Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Holy Shimmer

God is everywhere and everywhen - in place and moment.  He pines, "If they would see, then I would heal..." (Matthew 13:15) and he bemoans when his people have hardened hearts such that they are "ever seeing...but not perceiving..." Matthew 13:13.  


These seem to be a continual theme for God and he has many times "opened the eyes" of people, whether it be Elisha (2 Kings 6:17), those who need to see sin for what it is (Psalm 91:18) or the truths of God's instructions (Psalm 119:18).  Opening the eyes of people is part of his plan for bringing the Messiah to earth and freeing people (Isaiah 42:7) and for them to be able to live in the light of his salvation (Acts 26:17-18)  


What catches your eye?  What light reveals God's truths and salvation which can open your mind, also?  We usually stay in the abstract with the words that we read, but could you use your optic sense to take in greater God-Truths?  Could you see him in nature, in art, in faces, in beauty, in storm and calm?  


Ask God to show you his truths through your senses.  Wait for it.  Thank him for the chance to receive revelation through any means.  Don't let it go in one eye and out the other. 

  

Praying in Color I

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Western Ten Commandments

Y'all have no other god b'fore me.

No makin' idols.

When y'all use my name, y'better mean it.

Lay off the trail one day a week.

Mind yer ma & pa.

No killin' folks.

Dance with who brung ya.

No swipin'.

No lyin'.

No hankerin' for things that ain't yers.

                                              - Veggie Tale Folks

Humbleness

God gives us even more grace to stand against evil desires.  The scriptures say, "God opposes the proud but favors the humble." So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Come close to God and God will come close to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts.  For your loyalty is divided between God and the world.
                                                                                                          James 4:6-8


It is pretty simple:
  • Humble yourself.
  • Submit to God.
  • oppose the devil - he's a coward.
  • Get close to God.
  • Clean up your act. 
  • Clean up your motivations.  
  • Don't have divided loyalties.
Humility:  I need growth.  I bow before God fairly easily (or so I think), but before others, I don't easily acquiesce.  This probably reveals the truth of my relationship with God, if I would admit it.  I try, but when someone is not in agreement with me and my contrivances about how things should be, I know I resist.


The solution is to clean up my sinful self in the obvious places.  Wash my hands - purify myself from sinful actions.  Cleanse my heart - in the core of my intentions and motivations.  My loyalty is divided on whether I will serve God or myself.  The question becomes:  who is on the throne of my heart?  How do I unseat myself from that throne?  


It is a pitiful sight when I live my life for just myself:  I will lose it, Jesus assures me.  But to gain life, I must give up the throne, give up the helm.  Richard Rohr says, ultimately, we are addicted to ourselves, which can be seen when I am at the center of every decision and action.  When that is true, the "Christian" life is a sham.  It is not Christ at all.  


That sham is a shame and verse 9 of James 4 explains what our reaction must be:  Let there be tears for what you have done.  Let there be sorrow and deep grief.  Let there be sadness instead of laughter and gloom instead of joy.  



It's a terrible offense to relegate God to second place in my heart.  Worse yet to think he would serve me and my purposes.  Am I truly stricken by the awfulness of usurping God's rightful place in my heart?  Do I lament and grieve?  Do I see my betrayal of God as a cause for deep sorrow?  Any joy I might seek for myself should be a place for shame!


So, now my choice is clear.  I must submit - keep God on the throne of my life by deciding to whom I am loyal.  He is the ruler.  He holds the power.  He has the plan that is perfect and perfect for me.  It is a good plan, though maybe not the easy plan, but it is the plan which makes life worth living. It is the plan that prepares me for heaven.  It is new every day.  It calls me higher.  It brings peace. 


Being loyal to God alone:  that's worth pursuing.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Wisdom

Who in your community is understanding and wise?  Let her example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others...The wisdom of this world should never be mistaken for heavenly wisdom, for it originates in earthly realms and is earthly, unspiritual and even demonic...Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits untainted by hypocrisy.  It results in a harvest of righteousness which is sown in peace by those who make peace.  James 3:13-18 (selections)

I need to look for the wise in my community and not be fooled by the world's definition of wisdom, which is easy to note by its jealousy and selfishisness and the resulting chaos and evil.  

A pursuit of righteousness follows the path of wisdom.  The Greek for "righteousness" includes the thought that a person would "be as one ought to be."  To finally be right.  Yes, ultimately, to be right with God and to be the wise, sincere, peace-seeking person God intended.

I have had so many other pursuits! To be "as I should" seems to be a quest of identity or, at least, of character:  a sincere reflection of God-character in me, as he made me to be.  Because of the other-focus of this section of James, it seems to involve a sincere effort to pursue peace and plant peace so that others can be as they should, too.

The steps to that rightness is through purity, peace, gentleness, deference to others (remember not selfish ambition) and mercy.  I feel God drawing me into those definitions; his measures for these qualities come from him.  As he draws me to those qualities, other worldly measures for wisdom no longer apply.  I can be free.  To be me.  (Wasn't there a book title?)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Good

Good deeds must accompany faith, otherwise it is not faith at all.  It's just a good idea.

"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Will that kind of faith save him?  Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works."  James 2:14-19

Faith is demonstrated by our actions.  Jesus tells the same truth about the good apple which can only come from a good tree.  It sounds simple, yet, what are "good" deeds which result from faith and NOT FROM SELF-SATISFACTION OR SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS?

How does my faith determine my deeds?  Do my good deeds "feel" good? Or do I engage in deeds which require me to be uncomfortable because they are from God.  In fact, when I operate out of "my" gifts, I may tend to take credit for the deeds.  Excess turns all gifts into curses, says Richard Rohr.  What should be used for God's good is used to help me feel purposed, useful or more gifted.    

My deeds must originate from who God is, not who I am.  If God means to draw all men to him or for his people to be unified or to be love itself, which deeds honor his character/his truth?  Jesus said it simply, as you treat the least (by whatever definition that is for you), that is how I treat him.  Am I patronizing? Am I empowering?  Am I meeting their needs or my own?

What is "good" is determined by God and points to his goodness (not mine).  Knowing God guides me to understand how he sees people and what he wants for them.  I want to bridge cultural divides so more can have access to material goods and spiritual good because Jesus often talks about meeting the needs of the poor, both physical and spiritual.  

I also have to confront systems which oppress.  Isaiah 58 uses strong language of a true fast:  loosen the bonds of wickedness, undo the straps of the yoke which oppresses and to break every yoke.  These are action-centered efforts, which often cause me to be uncomfortable.

It is  the Lord's good when I march for change, when I write my representatives, when I advocate for changed legislation, when I empower others to vote.  I stay uncomfortable so that others can be set free.  Not as fun as teaching a class - not as succinct nor with immediate feedback - but for the cause of Christ in the world, I do this unlikely "good."

The Perfect Psalm

Psalm 19:7-10

God's law is perfect, turning lives around.
His words are reliable and true,
instilling wisdom to open minds.
The Eternal One's directions are correct,
giving satisfaction to the heart.
God's commandments are clear,
lending clarity to the eyes.
The awe of The Eternal One is pure,
sustaining for all of eternity.
The Eternal One's decisions are sound;
they are right through and through.
They are worth more than gold -
even more than abundant, pure gold.
They are sweeter than honey
or the drippings of the honeycomb.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Come Alive!

Listen to me:  You must be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.  For human anger does not produce the righteousness of God.  So, get rid of the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept this word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
Don't just listen to God's word, you must do it.  Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the Word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.  You see yourself, walk away and forget who you are, what you look like.  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
                                                                                                                 James 1:19-27

I am so convicted by this set of verses.  While I am not prone to anger, I am prone to speak first and listen later.  What a practice to keep my mouth shut!

Actually, the thought-provoking statement is "forgetting who you are, forgetting what you look like."  The challenge is for my statements to reflect God's ultimate Truth about me (and not the sinful-evil/filthy truth).  If I claim the truth that I am a child of God, that I follow Jesus Christ, that I desire to obey his commandments for me, then my speech should follow accordingly.  My actions should follow in such a way to produce the "rightness" of God.

This is neither novel nor complicated.  It is quite simple, but incredibly hard.

I think though, there is clear directive about how to do it.  If I can keep my thoughts in my head and measure it by the righteousness (rightness) of God then my words would change.  "Slow to speak" gives me time to evaluate the tone and emphasis of my words within the context of the intent of God.  Then my words would be first loving, then clearly constructive and, finally, a blessing.  They could still be a challenge or correction, but more readily received and God more easily seen.

What a great opportunity!  To have my words reflect God!  Glory!


Saturday, August 17, 2019

Share


My dearly loved brothers and sisters, don't be misled.  Every good gift bestowed, even perfect gift received comes to us from above, courtesy of the Father of lights.He won't change His mind or play tricks in the shadows.  We have a special role in His plan.  He calls us to life by His message of truth so that we will show the rest of His creatures His goodness and love.
                                                                 James 1:16-18

I do have so many gifts:  salvation, resources, family, good health, choices.  Lord, I have you!  (Or you have me!)  Show me how to use them to show your love.  Some are obvious:  I use my resources to benefit others.  I use my health in social justice and taking care of others.  I see that I can use the outcomes of my salvation - assurance, freedom, love, right living - the same way.

Sometimes those things appear most clearly when you carried and sustained me through dark times.  Are you seen better at the margins?  The proliferation of wealth and resources seems a murky presentation because it resembles and is mixed with cultural standards.

I want to distinctly pull out the gifts and use them to show your goodness and love.  I think that includes never taking credit for them, using it for the welfare of others, living thankfully, learning how to celebrate properly and by pointing to you constantly.  Each of those deserves expansion.

You are a generous God!



Thursday, August 01, 2019

Sanctification


Items which were pure,

or of first or best effort,

were then dedicated for a holy act of God:  

sacrificed or used.


The purposes were many:

to atone for sin,

as a mark of gratitude or

as a blessing to God.


Lord, sanctify me.