Resistant

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Do you have a package that absolutely forbids entry for all those goodies concealed inside? Do you have a kiddy forbidding medicine bottle that needs an engineering degree to open?

My brain is similarly resistant to penetrating today. I couldn’t reason myself out of a soaked paper bag today.

Fortunately my faith is still intact without having to reason God’s love for me today. I just trust Him, no matter what comes my way.

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FILING!

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If anyone had spied my paper backup I would have cashed in my beans from shame. When my table was in danger of hurting me I decided on filing that nightmare of papers.

I set my YouTube to over two hours of soothing classical music in preparation for the headache I planned to endure. In fact, I had a file drawer all cleared out for its new load of papers. As the old papers load gradually shrank, and the file drawer gradually filled, I wasn’t sure they would all fit.

But they did. I washed my junk off the table, and I could eat off it now. Procrastination only makes the worst that much worster.

Now I need to nap.

HIVES

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Don’t read this if you don’t want itches. Anyway, I’ve been itching a lot lately and it’s about to drive me bananas. I take regular meds for hives, but it doesn’t help much for now.

When I get hives, unconsciously I start scratching. Then it gets really bad. If I kept scratching deeper and harder I’d start drawing blood, and the itching never lets up.

Scratching doesn’t make it less itchy. In fact, without it eventually it would die down – eventually.

Scratching hives are a lot like trying to remedy other needs. Name them, and we have lots if needs, or wants. Some of those, like hunger or shelter, need attention. Yet, if we apply unreasonable effort there it would defeat its purpose.

Seeking happiness is also like scratching hives. When we think we just about have it, that happiness isn’t there any more, like chasing a rainbow’s bar of gold.

Only by chasing God can produce the happiness we want, and that is exactly what He wants for us. Quit “scratching at the hives.” Obey God and he will deliver your happiness.

Crash, But No Burn

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Details: After some abdominal surgery and I was ready to head home, I decided to get some exercise with quick walking through my hospital floor. Without realizing, my right foot tended to drag just slightly, catching that foot on the pavement and throwing me hard to the concrete.

My foot felt a bit wet, so I looked down to discover that my assumedly blue blood was crimson red, and lots of it. Within just a couple of seconds, many hands materialized to keep me still while analyzing my condition. With my bones apparently still in place, the medical folks hefted me from the floor and deposited me in a wheel chair.

After just a few more seconds they had me back in the hospital room and began sowing me back up. That began the most thorough testing I’ve ever seen. The first thing I noticed was my glasses’ left temple piece was flattened, preventing any good TV viewing. Next I discovered some internal brain bleeding, which is not a good thing. The news they gave me was I had better take no more falls, or that could kill me. Shortly thereafter I needed to go to the potty.

I awoke in bed after my unconscious crashing to the floor and bashing the bathroom door opened. At least that unintentional embarrassing movement failed to hurt my feelings. Then they had to code me. I didn’t even experience some white light upon entry to the nether world.

They questioned me about such complex issues like my name, which had temporally escaped my notice. Other amnesia-related questions such as my location and date were also beyond my grasp. I did, however, recognize my family, but without their names.

Things gradually came back to me. I still can’t remember the nursing home’s name or its location(mental block). But it does make sense hear it. The Thought Cops (mental therapist) practiced some of the most cruel exercises, like requiring the date and telling me what was on the pictures they showed me.

My driving was another issue. Until they decided I was in my right mind they refused to allow me to drive. And I don’t like cabs. After a couple months I now have permission to drive. What a wonderful convince.

Apparently my improvement will come slowly, and the experts tell me I’ll never get full recovery. People tell me that I’m so much better than I was, though it’s hard for me to see it. All I can do is praise God for what I have and not regret what I don’t have.

#OddSensations

On my way to the kitchen to retrieve my bowl of oatmeal, I realized I was in the grip of an odd sensation. “What is this odd sensation?” I asked(I tend to talk to myself when no one is around to look sideways at me[Yes, I know I shouldn’t care so much about what others think of me, but I do, so shut up!{please}]).

Let’s see, where was I? Oh, yes, “What was that odd sensation?” you’re asking, so I’ll tell you.

Happiness.

What bums me is feeling purposeless. When working at New Life Center I was happy, because despite the minimum wage and the menial nature of the job, I felt I was making a difference. Since leaving there that sense of purpose has been absent, and much of the time I felt depressed.

Until recently, that is, when my friend Tricia sent me her new novel’s manuscript for beta-reading. Well, you know me; being a compulsive editor I couldn’t just read it for content. I had to edit her hard work line-by-line, and though that is heavy mental work I get a kick out of making something worthwhile even better.

Though I’m sure there is a Scriptural application in this, at the moment I have bigger mice to slay. So do me a favor, if you can think of Scripture for this principle, please leave it in the comments. I await your response with ‘bated breath.

And I thank you.

I’m Beside Myself

I always knew I was a bit odd, and you won’t find too many to argue with me on that point. I even have the authority of God’s Word to back me up:

For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. (2 Corinthians 5:13)

Bible dictionaries tell me that the word rendered, “beside ourselves,” means to be out of one’s mind or insane. Most assuredly, that’s the way the world views Christ-followers, although some of us qualify as bonkers outside of Christ’s influence.

Back in the day, those who would be, cool strove to be seen as, “right on, groovy, out’a sight, and with it.” But according to 2 Corinthians 5:13 (that’s the bold printed passage above), such pop-cultural approval is exactly what we Christ-followers are not to seek.

Am I saying we need to dress in black, home spun suits, drab, ankle-length dresses, and speak in King James English? Not at all! I am saying that Christ-followers must first seek to minister to the world as did Christ, whom the religious leaders at the time viewed as at least mad, and possibly even demon possessed. Yet, the common “sinners” knew they could go to Him without fear of condemnation.

Holiness goes against the world’s rules, and those who refuse to participate with its corruption are thought a bit odd. And therein is the rub; if we’re told a lie often enough, we may begin to believe it. The world tells us that our religion needs to be relevant, so they can identify with it. The more the church accepts the world’s principles, the more those of the world approve, until all resemblance to the true, Biblical church is lost. What’s left is only a shell of human religion, with all the festering religiosity within.

Sometimes we may have to do a little church-hopping to find the true Body of Christ, but I guess that’s the cost of faithfulness. In the final analysis, what value has the world’s approval compared to God’s approval and our eternal destiny? If they see me as beside myself, so what? I’ve been called worse.

Apple Cluster Sin

Sandy’s Donuts makes “apple clusters.” They are the yummy clusters of goodness that most bakeries call, “apple fritters,” and simply typing that places me in serious temptation. Like this morning when, after getting up late, I didn’t feel hungry for breakfast, so I delayed it til after 2pm when I began feeling hungry. But that isn’t when the apple cluster temptation began.

My yearning for those clusters of fried, sugary goodness began as I was trying to concentrate on my daily Bible-reading … of course. While struggling through those Scripture passages, I prayed for God to counter my almost-certain baked goods binge. After my reading I realized that our household garbage receptacles were nigh unto overflowing, so hungry as I was, I set to gathering the refuse and began the fifty-yard trek to the dumpster. During my return trip I began feeling convicted about my yummy, afternoon plans as God’s inaudible voice reminded me of the consequences:

First, James 4:17 NKJV Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. This nugget of wisdom from author James isn’t new to me; in fact, it haunts me more than I care to admit.

Do you really want to willfully sin?” said that pesky, silent voice.

Isn’t it somewhere included in ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER that debaters aren’t supposed to detonate the “S-bomb”? If it’s not, it should be.

Second, “You will feel depressed and bogged down later.” Again, nothing new, but the hard truth of experience. While my palate loves those apple clusters, the rest of my body does not. No need for Your quiet voice here Lord, but thanks for the reminder.

Third, “You’ve already grown out of at least two wardrobes …” Enough said.

And finally, my own inner voice for a change, “Of course, You’re absolutely right Lord. I’ll be glad I didn’t. And thanks ever so much for Your help.

Sin? Really?

How could enjoying one (or two) wonderful apple clusters possibly be sinful? After all, lots of other fat Christians (forgive my frankness) manage to indulge their appetites for such palatal pleasure, so why not me? The answer is easy; I don’t want a thousand or two calories, however delicious, forming a barrier between my Savior and me. Regardless how you cut it, to willfully disobey is sin.

Does satisfying any of your appetites, whatever they may be, put a busy-signal on your prayer-line? Does praising your loving Savior seem just a bit hollow when you allow His conviction to penetrate your denial, and indulge anyway? If we honestly have to answer in the affirmative, James 4:17 applies directly to us.

Where is your battle line drawn?

I confessed just one of my struggles, but I have many more. What are your struggles? You may be skinny as a rail, able to look down your nose at us fat folks munching out on our sugary poison, but Apostle John says you are not free of your own guilt:

1 John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

If God’s church seems lacking in vitality, you and I can see the reason by simply looking in a mirror. A sinning church is an impotent church. How have we sinned? Read the New Testament and apply it to yourself, rather than to Betty-Sue over there.

And pray! Serious, sin-confessing, prostrate-on-the-floor prayer. Then watch the Holy-Ghost victory flow.

I’m a Tweaker

Seems I can’t leave anything well enough alone. Sometimes I improve stuff, but other times I just complicate things.

Today I actually managed to improve my computer’s audio output, a problem I’d been wrestling with since my friend gave it to me. Oh, it functioned perfectly, except for the minor issue of lousy sound. And after months of tweaking the settings I, out of desperation, uninstalled a program called Realtek High Definition Audio. As a result, my BOSE multimedia speakers now sound like a room-full of stereo equipment.

This time tweaking worked, but how often do we try fixing things that ain’t broke, only to mess them up but good? As an example of such “fixing,” consider Christianity. Apostle James got down to basics when he wrote:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:26-27)

“Yeah, that’s fine in principle,” I hear someone thinking, “but it doesn’t work in today’s complex, media-glutted world.”

Maybe you should talk about today’s complex, media-glutted church. A simple example of such unnecessary complication is the guitar, organ or piano that plays behind our preacher while he draws his message to a close. Are they trying to pluck our heart-strings by plucking their guitar strings? Our preacher is a true man of God who enters the pulpit thoroughly prayed up; you know that’s true because of the convicting and redemptive impact his words have on the congregation. Why, then, does he need musical accompaniment?

Yes, that’s nitpicky, but it’s just a small example of our attempts to deliver the gospel more effectively, of trying to help God’s Holy Spirit do His work of convincing His church to obey just a few Scriptural principles and mandates.

When will we take God seriously, and raise our hands in surrender, rather than in liturgical praise choruses that are forgotten when we climb into our cars and head over to Costco for some last-minute shopping. God loves the praises of His people … His holy people.

Read, Carefully!

Of course, you must start with God’s Word. But beyond that, godly men and women author godly works that don’t add to, but simply clarify God’s Word, relating it to new audiences.

Then, there are the Christian authors of generations past, whose works the Holy Spirit has used powerfully for revival in those times. Click here for a great—and short—article about Chesterton, Muggeridge, Boreham, Sayers, and MacDonald (C.S. Lewis’ mentor). Click here for a glimpse at Christian authors from even further back, such as Augustine, Calvin, Clarke, and so on down the alphabet. Though many of them had great things to say, they are, of course, no substitute for God’s Word.

Now I must reveal my motivation for this post; my e-mail in box offered me a brief excerpt from Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. Upon a careful reading of said excerpt (thus, the title for this piece), I decided to share it with my vast audience. In it, Lewis explains why we must prostrate ourselves before our great, Creator God, and His seemingly unfair demands upon us. This is a profound read, so I dare ya to dive in—carefully.

Perhaps by now you’ve noticed my harping on reading carefully. Our media-saturated culture has desensitized us to the nuances of the written word. If it isn’t dramatized and animated, it isn’t worthy of our attention, and I’m one of the worst offenders of classical literature. With all of my entertainments, I haven’t the time for serious reading, though I prefer to rest heavily upon my dyslexia as my old, reliable excuse. Even now, at the close of this post, Netflix attempts to seduce my attention away from godly pursuits. Of course, all work and no play makes Jim … a liar.

BTW: During my pitiful attempt at researching for this post, I happened upon this compelling excerpt from WARRANTED CHRISTIAN BELIEF by Alvin Plantigna, and you don’t even need a doctorate in theology to understand it. You’re welcome.

C.S. Lewis on Free Will

Here’s the best, and shortest, analysis of personal volition, or free will, that I’ve ever seen. Go, Uncle Jack:

The sin, both of men and of angels, was rendered possible by the fact that God gave them free will: this surrendering a portion of His omnipotence (it is again a deathlike or descending movement) because He saw that from a world of free creatures, even though they fell, He could work out (and this is the re-ascent) a deeper happiness and a fuller splendour than any world of automata would admit.

From Miracles

Truth be told, and to the irritation of both sides of the divine sovereignty issue, the Bible clearly spells out both God’s absolute sovereignty, and man’s personal volition. “How can that be?” you ask. It’s easy if you’re God. Just don’t limit God to your ability to understand His Truth. Ever!