Friday, June 15, 2007

Irony

The stack of papers was thick, inches maybe. The room, graced with lively Baroque music. I liked much of what I was reading--my students’ literary analyses of Great Expectations. Several of them were actually quite good.

The hour hand had moved forward one by the time I reached for God’s Masterpiece and prayed, “Help me to see something in here that I’ve never seen before.” His Book is the most splendid of all works, alive with literary images and themes that even the greatest authors must only build upon.

It so happened that my reading was to begin in 2 Samuel 11—a dreadful chapter in the Bible, one that exposes the sin of him who was perhaps the greatest of all poets, David. Maybe it was those analyses that had rubbed off on me, because I was seeing irony everywhere. And I’m not just talking about the salient ones—like Uriah delivering his own death note to Joab. What of these?

*Why did Uriah, a Hittite (Gentile, not of the house of Israel) have more loyalty to God than God’s anointed king of His chosen nation?

*David’s anger is projected in one instance and real in another. Is it not ironic that the “man after God’s own heart” should become angry over physical calamities / social injustices but fail to be stirred over numerous sins (staying home from war, lusting after Bathsheba, committing adultery with her, killing her husband in battle)?
--Joab predicts that the king may become gravely upset that the Israelites had approached too close to the city and thereby lost men.
--David’s anger is “greatly kindled” over the sheep story that Nathan tells. (ch. 12)

*Earnestly David desired to cover his sin. How ironic that every “secret” thing he committed in this narrative is now known to any who should read these chapters or hear them preached.

God’s Masterpiece tells me that “These things were written for our examples.” And as I considered David’s reactions to God’s way, I at once realized the irony I commit whenever I walk my own way instead of following the path of the omniscient God, Who loves me and sent His Son for me.

Immediately I considered how David’s anger was all mixed up, and the following incident came to mind: Last week, when my husband and I were on our honeymoon and visiting Mackinac Island, we toured Fort Mackinac, which earned fame from the 1770s on. Our tour brought us to a particular outbuilding in which recorded voices and mannequins “recreated” a battle from the War of 1812. In the three-minute recording, God’s name was used as an exclamation. In minutes, my husband had dialed the fort’s number and kindly registered a comment. He said something like this: “I’m sure it was an oversight, but here at [and he mentioned the building], I heard the name of God used as an exclamation. There are children who come in here and I believe that in the army during that time, saying these words would not have been acceptable; besides, having this word used in such a way is offensive to some people.” The office took his name and address and said someone would personally get back to him.

Here was anger for sin. Anger that most of us Christians don’t deal with. We hear God’s name taken in vain all over the place—people we’re talking to, shows we’re watching, talk radio hosts we’re listening to—and we do nothing. We have failed to get angry over sin. Get the same group of us hungry or tired or sore or sick, and complaints we’ll register! Like David, who was keenly aware of common decency toward innocent people but flagrantly disobeyed a holy God, our frustration is too often put in the wrong place.

Other lessons about irony?

Attempting to sin and get away with it is sheer folly.

Whenever I fail to honor and glorify God (as did David in this story), I am acting ironically, for who among the created beings should praise the Most High more than His elect?

In short, irony is a Christian living for himself when the God of the Universe gave His Son for him.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

WORLDLINESS: What is it--really?

The world. If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard messages on this topic time and again. It’s definitely a thing to be rooted out completely from the Christian’s life. We don’t want worldly influences in our lives—whether that be from movies, music, entertainment--you name it. First John 2 tells us that the world is made up of the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” which are not of the Father, but are of the world. I would contend that anything which fits those categories, then, is worldly.

What appeals to my flesh? Easy it is to categorize carnal amusements and pleasures—the stuff many a sermon receives “Amens” to. Against Hollywood, against gambling, against drinking, against carnal TV programs. And I agree. We should be against these wicked ways in which the devil, who is the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience” seeks to tempt man. But what about other areas of the flesh? Does the flesh have dominion over me in any way? What about those sins of "ommission"? In the parable of the sower, Christ tells us that the third ground was choked by the cares of this world. Mark 4:19 reads, “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”

This verse generates these questions in my mind: Do I continually love to spend time in reading God’s Word and prayer? Am I consistent in doing so? Is my life characterized by constantly drawing upon God’s power to do what is right—not just to think it but actually to live it out and do it? Worldliness is not only getting the world out in a physical sense—having the right dress standards, listening to God-honoring music, keeping oneself pure before marriage—but worldliness is aggressively ridding myself of any “care” of the world.

Am I anxious? Worried? Fretful? Then I am being worldly, for I have let the cares of this world enter in and choke the Word of God from bearing the fruit God desires me to bear. Am I angry? Uptight? Sensitive? Those actions, too, are of the world. What about my thought life? Do I dwell on my own dreams and exciting goals (good though they may be) but fail to spend time meditating on God's unchanging Word? Have I ever allowed work to become utmost priority, thus being entrapped by the deceitfulness of riches? If so, I am worldly.

What of those “lusts of other things” mentioned in the Mark passage? For example, do I desire to have or be the “best” in some area? If my pursuit of this "best" is not God’s best for me, then once again, I am being worldly. And this, friends, is only a slight catalog of lusts of the flesh (not to mention the lust of the eyes or the pride of life)!

As I prepare for my upcoming wedding--now less than six days away--I have been tempted to let the things of the world distract me, to fail to spend enough time with the Lord—time I desperately need to draw from His strength and become more like my precious Savior Who died for me. My loving fiancĂ© last night gently reminded me, “Heather, don’t be like the third type of soil in the parable of the sower. Don’t let the cares of the world distract you from the most important Object of your affection.”

The Lord used those words, kindly uttered and free from any part of the flesh, to awaken my spirit to my true condition. How I praise God for directing my focus back to the lasting stuff of eternity!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

You’re Invited

The embossed open Bible and lavender flowers were carefully selected. The font was precisely the script I had hoped for; the wording, exactly as I had planned. Now as I sat engulfed by stacks of wedding invitations, I felt the mammoth task of addressing envelopes eased by encouraging thoughts of the upcoming day. Names from days gone by, friends I’d had in Bible college, memories of other times—these came flooding back to me as I addressed envelopes first to relatives, then to long-time family friends, then to personal friends acquired over the years.

After several evenings of locating addresses and formatting my computer-generated envelopes, I had at last reached the very last card. What a huge project! I’d never guessed that inviting people to the wedding would take so long. But without the invitations, who would know? Who would show up?

As I congratulated myself on reaching the end of this part of my wedding preparation, another thought cascaded to my mind: this isn’t the only wedding I’m responsible for inviting people to.

No, in a short time, another wonderful wedding feast will be held, and people the world over are invited. Literally anyone can attend—for invitations have been extended by the Father of the Groom. There is merely one stipulation: any individual in attendance must be wearing a wedding garment. That wedding garment is free to him—certainly it is priceless and precious, bought with blood, in fact—but these pure robes of righteousness are without charge to all who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Many will attend this delightful banquet, celebrating bride and Bridegroom; but first, these must be invited.

How much effort am I putting into those invitations? Am I seeking out, in every neighborhood, long-forgotten souls who need to hear of this special event? Am I recalling everyone—even those who seem to spitefully treat the Bridegroom—and inviting them to this most wonderful wedding ever? “Go ye into all the world” is the Father’s command; He desires all to be in attendance at the gala event. Am I careful to present His invitation in a way that clearly explains how to get to this feast and illustrates the precious sacrifice of the Groom?

The invitations can be verbal or written; but they must carefully reflect the eternal truths presented in the Word of God. May I keep in mind this up-coming celebration and be as devoted to inviting people to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb as I have been in formatting and sending out invitations to my own upcoming wedding!

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Eternal God Controls the Weather

It was a beautiful morning in Wisconsin and the last day of our spring break. I had some checks to deposit at the bank and, for the purpose of making small talk stated simply to the bank cashier, “It’s finally beginning to feel like spring.”

Flipping her way through the checks and handing me my deposit ticket, she replied, “We so deserve it.”

Her words haunted me. Does her mindset reflect the worldview of a great majority of people? We deserve getting good weather? “No,” I thought inwardly as I pulled away from the bank, “All we deserve is death in hell for all eternity.”

Sound narrow-minded to you? Pathetic? Largely pessimistic? It is the Book of Truth, God’s Word, that gives this perspective.

From Psalm 47, we learn “The LORD Most High is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.” Whether you realize it or not, God is your King. He gives you every breath you have and supplies every gorgeous day you experience. He numbers the hairs of your head (Psalm 139) and declares that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” He is your Creator, the Sustainer of your life, and the One to Whom you will answer in Heaven.

I realized later that I should have remarked to the bank cashier, “God sure made a beautiful day, didn’t He?” God, in His graciousness, gave us beautiful weather that we as sinners do not deserve. She probably rarely, if ever, hears that perspective. But it is a perspective rooted in the pages of Scripture. In fact, not only weather but also natural disasters can come from the hand of the Lord. Psalm 46 declares, “Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations He hath made in the earth. He makes wars to cease unto the ends of the earth: He beaks the bow, and cuts the spear in sunder: He burns the chariot in the fire.”

Again, not a popular idea, that the God of the Universe allows, in fact makes, destructions in the earth. Was the damage in New Orleans due to our nation’s gross departure from the God of the Bible? Pat Robertson claimed it was and got all sorts of media flack as a result. But if God’s Word declares that our Righteous Judge, Who is your King to Whom you will answer, makes destructions on the earth, then we must believe that destructions can be caused by God.

On the flip side, God also makes wars to stop. Man can be credited with inventing the atomic bomb, which caused the Japanese to consider that continuing the war was not a good plan. But it was God Who caused World War 2 to cease.

Perhaps the huge devastation of the peach crop in the South by a sudden cold spell Easter weekend was not just “happenstance.” Could it be that our God to Whom we will give an account is seeking to show us our frailty? He designed us to be dependent—upon Him. He commands: “Be still and KNOW that I am God” and further explains why it is so essential for us to know Him as God: “I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”

God loves you and would never force Himself upon you. He created you to be a volitional being, capable of deciding for yourself whether or not you will choose Him. He makes very clear: “God reigns over the heathen: God sits upon the throne of holiness” (Ps. 47:8). You can choose to believe the written account that God left for you to live by, or you can choose to reject it. As for me, I have chosen His Book, starting with the syllogism found in Romans 3:4--“Let God be true and every man a liar.”

Reflections on Eternity: An Introduction

Eternity extends beyond the realm of time. Minutes and seconds vanish into the vapor of that which is called Forever. Hours and days, weeks and months, years, decades, centuries, and millennia—all stand as dust, transitory, unseen microcosms in the galaxy of the never-ending.

Imagine a coffee cup. At the disk-shaped bottom of the cup lies the entire period of known and unknown history. Grant and Lincoln, Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great, Napolean, and Adam—their lives, deeds, and existence take up not even a cubed milliliter. Throw the cup now into the center of the Atlantic Ocean. Within minutes, it has vanished, to be remembered no more.

If time today is thus perishing, why do we serve it as if it were a god to be worshiped? Why do we bow the knee to that which will fade, foregoing the most important elements which extend beyond mortal existence into the realms of the everlasting?

A familiar song says: “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Now imagine that above the sinking coffee cup comes a mist impenetrable by any force. While the porcelain sides of the object are soon to be ravaged by the ocean’s powerful surge and tempests, an abiding aura ascends above the crushed object. This mist lives on and on, illustrative of those investments which will last forever. For eternity.