One Disciple

The reflections of one disciple of Jesus on his journey in God's grace.

Shoot those Foxes!

It is the little foxes that spoil my vineyard and leave me fruitless. I just shot one of those foxes that gnaw away at my life by the minutes. My fox wanted to watch part of an episode of my favorite sci-fi series while I ate lunch. It was tempting, but I shot him instead by reading something beneficial, substantive, enlightening and humorous. (I will tell you more about what I read in a moment.)

This Spring I read the little text, Why Jhonny Can’t Preach by T. David Gordon. He wastes not words and his treatise wants not for shooting every stinking fox from twitter to Netflix. The two reasons Johnny can’t preach, says T. David Gordon, are he can’t read and he can’t write. It comes down to our constant feeding upon the trivial from all our electronic devices. Even the television news, whatever the slant or claim not to be, trivializes the news by pretending to give an in-depth report on all sides and issues on any given serious issue in just with 30 or 40 seconds. He calls us to start reading great books including great poetry, (he notes generally prior to WWII).

This Spring I also became acquainted with Anthony Esolen, professor of English Literature. He is a master of the art of English language. His book, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child is excellent according to my son. On a podcast, I heard him bemoan that his students don’t know who Samuel Johnson is. “Samuel Johnson, who is Samuel Johnson?” I wondered, quietly so as not to be shamed by the good professor. I put my internet connection to good use and in short order gained a basic acquaintance with one of the great scholars of English prose and poetry. Next, I downloaded a free Kindle edition of that great Oxford professors poem, “The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749) and Two Rambler papers.

This past Tuesday night I started reading, Johnsons’ The Vanity of Human Wishes. I felt the warm embrace of my language as it came to life and drew me close and spoke with passion about our human fallenness.

I followed this with the great Puritan writer, John Owens, The Mortification of Sin. Owen speaks to the one who is in Christ (see Eph. 1 etc.) carefully exegeting Scripture to show our secure position in our savior and the filling of the Spirit, both of which make us able to be killers of sin in our lives. “No man should think he is making any progress in holiness if he does not walk over the dead bodies of his lusts.” I slept well that night.

So what did I read while I ate my lunch? An article by Prof. Esolen at The Imaginative Conservative, entitled, “Read Literature to Learn and Love the Truth”. You must read it. (Paragraph two made me laugh out loud. It was as informative as it was humorous.) I didn’t miss that sci-fi series at all and I have, as this article reveals, something to say to you which may prove encouraging (just don’t turn this into Prof. Esolen or Prof. Gordon. I fear it may become all filled with red marks. Hey I am working on it, Ok! See chapter three of Why Jhonny Can’t Preach.)

Hey, kill FOX and read tonight.

P.S. I think all of us in the pews need to read Why Jhonny Can’t Preach.

Hello? Dad?

The dying spouse turns to the loved one and says, “Don’t worry.  I will always be with you, watching over you.”   Do our deceased loved ones really watch over us?

About ten years ago my brother called and told me Dad had died.   My wife and I loaded the car and made the cross country trip to my parents’ home.  That first night I went to his shop and saw his tools on the workbench just as he had left them only two days prior.  The radio was still on the Christian station he listened to.  He wouldn’t be back to pick up his tools again.   I had never felt pain like that.  The pain was the finality of his separation from us.  I couldn’t reach him anymore.  I went outside to the bench just under the window of his shop, sat down and cried.   I had things I wanted to tell him, in the darkness I started talking to him as if he was on the edge of heaven but right there with me.  Did he hear me?  No, I don’t believe he did.  Here is why.

There is an instance of the dead talking with the living recorded in the Bible.  It is found in 1Samuel chapter 28.  King Saul had been rejected by God for his gross insubordination and he was now facing a mighty enemy army.  The old prophet he had relied on for communication with God was dead but there was a way, he believed, to contact the dead prophet.  He disguised himself and went to a medium and asked her to get the Prophet Samuel for him.  In summary, Samuel came to Saul, rebuked him and told him the battle would be lost and he and his sons would die the next day.  Saul went to the wrong source for help. God told his people to have nothing to do with witches, charmers or those who consulted spirits. (See Deuteronomy 18:9–14) What Saul did broke God’s specific command.  God makes it clear in Deu. 18:15-22 that He alone is the go to source for reaching beyond the physical limitations He placed us under.

The logical question is where are those who are dead?  While the body returns to dust (Genesis 3:14) the spirit/soul is immortal and goes to one of two places, hell (Luke 25:30; Luke 16:19-31:etc) or heaven (Luke 23:43; 2Corinthians 5:1-10; etc.).  There is no indication or teaching in the Bible that the dead know what we are doing.

So did Dad hear me that night?  No, and that is for the best for us both.  It is best for him because he would be nothing but a helpless witness of what is happening here.  It is best for me because I would be trying to continue what was only temporary.

In God’s prohibition of consulting mediums He was keeping the people focused and dependent on Himself.  In the passage from 2 Corinthians what is the hope and comfort of the one who has repented of their sin and turned to Christ for salvation from the judgment of God?  It is to be with Christ their eternal love and Lord.

One final thought.  You may be familiar with the phrase from Genesis, “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  My mother misses my dad but she constantly talks about Jesus being her husband.  She knows that the most intimate connection one human can have to another; marriage was not intended to be eternal.  Jesus told us that in heaven there won’t be any marrying and giving in marriage because we will be like the angels in heaven.  No more marriage or children.  The marital relationship will be over and our perfect love will be for God and we will love our neighbor perfectly even if that neighbor, such as my Dad, was related to me here as my Dad.

 

 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.      Romans 8:38–39 (ESV)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.   For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.   Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.     John 3:16–18 (ESV)

All Creation Groans

It was dark.  I moved my pickup to a level spot not far from the shepherds’ camp.  I turned off the engine grabbed my flashlight and stepped out.  Two dogs, running and barking, caught up to me as I got to the back.  The alarm was over as soon as they saw me.  One stood off about six feet. The other dog came right up to me.  “Hey pup, how are you?” I said as I began to pet its head.  It stepped up by my left leg and sat leaning against me.  Running my hand down its back I could feel every bone and then every rib on its side.  “Those pups are yours.” I said, wishing I had some meat in my cooler to give her. My hand moved back to pet her head.  Her eyes closed.  I then worked her ears.  Eyes still closed she started to slide down my leg to the ground.  I rubbed her head more and she collapsed to the ground beside me eyes closed, soaking up every caress.  I wanted to get to bed but I couldn’t leave her.  I rubbed her side.  Her paws were dirty from walking through the mud to drink from the muddy pond across from us.

I stopped and stood up.  She got up and trotted off into the darkness.