State of the Union

Tonight is the big “State of the Union” presidential address to a joint-session of Congress and – thanks to TV cameras, radio, and the internet – the entire country or at least those who take time to tune in, tens of millions of whom definitely do.

But instead of focusing on (perpetually pervasive) politics, I encourage everyone to focus on the “state of our union” with the Lord!

On how we’re doing spiritually.

On how we view and treat our fellow man and especially fellow Christians.

On how much time and depth and focus and attention we give to the Lord and His Holy Word, the Bible – each day, each week, each month.

On what things fill our mind and heart.

For a little while at least, let’s leave it to others to opine and plead and pontificate about politics on this “State of the Union” night, while we wisely take inventory of how we’re doing spiritually.

  • “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…” (2 Peter 1:10a)
  • “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5a)

 

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Bless the Blessed

Anymore I feel pretty much permanently prepared to be peppered with perpetual perplexity pertaining to God’s pervasive perfection.  How on earth can the Fall-flawed, finite human mind make sense much less wrap itself around  such solemn spiritual concepts like sinlessness, sovereignty, eternity, and Deity?

It can’t.  Not fully anyway but that’s okay because (1) one day we will…

  • “For now [i.e., on earth] we see in a mirror dimly, but then [i.e., in heaven/eternity] face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

… and (2) even our finite minds can comprehend infinite truths sufficiently enough  to believe, if and when said minds are submissively saturated with the Word and His Holy Spirit, wondrously working hand-in-heavenly-hand within “sad sacks” of sin such as we.

For this God-granted grace – and everything else  about the Lord – let us love the all-loving, let us bless the Lord and His unparalleled, peerless, perfect Name, let us ever bless the Blessed.

[Here are a few (very) different renderings of the first song which you might enjoy; I encourage you to listen to all of these videos until the end but especially this very next one…]

 

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Only Hope

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there are a lot of things that seem to be getting more and more scarce, downright rare, in current-day society.

Truth, for sure.

And love.

And joy.  (Contrary to the perception most social media posts try to paint.)

And peace.  (Nuff said.)

And patience.  (Next time you’re driving, simply observe how humans honk their horns anymore and you’ll see what I mean.)

But despite how gloomy the outlook might be for society right now, don’t let it get you glum…

… because I have good news:  there’s still hope!

That’s right, we humans have hope but ONLY ONE, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ and specifically His Spirit-spawned, blessed birth and spotless life and salvation-sealing death, burial, and resurrection.

And hand-in-hand with the Incarnate Word, our only hope is the written Word, the God-breathed Bible.  For the latter leads and lassos and lovingly links our little lives to Him, our very big God.

Per my prayed petitions for many years now, I remain confident and convinced that at least one more mass spiritual revival is in store… but ONLY IF we hop head-first into, then hold both-handedly onto, our ONLY hope… ONLY IF we turn away from our sin and to His Word, the magnificent, beneficent Bible.

May we wisely do so in our own life first, then let it spread to others via demonstrated love and joy and peace and patience and humility.

It’s our only hope.

 

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No Libels

In the past year or so in particular as the 2024 U.S. presidential election has inched ever nearer and the probable participating candidates have become ever clearer, a group founded in 2009 has gained new steam.

It’s called No Labels and its mission is – if  2024 looks likely to be a 2020 rematch of Trump vs. Biden (as it definitely does right now) – to put forth, to field and fully fund a so-called “unity ticket” and thus provide the American people with a third, far more preferable and popular option comprised of a centrist Republican and centrist Democrat.  [Think Larry Hogan, Chris Sununu, Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman for the former and a past multi-term blue Governor of a red state like Joe Manchin (WV) or Jay Nixon (MO) for the latter.]

A few months ago there was polling which suggested that the move – if it even materializes, if they’re even able to get a line on the ballots in a sufficient number of states – would, contrary to conventional wisdom, actually siphon more votes away from (i.e., hurt) Trump than (i.e., help) Biden.  Color me skeptical of that conclusion which seems a tad askew…

… but it’s basically bringing a big headache to both sides of the aisle in their planning and plotting (and plodding) to take the White House next November.

In the coming months we should get a good glimpse of what if any  impact this may ultimately have, but – in keeping with my prior promise that this will remain a partisan-politics-free place – the point and purpose of this post, while wielding wisdom and value for folks in the field of politics, isn’t about “No Labels” but rather “no LIBELS!”

As you’ve no doubt noticed, the past decade has definitely detected a dramatic, indeed, dire decrease in diplomacy and a massive increase in invective in politics and society in general.  Phrases and words which would’ve been unthinkable  even just a decade or two ago are now routinely hurled very publicly on an hourly  basis… so I’d like to humbly remind those so inclined that while the Bible doesn’t mention “No Labels” (by name, anyway) it certainly has something serious to say about “no libels”:

  • “… malign no one… be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” (Titus 3:2, NASB [1977-94 version])

And I really like the Legacy Standard Bible’s translation:

  • “… slander no one… be peaceable, considerate, demonstrating all gentleness to all men.” (Titus 3:2, LSB)

The Bible commands us to “malign no one”, to “slander no one” – in other words, “NO LIBELS!”

What a wise and timely word from the Word especially in light of our current political and societal state, which fits perfectly with my prior two-part post about the need for unity.

I often wish I could have a direct, personal conversation with the current crop of corporate, media, and political leaders, to tell them that instead of contributing so completely to the country’s communication crisis, they could – and absolutely should – be focused like a laser (at least at first) on curing  it, since they largely hold the cards.

I’ll keep praying along those lines and maintaining faith, but won’t be beset by bated breath since we don’t live in that kind of a world…

… but they and we could  quite quickly restore interpersonal and public communication back to how it used to be, simply by heeding the verse above (which I love) or this one:

  • “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29, NASB [1977-94 version])
  • “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for building up what is needed, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29, LSB)

Let’s take a moment to ask ourselves:  Have we been “showing every consideration for all men” (regardless of political party, or anything else) or have we been persistently pushing our own preferences and pleasure and will?  Did everything (!) we’ve said today (this week, the past month) have the effect of “building up” the hearers or tearing them down?  Did our words “give grace”, or something else altogether?

I think we all know the answer but the point isn’t to berate ourselves but rather to trust the Lord and rely on His heavenly help to turn around this seriously sinful societal situation.

Starting with ourselves.

Then we will watch it spread like wildfire to those around us and beyond, eventually impacting our congregation, county, then country, creating considerable and genuine and desperately-needed change.

Let it be so, Lord.  Let it be so.

 

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Three Degrees

No, the title of this post isn’t referring to the smooth-sounding, silk-voiced Seventies singing group…

… nor to the wintry weather here in the nation’s capital yesterday (though we did see some snow, so it came uncomfortably close to that  on the thermometer).

Permit me to briefly elaborate.  You see, per what was penned in a previously published post, I “practiced what I preached” and late last night let a kitchen pan soak in the sink but when I went to clean the cooked-on crud away, some greasy grime got unpleasantly plastered to the sink so I grabbed a nearby napkin and wiped it off.

Or at least tried to.  It didn’t work.  It just spread the greasy grime around even more so I retrieved an about-to-be-tossed old rag which had long served its purpose and went to wipe the expanded grease field from the floor of the sink but the latter proved to be too powerful for the former so I grabbed a steel wool scouring pad and, wah-lah, the greasy grime was gone!

Bible reading is like a napkin.

Bible study is like a rag.

Bible memory is like a steel wool scouring pad.

These are the “three degrees” of Bible interactivity.  All are excellent in essence but exhibit different degrees of depth, of effectiveness in terms of “sinking in” to the human mind and wondrously wiping away the “cooked-on, caked-on crud” of sin in our life.

The Bible in general and Bible memory in specific:  what a treasure, what a pleasure!

God’s good gift, granted without measure.

And while an ode to the Bible and Bible memory is fully, infinitely  fitting for any  day, I can’t think of a better  one for it than today… Happy Valentine’s Day!  May our love for each other and especially the Word of the Lord and the Lord of the Word abound more and more each day, each week, each month, each year.

 

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“You Raise Me Up”

I might or might not know a great deal… but I know a great deal when I see one.

I think I inherited that ability from my paternal grandmother; as noted on this website’s Why page, she once was one of the biggest independent antique dealers certainly east of the Mississippi and probably the entire country at the time, and I can remember as though it were yesterday the time that, for my major-milestone 13th birthday, she, my parents, and I visited the Williamsburg (Va.) Pottery Factory (it’s big now but was way more massive then).  It’s the first time I fully, fervently comprehended the meaning of the phrases “a fish in water” and “kid (or in this case, grandmother) in a candy store”.  She was something to behold, wheeling and dealing to an extent even the best writers in Hollywood couldn’t come close to conveying.  I don’t think the rows of steel shelves were literally a mile long but they certainly seemed like it, and when she saw some silver bells selling for cents on the dollar, she politely but promptly prodded the salesperson to pack up the entire row and proceeded to the checkout cash register and celebrated ceaselessly her financial feat for the entire four-hour trip back home.

Like her – no doubt because of  her – I know a great deal when I see one.  Like when I bought my very first property for a fantastic price, so much so that in less than a single decade it quadrupled  in value.  Or the time that my mind made a massive “buy signal” when, post-IPO, the stocks of Facebook dropped down into the teens and Tesla to around $30.  Bargain bonanza!

But the greatest deal by far that I’ve ever come across is when I read in the Bible that the only person in human history to have ever known no sin willingly offered to become  sin so that sinful, sinning sinners like me might manifest and indeed become  the very righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21) and that if we only humbly believe Him, He will raise us up out of our present pit of pride and sin and set and keep  us on the path of righteousness (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6; Psalm 40:2; 1 John 5:18).  I could barely believe it… but I’m so glad I did!   I took Him at His word and haven’t looked back.  Biggest bargain ever.  We simply give the Lord our pride and selfishness and He gives us eternal life to be enjoyed in Heaven with Him forever and ever.  We simply give Him our sin and He gives us His righteousness.  We give up a future in Hell and He gives us a future in Heaven.  We “die daily” to self and sin and repugnant pride, and He raises us up to walk in newness of life.

Like I said… Best. Bargain. Best. Offer. Best. Deal. EVER!

Lord, in Psalm 41:10, Your servant David says, “You… raise me up.”  I frequently fall far from the superb, supreme, supernatural example and demonstration of true humility You modeled so perfectly when You were walking in our shoes, on this very same sod.  Yes, I frequently fail and flail and fall down on the ground… and yet You raise me up, Lord.  All the way.  Every day.  You raise me up.

 

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Holy

I think that one of the most amazing, stunning, jaw-dropping, brain-blowing, mind-crinkling command in the entire Bible is the one found in 1 Peter 1:15

  • “but LIKE the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in ALL your behavior” (emphasis added)

(… and its “other side of the same coin” similar-sounding sister verse Titus 1:15 … yep, and they’re BOTH “Chapter 1, Verse 15” with only the book of the Bible itself being different… we’ll call them “the two 1:15’s” on holiness…)

  • “To the pure, ALL things are pure…” (emphasis added)

We are called, no, commanded  not just to be holy, as massive as that would be all by itself, but to be holy LIKE God Himself is.

Wow!  Wow!  I am speechless!

But wait, there’s more!  We are commanded not only to be holy and not only to be holy like He is but to do so, to be so, in ALL our behavior, in ALL our conduct, in ALL of our words and actions (including reactions) … wow wow wow, what a command!

But praise the Lord that the Bible is crystal clear that this is indeed possible but only by His doing, only through the inner working of His Spirit and Word.

Which is why it’s so crucial to spend as much time and meditation as possible in the latter, since it is what fully and maximally unleashes the former in us.

Hence holiness in humans, like wisdom, cannot be bought or brought about by self-effort, only through Spirit-working and Word-saturation.

May we redouble our focus on the crucial importance of personal, God-produced holiness in our daily living.  Pour it out upon and within us, Father, for we are willing and want to be obedient to the Bible and thus possess and practice personal holiness, to “be holy [our]selves also in all [our] behavior” even as You Yourself are holy, holy, holy.

 

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One Who Bakes Cakes Takes Time

I’m sure every chef on the planet, every kitchen cook can concur that it would be nice if a dish or dessert, entree or cake would take no time to bake, that they could simply put something in the oven and, poof, it’d be ready instantly.

But as we all know, that’s not the world in which we live.  No, cooking (and virtually everything else) takes time.

Furthermore, the leftover “caked-on crud” in the prepping pan can be practically impossible to remove instantly, whereas – yep, you got it – a little time submerged in sink-water makes it fall off on its own.

Similarly, the Bible TAKES TIME to fully “perform its work” in us…

  • “…the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13c)

… and the fruit of the Spirit isn’t fully grown overnight or in a week or year or even decade, it’s literally a lifelong  process and pursuit and prize.  (And promise!)

So when you become cognizant of “caked-on crud” of some sin in your life and confess it (quickly = best), please understand in advance that the effects  of said sin and ensuing spiritual scars certainly will take time to be removed.

Just like the post-meal pots and pans in your sink.

Just like the field in front of my home (still) buried by snow and ice.  (Nice progress since yesterday but still needs another day or two… see what I mean?!)

If it takes time to turn batter into a cake, how much more for sorry, sinful, sinning sinners like us to realize the very righteousness of God?

Which is one reason that PATIENCE is such a crucial quality in life and, indeed, is the fruit of the Spirit.

  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…” (Galatians 5:22a)

Yes, it’s best to confess our sins right away, as soon as we see one lurking in our life, but give God time to transact the healing and restore full-force fellowship and faith… not because He needs either but because we  need both.

 

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Sonshine

As pointed out in the previous post, just a week ago there were worsening signs of (downright dire) drought in the area but since then we’ve seen snow-spewing storms surpassing several inches, in six days, sorry to say.  (I love watching it fall from the sky but the messy aftermath?  Not so much.)

That’s right:  storms, plural… after not receiving a single snowfall of even one inch for over two years, we get two such storms of several inches each in one week, the latter of which just ended and as I awoke this morning, my eyes were greeted by a field not of green grass as usual but wet, white snow and ice instead.

And an abundance of sunshine, which is already starting to melt said snow and ice from that field in front of my home… the Sun is doing its thing!  And to an extent which a plethora  of plows and shovels never could.  That field has simply let the sunshine in.

And that immediately reminded me of how, after facing and patiently persevering several seasons of the “snow” of sin or testing from time to time, we simply need to let the Son  shine anew in our life and He will be faithful to miraculously “melt away” said sin or scars.

If we’ll simply supplant self with supplication and submission to the Savior, and let the Son do His  thing.

If we’ll simply let the Sonshine in!

 

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Drought

Around 25% of the country is certain that the planet is currently in a convulsing climate crisis.  Around that same amount is just as certain that it’s not, with the remaining roughly 50% rigidly focused on just being able to survive not in terms of years from now but literally being able to keep putting food on their table and a roof over their head today  and thus don’t pay much attention to what may or may not be happening on a big-picture, planetary basis.  I’ll gladly leave it up to people preeminently more studied in such matters as to whether they’ve seen sufficient scientific support to surmise much less state that the climate crisis is real but I can  confidently confirm that recent reports of drought in DC are definitely true.

Just today I had occasion to be in Georgetown and found out firsthand that its famous canal which was always sufficiently full of water to bolster big boats of sightseeing businesses bearing bazillions of tourists is now down to a trickle, a tiny stream which currently looks like it could barely bolster a bathtub  boat at best.

And seeing that sight sent my mind to the fact that we as Christians – old or young, new or devout – definitely do the drought thing spiritually at one time or another it seems, in which the water of worship and warm-heartedness with God can evaporate for a season.

But thankfully, unlike humanity’s inability to tame much less control the world’s weather, God has graciously given us super-sized say-so and self-determination in the nature (no pun intended) of our walk with Him, how we “weather” (sorry =) the things that come our way each week and day.

All we have to do is deny self and submit to Him and His Word, i.e., to obey the Bible!  But not by our own motivation or strength or doing but rather by His.

Not by our own might or power (as if we had any) but by His Spirit and Word and prayer.

 

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