Tag Archives: Bible

Oh That Crazy Bird!

It was a fascinating yet frustrating experience. We had a beautiful but crazy red-winged blackbird (1) visiting us very regularly – multiple times a day, in fact. He watched us and even sang to us. But it wasn’t all that nice. Now before you start thinking I’m a bird-hater, I assure you I love watching birds – just not this one.

Here’s the scoop. For some reason, out of all the houses around, he decided to stop by our back porch for a rest. The problem is he spotted our patio door – and in the patio door he saw a reflection of himself. But he didn’t know it was just his reflection. He thought it was a rival male blackbird invading his new territory. So he sat on the railing, spreading his wings, and squawking in an effort to scare this ‘other bird’ away. (It appeared like he was watching our every move! Kind of creepy!) But when this ‘other bird’ didn’t fly away, he made a beeline for our patio door. Of course he crashed – but when he bounced off the door he went back to sitting on the railing, only to repeat the scenario over and over again. I played a blackbird squawk on my computer, hoping he’d be frightened by an invading sound. It didn’t work. We put chairs up against the window hoping to break the view. He began flying to the patio screen door and hanging on to the screen. So we hung paper bags on the outside of the patio doors to deter him. It didn’t work. “Get a life!” I screamed. It didn’t work. So we hung bigger bags on the inside to wipe out his image (and our view of the outdoors!). He finally stopped crashing and sitting on the railing. But I knew he was still hanging around – I kept hearing his familiar squawk. (2)

I wondered, “Why is he so persistent?” I concluded it was because he was selfish and wanted his own territory – he wanted what he wanted and no one else could have it. As I thought about that, I realized there are people just like this blackbird. They see someone they believe is a threat to them, or who opposes them, or who stands in the way of getting what they want and they become obsessed with them. They will try to attack and scare off the ‘enemy’ or opposition at every opportunity. And why? Because they’re selfish and want their own territory – they want what they want and no one else can have it. It’s their way or the highway. It doesn’t matter if they’re right or wrong or in the minority – just get out of their way; only then will they leave you alone. Does this describe anyone you know?

I believe this is called selfishness. The Bible (3) has something to say about this. “An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment. A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:1-2) Ever met anyone like that? In contrast, the Psalmist wrote, “Turn my heart towards your statues and not toward selfish gain.” (Ps. 119:36) And Jesus told us to lose our lives for His sake – to stop being selfish and self-centered and seek to live Christ’s way. That, He said, is how we truly find our lives. (Matthew 10:39)
Apparently there were those who caught the vision. The apostle Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Are you more like a blackbird or like Jesus?

(1) Photo by Syed Ali on Unsplash
(2) Photo by Adam Muise on Unsplash
(3)Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Getting a Good Rest

It happens so often. I’ll sit back and turn on the news (largely because I want to catch the weather and sports reports.) It’s not long before the weather report comes on, and the next thing I hear is the news anchor thanking me for watching! I’ve awakened to realize I’ve missed what I tuned in to hear! Then, of course, when I go to bed I have some trouble getting to sleep! It all has to do with how to enter into a good rest.

Hebrews, chapters 3 and 4 is all about resting. The author knew God’s people needed to discover a whole new lifestyle called resting in the Lord. So near the end of this section of his letter he explains how to enter this precious rest: “For the word of God is living and active…” (Hebrews 4:12) Rest comes from the Word of God.

Rest comes from the Word of God because God’s Word exposes the truth. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13) The Word exposes things as they really are.

You receive a box in the mail. It has no labels or identifying information regarding where or who it’s from. You have no way of knowing what, if anything, is inside it. Only by opening it up, uncovering it, can you see and know the truth. Similarly, opening the Word reveals the truth, and lets us see ourselves the way we really are! No creature has any cover from the sight of God. God’s eyes have unlimited exposure! Before him we are laid bare, uncovered, naked!

The word for “laid bare” is the word from which we get “trachea.”

The picture which comes to mind is that of the criminals who were marched to execution. They had a dagger strapped to their chest, pointing upwards, so their head would always be lifted up, exposing the trachea. This way they could not bow away from God but had to face Him. So the Word makes us face the truth about ourselves and God. No matter how hard we try to keep things hidden God, through His Word, lays bare our lives and uncovers all we’ve tried so hard to hide.

God does so to heal and set us free. Jesus said to the Jews who believed in Him, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” That’s why the woman from Samaria, who encountered Jesus at the well, eventually told her friends, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” She was free! Exposing the truth frees us. Back before it was discovered that hands carried germs, many surgeons were frustrated to perform successful surgery only to have patients die from an infection of unknown origin. Then came the discovery about hands and germs. It was this truth which set us free from death. Exposure to the truth heals.

A Christian university student shared a room with a Muslim. As they became friends, their conversation turned to their beliefs. The believer asked the Muslim if he’d ever read the Bible. He answered no, but then asked if the Christian had ever read the Koran. The believer responded, “No, I haven’t, but I’m sure it would be interesting. Why don’t we read both together, once a week, alternating books?”

 

 

 

 

 

The young man accepted the challenge, their friendship deepened, and during the second term he became a believer in Jesus. One evening, late in the term, he burst into the room and shouted at the long-time believer, “You deceived me!” “What are you talking about?” the believer asked. The new believer opened his Bible and said, “I’ve been reading it through, like you told me, and just read that the Word is living and active!” He grinned. “You knew all along that the Bible contained God’s power and that the Koran is a book like any other. I never had a chance!” “And now you’ll hate me for life?” queried the believer. “No,” he answered, “but it was an unfair contest.” (i)

The reality is that to be completely known is one of our deepest needs. We need, and deep down inside we want to find someone who knows us completely and who will still be for us. We cry out with Job (Job 23:3-5): “If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say.” I am deeply moved every time I read these words of A. W. Tozer: “God knows us completely. No tale bearer can inform on us; no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose our past to God. No unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us since He already knew us utterly before we knew him. And He called us to himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us.” God’s Words exposes the truth so we can experience the overwhelming love and grace of Jesus Christ and be freed from the burden of hiding so much for so long!

That’s why the author of Hebrews puts these words about the Scriptures into the discussion on rest. The Word is an oasis for parched, tired lives. Psychologists say that mental health consists in coming to know ourselves fully, in losing our illusions and exposing our pretenses, in squarely facing all the facts, in confronting all our fears, in admitting all our failures. The Word tells us this can only happen under the grace of Christ. So Hebrews continues, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest, who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith that we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Expose yourself to the truth. Live each moment believing Jesus, who knows all and sees all, will always bear with you. And you will enter into wonderful rest.

(i)Floyd Schneider, Evangelism for the Fainthearted (Kregel, 2000); quoted in Men of Integrity (March/April 2001)

The Importance of the Right View

Recently TV host Joy Behar (ii) said something that caught my attention (as well as the attention of many others!) She responded to a video of fired Trump staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman saying “Everybody who’s wishing for impeachment might want to reconsider. We would be begging for days of Trump back if [Vice President Mike] Pence became president… He’s scary.” Newman, said, “I’m a Christian. I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things.” Behar quickly chimed in with her view. “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness — if I’m not correct — hearing voices.”
Upon hearing this my mind went to the Bible’s view, to Hebrews 4:12-13. “For the word of God is living and active.” If God’s Word is

alive it’s active. And if it’s active then God does indeed speak to people today. Hebrews continues. “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Not only does God speak – His words have tremendous power. God’s Word actively penetrates our depths. “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow…”

No surgeon can do work on our souls. There is no surgical procedure that can correct a bad attitude, open a closed mind, change a lustful heart, alter a rebellious spirit, refocus a judgmental eye, or clear a clouded soul. These are all soul things and only the Word can penetrate and change them. Like a doctor in surgery, the Word probes our depths. Whenever the Word is heard -be it through preaching, reading, speaking, singing – it penetrates deep into the recesses of our being. It cuts into and through what nothing else can; it goes where nothing else can go. It pierces to the very core of our life.

Consider this letter from the files of the Gideon’s Bible ministry.

“One winter morning in San Diego, after I had wandered many miles along the waterfront, in a daze, I turned my steps wearily toward my hotel room. I had been drinking heavily for weeks. My mind was tortured by the thoughts of the wife and four children whom I had deserted. Just yesterday, it seemed, I had been a radio executive, in charge of two radio stations. The home in which we lived, Beverly Hills, the cars, the servants–the things money and social position can provide for a man and his family–were just a memory. I had dragged my family down with me until they were living in a little hovel, and then, I had deserted them. I had suffered a complete nervous breakdown and, worst of all, I had completely lost my voice. For a year and a half, I had not been able to speak one word aloud, each effort to talk was just a whisper. The future held no promise. I opened the door of my hotel room and flung myself into a chair in utter despair. My gaze fell upon a (Gideon) Bible on the floor. In a distracted sort of way, I picked it up and started to read. Old familiar words I had learned as a child, words of life, quick and powerful, leaped out of those pages and found their way into my heart. I fell to my knees, and spread the Bible upon the chair, and made a vow that I would not leave that hotel room, if I died of starvation, until there came into my soul a knowledge that my sins had been forgiven, until I knew that I passed from death unto life. With a surge of joy, I realized that God’s promises were even for men like me. In that hotel room, I found Calvary’s Cross; there I laid my burden down; there, the old man died, and a new one was born. From that place I walked in newness of life, a new creature in Christ Jesus, praise His Name! God straightened things out between my wife and me, and today she and I and our four children are back together again. The “peace that passeth all understanding” has loosed the taut nerves and muscles which had prevented normal speech, and God gave me back my voice.” The writer went on to become “First Mate Bob” on the long-time religious radio show “Haven of Rest.”(i)

Is it any wonder that, when explaining to the chief priests and Pharisees why they did not arrest Jesus, the Temple guards said “No one ever spoke the way this man does?” (John 7:46) Because His words were God’s! And God’s words penetrate! I’ve lost track of the number of times someone said of a sermon I preached, “Have you been reading my diary?” The Word cuts deep, penetrates and goes where nothing else can. Martin Luther had the same view. He wrote “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me. It has feet it runs after me. It has hands, it lays hold of me.” But then, perhaps he was mentally ill as well! Or was he?

Two views. Only one can be right. And having the right view is extremely important. As the apostle Paul wrote, “…For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” I’d say that’s pretty important. I wonder if Joy, and Omarosa, think so too.

(i) Paul Myers, “Down and Out from Beverly Hills: One man’s encounter with a Gideon Bible,” in “The Golden Age of Hymns,” Christian History, no. 31.

(ii) Picture source:https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterhutchins/4921893130/