The Bourne Again Identity

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My Musings – In charades, we make the sign “sounds like.”  I recently noted the following on the internet. “The English language is hard, but can be understood through tough thorough thought though.”  Perhaps its only how we Americans have corrupted it “though?”  Some will say they “know” that this is true, while others will say “no” there is no “colonel” of truth to this claim.   Okay, so maybe we Americans can’t be blamed for that “won.”

Here are a few more similar words, with similar consequences if relied upon without being “identified” with Christ.

Indivisible – Impossible to divide or separate. The word indivisible, as used in the pledge of allegiance, is intended to convey that the United States is rock solid in its unity and cannot be broken apart.  Sadly, there is move divisiveness today than perhaps at any other time since the Civil War.  What makes this particularly troubling is that we all face a common enemy, the coronavirus, yet to a large extent we are divided in how we should respond.  This even happened in the shadow of Israel’s golden age under King Solomon, and the kingdom was divided.

The king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite. When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:  ‘What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!’”  (1 Kings 12:15–16, NIV 1984).

Invincible – Too powerful to be defeated or overcome.  The United States is the only remaining military superpower. Yet, in all its might, it has been unable to completely vanquish terrorism, and there is no weapon in its vast arsenal that can conquer the stealth of the coronavirus.  Madeline Albright, Secretary of State in the Clinton administration once claimed, “if we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.” Did we see far enough to prepare for the danger of the coronavirus?  In the face of this silent killer, such a claim has proven to be mere hubris.  Such trust is ultimately misguided.  We are not first “world” superpower to have such misguided reliance.

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.   Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster; he does not take back his words. He will rise up against the house of the wicked, against those who help evildoers. But the Egyptians are men and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, he who helps will stumble, he who is helped will fall; both will perish together.”  (Isaiah 31:1–3, NIV 1984).

Indispensable – So good or important that you could not manage without. A claim similar to Secretary Albright’s was made by President Obama. “When a typhoon hits the Philippines or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help. So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century past and it will be true for the century to come.” But we are turning inward (“America first”), during this current health crisis, making ourselves largely “unavailable” to the rest of humanity facing a plague that knows no boundaries. Soon we may not be able to help anyone, as the financial resources of the most prosperous nation on earth, very well may be strained to the point of national bankruptcy.  Pray to God that we do not also become morally bankrupt and lose our national “soul.”  What becomes of the “wealth of nations” that are not rich toward God and others?

The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”  (Luke 12:16–21, NIV 1984).

Invisible – Cannot be seen or readily perceived.  National unity, military invincibility, and indispensable economic resources — largely impotent to a microscopic virus that is invisible to the naked eye.  Such a turn of events is not unprecedented in human history.

This is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria:  ‘He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the LORD. I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’  That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.”  (2 Kings 19:32–36, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Unity can dissolve.  Power may disintegrate.  Wealth can disappear. Where can we “identify” hope that does not disappoint?  In the “Bourne” Again Identity.

In reply Jesus declare[s], ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’  ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, You must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going [it’s invisible]. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’”  (John 3:3–8, NIV 1984).

Chariots of Fire

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When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.  “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  (2 Kings 6:15–17, NIV 1984).

My Musings – How many times in our lives have the angelic hosts protected us from harm?  We clearly have no idea.  But if His eye is on the sparrow, I am certain that nothing escapes His attention when it comes to us.  And if when troubles do come (“in this world you will have trouble“), they need not dishearten us (“take heart, I have overcome the world“).  We can learn from them.  We grow character during them.  We can be witnesses through them.  Because nothing touches us that does not first pass through His hands, and which His grace is not sufficient to sustain us through.  And when “the time has come for [our] departure,” may we be able to say that we have “fought the good fight, [we] have finished the race, [we] have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:6–7, NIV 1984).

My Advice – It may seem at times that “those who are with them,” or that which is against us, are more than “those who are with us,” or that which is for us.  But it just “ain’t” so.  We may be tempted to say “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?”  But we should open our spiritual eyes and not “be afraid.”  For “if God is for us, who can be against us?”  (Romans 8:31, NIV 1984).

Saddle Up!

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Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9, NIV 1984).

My Musings – This is a charge given specifically to Joshua.  What could he possibly have to fear?

  • He Succeeded Moses, the only person that God spoke with face-to-face.  Talk about a tough act to follow.
  • But because Moses messed up, God did not allow Moses to lead the Israelites into the promised land.  Something that Moses had been anticipating for over forty years.  Better not mess up, Joshua.
  • And now Joshua was being told to cross over the Jordan to lead these “obstinate, stiff-necked” people to battle multiple kingdoms (Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites), drive them out, and take possession of the land.  No small task for a group of wandering nomads.

Yet Joshua “saddled up anyway.”  Why wouldn’t he have wanted to run the other way?  Not because of the subject of his  faith (capability of accomplishing the task at hand), but because of the object of his faith (capability of the One commissioning him for the task at hand). “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  (Joshua 1:5, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Do you have a tough act to follow?  Are you afraid of messing up?  Do feel inadequate for the task you face?  I know this charge was given specifically to Joshua, but I believe we can appropriate it for ourselves.  “Have I not commanded you?”  If God calls you to it, He will see you through it.  So, “be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.”  Because “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”  (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV 1984).  If God has indeed called you to it, you don’t have to scared to death. Saddle up. Ride to victory, not retreat.  He “will never leave you nor forsake you.

What’s Your Bedrock?

Screenshot (1440)Caption:  A typical family, as they “shelter in place,” worshiping in spirit and in truth via FBC of Sycamore livestream on Sunday, March 22 @ 10:30am.  FBC Sycamore Livestream

The magistrates ordered [Paul and Silas] to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  (Acts 16:22–25, NIV 1984).

My Musings –  Greetings from northern Illinois (the “s” is silent), where we are sheltering in place.  Yesterday Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order telling all Illinois residents to shelter in place until at least April 7. “My bedrock has been to rely upon science,” Pritzker said of his decision.

I don’t mean to disparage science (after all God created the science behind His creation) but our bedrock is, and always has been to rely upon God.  Whether we acknowledge Him or not.  Whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Even when we “shelter in place.”  Maybe it will be an inconvenience.  But we have not been “stripped and beaten.”  We have not been “severely flogged.”  While some may feel like it, we have not been “thrown into prison.”  Under such extreme circumstances, “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.”  We can do the same.

A final musing: “the other prisoners were listening to them.”  During these scary times, the world around us is listening to and watching us.  What are they hearing? Are they hearing griping, complaining and wailing, or are they hearing positive, reassuring words of encouragement and hope about the God we trust?  What are they seeing?  Do they see the same kind of fear that is gripping the world around us, or do they see calm, peace and assurance?

My Advice – Our circumstances have changed.  Our attitude, behavior and outlook need not change. Our bedrock is on “Christ the solid rock.”  Be like Daniel. “Now when Daniel learned that the decree [executive order] had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.”  (Daniel 6:10–11, NIV 1984).  In Illinois, for a season, we cannot come together in person to worship, as is our custom.  But we can still gather together “virtually” to worship in Spirit and in truth “just as [we] had done before.”  And that’s what really matters.  And as you do, remember, people are listening and watching what the Christians do during “such a time as this.

God bless, and have a “yabba, dabba do time,” and draw closer to God and your family  whether you are required to shelter in place or not.

 

What Keeps You Up At Night?

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“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?”  (Job 38:8–11, NIV 1984).

So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.”   (2 Samuel 24:15–16, NIV 1984).

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  (Matthew 6:25–27, NIV 1984).

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  (Matthews 10:27–28, NIV 1984).

My Musings – So what does keep you up at night?  What are the things that you worry and fret about?  Have they added “a single hour to his life?”  These are troubled times for sure.  Not as troubled as they will become as Christ’s return grows close, but troubled nonetheless.  But one thing we should never lose sight of is that God is still on His throne, He is still sovereign.  Troubled times come and go throughout history, a consequence of the fall.  But just like the “proud waves” God can say, and often has, “this far you may come and no farther!”  Or like the He commanded the angel afflicting Israel, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.

We may never know why certain troubled times come into our world.  And like Frodo, we may “wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (The Fellowship of the Ring – Tolkien).

So what do we do with the time that is given us, especially in such troubled times?  We need not fear the times or the trouble.  Concern yes, but fear, no.  For such things can only “kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

My Advice – Remember, no matter what we face, God is Sovereign.  If you know Jesus Christ you have nothing to fear, not even fear itself.

Be Strong In Your Weakness

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When the apostles returned…Jesus…took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.  Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” (About five thousand men were there).  (Luke 9:10–14, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “You give them something to eat.”  If there were about five thousand men there, the total crowd may have exceeded ten thousand, when you include women and children.  Jesus was giving the disciples a task that they had inadequate provisions (five loaves and two fish) to complete and no apparent solutions for (insufficient funds to buy the food).  But He took what they did have, blessed it, multiplied it, and made it work.

My Advice – Whenever you are facing a seemingly insurmountable task that God has placed on your heart, do not be discouraged.  Do not focus on the problem, focus on the One who gave you the “problem.”  Is He faithful?  Is He Able?  Is His grace sufficient?  God will not call you to it, if He will not see you through it.  You may feel inadequate to the task, but maybe that is the point.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  (1 Corinthians 1:26–29, NIV 1984).

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:7–10, NIV 1984).

By Whose Great Strength?

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No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.”  (Psalm 33:16–18, NIV 1984).

My Musings – No great kingdoms of the past have survived to this day retaining their former splendor, power and influence.  My country has “In God We Trust” on its coin and currency.  Having come into its own as the current great “kingdom” after World War II, unrivaled in military power and economic strength, its seems that our trust is more on these things than it is in God.  As the text above so clearly states, it is vain to place our hope in these things.  He raised us up, and He can bring us down.

My Advice – This applies on a personal level too.  Make sure your hope and trust is in the Lord God Almighty.  Anything else is illusory.  “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6, NIV 1984).