The Kingdom of God Is Like A Game Of Catch

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Great thoughts from Carolyn Arends in her pleasantly moving book, “Theology In Aisle Seven”:

I suspect I have sometimes unconsciously used spiritual disciplines as smoke signals to get God’s attention. Now I am learning that they are simply ways of letting him capture mine…

…The other day I was trying to describe this shift in my understanding to my friend Roy Salmond. He ran to pull out an article he’d read in Time magazine more than a decade ago. It’s an eloquent piece called “The Game of Catch,” by Roger Rosenblatt, about baseball, parenthood, and the wordless communication between a father and son tossing the ball around. While the article is in no way religious, one thought in particular has permanently changed Roy’s view of life with God.

“They do not call it a game of throw,” Roy quoted, grinning. “They call it catch.”

Oddly enough, I understood exactly what he meant. Spiritually speaking, I’ve been preoccupied with throwing the ball; this turns out to be a case in which it would be better to receive than to give.

God is the initiator. We love because he first loved us. We’re here because he thought of us and welcomed us into his world. Yes, he stands at the doors to our hearts and knocks, but we need only let him in. We don’t have to summon him from another country or galaxy. The kingdom of God is already near.

Repent. It’s time to play catch.

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O Be Careful Little Heart What You Believe

Hey fellow believer, what do you say about the popular notion,

there is nothing I can do that would make God love me any more or any less

?

If I said that I believe that is a false statement, if only partly, I know some would fight me on it. Others might even say, “well, it’s been good while it lasted, Green P@stures, but this is where I get off.”

Christianity is filled with platitudes and proverbs that need holding up to the light of scripture.

The Jews of old loved the scriptures but if a rabbi taught something that extrapolated or bent their meaning, the people went with the rabbi’s interpretation. There are religions in the world that have a long-held tradition of canonizing their popes’ or imams’ word over against their holy books – the very teachings their faiths are founded upon.

Do we do it too?

What if I showed a scripture that (for me) clearly debunks the sentiment above? Jude, who kinda knew Messiah pretty well since they grew up together under the same roof, said, keep yourselves in the love of God.” (v21) His own half-brother, of whom all the scriptures testify, said, “if you keep My commands, you will abide in My love.” (see John 15:9-10)

So there is a possibility that we can fall out of God’s favor?

What would Jesus say about our NOT keeping His commands? What would we abide in then?

Same thing? Really?

Now I’m not suggesting that we are going to have the rug of our salvation jerked out from beneath our feet when we screw up. Our standing as sons and daughters remains, but the issue of fellowship becomes a white elephant in the room.

Can we displease the Holy Spirit? Can we grieve* Him?

Are there scriptural accounts that we may reference where the Lord struck down a believer for lying to Him? Did Jesus rebuke his Twelve sharply on separate occasions? Is there a church whom Christ will vomit out of His mouth?

Do these references sound nice?

Far from what you’re thinking, no, I am most definitely not trying to paint our King as a mean-spirited, vindictive potentate who cannot wait to chew us up and spit us out. I have found a Father and Lover of my soul who craves my adoring and returns in exponential kind.

Sorry, but I don’t approach Him every day cowering and quaking. He is absolutely precious! Our relationship is everything to me and getting more personal and richer as I move along.

I am only concerned here with a draft of grace that is floating around that hates anything to do with effort**, repentance, or striving for holiness. Its appeal is to our modern penchant for self-idolization; for our embracing the lie that God exists only for our benefit, and is preoccupied with making me happy and feeling good about myself.

I’m not ashamed that of the beautiful things that are part of my love affair with Jesus, one of them is a healthy fear of displeasing Him. I don’t like it when I’m at odds with Sandy, when there’s knife-cutting-the-air tension between us. I despise the gulf that exists though the marriage bonds still hold strong. I love her way too much.

Should it be any less of a motivation with regard to my heart’s King?

To know that I can cause Him grief, and to make every effort to avoid doing that (though I fail often), is not legalism. It moves me to love Him more and enjoy Him more fully because He is worthy of my highest love. It is…a beautiful goad.***

Let us stop subscribing to sentiments because they sound good, look good on Facebook status’ and make us feel better about ourselves, but held up to the Light show signs of questionable origins (re: satan). And, while we’re at it, let’s not dismiss those “other” passages that should give us pause. In a good way.

That’s all I’m saying.

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*The word ‘grief‘ found in Eph 4:30 is ‘lupeo’ and points to an intense pain inflicted upon by another. It means a “wounding.” It is not a quick snort of saying “good grief!” at someone’s ridiculousness, but a sharp and recurrent, debilitating pain; used of a woman in throes of childbirth, disciples vexed by prophecies of Messiah’s own death, and the rich young ruler who went away from Jesus in great emotional distress.

**Not self-effort, but those holy works we are re-created to do in the divine grace that empowers us.

***A “goad” is a catalyst, prod, incentive

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Manna!

The children of Israel, wandering in the wilderness, were taken aback by a strange food falling from the sky all around them.

“What is it, Moses? Manna?’

Then the Lord spake unto them from heaven saying, “Nay. I like to calleth it Hot Krispy Kreme Donuts.”

Read it. It’s there. I’m sure of it.

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Who’s Your Daddy?

Let Priscilla Shirer motivate you in this appropriate clip for Father’s Day. Priscilla’s dad is Tony Evans and it is markedly clear that his imprint has been passed on to her.

I should add, I’ve met her mom…I think she has had a lot to do with imprinting on her as well!

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Deja Vu With Pancakes

It happened again recently.NT1594883

“Again” as in too many times to remember through the years.

I was strolling into one of my favorite breakfast hangouts and passed by a woman who was waiting for her take-out order. I smiled and offered a cheery good morning greeting and she decided to take that as an invite for conversation. Lady, I may be a morning person, but I do like my morning’s alone.

Here went the gist of the conversation:

“I was in a wheelchair once,” she proffered without solicitation.

The hidden eyeballs inside my mind started to roll big time.

“Oh? Is that right?” I replied, feigning amazement.

“Yes. It was the worst three years of my life.”

At least it wasn’t two weeks or four months, as I am accustomed to hearing. Or an afternoon (“just goofing around in  Grandma’s chair”)…

But before I could recall them, the words were already coming out of my mouth and there were legislative powers within desperately trying to repeal them. But, tragically, to no avail.

“What happened?”

I have to admit, her story was legit. And quite possibly even horrible.

“I got my foot caught in a conveyer and nearly twisted it off.” She held out a bare leg which revealed a nasty discoloration to her foot.

“Ew…that must’ve hurt!” Scott, would you just stop?

“Oh, you have no idea…”

No ma’am, I don’t guess I would.

She rose from the bench she was seated on and I inched away, hoping for closure by saying, “glad you can walk.” And truly meant it. I am not about to begrudge.

“Yeah, me too.” She gaited over to the register without so much as a limp while her order was brought to the counter. My wheelchair and I rolled into the dining room to our very own table. I am sure somewhere deep inside she wanted to know about my situation but I didn’t offer it up.

No way could I say these had been the “worst” twenty-seven years in my life. Not by a long shot.

I wouldn’t wish them on her, either. They are my gift.

I get to do this…(yes, you heard that correctly)…

…Until I’m sitting on an IHOP bench, waiting for my take out order, and I can walk up to a counter, pay, then jump into my SUV and drive away.

Even then, I don’t think I’ll say to someone on wheels:

“”I was in a wheelchair once…”

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We Don’t Know

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter but the glory of kings to search out a matter.”
(Proverbs 25:2)

“To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.  For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”
(Matthew 13:11-13) 

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God…”
(Deuteronomy 29:29)

A hmmmmm moment just now.

I clicked on the NRB (National Religious Broadcasters) channel a bit ago and caught the tail end of a Q&A with Ravi Zacharias.  Just knowing that is enough to glue me to the boob tube for a while!  He had just recommended Os Guinness’ book God In The Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond A Shadow of Doubt to a young man whose question reflected concern for those who had felt let down by God.  Then he broke off the session with a parable that has me going hmmmm, isn’t that something?

It seems that Elijah was traveling the countryside with a rabbi when they happened upon a dilapidated lean-to owned by a poor man and his ailing wife.  Outside the shack was a skinny cow whose ribs were poking through its hide.  The couple let Elijah and guest to spend the night with them, offering them the best of their cupboard: a cake of bread, some butter and milk.  During the night, suddenly and sadly, a wall collapsed in the poor couple’s humble cottage but Elijah had no miracle for them, despite their hospitality.

Later that day they happened upon a very rich man who entertained them and allowed them to spend the night.  The evening’s fare he spread before them included rich, fat morsels and a feast fit for kings.  What a bounty!  The next morning, a wall also fell in the rich man’s house and Elijah immediately performed a miracle and restored the wall.

As the two travelers continued their journey together the rabbi could not wait to ask the burning question: why would you restore that rich man’s wall and let the poor couple suffer their fate without intervening?

Elijah said, “Ah sir, the Lord showed me the poor man’s wife was going to die the next day and I interceded for her and she was healed.  She and her husband are so grateful to God for His overshadowing miracle they will gladly rebuild the wall together out of joy of being restored to each other.”

“As for the rich man,” Elijah continued, “he is so bound to his greed.  He is held captive to it.  Behind his wall is a pot of gold and because I performed such a miracle for him, he will never know it, never touch it, and never be bound to it.”

Ravi ended the parable by saying that we have many questions as to why this wall fell and that wall stayed up, why this one was left in rubble and the next is miraculously restored.  His point was, quite obviously, God has a perspective on all things we do not have and He sees the end from the beginning.  He can also see through the wall that looms large and unexplained before us and He holds our tomorrow in His great big Hands.  We bow to the supreme great God who will answer our questions one day but we would be well served to remember that our time is but a “speck in a sea of eternity.” 

Have you had any hmmmmmmm or aha! moments of late? 

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Life In The Gas Lane

Don’t you just love God?

What a faithful Friend He is.  I had recently ‘bragged’ on my God to a friend that throughout my twenty-five years of disability, and with everything that can go wrong with that, there has never been a time gas-lines.jpgHe has abandoned me when I’ve been caught in a desperate situation.  Have I felt abandoned duringgas-lines.jpggas-lines.jpg those years?  Well, yes, of course, but that does not change the fixed truth of the matter.  Not one iota.

I can recall when Sandy and I were dating some years back.  We were college coeds, heading to see our college basketball team play at another school campus ninety minutes away.  It was a rainy night and especially dangerous on the roads as I remember.  I was traveling around seventy in the far left lane of I-75 when suddenly my right front tire blew.  Somehow I managed to negotiate through the heavy rush-hour traffic all the way to the shoulder of the highway.  When I parked the car, I put my head in my hands and cried.  I felt so helpless.  How could I get out of the car in my wheelchair?  I would certainly have to be at least part way in the lane of oncoming traffic.  Then, even if I could, how am I supposed to change the tire?  I can’t make my new girlfriend get soaking wet doing it.  God, what to do, what to do…

That conversation lasted a full five seconds when headlights swung into the lens of the rear view mirror.  Within moments a gentleman appeared in the window of the passenger side and I rolled it down.  How did this stranger know to pull over?  How would he know the man driving the car would need assistance? These are questions only God can answer, but I have my suspicions.

In minutes the ‘stranger’ had the tire changed and with a salute and smile he was running back to his car where he lurched back into traffic and disappeared into the night.

That kind of stuff happens to me all the time.

Just today I had pulled into the bay of a gas station to fill ‘er up when my van’s wheelchair lift took a notion to cough and quit while I was halfway out and halfway in.  There I sat, suspended somewhat, unable to operate the thing.  I patted my front pocket for my cell and discovered, to my dismay, it was empty.  Turning my head to the dashboard, I remembered I had set the phone in its cradle to charge it up and it was way out of arm’s reach.  God, what to do, what to do…

A young man in a suped-up Caprice Classic pulled in one bay over but the hip-hop wafting from inside his car was so loud he could not hear my “excuse me” over the full-bodied bass.  Besides, whoever was singing was pretty angry about something and growling out obscenities and using a wide range of sexual innuendoes.  No, forget innuendo.  It was hard-core.

But after his car came another, a red SUV, piloted by a gentlemen who, by the look and sound of things, was quite happy with life.  He hopped out of his car whistling, looked at me sitting freeze-framed in mid-air and smiled.  He looked in the direction of the music and frowned and playfully covered his ears, while shaking his head.  I had a sense the Lord parked him there right away.  I spoke to him as he passed by, asking if he wasn’t in too big a hurry would he mind giving a hand.  This stranger, who turned out to be my brother, wheeled quickly and with an enthusiastic “how can I help?” bounded inside the van and in minutes had me on my way.  Rescued again.

Before we parted ways, I felt led to ask the gentleman, “You love the Lord, don’t you sir?”

“He’s my life, my everything,” he said.  I looked to the ceiling of the van and offered up a quick missive of thanks to my Faithful Friend who, once again, came to my rescue with real skin, blood and bones.

I wanted to bless the man and when I asked him for a card, thinking I might send a check or something.  As he headed toward the station’s mart he said that no blessing was needed as I had blessed him with the opportunity.  Still, while he was inside I asked the Lord how he might be blessed.  The answer came: “fill his tank with gas.”  Of course, I only had a debit card, no cash, and he was likely paying for his gas inside.  When he came out again I asked if he had paid for his gas and he told me he had.  I thought to myself, shoot!, but he went on to tell me he was only putting a couple dollars’ worth in the tank.  I knew that wasn’t near enough to pay for a tank these days, so I offered to fill his tank.

“No,” he said.  “I only live around the corner.  I was glad to help.  No thanks necessary.”

I found out my brother was a veteran on fixed income and when I insisted, he finally let me.  We’re family, after all, and family looks out for each other.  I left there this afternoon sensing I had looked into the face of God.  It was a different color than mine, but it was Him nonetheless.  Funny how you can easily find the family likeness on the side of a highway or next to a gas pump.  You just have to look.

Or cry out for assistance.   

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