Reconciling seeming contradictions in the Bible

“Blessed assurance”, that old hymn that speaks as thought the author had arrived.  Well this is where I falter.  Romans talks about the elect and predestination while Revelation and James speak about your works that will get you into the Lord’s kingdom.  

I totally get that you gotta do what you believe, not just be…believing it, and that doing confirms the believing.  But then “all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved”.  And the part that says all our works were planned out ahead of our time, and that they are only filthy rags anyway.

Sometimes, I think scripture “contradicts” to show how the entire coin, both sides of it are important to consider, if  you want the coin and not just a half of it.

But, really, aren’t we living in different times…of grace, not wandering around for years and eventually dying in a wasteland?  Well…aren’t we?

I submit that if Jesus said following Him meant picking up our respective crosses DAILY, he meant something about a progression we must undergo…namely sanctification.  That is, being made more like Him who we serve in love, so that when those of us whom He knows will be supremely content just to gaze upon his face in the new heavens and earth.

So, yes, “those who love their lives will lose it, and those who hate their lives for Him, will keep it”.  Our lives, if for him, is a desert.  It can be a mountain in a desert, or an oasis, or plain hot sand.  But the offer to be “more than a conqueror remains.  It’s not just getting over, but basking in what getting over entails.

Hebrews makes it clear that we are more than just pilgrims or sojourners who seek a better city.  This is we are, but more so, we are EXILES trying to get back to our home.  We are made in the image of God!

For a homebody like myself that rang true.  

What do you say?

Short Stories for Your Spirit

Today I’d like to recommend a book of short stories that was a favorite of the late , Wonderful apologist, Ravi Zacharias.  I heard about the book from Ravi saying he couldn’t go into scripture cold so this book, “A Packet of Surprises” by F. W. Boreham helped him in that direction.

The book is essays and sermons, very inspiring to the mind who likes subtle truth in illustrious form.  I’ll recount a few story cliff notes..

“A Squirrel’s Dream” is one I read recently.  All about a squirrel in a cage with a wheel.  All day he furiously runs on the wheel, like a rat in a race, trying to get out tension, induced by his dreams of the forest with boughs and limbs to jump from and to, and a nest in a hole in a tree to hide his wife and kids.  The chance comes when the cage is opened for his feeding.  But, the squirrel, like my current self I would say, goes back to his wheel, more furiously than ever.  After all, it’s only a dream right?

One of my favorites is “Waiting for the Tide”.  The author recounts his experience with a painting of a tiny boat adrift on an unknown shore.  The painting suggests that the folks in the boat must remain seated and ready to go, once the tide comes in and frees them from their temporary prison.  Waiting like a server on his table.  Totally reminds me of getting to see in person the cliff divers of Acapulco who in the same manner, wait for the tide to wash up in a pool in to which they seize the moment and dive in from a height of prob 150’!  Astounding!

So I suppose both these stories reflect the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, performing the first Passover with their sandals on and their staffs in their hands, ready to go.

One other I will mention is “Sermons and Sandwiches” in which Boreham describes the numerous accounts in Scripture in which “revelation” was combined with “revelry”.  In other words, there was so often a meal associated with Jesus’ works.  The wedding at Cana with the water turned to wine, Jesus feeding the disciples with fish after his resurrection, them feeding him when He first appeared to them after his resurrection, the feeding of the four and five thousand, and most of all, the Table of the Holy Sacraments in which we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

In Spirit and in Truth

“Veritas?  What is veritas?”  Pontius Pilate’s words to Jesus before he sentenced him to death.  What is truth, he asks?  Well I’m kinda led to believe it’s not an adjective but a noun, a person, not a concept.

Pilate was clearly a man with a seared conscience.  He might as well have wielded himself the hammer that nailed trespassers on crosses.  And bc of Jesus, Pilate became friendly with King Herod, which meant neither of them really had…or wanted the say so.  It was simply a power play ping pong match.

And so he mocks, “What is veritas?”  If Herod can’t decide and Pilate can’t decide…where is the Pope when you need him?

Well…what IS truth?  Seems like an adjective describing something clean, unspotted, without sin??  

The claim of the Bible is that Jesus never sinned in his lifetime, which is how he was worthy to be an atoning sacrifice in his death.  So shall we say that Truth is sinlessness…perfection…without causes for blame?

I would offer that like lord and Lord, truth and Truth are different.  There is one Lord and many lords, and many, subjective truths, and one Truth.  So if Truth is one, why couldn’t it be a person, or spirit?

Jesus said we are to worship in “spirit and truth”.  I suggest that these are one and the same thing.  He only separates them to demonstrate which spirit you are worshiping.

I can say this much…”I can’t handle the truth”.  Life is full of too much truth.  It truly is stranger than fiction.

But one thing I know…Jesus said he was THE way, truth, and life.  So could it be said that the vehicle to the way that leads to life is Truth personified in God’s Christ?

So fleshing that out, how do we go about hailing a Truth cab?  Sure.  We’ve ridden in one plenty of times.  We have the routes we need in our minds.  

Question I have is, will we hear the Truth cab when we cover our ears?

the Bible Jesus Read

by Philip Yancey

Yep, finally getting around to a book review. Doesn’t really help when you’re a slow reader. 🙂

So Yancey speaks of how misunderstanding in large tainted his view of the Old Testament. So he researches what ends up looking like a long book of statistics, transforming into the Old Testament tapestry which became and was Jesus.

He speaks on the books of Job, Deuteronomy, the Psalms, Ecclesisastes and the Prophets.

What hit me hardest was what I might have expected, just because they seem so cryptic…the books of the Prophets. The biggie was how Yancey learned about how the emotions of GOD are so dramatically and painfully laid out. Kinda like our parental unit telling us “this hurts me more than it hurts you”. And that when God punished Israel…exile, wandering and dying in the desert, Moses, the biggest ambassador not making it to the promised land, he did it because like as Yancey says about God, “I had no other choice”. Like a concept painfully introduced to me…”better the back side than the far side”.

The lesson drawn from Job was helpful. The response God was drawing on from Job, which although Job apparently didn’t completely live up to, was not “Why?” but “to what end”? I know I go around looking for examples of harder cases than my own, so I can motivate myself, that ‘if he or she can do it, so can I!” But as life demands, the world turns and so do we. Thank goodness for God’s rest that we can enter in now, as we watch our “mind of Christ” develop and mature more and more. For the goal is when we see God face to face! What a mind blowing reality! No one has seen God face to face in this life…something to meditate on.

I always wondered how the bad advice of Job’s friends made it into Holy scripture. Well, as far as I can see it, not just to emphasize Job’s better response by keeping it real, but also to show us the readers how guilty we are of “God helps those who help themselves” kinds of foolish advice. But let’s face it. God is a problem solver, so made in His image, we are too. But…we’re not exactly on His timetable. I keep thinking “does God really know how to make a pot (me) because it seems He keeps dropping it on the ground and starting over”. Yes, trusting the process or journey wasn’t really helpful to Job either. Kinda like Simba needing to hear from his dad, Mufasa…in the Lion King, Job desperately needed an audience with God more than anything.

I’ll stop there, so you can read the book. If you haven’t read Yancey, he is extremely well read, plays the critic to the nth degree, and grows with the reader. I’ve read a handful of his books. Makes me feel like I’m reading 10 books at once with all his references. Former editor of Christianity Today mag…and he sports a large, white afro! Much like the brilliant public television artist, Bob Ross!!

I”ll close with this…the late Ravi Zacharias, modern day Christian apologist said he couldn’t go into Scripture cold. He had a go to author who he would turn to for short stories, some fiction. So that’s why an author like Yancey is so valuable…bc he never loses sight of his need to learn. Like an inquisitive child, here is his connection with and inspiration for his readers.

Not my problem

*Gonna be a song Lord willing…

In at the break of dawn

all night long on the run

your mind is catching up with the manic things you’ve done

Put me in a 3 piece

“But you know I don’t do weddings.

Especially not my own

But now someone took my seat, and there’s beauty in white walking up to me!”

I want to live…experience.

Want to believe there’s just 1 way out

So I just let it be, I turn my other cheek

But I’m in too deep. The problem is not my own.

You know better than to call me a trend setter

the fetters are off, gloves are in the ring

Any way, something’s gotta give.

To every thing turn!

take every blow…absorb!

Forget what’s behind, even if it was 30 seconds ago, Live in the present man!

Everything is clearly not as it seems.

black is white and red is green

and blue jeans set the precedent, among the faithful pew fillers

because art imitates life, and art is in the home and home is where the heart is.

So I will take my problems to the foot of my tv, and await a tweet from the president.

Loose Family Ties

“This little piggy had one, this little piggy had none, and this little piggy went all the way home (crying all the way).

Correct! DNA is a terrible determinant for the ties that bind in a family, be it in the arena of talents, common interests, music tastes, etc….all those things which form our individualities..

Yes, every hair on our head is nunbered, so we very nearly need to dread our sibling’s hair to our own (being intentional?). Me, I’m growing my hair long so my distinguishing characteristics are best known by clogging the shower drain, disallowing others’ hair to escape,

Bob Dylan ends his magnanimous poem “Last thoughts on Woody Guthrie” by reminding the reader “God is found in a church of your choice, while Woody is bedridden in Brooklyn state hospital.” But no fear, because “it may be only my opinion, I may be right or wrong, but you can find them both at Grand Canyon, sundown.”

Maybe that’s a statement on our unity in humanity, especially those with aesthetic sensitive palate. Jesus sure seemed to be a fan of common aesthetic interests…like who doesn’t like Picasso!!…or El Greco!!…or Dali!!?? I think Dali’s audience was unified an awful lot in the appreciation of the male sexual drive

Then there’s our peers who steer away from mummy dearest, dread the lot, and our fav professors that make us want to study more than humanly reasonable.

Anyhowsers, I seem to be defending our parents and how they brought us up right…or wrong say some things from my sisters. After all, I should be the expert as I am the momma”s boy. I like to call myself Jacob, a little bit crafty deceptive ya know. Yes! I have always won the family wrestling matches!

What about your bros and sistas! Do they make you who you are or who you never want to be, as you make your way to the tattoo parlor to see if they can scratch out dna “defects” as well.

Spiritual Discernment – like riding a bike

So once there was a boy…that liked a certain girl.  But then later he didn’t like her, but she then liked him, so he wondered what happened to him liking her.

So he thought to himself, she likes me and I have liked her, so maybe I should put myself into this and then it would be good right?!

Have you ever been victim…uh I mean, participant of a covenant?  Married folks put your hands down.  We got you.

So like…a covenant is something that doesn’t really end.  So naturally, the participants are going to watch their emotional affections for each other wax and wane as the course of time has a way on us.  So it is well known that being in a covenant involves perspiration, and tears, if not blood.  By nature of the terms, you gotta hold on like it’s a ride.

What about nullifications?  “I moved on from her.  She no longer is interesting to me.”  We know the script.  But what we may tend to forget is the part about not just hoping things will return to utopia, but about the proactive monorail that gets you there.

And guess what’s another well known factor we usually don’t bring to task?

Ephesians 6:12 – For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Yeppers.  Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub.  Angels and demons whispering warning and threats, lies and promises.  And me stuck in the middle with you, making you eat your words which were merely processed through your tongue.  The bad stuff comes from our hearts, and this is the playground of wisdom we treasure, and stuff we take CAPTIVE, making them to obey Christ.

So here’s the payoff pitch…Do we believe it is fair to have so much competing noise?  Of course not, but do we believe we can filter out the good stuff, and put it to use?

The same source, the Bible (words of God), that informs us of the existing battle between good and evil in our lives offers a few, at least more so direct, compasses to help us navigate these waters.  One technique is to “put on” or employ the “full armor of God” as outlawed in Ephesians 6:10-18.  This passage also mentions the important technique as well, as to let prayer have a natural place in yourselves, but specifically for other members of Christ around the world…”who are suffering”.

Well that puts things into perspective.  So…

• use the armor supplied to us.

• “Pray continually”

• Pray for suffering brothers and sisters around the world.

In another place in scripture we see how we can engage the spirit as to drive him away.  We are to ask the spirit if it acknowledges Christ came in the flesh to our world.  This one I have always been unclear on, so the letter to the Romans suggests an angle that’s a bit more intelligible…

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

So here we see that testing plays an integral role in growing the ability to discern well.  But the testing only comes to reveal our transforming heart that we are allowing to occur.  It also says here, the goal of discernment, that is, a knowledge of what pleases God, is what unlocks the door.

Finally, discernment is meant to mold a believer from a seeker to a teacher.  We see this from where it says…

Hebrews 5:14 – But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

So…

• Discernment is necessary to be able to make good choices,

• Also to know that good choices are informed by what pleases God.

• And CONSTANT PRACTICE, like getting up and trying again, are ENCOURAGING, although usually a bit painful.  Because they enable us to…

DISTINGUISH!!

Discernment is a growing organism, ignited by your need to make a good choice.

Unfortunately it is not like riding a bike in the sense that it requires constant practice..many, regular tries.  And you need to keep it available.  

But…it IS like riding a bike in that once you get it out of the shed and onto the road,,,it’s like FREEEDOMM!

Fight, Flight, or Fun Night?

Jesus of Nazareth once told a parable about a certain servant, with a duty to fulfill.

The question Jesus posed was this, ‘when dinner time rolls around, will the good servant go and recline at the table alongside his master?  Or will he serve the Master, only then eating his own portion, considering such a sequence his duty’.

What is our duty in the shadow of the pendemic?  Sure feels like it’s every American for himself, but of course that’s not reality.  Ask your local medical professional about duty.  None of them get paid enough for what they are doing, what they are experiencing, being challenged with.  Remuneration is no longer an afterthought…duty.

So my duty has been to help neighbors with home maintenance, particularly pressure washing.  The duty is service, but the service takes a preemptive move that’s a bit controversial right now…a knock on their front door.  I haven’t had a taker on the pressure washing as of yet, but I have been encouraged that the majority of home owners have stepped outside to talk to me, a stranger, who could be infected, who could be exhibiting terrorism.  

Well we’re welcoming in the South, more so when the virus hasn’t landed so much here yet.  So a knock on the door at this point might symbolize a small break in the quarantine blues, if not just the usual expected scare.  But my duty is to hold tight.  It’s not about the response.  That would be all about me.  It’s about a little bit of shock therapy…if that, to remind folks that they’re cared for and that God is in control.  After all, that’s why I’m braving potential infection to spread some warmth.

“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”   Love is powerful.  It covers many sins, it is the only thing that keeps our well wishing from actually being more harmful.  It drives out fear.  It puts fear in its place: associated with punishment.  Its origin is in God himself.  It’s his essence.  And it is a command that keep us standing tall…”Love your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

“How can you love God whom you can’t see if you can’t love your brother whom you can see.”

Loving God and loving your neighbor are one command.  For the manifestation of each is comprised in the other.

There are quite a few of us it seems who are giving up, at least for a bit, on the home quarantine policy.  I mean, who can blame them? Living in fear must in some way make you more susceptible to predators on your immune system.

The Great God of the universe makes promises in many occasions to those who will submit to His ways…They will live in the land and prosper.  The dagger shall not harm you by day nor the pestilence by night.

Trust and obey.  There is no other way, to be truly happy…in Jesus, than to trust and obey.  He IS a fortress, a shield.  Take yourself out of it.  The great physician will take care of you.  Think on eternity and love.

“Nothing to fear but fear itself.”  

My Imaginary Friend

My imaginary friend is special..a little outside the norm as imaginary friends go.

First, my friend does not share a gender identification with me.  She is a she.  

Second, others can see her but I can’t.

Third, only I know her real identity.  And only I can understand who she is to me, correctly.

So, it sounds like a relationship gone wrong, right?  What makes her imaginary, besides the fact I can’t see her anymore?

I submit to myself encouragement from the book of Hebrews in the Bible, “faith is the evidence of things of unseen, the substance of things hoped for”.

You know the bumper sticker, “God said it.  I believe it.  That settles it.”

When left to a trite level the sticker is just that, trite.  

But if you’re really trying to put such a childlike trust into action, then you’ve got your work cut out for you.

You know how life goes…God is in the business of preparing his kids for His kingdom.  In doing so, He seemingly often likes to strip us of many of our sources of earthly comfort, in the process of us maybe using some of our imagination in beginning to see and trust Him for who He is.

Well, imagination doesn’t stand alone.  And changing gears for God’s kingdom looks different for different folks.  Leaving immediate family for your own, new family is a big gear change.  Leaving the big city ripe with job opportunities to start a church in the country…could be another.

What about when He asks you to flip imaginary onto its head…until imaginary begins to take shape, and precedence over the seen, the felt, the observed?  Now, this you must agree sounds like an accurate description of prep for an other worldly kingdom inhabitation.

This begs some digging.  So we have a few instances in the Bible where it is recorded that God required some serious, committed imagination, via an agreement between Himself and an individual.  We have Adam, guardian over creation…well that covenant was broken, and adjusted.  Then we have Noah, preserver of creation…after Noah complied, God said no more destroying the earth.  Then Abraham, with the huge family line of believers promised to him..King David, and Jesus, the author and fulfillment of the “New Covenant”, the one in which we stand, freed by reliance on His ultimate sacrifice for sin.

These examples required much faith, a God-inspired imagination to sustain, perhaps their own resolve…

 ‘How is this gonna work out?  Myself and my wife are pretty darn old already.’ – Abraham

‘How are you going to save your people, Jesus?…by dying??’  – the disciples

You get the point.  It can definitely get hairy, especially at the outset, when you get the knock at your door, informing you that something is coming (something mostly unfamiliar), therefore something must be done (ambiguous feats of faith and hope and waiting).  So in order to connect your faith to the source that keeps it going, imagination certainly helps.  

So no, a 16 yr old imagination with the car keys for the first time doesn’t seem to ease your mind too much.  But a disciplined imagination, asked to build Solomon’s temple for example…enter superman: “but this great weapon in the wrong hands could…!”

Of course imagination can make a mess.  It can throw you into a tizzy.  I get that.  If Mary and Joseph had spent hours ruminating on the worse case scenario for Jesus’ birth,…stress?…panic attacks?  But you would agree they would have to give the idea some imagination, to keep from feeling like lunatics who doubted God.  I’m calling it mental yoga, preparing the mind for the shocks of following the Lord, and reminding of His promises and His deliverance.

Ok, so imagination plays an important part.  Now, if you were like me, playing by myself as a 10 year old rather vigorously lost in my imagination after an especially good episode of the old cartoon Transformers, you would have known that if you gave your revved up imagination an inch, it might run away with it, and you.  And you would agree that the embarrassment would come, from annoying older cousins telling you to come back down off of cloud 9.  But you would note that hey, my mind must be plenty healthy to be able to work like this.

Quick disclaimer: 

I started this entry with a nod to my personal life, partly because I want to illustrate something, and honestly hopefully work out some of my own situation.  🙂

So I’ve argued the good of imagination.  Now I ask how related to each other are imagination and faith?…

“Faith is the evidence of things unseen”…God called Noah to an extraordinary act of trust.  Noah’s agreement and dedication to the task produced the FAITH that carried the job to its completion.

“…the substance of things hoped for”

FAITH is the goal of our strivings.  God knows it is the ultimate tool for living the right life.  But it is a wonderful tool because it reminds us that in exercising our faith, we are not spinning our wheels.  It is in fact our connector to hope.  And HOPE doesn’t disappoint.

At this point, I have tried to cling to a continuation of my old friend and I being friends, instead of relinquishing her back to my imagination, or good memories, and let God do His thing for now…or for forever with us back to our own gigs.

Imagination, I would say is most useful because…

It can provide a welcome distraction, a rest for the brain.

It can encourage the developing of faith and hope, as it helps the mind give the task at hand some shape.

And I can see it assisting men with empathy, with each other and with God’s design, to grand for us.

But to weary travelers…Guard your heart.  A pure heart can keep the imagination from taking the tongue hostage.

Let me know when you see my friend :)https://getbuiltchattanooga.com

FaithFUL

So I understand the rationale behind and the reality of holding your tongue.  We are in a battle and giving free rein to your thoughts, esp. your complaints is letting your shield down to the enemy.  Thoughts are natural, common to the human race.  Letting the tongue, a little thing prone to evil, take over is a problem.

So my issue today folks is twofold.  First is well, how do folks, especially members of the body of Christ connect without honest communication?  Sign language?

Second, yes, I would rather be touting God’s attributes than my own problems, but what about in the case of desperation?  Emergency even?  I need a life raft.  I know you’ve got one.  So…do I say God is good all the time!..and expect verbalizing that to get me a life raft?  Maybe..

Regrettably, if we’re being honest, this life is meant to be lived by faith.  Now wake me up when you figure this one out.  All I know are words like perseverance, patience, hope.  None of these are walk in the park concepts to be actualized.  I myself am even catapulted from such vocabulary to make statements like scripture is not as useful as I once thought.

But yes, I just reread about the character Faithful from Pilgrim’s Progress, who was martyred in the town of Vanity Fair for upsetting the usual fanfare with proclaiming truth as the only commodity he would buy.  Reminds me of Jesus saying in Revelation that he “who is faithful unto death” will be given a crown of life.

Well as our protagonist Christian and Faithful are coming upon Vanity Fair, their friend Evangelist tells them that he who stands firm til death will be the better off between them because he will arrive to the Celestial City first.  Well, Faithful seemingly grabs the opportunity to go home, openly defies the townspeople, is executed and is escorted out of there via fiery steed and golden chariot!

Jesus is big on longevity.  A Long Obedience in the Same Direction – Eugene Peterson.  The folks who get to judgment to say “Lord, Lord” are the ones to which He will say He never knew.  Because He had in mind not so much flash in the pan so as everyday hand to the plow, not looking back.  I mean, we’re surrounded by a “great cloud” of witnesses, not to mention our own family.  Let’s put the millstone and the depths of the sea behind us, please. We don’t want anyone to get hurt. 😉

So I get faithFUL but it seems a bit different than exhibiting faith.  The former to me says steadfast, tough, standing the test of time.  The latter suggests more of an attitude, that may have to last a long time, but it banks on what is unseen, and lives accordingly.  Also, faith seems to be about preparation.  I believe Abraham had to wait in faith a while for a son in order to prepare him for the test that lay in wait.  And what stakes!  All those sand on the seashore descendants to come!

We also are taught faith is connected with righteousness..the Lord’s righteousness no less.  Maybe Abraham’s faith was converted to righteousness in some way because of the enormity and duration of the assignment.  But later on, we are taught that “the righteous must live by faith”, which is amazing to me because our righteousness is imputed, given by Jesus himself through his blood.  So in essence, Abraham’s faith is turned on it’s head because of the New Covenant and establishment of God’s kingdom on earth…NOW IT’S NOT THE ONES WITH FAITH WHO ARE GIVEN RIGHTEOUSNESS, BUT IT IS THE RIGHTEOUS WHO ARE GIVEN FAITH…as a charge.

And faith is about repeating the overused phrase, “I can’t complain”.  Because to complain is to doubt, and that is simply not faith.  So I submit that this is the nicety that should be employed regularly.  This one is real.  When I say God is on His throne, when I really need to talk to someone, it is true and wise, but I think faith in this instance is having the boldness to ask for help.  The tongue is dangerous, yes, but where it begins is in the heart.  “The heart is deceitful above all things, who can know it.”

However…David found it profitable to ask the Lord for clean hands AND a pure heart!  From a washed heart of stone made flesh, yes, the tongue can proclaim good, even wonderful things.