street station to catch her train to go down to the World Trade Center where she worked on the 77th floor of the South Tower and the train was just pulling out,” Paltrow continued. “So had we not had that interaction she feels like her life would’ve taken a much different course.”

One pastor at my church this summer gave a message in which he stated that it is impossible to thwart the will of God. As I ponder things like the real and fictional experiences of Gwyneth Paltrow, and then examine God’s moves in the Scriptures, I am more and more in agreement with this minister.

It’s beyond the confines of my brain to fully understand the providences of the Lord. My mind just gets dizzy thinking of things stories like the one in “Sliding Doors” and the Bible.

However, my mind and my spirit both agree that God is just amazing, and worthy of my worship and dedication in life.

Another of my former pastors and  a good friend wrote today online:

“I love God’s Providence. It’s always crazy and surprising. There’s no need to question it — it is! He’s great!”

Ditto.

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“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.  As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (Ephesians 3:2o-4:1).”

I know there are a lot of times that I personally try to arrange my circumstances, and when things turn out in my favor, I call it a “miracle”.  I let out a little information here, tell a friend there, and salvation is in my corner.

Yet, on other occasions the inexplicable happens. Sometimes the series of events are life changing.

For example, I once visited a beach resort the year I graduated from high school with a friend. Our main goal was to have a good time.

However, we decided to go to a gathering of people up the boardwalk somewhere. In this crowd was a group of young men from a Christian group.

A few months later, I was walking on the campus of my university and recognized one of the fellows I had met at this rally at the beach. This led to a several year involvement with this Christian group which radically changed my life.

Numerous times I have been given money out of the blue. It has happened on so many occasions that I cannot remember them all. These monetary provisions were unsolicited.

I have visited places I thought I would never see again. Then, one day, I find myself living and working in them.

Of course, not all of the unexpected happenings have been positive. On several occasions I have been laid off a job or quit before the inevitable occurred. It seems, though, that I have always bounced back rather quickly when this happens.  

There is an amazing story in the Bible, recorded in I Samuel 9,  involving a young man who suddenly had his whole life change around. This fellow named Saul was just out looking for his father’s donkeys when the totally unexpected occurred.

Out of food and just about out of money, Saul’s servant suggested they go visit a prophet he knew about to see if they could get some help finding the donkeys. Saul checked his wallet and told his servant that couldn’t do so because they didn’t have the funds to present the customary gift to the prophet.

Saul’s servant dug in his pocket and found a little silver. They went looking for the prophet.

When they found him, Saul was astounded at the greeting he got. The prophet, a man named Samuel,  began fawning on the young fellow.

Samuel said to Saul:

“Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will send you on your way and will tell you all that is in your heart.  As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?” (I Samuel 9:19b,2o)

Samuel was nonplussed. He told Samuel that he wasn’t but a young feller from the least family in the least tribe of all of Israel. How in the world could Samuel be telling him these things.

Samuel treated Saul to a royal dinner. The next morning he told him to send his servant away because he had a message for him from God.

What Saul didn’t know was that God had approached Samuel the day before and forewarned him of the visit.  God said to Samuel:

 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.” (I Samuel 9:16)

When Saul showed up the next day, God told Samuel, “This is the man I told you about yesterday.” Thus ensued the royal treatment Saul experienced.

What blows my mind about this story is how God arranged everything up to the minute. He had it all worked out.

A critic might say that God only told Samuel what He knew would occur. This cynic would say that God arranged nothing.

However,  the Bible reflects this not to be the case. In another example, it tells how God gave Abraham a son at  the exact time He had said it would occur (Genesis 21:2). There was a miracle here not only in timing, but in God providing a child to an old woman.

A similar miracle occurred with a woman the Scriptures calls the Shunammite. Elijah told her she would have a son at a certaim time the following year, even though her husband was old and presumably infertile, and it happened (II Kings 4:8-17).

The wise man of Ecclesiastes says that God makes everything beautiful in its time.  He also says God sets a time to judge good deeds and bad. And speaking of good and bad, this wise man says that God makes the positive times as well as the negative ones (Ecclesiates 3:11,17; 7:14). 

The apostle Paul told the Athenians that Jesus is the governor of our lives. He said to them,

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:26-28).”

Grover Gunn says of God’s divine foreknowledge that its nature is active, not passive. He notes that God doesn’t just have a heads up on the future, but arranges it in detail.

This is beyond my comprehension. How God can work it all out so that His plan is carried out is just incredible to me.

It is also beyond my understanding as to whether or not I can mess up God’s plan for me. I suppose that is a topic for another day.

However, knowing that God is arranging every minute of my existence to bring about His good purposes motivates me. It challenges me to live in such a way, i.e. in accordance with his will, so  that I DO NOT potentially screw things up.   

Every minute counts.

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I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:16-21).

As I went to put cream in my coffee, I glanced down at the USA Today. The headline read, “US $62 trillion in debt”.

The magnitude of this is too difficult for me to grasp.  I mean, who can imagine this amount of money?

It seems indeed that the economy is in big trouble.  Another headline reads “Chronic Unemployment Worse Than Great Depression”.

A lot of people don’t have jobs. What the headline above means is that the longer one is out of work, the more difficult it is for them to find a job because employers are wary of gaps in their resume.

My wife and I were recently discussing the economic situation in Europe, where she is from and where we have lived. We  talked about Greece, a country where one of our relatives is from.

This nation is bankrupt. It appears more European countries may follow in its footsteps.

As I said, this is all hard to fathom. Furthermore, the economy is just one aspect of the world that is undergoing great earthquakes.

In the 1960s, a period of great social change, Bob Dylan wrote and sang a song about dynamic change. It begins this way:

“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”

Dylan says in this poem, “Do something!” The inference is that if the people of his time didn’t take action, they we’re going to drown.

What is curious about his poem is that even Dylan didn’t quite understand the events of his times. When asked by a friend,who picked up a draft of it, “What is this (expletive deleted) man?”, Dylan replied,  “Well, you know, it seems to be what the people like to hear.” Even with rockers and folk musicians, it’s all about marketing.

Dylan opened a concert the night after President Kennedy was assassinated with “The Times They Are A’ Changin’ .  He thought people would throw rocks at him, but instead they applauded.

Dylan said,”I know I had no understanding of anything. Something had just gone haywire in the country and they were applauding the song. And I couldn’t understand why they were clapping, or why I wrote the song.”

“I couldn’t understand anything. For me, it was just insane.”

Dylan knew something was wrong in the world. He just couldn’t put his finger on it mentall.  Dylan said of  his song, “I didn’t mean ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ as a statement… It’s a feeling.”

When I read the headlines these days, I could say the same thing regarding them that Dylan did about “The Times They Are A’ Changin'”. I just get this feeling of immensity, of events  beyond my capacity to handle after I come away from a newspaper or a webzine.

One lyric from Bob Dylan’s song seems to refer to  the generation gap which characterized  in the ’60s.

“Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.”
 
Dylan, however, says of this lyic:”Those were the only words I could find to separate aliveness from deadness. It had nothing to do with age.”
 
For Dylan, the parents and everyone else for that matter should in the 1960s should have obeyed the old adage: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” This is rather prof0und considering Dylan himself didn’t know where he was going.
 
In summary, Dylan didn’t quite get what was happening around him in the world when he wrote “The Times They Are A’Changin’. He just “had a bad feeling about this”. 
 
He just knew that people couldn’t just stand around and be swallowed up by unstable happenings around them.  They needed to DO something, anything. They had to be “alive” to their times and not have their heads in the sand.
 
When I think of the craziness today, I have the same feelings that Dylan did in the ’60s. I want to stand up and shout, “Somebody stop the madness and DO SOMETHING!”.
 
Thus, philosophically, Bob Dylan and I are great postmodernists. Michael Ramsden said in this talk that the normal modus operandi in this postmodern age is either “knowing, feeling or doing.”
 
Consequently, it seems to me that when postmodernists like Dylan or myself can’t make sense out of the world through our  intellects, emotions and wills, we are in  big trouble. The postmodernist has no place to go for answers after those aspects of our humanity are exhausted.
 
Ramsden said that, for believers, however, that the postmodernist approach is wrong.  Our point of concentration as believers, he says,  should be “being”.
  
This is exemplified in a negative fashion in the life of Saul in the Scriptures During tumultous times God listened to the ancient Israelites pleadings and  gave them a king. He chose  Saul.
 
Saul was anointed to be king by the prophet Samuel. Samuel told Saul:
 
“The Spirit of the LORD will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you. Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”  As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. (I Samuel 10:6-9)
 
God gave Saul a task, a big one.  But before He sent him out to do that job, God changed Saul’ s heart and put His Spirit upon him.
 
Being a different person, one led by God’s Holy Spirit, was the only way Saul could live up to the job ahead as King of Israel, God’s people. Unfortunately, Saul disobeyed God’s Word offered through Samuel.
 
He acted when he should have waited, went with his feelings, and took on a role God did not assign to him. As a result, Saul aborted God’s work in his life. God took Saul’s task away from him because he focused on doing something instead of being someone (I Samuel 13:1-13).
 
“To be, or not to be, that is the question”, wrote Shakespeare. This is the opening line to his play Hamlet.
 
Hamlet is deciding in this play to be alive or dead. Will he kill himself or not? That is the question.
 
In his songwriting Dylan stumbled onto some truth. Our path in this world is getting old and getting us nowhere. Will we choose to be alive or dead as we make our way in it?
 
At creation, God breathed His life into us. We were meant to be human “beings”, personages with His life in us, not inanimate, dead objects (Genesis 2:7, Psalm 139:13,14).
 
We lost the breath of life when Adam and Eve sinned. However, when Christ comes into the believer’s heart, His life is breathed back into our dead persons. t is in God that we “live, and move and have our being (Acts 17:28)”.
 
As believers, we aren’t called to understand the craziness of this world. God calls us instead to grasp His deep love in the midst of it. 
 
Further, God doesn’t ask us to react with our messed up emotions. When we respond in emotionally, it should be in gratefulness, amazement and joy at His wondrous love.
 
Finally, God doesn’t require that I do anything in this mad planet. He justs wants to powerfully act  THROUGH me to enact His loving will in the mania.
 
There’s very little I can in and of and by myself  anyway. Only God can deal with the ginormous problems of our time anyway, and He will do so out of love.
 
The times are definitely changing. So should I.
 
I can be a different person, one alive to Jesus and His love. Only then can I help out in this state of utter confusion we are in today.

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“ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,  neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8,9)’.”

On Memorial Day my son and I decided to brave the 90 degree plus heat and take in a ball game of our local minor league team. It was a last minute decision and we were late, but is seemed like a good idea at the time.

As I went down the connecting road to the interstate highway, I saw an electronic sign that read “I-81 closed at mile marker 127″.  My mind  interpreted it to mean that the exit was not open.

I then got on I-81 and it seemed like the normal smooth sailing, until we found ourselves in a parking lot. I knew we were doomed because the next exit was 7 miles away -near mile marker 127.

As we inched along for a time, I passed by the small access trail across the median. It briefly went through my mind to take it and go back the way I came, but I knew from experience that only the police and emergency vehicles were allowed to use this path.

Somewhere into the second hour of being stuck on the interstate, I learned the reason for our delay. A terrible shooting had occurred at mile marker 127 and it was a crime scene.

Also about this time, when we did move, I passed right by another access way across the median. It was hidden by high grass and I didn’t even know it was there, even if  I had had the courage to violate the norm and use it.

Finally, as we began to make some progess, I saw another path across the median. The sign next to it read”Authorized Vehicles Only”. 

I didn’t take that one either. For one, I was fearful of the police car stopped 1/2 mile to my rear and since I had recently gotten a ticket, I didn’t want to risk another one.

Three hours into our ordeal, my son and I finally began to move. Our exit was indeed closed (as I had originally thought), and we had to keep moving away from home.

Trying to salvage something of the afternoon, I went into the metropolitan area near in the region where our team played instead of heading home. I thought we could have some fun there.

After going to a mall for 15 minutes, something we could have done at home, we drove home.  The afternoon was a bust.

The next morning I learned from the newspaper what we had missed. Our team had won their game with a walk-off, grand slam home run, a rarity in baseball. Sigh.

I had allowed us to miss this spectacle because I had refused to revise my thinking.  Despite the circumstances, the warning sign, and the availability of alternate paths usually not taken, I had stuck with my usual pattern of thought.

It did not occur to me that the sign I read that said the interstate was meant it was CLOSED. I mean, the interstate is never closed!

Further, even though some people were taking the route aross the median, and even driving the opposite direction past my vehicle, partly through the tall median grass, to escape, I could not bring myself to do the same.

“Too risky”, I thought. “I could get stuck”.

“Besides”, I thought. “This will clear up eventually.”  Wrong!

Initially, my entry to our bad path was caused by a traditional way of thinking that Edward De Bono calls “blocked by openness”.  The way seemed free, so I took it.

Once I was in the mess on the interstate, my thinking was “blocked by adequacy”, which is another way of saying “blocked by openness”, but with a different emphasis. The way was “good enough”.

De Bono writes:

“There is no logical reason to look for a better way of doing something if there is already an adequate way.  Adequate is always good enough. It is interesting that in our thinking we have developed methods for dealing with things that are wrong, but no methods for dealing with things that are right. When something is wrong, we explore further. When something is right, our thinking comes to a halt.”

De Bono calls for what he has named “lateral thinking”. This method is meant to help us restructure the traditional patterns in our brains, as he says, “even when there is no need to do so”.

The Bible describes a man whose inability to think of something else but the norm  cost him his life. He had just arrived in David’s camp from the battle in which King Saul and his son Jonathan were defeated.

David asked this man, an Amelikite, to tell him what happened. The Amelekite told him of the defeat.

He also told David how Saul had died. The Amelikite had finished Saul off at Saul’s request since the king was dying.

Perhaps it was because David had just come from a battle with Amelikites and had no love for them, but he didn’t take what his man said well.

Here’s the Scriptural account:

David asked him, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?”

 Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the LORD’s anointed.”

It never occurred to this Amelekite that David would question his killing of one of David’s purported enemies. To him, killing Saul was a smooth and open way to score some brownie points with the new king.

What the Amelekite didn’t take into account was that David thought differently than he. David was a man of God who listened to his Lord, not to worldly thinking.

This morning I was out taking a prayer walk, something I have been doing more of lately. I am in the midst of some possible changes and have been out there on the trail trying to get God’s mind.

As I walked this morning, it occurred to me that the Holy Spirit was available to me as a guide. I reviewed passages of Scripture as I walked.

If I need light, God is the place to go for it. Regard the lyrics to his old hymn, based on I Timothy 1:17:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

 Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
thy justice like mountains high soaring above
thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

 To all, life thou givest, to both great and small;
in all life thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish, but naught changeth thee.

 Thou reignest in glory; thou dwellest in light;
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all laud we would render:  O help us to see
’tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.

The blogger at Stories of Great Hymns asks why the author uses the phrase “light inaccessible” in reference to the nature of God. They muse:

“Perhaps because, if the light of God were to shine upon us full force, it would consume us. Perhaps because we could not stand to see the full glory of God until we see him face to face in heaven.”

This is perhaps why I do not know what is next in my life. I only know that I need to seek the light of the Holy Spirit daily and let Him give me His thinking one dose at a time.

I also know I have to ditch my normal way of thinking and seek God for His. It is far better.

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“Blessed are all who fear the LORD, vwho walk in obedience to him (Psalm 128:1).”

“Now it’s my will against yours and you will lose”!  Clint Eastwood, portraying Sergeant Major Gunny Highway has just laid down the law in his new Marine platoon.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and the Military Channel is running “Heartbreak Ridge”, the story of a crusty old Marine (Eastwood) whose job it is to train a group of young, immature slackers. He has his work cut out for him.

His men are rebels. They have no intention of obeying this anachronistic old man.

When Gunny Highway comes into their pool hall and throws things around, pulls noses and ears and insults them, they have a plan. They can’t wait for The Swede to get out of the brig.

When The Swede does appear, he is a foreboding figure. He is a huge hulk of muscle who looks like he could tear Gunny Highway in two. In fact, he tells Highway he intends to.

After Highway decks the Swede, the latter tells him softly,”I’ll wait outside for the MPs to come.” Gunny Highway replies,”Negative, Johannson. You’re going to become a Marine, right now.”

These boys learned some wisdom from Jim Croce: you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind and you don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger. In other words,  if you have any brains you don’t take on persons with  more power, authority, experience and know-how than you.  You don’t mess around with the Gunny Highways of life.

Gunny Highway knew that if he didn’t train his men to be tough, hard, courageous fighting machines, they would get killed. Him, too.

These men weren’t ready to fight, but they didn’t know it. In fact, they didn’t even think of the possibility they might end up in one.

When Highway first meets the men from his platoon, a couple of them pretend not to speak English. As he is whipping the men in their introduction, he says to the two: “I don’t want to get my head shot off in some far away land because you don’t “habla”, comprende?”

Gunny Highway tells the men,”I’m here to tell you life as you knew it has ended”. He tells them to go into town, blow off steam and get rid of whatever it is in their old ways that may hold them back, because at 6 am the next morning they belong to him.

A problem I have as a believer in Jesus Christ is that I forget who I belong to. When I enlisted in the Christian life, I volunteered to live the way God requires me to.

When I forget whose I am, a grunt in God’s army, and that my old life is way over, I tend to revert back to my immature ways.  When I do, I am liable to get my head blown off.

This is because I am truly in a war. I forget this, too.

There are spiritual forces out there who wish to destroy  me. My immaturity could get be severly wounded, even killed.

God comes in and kicks butt like Gunny Highway and tries to get me ready and able to fight the His battles.  However, like the unprepared, lazy recruits in “Heartbreak Ridge”, I resist.

Gunny tells his new platoon in  that if they think they can “slip and slide” because their previous sergeant was a wuss…”Well, you’re going to start acting like Marines now.” This is exactly what I think.

I believe I can slip, slide, and maneuver around God’s will and still be a strong Christian. I am deluding myself.

A couple of weeks ago, I allowed myself the luxury of acting like an immature grunt in my place of work. Like The Swede, I thought I could tug on Superman’s cape and prevail. I let my anger get the best of me.

Now I find myself pinned to the floor. The only thing I can do is look to God, and say,”I’ll wait outside to be taken off to the brig, now.”

However, I think like Sergeant Gunny Highway, God is telling me,”No dice. You’re going to become a mature Christian now.”

David, like me now, learned that not doing things God’s way from the start will result in humiliation. He sent Nathan the prophet to rebuke him.

Nathan tells him a story of how a rich, powerful man humbled a poor man and took a dear possession from him. The Scriptures say, “David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die’ (II Samuel 12:5)!”

David was pretty good at acting “high and mighty” and losing his temper at injustice. Then he was told by Nathan,”YOU are the man (v. 7).”

David had stolen the wife of one of his soldiers. Not only that, he arranged to have the soldier killed in a devious manner.

To David’s credit, he didn’t have Nathan beheaded.  Instead, he didn’t shoot the messenger, and acknowledged his sin (II Samuel 12:17).

I’ve had a couple weeks to reflect on my own actions at work and I have come to the conclusion that I blew it. This is because I didn’t follow God’s Army Field Manual, the Bible.

When I end up in a fight, I end up trying to slip and slide away. I think I know more than other people and God.

Paul Simon’s lyric explains my attitude:

“God only knows
God makes his plan
The information is unavailable
To the mortal man
We work our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away.”

What is truly humiliating, as I explained to my former supervisor yesterday, is that I am old enough to know better.When as a middle-aged man you discover you have been acting like a boy just out of adolescence, it brings great shame.

 But Simon wrote the truth about a lof of men my age when he penned the following:

“Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away.”

The result now is that in order to maintain my place in God’s corps, I have to get up off the floor like The Swede and become a good Marine.  I will have to eat some crow.

As someone told me yesterday, crow doesn’t taste very good, but it IS nutritious. Thus, I need to make the rounds and apologize to the people I offended at my work.

There’s no guarantees things will work out in my favor. When the baby he fathered with his stolen woman got sick, he humbled himself before God, fasted and pleaded for the child’s life. The child died.

David got up, asked for some food and went on with his life. When asked how he could do this, he replied: 

 “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me (II Samuel 12:22,23).”

It’s would have been better if David hadn’t went slip sliding away in the first place. The same with me.

However, like David and The Swede, I need to get up off the floor, quit trying to move and shake with the Lord, and obey His field manual. Then maybe I will be a good Christian soldier.

The thought reminds me of the old hym:

  • Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
    With the cross of Jesus going on before.
    Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
    Forward into battle see His banners go!

    • Refrain:
      Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
      With the cross of Jesus going on before.

His cross gives me the chance to confess my sin, get up off the floor and live my life for Him again. Thank God for that.

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“For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths (Proverbs 5:21).”

Some people never learn.  The fictional Gregory House, the focus of a TV drama,  has been through a living hell ever since the problems with his bad leg were misdiagnosed and mishandled by other doctors.  Now he is always in pain and has to walk with a cane.

On top of it all, House is a congenital jerk.  He is condescending, irascible, and sarcastic.  The only thing that allows him to keep his job is that he is the best diagnostician around.

House is also a substance abuser.  He at one point was addicted to the vicodin he took to alleviate his pain. 

All of these problems leads to House checking into a psychiatric facility. His medical license is suspended. At first, he resists treatment, as is his nature. However, House eventually comes around, and when his psychiatrist determines that House can feel human emotions and is normal, he releases House and writes a letter giving him his medical license back.

House now has moments of humanity.  In the most recent episode, he goes out with some colleagues, who his best friend is actually paying to spend time with him. Surprisingly, the men have a good time, and House tells his buddy that he realizes that he can be friends with them.  This is a real breakthrough for the good doctor because he has few if any friends. Up until now, he has pushed them away.

 Although things seem to be looking up for House, he has a brewing (pun intended) problem.  He is obviously becoming an alcoholic.  In the last airing, the show opens with him waking up in a neighbor’s house sleeping off a night of boozing, and closes with him pouring some alchohol into a cup at his desk. Some people never learn.

This should come as no surprise, though.  The first man ever born on this planet had a thick skull, too.  Cain was told by God what was expected of him, but chose to do things his way.  When God rejected His program, Cain went into a fit of rage, killed his brother (who HAD gotten with the program) and became a marked man for life Genesis 4:1-16).

I can relate to the story of Cain and Abel. When Cain began sulking, God’s response was: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast. If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:6,7).” I can relate because I have had students like Cain.  They break the rules, and when they are called on it, they either go into a rage or become moody.

I suppose we are all like that sometimes.  There are occasions when we don’t think the rules apply to us. Then when God calls us on it and disciplines us, we rage at Him or sulk.  

There’s an old saying: “Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap an eternity.”  Initial denseness toward God can lead to a causal chain with some really bad effects. We may wake up one day and discover this (Proverbs 5:11-14).

The other day my students and I had a discussion in class over some misbehavior going on there.  I reviewed some good and bad actions from them over the course of the term and said,”You may think I don’t notice these things, but I do.”

God has infinite awareness.  He knows what’s going on in our lives, and since He cares, He’ll do anything He can do to keep us from harming ourselves.  It’s best we listen to Him early on and save ourselves a lifetime of pain.  Some of us can learn.

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