Wednesday, June 29, 2005

 

Who knew he lived so close?

“Christ is not speaking to the press at this time,” said West Virginia attorney A. P. Pishevar the other day. Well, there’s a thing you don’t hear every day. Mr. Pishevar was actually referring to his client, a gentleman who started out in life as Peter Robert Phillips Jr., but who subsequently changed his name to Jesus Christ as an expression of piety. That was all very well in Washington, D.C., where Mr. Christ was living at the time, but when he moved to West Virginia recently, he found himself up against stricter driver’s license requirements. His new state of abode simply will not issue a license to him as Jesus Christ, because they say the documentation on his name change is insufficient. Hence the attorney. May we offer a suggestion to Mr. Christ? Perhaps an affidavit from your Father . . ."

National Review, June 6, 2005, Vol. LVII, No. 10

 

Some interesting quotes

“For us murder is once for all forbidden, so even the child in the womb . . . is not lawful for us to destroy. To forbid birth is only quicker murder . . . the fruit is always present in the seed.” Tertullian

“Whenever you find yourself disposed to uneasiness or murmuring at anything that is the effect of God’s providence, look upon yourself as denying either the wisdom or goodness of God.” William Law

“The great Christian revolutions come not by the discovery of something that was not known before. They happen when somebody takes radically something that was always there.” H. Richard Niebuhr

“If my faith is false, I ought to change it; whereas, if it be true, I am bound to propagate it.” Bishop Whatley

Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 17, 2005

 

Quick update

My family and I arrived back from my cousin's funeral safe and sound. I have been busy catching up on grading and other work. They are currently renovating the offices, so I am a nomad professor at the moment. At any rate, the point I am trying to make is that due to the funeral and other commitments, it may be next week before I get to post much on this blog. Thanks for the prayers, and thanks for reading.

Leo

Thursday, June 09, 2005

 

Blogging interrupted

Due to the recent death and upcoming funeral of my cousin, Drew Renfro, I will not be on-line much the next few days. Thanks to you all for your prayers and words of encouragement during this time of loss. Drew was as fine a man as anyone could hope, and more importantly, he had a wonderful relationship with God through Jesus and his sacrifice. Drew leaves behind 5 beautiful children and a wife, and I am sure they (and Drew's parents) will appreciate your continued prayers. I know I do.

A Final Word today--it is funny how in the past couple of months I have come to see this blog and others as a kind of community, a family really, where I get to catch up with folks and give them news of my life. I like it. I find myself thinking of you all as dear friends that I've known for ages. Wayne, Veriphile, Michael--I appreciate you all. Funny how a computer and a site can create a type of community (almost like a church, no?). Thanks for being there, and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

 

Rich or Poor?

In the Beatitudes, Jesus states “Blessed are the poor” or “Blessed are the paupers.” He also states in the Gospels that it is difficult for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Have you ever wondered at the juxtaposition of those two thoughts? I know the traditional interpretation of both sayings, and I am aware of the devotional literature that surrounds them as well. What I want to consider for a few moments today is the abject difference between the two.

The poor are blessed, but the rich have a difficult time entering into God’s kingdom.

Why?

Most of us have been “poor” at some point in our lives. Oh, we may not have been as poor as the poorest of the world, but we had to do without due to our lack of means. Maybe our stomachs even growled and our heads hurt from hunger. Perhaps we even had to bypass the purchase of a particular item we desperately wanted or even needed. Yes, we have known some form of poverty.

Did we feel blessed? Really?

Did you feel “happy” during those times of poverty? In all likelihood, we looked forward with some measure of pleasure/joy to the day when we wouldn’t suffer such setbacks. We prayed and wished for a time when we would have abundance and would not have to “do without.” We didn’t feel blessed, we felt miserable.

Some of us today are rich, or at least, we aren’t poor any more. We can pretty much get what we want or need when we want or need it. We don’t have to “do without” unless we choose to do so. As an example, I recently signed a contract on a house that is much more than I have ever paid for a house. Homes in Lynchburg are costly (compared to homes in Waco, that is), and yet I can afford the note. I am no longer “poor”!

Do I feel far from the kingdom of God? Do I feel unhappy or a lack of blessing? Not really.

What could Jesus mean then? Was he just speaking rhetorically or do these words tell us something important?

I think it is Matthew who says “Blessed are the poor in spirit” as opposed to simply “Blessed are the poor.” I like what Oswald Chambers says in My Utmost for His Highest.

“The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount produces despair in the natural man—the very thing Jesus means it to do. As long as we have a self-righteous, conceited notion that we can carry out our Lord’s teaching, God will allow us to go on until we break our arrogance over some obstacle, then we are willing to come to him as paupers and receive from him. ‘Blessed are the paupers in spirit,’ that is the first principle in the kingdom of God. The bedrock in Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possession; not decisions for Jesus Christ, but a sense of absolute futility—I cannot begin to do it. Then Jesus says—Blessed are you. That is the entrance, and it does take us a long while to believe we are poor! The knowledge of our own poverty brings us to the moral frontier where Jesus Christ works. . . . Jesus Christ never asks us to decide for him, but to yield to him—a very different thing.. . . If I know that I have no strength of will, no nobility of disposition, then Jesus says ‘Blessed are you, because it is through this poverty that I enter his kingdom. I cannot enter his kingdom as a good person, I can only enter it as a complete pauper.”

In other words, as long as I think of myself as offering some gift or blessing to God, I cannot receive his free gift or blessing. Unless I recognize the poverty of my own will and spirit, I cannot humbly receive what God has to offer. Like a little child, I must recognize my limitations in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Rich people like us think we can buy or earn what we need or want, God says that the kingdom of heaven is for those who realize that they cannot enter on their own abilities or initiatives. Thanks be to God for the grace to enter! Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift in Jesus Christ!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

 

It isn't fair!

“It isn’t fair!” I hear these words more often than I can count from my children every day. Usually the complaint has to do with some “cherished” position, or some privilege, or some opportunity, or whose turn it is to “go first,” etc. More often than not, the cry is one for justice but from a strictly partisan or selfish position. Given the smaller piece of cake, the child exclaims the unfairness and unrighteousness of life. Offered an opportunity that seems less than satisfactory, the sibling rails to the parents about the need for equality, or fairness, or justice, in the present situation.

We’ve all endured moments of injustice. We were overlooked for a promotion or unjustly removed from a position. We expected more than we got, we worked hard and received a lower wage. Maybe it was a relationship that promised so much better than we received. Maybe we were overlooked in one of our rare moments of success. Maybe our idea was attributed to another without a concern for our opinion or sense of fairness.

Maybe you’ve lost a loved one at an untimely time in an unpleasant manner. As I write these words, a cousin lies “near death” after some routine surgery on his back. He is a fine fellow, a generous man, a husband and a father. He has accomplished much with his life, but he continued to show a type of humility rarely found in a person of success. He is what we may call in America “well off,” at the very least he lives comfortably with his wife and children. And yet, here he is, suffering silently near death as the doctors and family decide what to do next.

I want to scream at God “It’s unfair! He doesn’t deserve this situation! His wife and kids don’t deserve this injustice.” I cry out my dissatisfaction not as an objective judge, but as a person who has a stake in the outcome. My cousin is one of my extended family with whom I feel I share a bond beyond blood. I recently moved to Virginia, where he lives, and I hoped to renew our relationship and even hopefully deepen it. I feel shortchanged by the circumstances, I feel like it isn’t fair.

In my feelings of injustice, I cry out to God for a boon of grace, for a favor that (in all honesty) I don’t deserve. Yet, I want it. I want my cousin to live. Will God grant it? I don’t know.

Life is unfair at times. Injustice happens. God seems silent and life seems dull. I don’t always get the biggest piece of cake. What do I do after I have registered my disappointment with God? I live. I breathe in and out. I move on to the next thing. I trust that even when the outcome doesn’t suit my plans, still my Father has good things in store.

Life isn’t easy, treat each day as a precious gift. I have learned in the last 10 months that this physical existence we experience is much more fragile than we imagine. I do not know when my time may come. I have no way of predicting what will happen, but I know the character of the One who does. He is faithful, he is trustworthy, and, perhaps most importantly, he has himself suffered outrageous injustice so that when we cry “It isn’t fair!” he not only hears, but he empathizes. He understands, he hears, he cares. God may not always act the way we want him to in our situations, but he is never so aloof as to be unloving or uncaring. Jesus suffered so that I could live. I’m alive because he died. More importantly, I have the hope of resurrection because he didn’t stay in the grave. Is life unfair? Yes, but God is just, loving, merciful, and he is here. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Addendum (06-07-05)—Last night, my cousin passed away surrounded by his family. God is still good, but I am sad.

This topic is heavy, I want to put it down now.

Thanks for reading!

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