It Could Never Happen Here?

It Could Never Happen Here?

Is this a good time to throw out a cliche-like quote?

roman statue down“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
– George Santayana

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
– Wendell Phillips

It seems to me that the part that’s not being remembered is not so much how these things get started, but where they invariably end up.

Continue reading “It Could Never Happen Here?”

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If Life Is A River… There Will Be Floods

If Life Is A River… There Will Be Floods

BibleGateway.com’s ‘ Verse of the Day’ today is Psalm 103:17-18. Part of it hit me strangely:

…the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children- with those who keep His covenant and obey His precepts.
(NIV)

What this seemed to be saying was “The Lord’s love and righteousness result from covenant-keeping and precepts-obeying.” Two things struck me. First, this certainly sounds like the keeping and obeying is required – a prerequisite; and second, ‘love and righteousness?’ The actual question I asked myself was, “What exactly are love and righteousness worth? What do they do for me, even if they are from God?”

I’m pretty sure that throughout Christendom there is a constant struggle with – or a lack of understanding of – which comes first, God’s love for only those who fear Him or the awe and reverence that is felt as a result of knowing God’s blessings. I know works don’t come first, right?  But those are verbs in the passage, indicating action: fear, keep, obey. The phrasing certainly makes it sound like only those who do these things will get the ‘reward.’ And why can’t we get something really useful to people in this world, like silver and gold, or free food and shelter?

I decided to look further into this, and googled “verses love and righteousness”.

The top returns clearly backed up God’s reputation as always good:

The Rock! His work is perfect.
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.
Deuteronomy 32:4

…Righteousness and justice are the foundations of His throne.
Psalm 97:2

(He is) righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.
Psalm 145:17

Wait a minute. “Kind in all His deeds??” Then why do bad things happen to good people? “…Why do bad people have it so good? …” (Jeremiah 12:1-4) Is this God not being faithful, righteous, and just? Or can it be that somehow He is acting with love, acting for our good and the plans He has for us – to prosper and not harm us? (Jeremiah 29:11)

It seems very contrary. A kind of divine oxymoron or something. In fact, even God’s response to Jeremiah goes right back to

Then if they (Israel) will get serious about living my way and pray to me as well as they taught my people to pray to (other gods), everything will go well for them…
Jeremiah 12:14-17

I had to go deeper. Another hit on my search was Isaiah 45:21:

…there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior. There is none except Me.

God’s name is “I Am.” He is. He is what is. Consider this world, at this time. The earth has rivers. It benefits from them, even when they flood – floodplains are the most fertile land. Flooding is what is – and it is good in the long term.

How does that translate to us? If life is a river, there will be floods. We will have trials. God’s people learn to have faith, in spite of the floods. How will I face my troubles? How can I prosper?

I found the beginnings of an answer in Romans 5:3-5, with an additional point God makes (in verse 12:5) right after Jeremiah asks why bad people have it good:

…We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
:3-5

[But the Lord rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience, saying] “If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? And if [you take to flight] in a land of peace where you feel secure, then what will you do [when you tread the tangled maze of jungle haunted by lions ] in the swelling and flooding of the Jordan?”
12:5

Do you know the verse about discipline not being pleasant while it is happening but beneficial in the long run? I think this is similar. The difference is that discipline is the result of something that is done wrong while rejoicing in suffering is a reaction to the storms we will face. We learn from both. We learn how to live; how to stay alive.

Why is that important? I think it has to do with developing hope, something we cannot get up and go on without. And what does God do? He answers that question Himself:

I live in the high and holy places,
But also with the low-spirited, the spirit-crushed,
And what I do is put new spirit in them,
Get them up and on their feet again.
Isaiah 57:15-21

It’s God’s love and righteousness delivered through the Holy Spirit which gives us the ability to continue to live, to push through the troubled times. He gives us hope. And we have to have hope, to make it to that future without troubles which is promised to us, for a time that will come, a time when

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,
And death shall be no more.
Neither shall there be mourning,
Nor crying, nor pain anymore,
For the former things have passed away.
Revelation 21:4

The big “why” is that it’s always darkest before the dawn. Things will get worse before they get better. Before that final glorious time, the most difficult time is coming, and we must be prepared and able to stand throughout.

And we know that for those who love God all things (the good and the bad) work together for (overall) good…
Romans 8:28

Trying: The Good and The Bad

I’m fascinated with words like “trying” that have conflicting definitions – their use keeps us from understanding what we want to say to each other.

opposite.jpg
You are headed for trouble! You say wrong is right, darkness is light, and bitter is sweet.
Isaiah 5:20 CEV

Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.
Genesis 11:7 NIV

I’m amazed that everything we see happening in the world today has already been prophesied and predicted – yet so few seem to be aware of this.

business-as-usualBut understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness but denying its power.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV
(And it is hardly possible anymore to “avoid such people”.)

sadness
I’m deeply saddened that the solution to – or, at least, the explanation for – these problems has been documented all along in plain sight, but so many have sought – successfully – to have it be ignored, ridiculed, and denied.

For the message about the cross is nonsense to those who are being destroyed, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.
1 Corinthians 1:18 ISV

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
2 Timothy 3:16 NLT

 

terrifiedI’m terrified at the promise of what is yet to come – upon all of us. It is not an idle threat.

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,
Matthew 24:4-12 NIV

But I’m incredulous, yet slightly perversely joyous, that all this is proof that God’s Word is Truth. These facts are signs of the end times. Will I live to see it? I really do wonder. And I keep trying look past the coming trials to the reward on the other side.

Then there is hope that I myself will somehow be raised from death.
Philippians 3:11 ERV

But I meant to speak of “trying”. We have to be trying to hold onto hope in these trying times. We have to be trying to be examples of His message in both our words and actions.

Adjective: difficult, annoying, or hard to endure

Verb: make an attempt or effort to do something

“Easier said than done” is especially apt to describe people’s actions these days. We all speak our minds and are quick to advise the world in general from our wisdom. Social media has paved the way for us, as is so obvious from this US election. The hateful and contemptuous language I have read! (And posted, too, I confess.) We have become so reactive, instead of focusing on being proactive.

What can we do? I think the first thing is instead to ask “What can I do?” Christianity is: Fixing the Whole – fixing, improving, growing, maturing myself. Actively. Doing what I proclaim in my own life. Walking my own talk. And being honest with myself about how far away I fall from doing that.

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What continues to be of prime importance to me is that I read The Bible for myself. It is the foremost way God speaks to me. I can only urge you to do the same. Give it a try. I am sure you will be amazed at what you hear, and what you learn about yourself.

This morning, I am also recalling and considering the book The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. This is Evil talking:

screwtape.jpg“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”

Evil seeks to keep the Truth of God far from our awareness.

“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

Faith and trust in God and His purpose helps us to get through our difficult seasons. We all will have storms in this life.

“I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so.”

Evil wants us to think he (The Evil One) doesn’t exist, despite how easily and simply it explains everything.

I believe:

“Every life is better with Christ at its center, but that means that Christ must become, more and more, the animating center of all you do and say.”
Rankin Wilbourne, excerpted from “Union With Christ” in “Men of Integrity” magazine

god-anything-possibleThis is what I believe, yes, the every life would be better. But how I put this into effect is only by making my life better, by keeping Christ at its center, letting Him, more and more, be the animating force of all I do and say.

I can not change you. God will do that. And He just may work through what you see me do and hear me say.