Tuesday, December 16, 2014

High and Lofty

(Every year my church publishes a book of Advent devotions written by ordinary followers of Jesus. Here's mine in the original, uncut version. I had to shrink it down some to make it small enough to fit in the book.) 

2014 Advent Devotional 

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: 

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; 
the whole earth is full of his glory.” 

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

 (Isaiah 6.1-5, NRSV

At this time of year we are used to hearing the strains of Good King Wenceslas reminding those of us “wealth or rank possessing” to help the poor and afflicted. This isn’t just a moving fable; there really was a King Wenceslas the 1st of Bohemia (in the modern Czech Republic) and by most accounts he was quite an unusual King. 

On his throne amid affairs of state Wenceslas was no doubt clothed in robes of splendor. But as one ancient historian tells us, 

“Rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.” 

In this passage from the Book of Isaiah, the prophet is faced with the holy God in all his glory seated on his high and lofty throne. “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips,” he cries in terror, and “my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 

Yet as he prophesies later in his book, when this High King visits his people it will be as a peasant child, a Suffering Servant. And to his subjects he gives the greatest “alm” of all: sheer, unmerited grace. 

 Prayer: God of glory, thank you for your gift of grace. May we give it generously to all we meet. Amen.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Infinite Power, Infinite Compassion

Etching by Chaim Koppelman
It is the prerogative of great strength to be gentle. Always remember that you are linked with the Infinite God, and that all things are possible to you. There must also be infinite pity. We must be tolerant and pitiful to those who abuse us, or have been embittered by disappointment, or have been ill-used.

It must be our aim to make allowances for such, and always to be sweetly reasonable towards any brusqueness, rudeness and bad manners of their behaviour. Let us be willing to admit that much is due to congenital moroseness. Therefore, we bear gently with the erring, and with those who are out of the way, because we also are encompassed with infirmity.

F B Meyer

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Deeds and Deep Knowledge

Photo by Steve Evans
This is from T. Austin Sparks, an author I'm reading right now. I like his intense devotion to God's will, something I also get from Oswald Chambers' writings. 

What was the one thing the prophets were always talking about? It was about knowing the Lord. The thing that was lacking amongst the Lord's people in the days of the prophets was the knowledge of the Lord. There were plenty of people who were prepared to have the Lord for what He could do for them, but as for the Lord Himself... ah, that was another matter.

What is the Lord after with you and with me? Is He first of all wanting us to do things? The idea of what is of God today is chiefly associated with the things which are being done for Him, the work we are engaged in, and so on—that is, with what is objective and outward. But the Lord is not first of all concerned about how much we do.

He is far more concerned that, whether we do little or much, every bit of it should come out of a knowledge of Himself. Any amount can be done for the Lord in Christian work and activities, just as you do other work, but it may not proceed from your own deep knowledge of God. The Lord is concerned above all else that we should know Him.

T. Austin-Sparks
Prophetic Ministry
Chapter 5

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Photo by fir0002
When we walk in the Spirit He produces in us the fruit of a holy character. The contrast between the works of the -- i.e., the selfish life -- and the fruit of the Spirit, which is the natural product of His influence, is very marked. In works there is effort, the clatter of machinery, the deafening noise of the factory. But fruit is found in the calm, still, regular process of Nature, which is ever producing in her secret laboratory the kindly fruits of the earth.

 How quiet it all is! There is no voice nor language. It is almost impossible to realise what is being effected by a long summer day of sunshine. The growing of autumn arrives with noiseless footsteps.

So it is with the soul that daily walks in the Spirit. There are probably no startling experiences, no marked transitions, nothing special to record in the diary, but every year those who live in close proximity witness a ripening wealth of fruit in the manifestation of love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control.

F. B. Meyer

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Next Job

Well-Used Tools
Photo by Biser Todorov
Today in church we sang a song called Be Still, My Soul, and this line really impressed me -- or more to the point, God really impressed me with this line:

Be still, my soul,
your God will undertake to guide the future,
as in ages past...

To me "your God will undertake" makes the lyrics much more solid and real. Katharine von Schlegel, who wrote them back in 1752, doesn't say, "Don't worry because God is always guiding the future from eternity," like many hymn writers would. No, she says, "Don't worry Christian, because God is rolling up his sleeves, getting out his tools, spitting in his hands and rubbing them together, and 'undertaking' his next job -- guiding the future." He is a worker (John 5.17); God gets dirty hands and splinters while he constructs this future.

Just like he has dependably done for "ages past."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Golden Calf

The Golden Calf
Your Christian influence, your reputation as a worker for God, and your standing among your brethren, may be an idol to which you must die, before you can be free to live for Him alone.

- A.B. Simpson

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Messed Up Gospel

Our Shopping List
All throughout the history of the Christ Movement we've gotten off track in how we understand and teach the Great Announcement of the Gospel.  Part of the reason for this blog is provide a place where people interested in Christianity can get past all that and see what it was that Jesus started.

Here is a random sampling of 14 ways we mess up the Gospel and get off message. They from a blog post by Howard Snyder called 14 Favorite Ways to Twist the Gospel.  By all means  read the whole thing here. It's a good list!

#11. Substitute heaven for the kingdom of God.
In the Bible, the kingdom of God is as comprehensive as the reality, sovereignty, and love of God. No spirit/matter dualism. Most people in Jesus’ days understood this; they knew that “kingdom of heaven” in Matthew, for example, was just another way of saying “kingdom of God.”

In the Bible we see the kingdom of God as both now/future, heavenly/earthly, personal/social, sudden/gradual, inward/outward, in a mysterious dialectic with the church which itself is neither the kingdom of God nor divorceable from God’s kingdom.

#2. Focus solely on “personal salvation.”
The Bible does not teach “personal salvation” in the private, individualistic way that phrase has come to mean. Rather it teaches in multiple ways and through many metaphors the reconciliation of all things (e.g., Eph. 1, Col. 1)—though not without judgment.

#12. Faith just a part of life.
We compartmentalize. Our Christian walk gets reduced to just one part of our lives, and that one part is often reduced to simply what we believe.

But now abide faith, hope, and love—and the Bible makes clear which is the “greatest” and most comprehensive. According to the gospel, faith is not the ultimate reality; it is the means to the end of loving God and others and all God’s creation with our whole being. And that 24/7, as the saying goes.

The biblical picture is faith working by love; love enabled by faith and powered by hope—full confidence in God’s amazing full-salvation-for-all-creation promises.

#5. Thinking economics and politics are not directly gospel concerns.
Walling off economics and politics from the gospel, placing them outside our discipleship, is unbiblical dualism. The gospel is an economic and political reality, so by definition the church is both economic and political. But economics and politics are to be understood in light of the gospel, not the other way round. The kingdom of God is the comprehensive framework.