Walking Away From “Wise Guys”: A Devotional Reflection on Corinthians 1:18-31

The elegant simplicity of faith is defined and symbolized in the cross.

devopic1

There can be no parsing of the message it represents.  It represents our separation from the God who created the universe; life and us.  Yet, at the same time, it is the means by which we are again made one with Him.

It is fitting that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians should be the conveyor of this message.  Corinth, in modern terms was, at the time of Paul’s writing, the most “cosmopolitan” of biblical cities, being comprised of many nationalities; social classes and particular denominations of Christianity.  Its  geography made it a crossroads of trade for all corners of the known world at that time.

Can you say “diversity”?

The power of Rome; the collected wisdom of Greek philosophy and the clamor of the marketplace must surely have constituted a habitat for faith not so much different from that which exists today.  That is to say, sectarian; diverse; driven by and catering to many ‘special’ interests competing for power and influence.

What better a time and place for Paul to shepherd them back to the Gospel and its meaning for a fallen mankind?

Paul cites Isaiah (29:14) from the Old Testament:  “The wisdom of the wise will perish”.  Those professing faith in Corinth could not deny their acceptance of this piece of Scripture.  That being the case, Paul continues, is it not folly to lose ourselves in using logic or knowledge to discern the nature of God?

Likewise, Paul notes that the Jews “seek signs”.  Their prayers for a conquering Messiah, more powerful than any pharaoh or king or emperor, are for  an ultimate conquest over enemies.   This belief that a true Messiah should be proof that “might makes right” is, again, folly.

For human logic and human strength or power are but that:  human.  To try to attain righteousness; sanctification and redemption with our God through these means alone is hubris at best, and sinful pride at worst.

This sinful folly, born of Adam, and rampant still in our warring and factious society, is what has separated us from Him.  And only He could make Himself flesh through Jesus Christ; and splay Himself on a cross to shoulder our sin as one of us out of  His love for all of us.  His death and resurrection unite us into His Spirit.

devopic2

We need only accept this, not due to any ” logic”,  nor even out of deference to ” power”.  This world, and our living in it, is proof enough of His power.  Accept the cross, and its meaning, and know that there is neither wisdom nor power that can understand; discern or measure His amazing Grace.

Boast not of what you can do for God or your fellow man, ….boast of what God has done for you.

Walking Tall With Jesus: A Tranformational Reflection on Romans 6:1-11

English: Under the title "New Britain&quo...

In this reading, Paul instructs an audience complacent in its’ belief that merely adhering to ‘“the law” is sufficient for their justification in the eyes of God.  In his methodical, logical style, he gently chastises them with rhetorical questions.  Like many other parts of Romans, the depth of meaning increases with each reading.

In fact, in perusing my records, I note that I wrote a devotional on this selfsame passage three years ago.  In that piece, I noted Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross as being  symbolic of the death of our own sinful life, and his resurrection as being symbolic of our “new” selves, walking in His way.  Upon re-reading this year, I find meaning which, at least to me, is deeper.

I will be brief .  Since this is a popular reading, I will not resort to citations from the text.

The point of Paul’s message is not only that we should not persist in sin so “Grace can abound”, but, more importantly, that this symbolic death of sin is a transformation.   That is, however dead our sinful past, we are still flesh and blood, and, while hopefully abated, our sinfulness is still, due to no fault of our own, a persistent interruption to our existence.

The sins of Adam die hard.  While God’s Grace is free, it can only be for naught if we do not strive to live up to the ideals we profess, or have professed for us at our baptism, whether by water. or by the fire of our own reckless pasts.  This means work.  This means striving to keep our mortal bodies from occasionally being the instruments, (if not the seats) of sin.  This means prayer.

Paul’s conclusions are obvious.  Of course Grace will not abound by the persistence of sin.  But why?  Simply because liberty from sin is not license to sin.  Our transformation from our old, sinful selves which began with the crucifixion of Jesus is, for each of us, a work in progress.  Paul reminds us that we have to “think of” ourselves as living for God.   God can’t do that for us.  It takes effort and energy.  It is a lot to acknowledge, but with the Holy Spirit in play, we will always have the upper hand on the Devil.

“I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I wish to be. I am not what I hope to be. But by the cross of Jesus Christ, I am not what I was.”John Newton, Author, ‘Amazing Grace

(keep Mr. Newton’s tune in mind as you read the following):

A Metamorphosis in Grace.

My sins died on that ruddy cross

With our God’s only Son,

How strange that His death paid for sin,

When of sin he had none.

 

And as I ponder this sweet Grace

This priceless treasure pure

I find the strength and will to face

The next temptation’s lure.

 

For I’m forgiven, but not free

From Satan’s clever ways

And I must live so God can see

His Son in all my days.

 

I must be steady; strong and brave

I must not His Grace test.

And I refuse to be a slave

To sin He put to rest.

 

Though I’m not what I wish I was

Nor what I ought to be,

I live my life in hope, because

I’m not who I used to be.

Walking in Pain and Empathy on Good Friday

As my faith has richened with Bible study and reflection on the sermons of my Pastor and the commentary on scripture I have written devotionals on, it has struck me that Good Friday is indeed the most important and meaningful Holy day of  the year.

It is symbolic, for me, of the essential tenet of Christian faith, i.e., Grace.  God gave his only Son for our salvation, and in doing so saved us from the devil and forgave us our sins.  There has been no greater gift to mankind in the history of the world, when you stop and ponder the sheer magnitude of our sinfulness.

This is reflected in, and symbolized by, the horrific and excruciating physical torture; rending; lashing and defilement of He Who is God made flesh.

( )

( ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Observe that:

–Depictions of Christ’s Passion can never be “over the top” when one considers the depths of man’s depravity toward fellow men; the folly of greed; pride and coveting, and the wallowing of our society in the shallow seas of materialism.  Small wonder that his suffering and death were so visceral and cruel.

–The physical suffering and the rending of flesh were warranted by the fact that Jesus was a man, however sinless.  The flesh in us can only truly cringe if we note that Christ, like us, was flesh and blood.

–That His suffering of scorn and ridicule was emblematic of the message God was moved to convey:  As the Son of God; he could easily have responded to deriding exhortations to “save yourself, if you are the Son of God”.  That he did not, and, instead, suffered both the torment of his fellow man and His forsaking by his father, is eloquent in depicting his acceptance of his mission to die for us rather than to prove Himself as being something other than us.

–He was “us”.  He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  As a man, even Jesus, due to his flesh and his heart and his brain, cried out for some solace; some sign that his Father could help him or come to His aid in this blackest of hours.  Indeed, His sacrifice, depicted in gruesome and gory detail, was “Good” for us.

It is fitting that Good Friday is, like Easter, assigned no date certain on modern calendars.  So momentous an occasion cannot be fixed on any mortally-invented calendar.  It rather is simply the ‘Friday before Easter’.  The joy of Easter and the celebration and exaltation of  his rising again to join His Father is enhanced and made more meaningful by its’ contrast to the blackness of the events on that blessed Friday.

For what is happiness unless one has first experienced sorrow?

That last question leads me to pose others:

–How can we purport to abide by Gods’ command to love one another unless we first experience their pain and sorrow?

–Should not our love of God be all the more intense and visceral when the pain; anguish and death of his only Son resulted in the tearing asunder of the temple veil which had, at long last, ended the separation between man and God?

–How can we ask the forbearance of others of our weaknesses and limitations unless we empathize with theirs?

Mortality is fleeting.  As such, suffering; sadness and pain, though inherent in the human lot, are also fleeting..  Whatever your answers to the questions above; strive to acknowledge Gods’ Grace by sharing it.  It can only be shared.  Let the Holy Spirit in your heart reach out and share your pain with others and let you see that your pain, and theirs, are but darknesses preceding the Light.

English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

Rejoice that Jesus lives in every heart, and suffers with us every day, so that we can one day know that the ‘veils’ we perceive are of our own making, not Gods‘.

 

 

 

 

crownthrnsbrbdwr

One Step in the Walk to the Essence of Faith

As I called the cats to their daily treats, I noted the one who did not respond, and confess that I am now convinced of the essential basis for faith; salvation and Grace during this Holy season.

It is, simply, God saying to his children, essentially this:

“Chump don’t want no treats? Chump don’t get no treats!”

Celebrate the Walk of Jesus this season by assessing the direction of the walk you take through life.

god

god (Photo credit: the|G|™)

Don’t be a ‘chump’.   Don’t make Jesus do all the walking.

‘Treats’ abound in Heaven.  The walk you take to its’ glory is yours, and yours alone….

 

Walking on Serpents: Psalm 91 and the Price of the Promise

hvn91
It is rather simple for skeptics of faith to play the ‘devils’ advocate’ when referring to Psalm 91.  The promises listed therein seem to make faith in God a “cure-all” for any possible malady; affliction or problem we could ever encounter.

It is these skeptics who can often wryly, even sneeringly, point to some natural disaster or chronic illness which befalls a person of faith and say:  “Won’t your “God” protect you?.  How is it He could have let this happen to you?”.

I am reminded of a lyric from a song by a British group, named (ironically, in this context), The Rolling Stones:

“I was driving home early Sunday morning through Bakersfield
Listening to gospel music on the colored radio station
And the preacher said, “You know you always have the
Lord by your side”
And I was so pleased to be informed of this, that I ran Twenty red lights in his honor….
Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord.”

The cynics and skeptics, these “devils’ advocates” demonstrate perfectly the mindset of Satan, when in the wilderness, he tempted Jesus to throw himself into an abyss, chiding him that any fear of the result would be contrary to the promises of Psalm 91. (Matthew 4:6)   But Jesus spurned his coaxings.  He would not throw himself into the abyss.heavenhellsign

And neither should we put God ‘to the test’ by “running twenty red lights”.

Why not?

Simply because, the promises God makes are to those who make their habitation with Him (v. 9), not those who would doubt Him or ‘test’ Him.  These, and their homes, shall no evil befall.  (v.10).   Habitation with the Lord will have the benefit of angels to lift us up so that we will not fall. (v.11; 12).

The angels will regard us, their charges, as children.  They will help us if we trip on the stones of sin or temptation.  They will gird us as we trample the Devil, whether manifested as a lion, or a serpent.  (v. 13)

If we know God by name; if we fix upon Him our love exclusively (v. 14); and, most importantly, if we call out to Him in a constant dialogue of prayer in times of trouble, He will deliver us.  He will be with us.  And He will answer our prayers.  (v.15)  Our lives will be long, however divided they may be between the ‘here and now’ and the ‘hereafter’.  We will know his salvation (v. 16) not by earning it; and certainly not by testing it;, but…. by acknowledging the essential fact of Grace:  The Passion of Christ…the denial to Jesus of protecting angels; of deliverance; of comfort; of protection from harm….  was Gods’ gift to those who would take refuge from their sinfulness in His habitation, and love Him in return for His proven love for us.  The promises of Psalm 91 are the reason Jesus went to the cross, and his resurrection was victory over sin; death and Satan.

Just as Jesus resisted the temptation of the serpent Satan, we must resist the temptations  posed upon us everyday by the lions of greed; fear; envy and pride.  And if we dwell in Love with God, and with one another, we can,…..and we will.

hvnredlight

Walking the Eons With Jennifer (A Birthday Wish Eternal)

Ode to Eternity…

Fret not that one more year has passed;

Ignore the hair that grays…

Count not the months and years elapsed;

Long not for “younger” days.

 

For Time is but the pawn of Space;

A soulless metronome;

And ‘Matter’, can affect its’ pace,

And change the path it roams.

 

Rest easy…heed the surety

That true Love knows no “time”

But lends eternal purity

To our Spirits’ bond sublime.

 

“Eternal”, then, our wedded bliss,

Immeasurable our Joy.

A warm embrace; a smile….a kiss…

Can Times’ constraints destroy.

 

A look through Space via your brown eyes

Transports my soul on wings

And to your Grace my Spirit flies

And to its’ music sings.

 

This Love, unbound by mortal coils

Swiss precision cannot ‘time’;

All temporal concepts this love foils;

No matter how defined.

 

Not eons; seconds; pace;…. or beat;

Not each ensuing morn ;

Could change the hour that saw us meet……..

The hour we both were born.    

                                                                                                                                                     

Happy Birthday to my Love with the faraway eyes……      

                                                                                                                                                          

Walking Into The Light….An Easter Reflection On The Dichotomy of ‘Death’

“Don’t be afraid your life will end…be afraid that it will never begin!”…….(Anonymous)

This Easter will doubtless be like almost all Easters before it…..a special day for the devout who may enjoy a breakfast at church before Mass….a day of  egg hunts; chocolate bunnies and gladiator movies for the the children of the secular.  Feasts of ham; hard-boiled eggs and yellow bread with crusts of gold will sate the hunger of the devout and secular alike.  To many, perhaps the most puzzling aspect of this ‘holiday’ is that, though it always falls on a ‘Sunday’, there is never an employer-sanctioned Saturday and/or Monday off from work in recognition of it.

Perhaps this is fitting….an unintentional sacrifice of “time off” from work in recognition of Lenten forbearance.  That grocers and clothiers; vendors of ham and of chocolate; and twice-a-year church attendees all alter their marketing; inventory; and Sunday morning habits, all attest to a ‘special’ nature to this glorious day.  Not even Christmas; Hanukkah (or even ‘Festivus’)…can match the glory the import, or indeed……the message of Easter.

This day commemorates a singular message:   The ‘Lamb of God’, having suffered and died for our sin, was resurrected and rose to be seated at the right hand of the Father.  As God made flesh, he bore the burden of all our sins, and asks nothing in return save, perhaps, that we love each other and share a Grace we can never earn or merit.  Most would agree that seems an excellent bargain……yet, how many of us afford more than ‘lip service’ of an occasional contribution to a charity or a periodic visit to church?

Whether we attend like clockwork or visit twice a year in newly purchased finery of raiment, do we really understand or comprehend the true meaning of this Grace?   That churches of today are increasingly (and, unfortunately, out of necessity) the loci of daycare centers; polling places; and branches of  the criminal justice system via community service sentences is, though admirable, problematic in that the most elementary and basic message of faith is obscured.  That is, the church as a forum for witnessing our acknowledgment of Grace and professing our faith that, as sinners all, we need His guidance to remind us of the attainability of eternal life.

Yes, the message of Easter is that eternal life is accessible only via the portal of death.  For those who acknowledge the Grace of God and confess the human frailty of their envies; their lusts; their prejudices and their sloth…indeed, of the inherence of sin in being human, will, in their final hour, welcome the coming of the light rather than”rage against the dying of the light”.

This light is there for us, not just on Sundays, but every day.  

It is where any individual, troubled by the lot of the world around him or her, can contemplate the burdens and pressures of everyday life and pray for the help and guidance of He who knows our shortcomings but loves us nonetheless.   Such contemplation often can help us realize that, as humans, the nature and magnitude of our sinfulness can grow exponentially via the lens of temporal societal pressure, and this growth can make the burden of these sins  too onerous to bear, too large or bulky to address, …….too cumbersome to lock away in any crate.

And to many, whose faith is insufficient to bear the strain on their back of the “crosses they bear”, there may come a time when a problem; a dilemma; or an offense they perceive as breaking the “camels’ back” can capsize what little spirit they have left.

It is to these of us that the Easter message is most important.   For, in the end, we all of us need to help each other realize and to witness that, through the Grace of Our Lord, we are not human beings having (or feigning) a ‘spiritual’ experience, but spiritual beings, who, like Jesus. in his walk up to Calvary, are struggling through a human experience…..which, with faith, will open the portal to life eternal. 

   Let us glorify His sacrifice by witnessing his message that true life for all of us, is…….yet to come.