Saturday, September 25, 2010

REPROOF!

A sad story.

Police were called out a robbery the other day, at a Wal-Mart in Ohio. But the suspected thief, accused of shoplifting $1,000 worth of the good stuff, was nowhere to be found.

Then an hour later 911 got a call. Apparently our sticky-fingered man had hopped into a dumpster behind the store to hide. Unfortunately for him, the dumpster was immediately picked up, and the trash (with our friend deep in it) was unceremoniously deposited into the garbage truck.

Emergency operators heard the frantic man yelling, “I’m in the back of a trash truck that keeps compacting me! I’m dying!! My bones are being crushed!!!” The dispatchers told him to calm down.

That’s a bit hard, I suppose, to be calm, when one is literally being compacted with 10 tons of rubbish. The poor guy.

Now this was no novice at robbery: he already had a rap sheet that ran into 26 pages. In fact, he’d been convicted before, of stealing from the same Wal-Mart. Some folks never learn.

Sin is a hard thing to escape. Especially when it is in our nature. Forget theft. How about …

… a depraved mind …,
being filled with all unrighteousness,
wickedness, greed, evil;
full of envy, murder, strife, deceit,
malice, gossiping, slandering, …
insolence, arrogance, boastfulness,
disobedience to parents, …
not trustworthy, not loving, not merciful.
Romans 1:28–31

Ouch! That’s me. Sinning. Over and over and over again. 26 pages? Nay, a lifetime of stuff. Will we ever learn? Learn God’s wisdom—the way to live His way, not ours?

My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your sight;
Keep them in the midst of your heart.
For they are life to those who find them
And health to all their body.
Proverbs 4:20

The trashed guy from Wal-Mart was heard declaring to dispatchers at one point that he didn’t care what happened to him afterwards with the cops; he just wanted to live.

I like to think he’s learned his lesson. The hard and very unfortunate way. I wish he’d learnt it before this mishap.

I wish we would, too. Learn to avoid sin before something grievous befalls us. For the chances are that something will. We must learn, even if it is from discipline and reproof as the Bible oft exhorts.

My son, do not reject
the discipline of the LORD
Or loathe His reproof,
For whom the LORD loves
He reproves ….
Proverbs 3:11–12

For the commandment is a lamp
and the teaching is light;
And reproofs for discipline
are the way of life
Proverbs 6:23

Whoever loves discipline
loves knowledge,
But he who hates reproof
is stupid.
Proverbs 12:1

Poverty and shame
to him who neglects discipline,
But he who regards reproof
will be honored.
Proverbs 13:18

Back to our flattened miscreant in the trash truck ….

Emergency officials triangulated the signal from his cell phone and found the truck before it emptied its contents at a recycling plant. Police had to have the trash dumped, before they could find the man. “He was in pretty bad shape when they got him out, he didn’t look too good,” a police spokesman told reporters.

I believe he survived. Hopefully, he’s learnt his lesson.

I hope we do too. So that we may learn to live the way God’s wants us to. So that we may align our lives to His will.

Listen to counsel
and accept discipline,
That you may be wise
the rest of your days.
Proverbs 19:20

Let’s be wise!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

PRISONER!

The Mamertine Prison is an ancient place of incarceration in Rome dating back to the 7th century B.C. Traditionally, it is held that Paul and Peter were imprisoned in this place, on top of which there is now a church.

The place is a gloomy and dank two-level prison in to which Rome’s high-profile enemies (including the Goth Jugurtha and the Gaul Vercingetorix) were cast, to die of starvation or strangulation. The ancient Roman historian Sallust (86-34 B.C.) noted that it was 12 feet below the ground and “neglect, darkness and stench make it hideous and fearsome to behold.” The bottom level is the prison proper into which captives were dropped from a hole at the top. Apparently, there is a stone that bears the imprint of Peter’s head from when he was hurled in. (I wonder what imprint the stone left on aforementioned disciple’s head. Then again, maybe he wasn’t called “Rocky” for nothing!)

It is possible that Peter was detained here before being executed by Nero, and Paul before his own. The latter, at the end of his third missionary journey, was mobbed in Jerusalem by Jews who accused him of desecrating the Temple by bring in a Gentile (Acts 21:27–30). The Romans took him into custody—two years in Caesarea, and later in Rome (Acts 25:9–11), perhaps right here in the Mamertine Prison.

It strikes me as amazing that here was this guy, always being accused by Jewish rabble-rousers, at least twice being imprisoned by Roman oppressors, calling himself not a victim of the Jews, nor a captive of the Romans. Rather …

I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus ….
Ephesians 3:1
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus ….
Philemon 1
I am … Paul, the aged, and now also
a prisoner of Christ Jesus …
Philemon 9

That has got to be one of the most powerful assertions of the sovereignty of God. For Paul, nothing happened without God’s allowing it. And, for Paul, if God allowed it, he was OK with it. In fact, he could see God working in and through his imprisonment.

Now I want you to know, brethren,
that my circumstances have turned out
for the greater progress of the gospel,
so that my imprisonment
in the cause of Christ
has become well known
throughout the whole praetorian guard
and to everyone else,
and that most of the brethren,
trusting in the Lord
because of my imprisonment,
have far more courage to
speak the word of God without fear.
Philippians 1:12–14

So convinced of God’s sovereignty, he was content … even in prison.

And He has said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is perfected in weakness.” …
Therefore I am well content
with weaknesses, with insults,
with distresses, with persecutions,
with difficulties, for Christ’s sake;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9–10

Content, he simply seeks to be faithful to One who called him … even in prison.

… pray on my behalf,
that utterance may be given to me
in the opening of my mouth,
to make known with boldness
the mystery of the gospel,
for which I am an ambassador in chains ….
Ephesians 6:19–20

And this jailbird exhorts the rest of us—freebirds—to be “imprisoned” to Christ, to be faithful, as he was … even in prison.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord,
implore you to walk in a manner
worthy of the calling
with which you have been called.
Ephesians 4:1

Let’s be faithful … prisoners of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

SWORD!

While it is called St. Peter’s Basilica, the other great pillar of the church, St. Paul, is not forgotten here in the San Pietro in Vaticano. In fact, he’s there, right in front, on one side as one approaches the Basilica. On the other side is the Basilica’s own, St. Peter.

The original statues of the two were sculpted by Paolo di Mariano in the mid-1400s. They were replaced by Pope Pius IX in 1847; he commissioned Adamo Tadolini to do Paul.

Both are about 17 feet tall on pedestals about 15 feet high. Towering and colossal. Each one holds an item that marks them. Peter has the key.

Paul has the sword. That’s appropriate for the one who, as the human agent of God, penned most of the New Testament.

So Paul is depicted as bearing the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God.

(And, BTW, that’s the balcony from which the Pope pronounces his blessings.)

And take
The sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:17

And, to reinforce this symbolism, in his other hand, Tadolini has Paul holding a scroll, on which are the words:

I can do all things
through Him
who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

That’s a 10-foot-long sword the dude is holding! Deadly weapon!

No wonder, for the Bible speaks of the lethal nature of the tongue and its products—words.

There is one
who speaks rashly
like the thrusts of a sword.
Proverbs 12:18a

On the other hand, words are also health-giving.

But the tongue of the wise
brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18b

So also the Word of God. Both deadly and healthy. Lethal and life-giving.

Lethal to the disobedient.

Therefore I have hewn them
in pieces by the prophets;
I have slain them
by the words of My mouth.
Hosea 6:5

And one day the Judge of all mankind, Jesus Christ, will come again, bearing a sword, a vision of which John, the apostle, glimpsed.

In His right hand
He held seven stars,
and out of His mouth
came a sharp two-edged sword;
and His face was like
the sun shining in its strength.
Revelation 1:16

Yes, the Judge is coming and final judgment is coming—and its criterion will be the unshakeable standard of the Word of God, the sword.

Not only then—one day in the future—but even now, the sword-like Word continues its discriminating judgment of our deeds, our motives, our attitudes, our thoughts ….

For the word of God is
living and active and sharper
than any two-edged sword,
and piercing as far as
the division of soul and spirit,
of both joints and marrow,
and able to judge the thoughts
and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

The sword of God’s Word is also life-giving for those who trust Him.

Sustain me according to Your word,
that I may live.
Psalm 119:116

And so, a famous hymn of yesteryear goes this way:

Sing them over again to me,
Wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see,
Wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty
Teach me faith and duty.

Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life.


Christ, the bless├Ęd One, gives to all
Wonderful words of life;
Sinner, list to the loving call,
Wonderful words of life;
All so freely given,
Wooing us to heaven.

Sweetly echo the Gospel call,
Wonderful words of life;
Offer pardon and peace to all,
Wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior,
Sanctify us forever.

Philip P. Bliss, 1847


Wonderful words, indeed! Spend time in them.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

REMEMBER!

Well, folks, here it is: aBeLOG installment #262. Magic number. Five years of rambling thoughts and random Scripture. Dispatches from Plano, Dallas, Paris, Aberdeen, London, Berlin, Leipzig, Munich, Zurich, Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, Vienna, Rome, Florence, …. A ramble indeed.

I appreciate all who have stayed with me throughout this 5-year ramble. No promises for the future, but I’ll try. Thus far, I’ve been buoyed by the dubious distinction of not having missed a single weekend of the aBeLOG. I am thankful I’ve made it up to #262 successfully.

Doing the aBeLOG has compelled me weekly to examine closely what’s going on around me. God is everywhere and in everything, omnipresent that He is. And it’s been great, having to look for God’s workings and doings and sayings in Scripture, and to connect them with His handiwork in the world, in my life, in my circumstances. It’s becoming a habit and—for a change!—a good habit at that: reflective living.

I’ve often felt that one of the gaping holes in our lives is the lack of reflection. Too busy, we are, with stuff going on all day, all week, all year. And before we know it, time has slipped by, age has caught up, weariness has set in, and there it is—an unreflective life.

God warned His people over and over again about this. Reflection and remembrance was to be part of their lifestyle.

Remember the days of old,
consider the years of all generations.
Ask your father,
and he will inform you,
your elders, and they will tell you.
Deuteronomy 32:7

Reflect on the deliverance of God.

You shall remember that
you were a slave in the land of Egypt,
and the LORD your God
brought you out of there
by a mighty hand and
by an outstretched arm;
Deuteronomy 5:15

Reflect on the power of God, so as to be able to face the dread of the future.

… you shall not be afraid of them;
you shall well remember
what the LORD your God did
to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.
Deuteronomy 7:18

Remember, that we may remain faithful.

Beware that you do not forget
the LORD your God by
not keeping His commandments …
Deuteronomy 8:11

Remember the provision of God, even in times of plenty, that we may be ready, when the dark days come.

But you shall
remember the LORD your God,
for it is He who is giving you
power to make wealth ….
Deuteronomy 8:18

Reflect on the discipline of God, that we may not fall again.

Remember, do not forget
how you provoked the LORD your God
to wrath in the wilderness ….
Deuteronomy 9:7

Reflect on the mercy of God, that we may be merciful to others.

You shall remember
that you were a slave
in the land of Egypt,
and the LORD your God redeemed you;
therefore I command you this today.
Deuteronomy 15:15

And then, God’s people beseech Him not to forget, that He may remember His promises and deal graciously with them.

Remember Your servants,
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
do not look at the stubbornness
of this people or at their wickedness
or their sin.
Deuteronomy 9:27

And, thankfully, ours is a God who never forgets.

For the LORD your God is
a compassionate God;
He will not fail you nor destroy you
nor forget the covenant with your fathers
which He swore to them.
Deuteronomy 4:31

What a relief—He doesn’t forget! The One who gave His Son for us always remembers. So must we.

Live reflectively.

And, in the process, I’ve sharpened my Photoshop skills!