Month: February 2019

A diving bell metaphor

diving bell

A diving bell is a rigid chamber used to transport divers from the surface to depth and back in open water, usually for the purpose of performing underwater work. It is one of the earliest types of equipment for underwater work and exploration and was first described by Aristotle in the 4th century BC. In 1535, Guglielmo de Lorena created and used what is considered to be the first modern diving bell. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diving_bell

The diving bell is a reasonably good metaphor for the life of a Christian. So, with this metaphor in mind, here are some obvious questions the “fish” (i.e. people) might ask and passages of Scripture with which a Christian might reply:

  • Fish, “Why are you so peculiar?” – Christian, “(Jesus) gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14 KJV)
  • Fish, “Why are you in that?” – Christian, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being…” (Acts 17:28)
  • Fish, “Why won’t you come out and join us?” – Christian, “(Jesus prayed to the Father), ‘I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.’” John 17:14 (NIV)
  • Fish, “How can you breathe?” – Christian, “And he (Jesus) is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:25 NIV)
  • Fish, “It looks like you are being pulled up. Where are you going?” – Christian, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8 NIV)

I hope is diving bell metaphor helps us keep our focus as we walk in the hostile and rocky environment of this world. The “fish” will be confused by us but that’s okay. This world is not our home.

Image by joakant on Pixabay

Context

Knowing the context of any conversation or book is immensely important.  The Guardian ran an article in May 2013 with the subheading, “Sri Lanka has the hotels, the food, the climate and the charm to offer the perfect holiday… It’s just a pity about the increasingly despotic government.”  A highly edited version of this piece was immediately posted on the official Sri Lankan news portal under the heading “Sri Lanka has everything to offer for a perfect holiday.”

Likewise, too often we allow ourselves to take phrases of Scripture out of context, leaving behind the parts we don’t want to hear.

A great example of an out of context quote from the Bible is, “curse God and die.”  But reading in the context we find that, yes, Job’s wife says this to him, but, then, Job reprimands her as this action would be contrary to God’s will. 

As we move between the various contexts of our lives, such as home, work, church, and so forth, we need to be on guard against allowing ourselves to hear a word or see a deed outside of the context of the situation. That’s how gossiping gets started, “fake news” takes hold and, even worse, how we can misinterpret what God is saying to us through His Scripture.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash (I apologize for the stereotypical picture but I couldn’t find a better public domain pic.)

Recharging

Put down your mobile phone, unless you’re reading this on it. 😉 Do you get notices on your mobile phone telling you how many “screen-time” hours you’ve spent with it that day, and for the week. I do. Yikes!

Have you noticed the uptick in articles about personal trainers, not for exercise or to weight loss, but to teach people how to “break-up” with their mobile phones? It seems we, as a society, may have forgotten the value of alone time.

Having alone time to read God’s Word, to remember any commitments, online or voice, that we’ve made to remember someone in prayer, and to pray, is how we stay healthy Christians. Jesus taught us this by His example for we read in Matthew 14:22-24 NIV, “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

It’s okay to be off-line for some alone with God. We aren’t equipped with self-charging batteries!

Scriptures

Am I like the kid that didn’t hear the bell for recess? Everyone else knew it was recess time except THAT kid. I guess I’m that kid. I’m sitting in my classroom, clueless, while everyone else is down in the schoolyard, playing.

I knew some of this, but not all. After reading the information on the “Sacred Texts” website, I feel the need to be more reverent toward God’s Word.

From the Sacred Texts website, I learned the following:
…Insofar as Jewish texts reflect the revealed will of God, Jews have treated the texts themselves, like the stone tablets of the [ark of the] covenant, as sources of holiness.
…The Holiness of a Jewish text inheres [exist essentially or permanently in] both in the form and the content of the text.
…Different books possess different levels of sanctity, and Jewish custom even prescribes which books may be stacked on top of others.
…The Torah, as the pre-eminent sacred text, is considered perfect.
…Some Jewish scholars have divided Jewish literature into two main realms, Halakhah (lit. going, or path), which is understood broadly as Jewish behavior, and Aggadah (lit. telling), which is understood as the meaning attributed to those behaviors. It is not the case that Halakhah has a greater sanctity than Aggadah, for the two are understood as mutually reinforcing.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Growing

Right now our two cats are as close as they can get to our fireplace with their ears perked up and total concentration. They hear, see, or smell something that has grabbed their attention. Oh, that I would be so aware of my surroundings.

A number of years ago, I visited a friend’s church that was structured very differently from other churches with which I was familiar. They did many things during the service that I had never done — nothing inappropriate; just different. I was caught off guard and had to work through my internal battle; I wanted to slink out the door. However, I needed to stay in the service, not just for my friend’s sake but for my own. I stayed, participated, and sensed the presence of God at work in their congregation. I need to stay in that service because I needed to be willing to grow as a Christian even if the process made me uncomfortable.

For all the uncomfortable situations our Lord may lead us into for our good, we have this promise: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV)

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Creeds

Bible opened to the book of John

More years ago than I’d like to admit, one of my sons began listening to the Christian musician Rich Mullins. My wife and I also liked his songs, so we bought a CD of his. One of Rich Mullins songs is, in essence, the “Apostles’ Creed” set to music. For me, that was my favorite song on the CD. 

Here are words to Rich Mullin’s song “Creed”:

I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ
His only begotten Son, our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
He was crucified and dead and buried

I believe that He who suffered
Was crucified, buried, and dead
He descended into hell and
On the third day, rose again
He ascended into Heaven where
He sits at God's mighty right hand
I believe that He's returning to
Judge the quick and the dead
Of the sons of men

I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son,
Our Lord
I believe in the Holy Spirit
One Holy Church, the communion of Saints
The forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends
Creed

To be a Christian a person has to accept a set of truths. To accept Jesus as our Lord, we must accept that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. To fulfill those truths, we must recognize God as a trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You can see how we are traversing the Apostles’ Creed when we start affirming our acceptance of the objective truths of Christianity.

To be a Christian a person has to accept a set of truths. To accept Jesus as our Lord, we must accept that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. To fulfill those truths, we must recognize God as a trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You can see how we are traversing the Apostles’ Creed when we start affirming our acceptance of the objective truths of Christianity.

The New Testament contains several creedal statements such as:

1 Timothy 3:16:
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion:
He was manifested in the flesh,
Vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.

The statements in the Apostles’ Creed have been further clarified down through the years in later creeds, including the one you accepted when you became part of your church. 

These foundational truths are statements of fact, which were provided by first-person accounts or accounts that were thoroughly investigated (e.g., the book of Luke) of what people saw and learned from Jesus. This is why they are called objective truths rather than subjective truths.

Christianity is grounded in the reliable record of eyewitnesses who testified to what they saw and heard from Jesus Christ. And, as Christianity grew, believers testified to what they heard and read and, most importantly, what they experienced when they placed their faith in Jesus.

Why bother to review and reaffirm these truths? We need to know what we believe, so we aren’t swayed by modern trends. The writer of the book of Hebrews put it this way: “Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings.” (Hebrews 13:9)

Therefore, we, as believers, need to be ready and able to give our testimony to an unsaved friend, relative, or anyone God leads into our path.

Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash

Wandering

This is kind of a “part 2” for yesterday’s devotional.

I have a t-shirt from one of my kids that says, “Not all those that wander are lost.” I love that t-shirt because I have always loved the adventure of travel. A special memory to me is from being at Heathrow airport. Hearing all the different languages, seeing the way people of other cultures dress, looking at the arrivals and departures to see where all those people came from or to where they were going was so much fun!

During my life, I’ve found that it’s easier to keep in check my wanderlust for travel than it is to keep in check the wanderlust of my heart. I’ve had so many good things cross my path. Good opportunities for ministry, for work, for my community, for my family, all have come to me and my heart has wanted to dive into each one of them, but much fewer have been the right ones, the ones from God.

My heart’s desire for good things now rather than waiting for the right things from God is so dangerous because those good things would pull me from the path upon which Jesus leads. Oh, what a challenge it is to keep my heart under the authority of my Lord.

This is my prayer and I hope it is also your prayer:

Father God, I pray that “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!” for Your Son said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” therefore I ask for Your help that I would not stray from Your path. I ask for discernment so that I would separate the good from the right and that my heart would choose that which is right. In the Name of Jesus, my Lord, I pray. Amen (Psalms 119:10 ESV), John 14:15 ESV)

As I close out this devotional, I hear in my heart the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” singing within me. I think it’s impossible for me to write about wandering without hearing this song in my ears.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace’
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
...
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it—
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Youtube of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Photo by Benjamin Combs on Unsplash

This is the way

I’m not a big fan of “amusement parks” but I’ve been to many of them because I’m a parent. My wife and I raise a bunch of kids so, somehow, I’d end up at an amusement park from time to time. One of the reasons I don’t enjoy amusement parks is that people of all ages are constantly trying to “jump the line.”

When it comes to our walk with God, we must follow where He leads, and not look for short-cuts or look for ways to speed God up; oh, how I’ve tried to speed God up, but to no avail.

As children of the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9 KJV) it’s our responsibility to follow where He leads, and this is a blessing from Him. Look at this passage in Isaiah 30:19-21 NIV:

19 People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.
20 Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.
21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Verse 21 is a promise that we can claim if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior. We get a glimpse of this in John 3:8, which says, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

We, as Christians, are born of the Spirit and God desires to lead us. Our work-mates may not understand us. Our families may not understand us. We may not understand, but we must listen and be obedient to that voice behind us saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Gaining Goodwill

My dad plus his five siblings were saved from possible starvation during the Great Depression because Grandpa gained the goodwill of his doctor, and for no reason other than that Grandpa’s doctor extended his disability payments. My dad’s direction in life was changed from blue-collar worker to college professor because Dad, the son of a dirt farmer, gained the goodwill of a local philanthropist who told him that he needed to be a teacher, and I gained the goodwill of a salty department head of the local community college who hired me as a full-time instructor, which opened many doors for me.

God enables, but we must act. We read in Acts 7:9-10, “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.” God still enables His children to gain the goodwill of life-changing people. We just need to be in alignment with God’s will and then ask and act. Remember, God bought you with the blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus. God loves you.

Prayer: Father God, I come to you in the name of Jesus. If I ask anything that is not in Your will cause it to be cast aside. Father, I ask that Your blessings would rest upon Your children and that they would gain the goodwill of people in positions of authority and thereby receive even more excellent opportunities to bring Jesus into boardrooms, and educators conferences, and myriad places where the enemy has claimed for his own. Promote Your children, I ask. Amen.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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