Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The hors d'oeuvers on the tray were having a grand time at the party. The string quartet was playing beautiful music. The champagne was France's finest. With 'ahhs' and 'oohs' another tray was set on the beautiful table. It was exquisitely graced with Russian caviar and shaved truffles from Spain. All the guests seemed to gravitate at once to the new offerings. At that point the pate' turns to the stuffed olive and asks, "what am I, chopped liver?" It may be that you've felt that way at one point or another in your life. It seems that you have had to live in the shadow of greater lights. The smarter brother, the prettier sister, the needier aunt, the demanding parent, were always in your life and always called the light to themselves. Once out of the childhood home it often continues for some folks. Next the outgoing roommate, the creative lab partner, the faster football teammate and the kid with the good hair puts you back again in the shadows. Surely life in the working world would work out better. Ofttimes it does but other times the boss likes that guy's work better, the boss likes that lady's smile better, or there's a genius in the next cubicle but he's not there for long because he gets the promotion. Surely home is a respite. But it turns out that your publicly adored spouse gets the limelight and you're in the kitchen cutting the limes for the margaritas for her parties. More shadows. Sometimes, in truth, those folks probably earned it or deserved it, other times they or life's fickle circumstances simply stole your thunder. Either way you were left in the shadow of another and that part of life is not much fun. If you ever felt that way let me tell you, you've got company. Not surprisingly, you will find company in the Bible. Might these in scripture who spend life in the shadow of others give us some insight as to how we should react when we are out of the spotlight? Where can we find these biblical examples of how to handle the second chair in life's orchestra? There are several places really. I'll name a few and you can then see the pattern and find other examples yourselves. Here's the first one: John 3:17-18. Now these are good verses. When you read them you will recognize them but only a handful of folks ever memorized them. It's always John 3:16 that gets the glory and all the attention. It's the first Bible verse folks memorize and the one folks carry with them that they can peal off at a moment's notice. Not 3:17 or 18 or even 3:15, but 3:16 is the attention getter in this group. It doesn't seem fair to John 3:17-18 but that is just the way it is. Shoot, when John, the man, wrote John, the gospel, he didn't even designate the chapter and verses. Cardinal Caro added his around 1244-1248 and the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton, started a versed Bible in 1227. I'll let the Catholics and Anglicans figure that one out (although I am partial to the Cardinal's syrup). All I know is that John 3:17-18 never stood a chance of being famous after that. Let me give you another example: take the case of Romans 8:27. Now there's a heck of a good verse but everyone hones in on Rom. 8:28-29. But who could blame them, after all it is terribly reassuring to know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose. But poor old 27 only tells us that the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. That's good stuff but hardly 28-29 material. Consider the plight of poor old Psalm 24. His may be the worst of the bunch. Handel certainly recognized 24's beauty and depth but you never hear folks asking for Psalm 24 to be read at a funeral. It's a shame, but 24 just got himself stuck by 23. What can you do? One of my favorites is Ephesians 2:7 which says, " in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of this grace expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." What a marvelous thought that God is sharing incomparable riches of grace expressed through kindness to us in our relationship with Jesus. But I guarantee you that if you go into a Christian bookstore and buy one of those little kits of flash cards to help you memorize scripture, you won't find Eph. 2:7 but you will find Eph. 2:8-9: "for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that on one can boast." It's hard to disagree with putting that one in isn't it, but I can't but feel a little sorry for Eph. 2:7. It has to feel a bit like it must like to stand next to the next Miss America when she is called out and you don't even make the finals. I feel a bit sad for these verses having to "live" in the shadow of more well known verses. But notice how they handle it. I've never heard one complain. They stand and deliver the truth that has been given them and serve where they are planted. No complaints or requests for transfers have ever been noted from these verses. They soldier on in the shadows. Maybe they know something we tend to forget in a self-absorbed culture: if they are in the shadows then there must be a great Light somewhere. I'd bet they know that one day we will all be in the Light as He is in the light for He is Light. They know that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no shadow of turning"(James 1:17). Maybe good old Rom 8:27 simply rests in the truth of 8:28-9. One day you may be asked to come from the shadows and shine your light for the glory of God. Pray you are not tarnished by the cares of the world to the point that the light can't shine. In the meantime, and the times are mean, practice the truth from one of the first songs you memorized, probably even before John 3:16: this little light of mine, I'm gonna let shine, let shine, let it shine, let it shine. One day it will, and even this day a little light goes a long way. Keep polished, Cos
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The tragedy in Tuscon defies words on so many levels. Yet, words of disbelief, disillusionment, fear, and outrage have filled the air. We wonder if it was a man with a gun who was mad or a madman with a gun. We've heard from former friends and family about the gunman being a little different but how he seemed to get weirder, more angry, and more reclusive recently. Drugs are brought up as a cause, mental illness is assumed, political rhetoric is pointed toward with another view toward gun control or more "programs" to spot these kinds of people and stop them before it's too late. We want to know who's responsible and blame an uncivilized society on politics, illness, maladjustment, and lack of attention. We call for a return to civility and kindness. I'm all for more civility. In fact, I'd personally like to see schools or better yet, maybe community centers and churches have classes in manners. (Ideally, it would be nice if parents would teach this but today's parents are too busy so they let the Real Housewives, Desparate Housewives, Modern Families, Super Nanny and Snookie from Jersey Shore teach our kids. )We've forgotten how to act toward other human beings. But classes on manners and deportment (there's a word you haven't seen in a while--it used to be on report cards) won't stop demons in the desert or other places from turning deadly all the time. But I think I see a progression, acutally a degression in our society back from civility to more root causes. Civility arises out of respect. We no longer treat one another with grace and civility because we don't respect other humans. We don't respect other human beings because other humans' value is discounted. Human value is discounted because truth, objective truth is also discounted or thrown onto the pile of of moral relativism. When truth is discounted, what truth teaches us about God has no effect. What truth says is that we are made in God's image and answerable to Him. Truth from God says that human beings are created in God's image and have intrinsic, eternal value. Out of respect for God we are to treat others with respect because our God, our Lord, our Boss, our Saviour loves them and we are commanded to love and respect others as He does. The fact that we are created and fallen is a truth that properly understood also produces a humility that allows dialogue and respect to grow. But if there is no God, if there is no truth, then there won't be any respect and the lack of civility, the lack of dialogue (why talk if no one else's opinion counts but mine and people like me) will create rampant selfishness and polarization will thrive. In this kind of culture my pain is supreme and me having my way is the driving force for life. Whatever then makes me happy becomes the goal in life. In this kind of society people can feel unimportant, unappreciated and unloved. The only voice they hear after a while is the voice of rejection, pain, self, sin and satan. God help us. Then a 9-11 happens, a Virgina Tech happens, a Columbine happens, a Tuscon happens and a beautiful nine year old girl with deep, brown eyes and big dreams is lost after a few days of lament to the labeling, political posturing, and finger pointing of a nation that has by and large forgotten how to answer to the Living God and how to love and respect human beings made in His image. II Chronicles 7:14 Cos
Monday, January 3, 2011
With some exclusions of course....the truth of the matter is we are all a little like this, what we declare doesn't always match what we live. I saw a church in Atlanta, GA during the '96 Olympics and the name of the church was 'The Perfect Church.' I went up on its porch and saw a big chain locking the front doors. I guess that's how it stayed perfect, it let no one in. Ironies and imperfections don't keep us from growth in God's kingdom, or they shouldn't. We don't ignore them, we seek to overcome them by the grace of God . May your new year know no fences in your seeking to know and serve Christ more fully.
"Therefore we do not lost heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweights them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. II Cor. 4:16-18