Saturday, 18 February 2017

So, what's good here?

“Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” 
 Warren W. Wiersbe

Harsh words, notes Solomon, stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1).
Imagine then, how the religious folk must have felt when Jesus speaks of them as being erroneous in their doctrine, self-serving in their piety, and criminal in their duties, amounting to a religion which adorned them externally, but did nothing worthwhile for them or those they were meant to aid (Matthew 23).

It wasn't just anger that lead Jesus to such plain words.
This passage ends with Him lamenting and weeping over such a gross falling from what was desired to be seen in God's priests (23:37-39) - that is why His words break and wound. Only such direct and candid honesty can begin to heal when we have become that embedded in our error (Psalm 147:3).

The problem with sin is that it doesn't just parade itself in what is obviously or inherently wrong - wouldn't that make things easy. When Satan beguiles Eve in the garden it's by adorning what is poison with an array of goals and intentions which sound so right.
The consequences of our succumbing to such wiles are remarkable - just consider Adam's words to God as he is busy covering his tracks (and himself) after being so fatally wrong (Genesis 3:10-14).

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul says that one of the telling marks of these times will be how rapidly people will seek to accumulate teachings and teachers that appeal, not to a need for truth, but to those things which so easily and readily please and satisfy ourselves, thereby wooing us away from the essential message that breaks us to heal us (2 Timothy 4:1-4).

We can find it so simple to fall into the trap that because something looks good, feels good and therefore must do me good, we determine it is good.

Shortly after his blunt admonishment to the religious guides of His day, Jesus was to be found nailed to a means of execution - 'religion' being in full accord with such a determination, but little did any power or authority, material or spiritual, realize that as He hung there, pouring out His life for those who reviled and judged Him, He was doing our world more good than any other at any moment in all of heaven and earth (Isaiah 53:3-6), so here's the question we have to ask -

does what we're doing in our 'spiritual' activities and attitudes point to the one who humbled Himself to death on a cross and to the life that comes from that source (Jesus Christ, and Him crucified), or are we chasing all kinds of other "good" stuff that we think is fine morally and spiritually, but is actually detaching us from the one thing we're meant to know and be sustained by? Do we have ears to hear what truly makes us healthy - the theology of the cross - or are we 'fired up' to have itching ears and feet to run here, there and everywhere to gain the latest 'blessing' that has been devised by the latest "revelation"?

It is so very easy for us to be like fallen Adam in the garden, railing like some petulant child about what we believe we need and wanting to find refuge anywhere but in peace with God by what He provides in the death of His Son. There is a plethora of ready "remedies" abroad today, so many in the church itself, which wants you to lay hold of something 'above and beyond' the one who was lifted up by God to bring the antidote to Satan's venom, but these incitements will leave us finally as blind and impoverished and as wretched as Adam seeking fig leaves.

Paul tells Timothy that he is 'poured out' by God in one work alone - clearly teaching the truth, proclaiming The Gospel (Romans 3:21-26) and that Timothy, by soberly taking heed of Paul's words, must follow his example.

We cannot truly afford to do anything less.

Avoid the theatrics and the illusions.
Let Christ be all in all.

Sunday, 5 February 2017


"You could not discover the limits of the soul, not if you were to travel down every road. Such is the depths of its form".  Heraclitus.

"My soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land, where there is no water"  Psalm 63:1.

Reading through some on-line materials this weekend, I came across a quote from the Generation X novel, Girlfriend in a Coma that is really worth noting:

"There’s a hardness I’m seeing in modern people. Those little moments of goofiness that used to make the day pass seem to have gone. […] I mean, nobody even has hobbies these days. Not that I can see. Husbands and wives both work. Kids are farmed out to schools and video games. Nobody seems to be able to endure simply being by themselves, either—but at the same time they’re isolated. People work much more, only to go home and surf the Internet and send e-mail rather than calling or writing a note or visiting each other. They work, watch TV, and sleep. I see these things. The whole world is only about work: work work work get get get . . . racing ahead . . . getting sacked from work . . . going online . . . knowing computer languages . . . winning contracts. I mean, it’s just not what I would have imagined the world might be if you’d asked me seventeen years ago. People are frazzled and angry, desperate about money, and, at best, indifferent to the future […]
So you ask me how do I feel? I feel lazy. And slow. And antique. And I’m scared of all these machines. I shouldn’t be, but I am. I’m not sure I completely like the new world".
The New Testament tells us that one of the great troubles of our times will be a lack of purely natural affection - genuine appreciation for ourselves, for others, and things that matter purely because they resonate deeply - that is the inner inertia that the novel's writer has evidenced (hence, the initial observation).  Like some one-dimensional facsimile, we've become cut away from almost everything bar the transitory and immediate. It's telling - what is imperative in this exhausting routine - the 'must' of virtual activity (rather than genuine, shared recreation), of keeping a job (instead of having a rich, fulfilling career) and never truly loosing yourself to something greater, because being 'alone' (gaining real identity) is a chilling prospect.
"It's making no sense, But we'll stay here till the end
This time"
(Racing Cars - They Shoot Horses, Don't They?).

The present, then, hauntingly resembles some sanctioned post-war social construction - necessary, utilitarian, but inherently devoid of any true "place".
Is it any wonder that the notion of owning a soul has become something arcane and absurd, and yet, Jesus informs us that this ignored core of existence is of far greater value than the gaining of anything (and everything) else (Mark 8:36).

We still chase the illusion that enough money or power or sex will make us someone, but as stated so well by Bud Fox in the movie Wall Street, gaining it merely brings us to a place where we find ourselves asking amidst emptiness, 'Who am I?'
We have to discover it's often pursuing not what we want, but what we need that will make us whole.
It may be vogue today to mask or deflect from the true, the good, and the beautiful, but every once and a while we still find ourselves stilled by something that generates an echo deep inside our hungry soul - the voice that whispers, "there's so much more than me". David knew that longing when he wrote the psalms, and wisely understood the only place where such appetites could be fully and eternally satisfied were within God meeting our greatest need.
God has done so in His beloved Son (John 3:16).
The true purpose of anything really of value in this life is to re-clothe us in an awareness of what we really are - more than just a collection of dulled moments and pointless sensations. We were made to truly be enriched by a love far higher than the stars and deeper than the oceans, and that has been brought to us in Jesus Christ...

to bring us home again.