“Something in Common.”

When we come face to face with serious and sustained trouble it’s not easy to believe that countless lovely things are happening in life. Your beloved one dies and you half-wonder why there are still people enjoying one another’s company? Why are aren’t the clocks stopped, how come birds still fly? Why aren’t all the deer standing still and silent as though they too are stunned by your grief? Why is it that cars continue to rush by and why are children still laughing as though they can’t stop? Life goes on and rationally we know it makes sense but emotionally we want to scream for noise to cease. He left you for another woman or the wife you adored said she wanted to be free—she didn’t know why, had no explanation, but she’s now gone and there’s nothing you can do about it. Financial ruin, a son and suicide, a parent and relentless disease, a daughter, drug-addicted, pregnant, marrying the drug-addicted father.
One day this will happen; you’ll be faced with something you can do nothing about. You’re not wise enough, equipped enough or emotionally strong enough—not to face this! Not This. Other things, many of them, and you made it through somehow, but this—this is different. So you slip off to some isolated place, a hill outside of town maybe, and there you begin to sob your heart out. When you’ve wept and can weep no more you hear someone else sobbing and moaning; you can’t help it, you must check and there, just beyond where the hill twists, not far from you, you see Him. Eyes streaming, chest heaving, bowed head, between his hands, sobs getting louder as you get nearer. He’s in too much pain and you just can’t let Him be like that alone. You put your arm around Him and gently ask Him if He would like to tell you about it and He tells you the awful thing that is going to happen and that He can do nothing about it—absolutely nothing. Then with his face wet with tears, He asks, “You too?” You tell him your heartbreaking story while He listens intently. He then puts His arm around you and whispers, “You and I have a lot in common.” He asks your name and you tell Him, “My name is, ‘Every One’.” You ask Him His name and He says My name is, “Me Too.”
Luke 19:41-44; Matthew 6:36-38.

Acts: The Gospel of The Holy Spirit

Watch the latest video from McGuiggan Reflections.
For the next few months, we will be exploring the book of Acts in a series titled Acts: The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. We hope you enjoy and can benefit greatly from this study. To contact Jim, feel free to email him at holywoodjk@aol.com or visit his website at http://www.jimmcguiggan.com.
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A Worn Face & Kind Eyes

A.C. Benson, Cambridge academic, author and essayist died in 1925. In one of his letters he tells of another period of deep dissatisfaction and depression that began to tell on him. During those periods he said,

“I grow nervous and strained; I am often sleepless, or my sleep is filled by vivid, horrible, intolerable dreams. I wake early in the clutch of fear. I wrestle at times with intolerable irritability; social gatherings become unbearable; I have all sorts of unmanning sensations, dizziness, tremors; I have that dreadful sensation that my consciousness of things and people around me is slipping away from me, and that only by a strong effort can one retain one’s hold upon them. I fall into a sort of dull reverie, and come back to the real world with a shock of surprise and almost horror.

I went the other day to consult a great doctor about this. He reassured me; he laughed at my fears; he told me that it was a kind of neurasthenia, not fanciful but real; that my brain had been overworked, and was taking its revenge; that it was insufficiently nourished, and so forth. He knew who I was, and treated me with a respectful sympathy. I told him I had taken a prolonged holiday since my last book, and he replied that it had not been long enough. “You must take it easy,” he said. “Don’t do anything you don’t like.” I replied that the difficulty was to find anything I did like. He smiled at this, and said that I need not be afraid of breaking down; he sounded me, and said that I was perfectly strong. “Indeed,” he added, “you might go to a dozen doctors to be examined for an insurance policy, and you would be returned as absolutely robust.”

In the course of his investigations, he applied a test, quite casually and as if he were hardly interested, the point of which he thought (I suppose) that I should not divine. Unfortunately I knew it, and I need only say that it was a test for something very bad indeed. That was rather a horrible moment, when a grim thing out of the shadow slipped forward for a moment, and looked me in the face. But it was over in an instant, and he went on to other things. He ended by saying:

“Mr. ——, you are not as bad as you feel, or even as you think. Just take it quietly; don’t overdo it, but don’t be bored. You say that you can’t write to please yourself at present. Well, this experience is partly the cause, and partly the result of your condition. You have used one particular part of your brain too much, and you must give it time to recover. My impression is that you will get better very gradually, and I can only repeat that there is no sort of cause for anxiety. I can’t help you more than that, and I am saying exactly what I feel.”

(But the above is not what I really meant to share with you though it is not without value. I think what Benson went on to say is priceless—an education really, and something I think God would be pleased if we could take to heart. It reminds me of God who showed Himself in and as Jesus of Nazareth–see Mark 7:24 and maybe 5:30. jmcg) Benson continues:

“I looked at the worn face and kind eyes of the man whose whole life is spent in plumbing abysses of human suffering. What a terrible life, and yet what a noble one! He spoke as though he had no other case in the world to consider except my own; yet when I went back to the waiting-room to get my hat, and looked round on the anxious-looking crowd of patients waiting there, each with a secret burden, I felt how heavy a load he must be carrying.”


“You Could Show Him Your Hands.”

Like millions of other believers I’m big on doctrine! I’m big on truth. Arthur Holmes is right: all truth is God’s truth. It doesn’t matter if it’s truth about biology, botany, celestial mechanics or the brain capacity of a salamander.

Like millions of other believers I hold that the truth of and about God as it has come to its unending climax and fulfillment in the person and work of the Lord Jesus is what gives all the others truths their place and worth. So I’m for “getting it right” and that calls for commitment to and study of the biblical witness. But the Bible is not about itself; it’s about God who superintended the writing of it.

It’s a complex business—Bible study I mean—and that means we need wise men and women, gifted by God, to help us. It’s important that we get the non-negotiables right. It was right in the middle of a doctrinal presentation that Paul said, “Bad companions corrupt good morals.” So there’s a fundamental need to get a correct if not exhaustive grasp of the jugular elements of the Story of God. I get that! I see that! But I see this also—our commitment to Jesus-like behavior is part of the calling to which God calls people who will make up his NT elect (Ephesians 5:1-2) who will by their very existence, doctrine and adorning of that doctrine bear witness to God and His eternal purpose for, and His love of the human family.

I mentioned this in a little book of mine called Jesus: Hero of Thy Soul. Mary was barely more than a child when the parents split, the father vanished and the mother died. She was left to raise her brothers and sisters. When she should have been making daisy chains she was washing clothes, when she should have been pushing a swing she was scrubbing floors, when she was making food she should have been served food. She slept too little, ate too little, worried too much and died exhausted and guilt-ridden. Dear God, she was just a child. She was afraid to meet God because she was sure she hadn’t done enough to please him and didn’t know what she’d say to him when the time came to meet him. Can you credit that?

One of her little brothers who sat stroking her trembling hands said to her, “You could show him your hands.”

I don’t know what that boy’s entire theology was or what it became but he was on the right track with some aspects of the heart and mind of the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. I can’t abide a religion that dismisses all that with immediate warnings about “salvation by works.” Bless me, who doesn’t know that salvation is by the holy generosity of God as it was/is expressed in Jesus Christ?

Listen to Mary’s little brother and hear the voice of the Lord Jesus in it and think of Acts 10:38-39

(Holy Father, bless the burdened children. This prayer in your Son’s name.)


In Praise of Great Authors…

Smike had never known fair treatment much less kind treatment and in the Dotheboys Hall School run by Mr. and Mrs. Squeers it was worse. There he was enslaved and abused; his earlier lonely life was followed by his being thrown away and sent to this place that one would be tempted to think was God-forsaken.
But God came visiting Dotheboys Hall School run by Mr. & Mrs. Squeers looking like a new teacher called Nicholas Nickleby. In meeting him Smike met someone who treated him like a human to be cared for and nurtured rather than a whipping boy when someone with an ill temper wanted to ease his/her spleen. In the face of the boundless cruelty of the Squeers—shown to the entire body of terrified children under their care—Nickleby resigned from the school in defiance of the Squeers’ wishes.
Smike saw the young teacher as his hope for life and unknown to Nicholas he followed him away from the school, not showing himself, afraid that Nickelby might send him back. The teacher spent a night in a barn and in the morning he suddenly wakened to find the desperate boy there. The teacher had wakened without warning and Smike had no time to hide. Now discovered he begged to be allowed to stay. “To go with you—anywhere—everywhere—to the world’s end—to the churchyard grave.”
The teacher’s life’s situation was not at all an easy one and while he feels a deep compassion for the boy he tells him he has little to offer by way of help but Smike is not put off and desperate for the warmth of friendship, or, even if friendship is too much to ask, he wants to know, “May I—may I go with you? I will be your faithful, hard-working servant, I will indeed. I want no clothes…I only want to be near you.”

“And so you shall,” said the teacher. “And the world shall deal by you as it does by me, till one or both of us shall quit it for a better.”

Both were as good as their words and a wounded child found not only a champion but a friend and faithfully befriended his friend. (Sigh. I wonder, and I’ve no wish at this moment to reflect on it, if there is some child in the world who could one day say I was a friend and champion to him in some real way. I’m not looking for comment here, truly. I just find the story profoundly moving and it makes me jealous (not envious) of the characters, and wishful…..) It pleases me to know and believe that Smikes & Nicklebys are a great host, alive and well, in the world.)

In a world of quick-change passions, of outrageous pre-nuptial agreements, broken contracts, worthless promises, “sweet” marriage vows that vanish like morning mist, friendships that were “treasured” as long as one person ceaselessly pleased the other—in a world awash with so much uncertainty it’s an entrance into heaven to be certain of someone!
To read the commitment Ruth made and stuck with it (Ruth 1:16-18) makes your soul rise to its feet and cheer. Yesssssssss! To read of the mutual commitment of Smike and Nickelby generates the same feeling because it’s the same thing.

Dickens’ writing has remained one of the grandeurs of English life and literature. It isn’t all sweetness and light for his own life wasn’t like that. There’s a lot of pain and loss in his writing and that reminds us that he stayed in touch with life as a whole. He didn’t become the noted author he is by writing perfumed bubble and froth or pouring out simplistic moral platitudes. Nor did he write dark hopeless muck or leave us wringing our hands in abject despair, paralyzed by pervasive and entrenched evil. Nor did he make heroes of villains. He continued to remind us of the possibilities and potential of life; he speaks of happy endings without apology and makes us believe that honest commitments not only can be made but that they can be kept through thick and thin. What’s more, he shows us the glory of such people and makes us want to be like that.
He touches the depths of life and enables us to see that there’s more than evil in the world. And while there is evil in the world that is hard to “explain” if God is good, Dickens and people like him remind us that there is good in the world and that is hard to “explain” if there is no God that is good.

( Holy Father, since we thank you for all that is good in the world and in our lives, we wish to thank you for good and skilled authors and movie-makers and screen-writers who bring us redemptive stories that carry truth to us with realism shot through with hope and assurance. We’re thankful that while not ignoring the ugliness and cruelty in life they rise above it and show us such glory, strength, courage and kindness that makes us long to be a part of it. In Jesus, this prayer.)


An Empty Ballpoint Pen

Poor little humans! They only have one tiny life and for so many it’s one long crucifixion until they die of exhaustion, unmissed and unmourned. Dear God they haven’t time to become great sinners because they’re too busy covering their heads while someone is beating them senseless and to death; they’re too busy trying to figure out how they’re going to feed their children and they’re so exhausted that their hearts can’t carry the crushing emotional burden! There’s so much pain, disappointment and unanswered prayers; so much undeserved suffering.

All right, so they’re all sinners but what chance was there that they could be otherwise? Here’s an actual case. His name’s John, he’s eighteen, eighteen! And he’s no vicious hoodlum and his mother is no “Beast of Buchenwald”. Yes, yes, they’ve done wrong things in their lives—did God expect them to be sinless? Born into a world like this and He fully expects them to get out of it without sinning? He knows better though there are many who are friends of His who don’t seem to know what He knows perfectly well!

Here’s one of them: John Risso’s mother. Multiply her by a billion!

“On January 25th, 1973 in Memorial Hospital, John Risso, red-haired, laughing, tall, eighteen, tractor-driving, cow-scratching, flirtatious, shy, died after two and a half years of leukemia. After six weeks of a raging temperature, experimental drugs, bleeding, and an abscess in his rectum that became gangrenous, he died soft and gentle, finally, after six hours of violent death throes. His face was so thin, his hair only a memory, a soft red fuzz, arms blue and green from shots and intravenous feeding, he looked like an old picture of a saint after his tortures were over…
Why would a kind God do what was done to John, or do such a thing to me? I’m poor, have only secondhand furniture and clothing. The things of value were my husband and sons…How can I live with the agony he suffered?
Part of the time he was in a comma, and  when conscious he kept saying, ‘Mama, help me, Mama, help me.’ I couldn’t and it’s killing me. I whispered in his ear, ‘John, I love you so much.’ All of a sudden his arm came up stiffly and fell across my back, and very quietly he said, from some vast depth, ‘Me too.’ “

There are no currently fully satisfying answers to the agony of the world because it isn’t “answers” or “explanations” these people want—they want it to stop! And yet, despite the silly advice from silly OT professors who tell us to keep our mouths shut on the subject, the sufferers keep on asking “why?”
I don’t know very much but I read a lot and listen a lot and watch a lot. I’ve never been a scholar and it’s too late for me even if I had the ability to become one but I know I’m tired of scholarship with all its wisdom—a wisdom that can show a mass of opposing ways to understand the same texts and prove to me that I haven’t got a clue about what the Bible is really saying. But I know Jesus knew them back to front and inside out. Scriptures that those who take the high moral ground these days sneer at, texts that the wise ones in their wisdom can prove shouldn’t be there—Jesus knew them all. He read the same OT we have (the one with all those offensive texts in it) but the Holy Scriptures never offended Him. He said, “Look closely at them with a trusting and obedient heart and you’ll see Me in them! They’re all about Me!” There must be a “Jesus way” of reading the Holy Bible that’s holier than the way the morally upright ones read it; a way wiser than how the wise ones read it. (John 5:38-39; Luke 11:52)–“Woe to you scholars for you take away the key of knowledge…” I’ll rest on that!
I’m tired too of the banal moralizing that I listen to week after week after week from various sources. Preachers armed with a database of a hundred favorite verses and their favorite topics that they present in something of different suit and yet, more often than not, with the same tired illustrations, platitudes, words of correction, suggestions and clips from the Andy Griffith show. I’d rather have the scandal that I don’t know how to respond to.
Colin Morris, a prominent British churchman some years back told us that during the night a couple of hundred yards from his door people found a little man lying on the pavement–-dead. An Asian. His sole possessions were the pair of shorts he wore, a pair of worn sandals and his shirt with an empty ballpoint pen in the pocket. The autopsy found a ball of grass in his otherwise empty stomach.
Dear Mrs. Risso, poor little Asian man we’ve nothing to tell you other than that there is a God and that He is like Jesus Christ and that He WILL do what is right and He WILL right all the wrongs. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is His assurance that that’s true (Acts 17:31).

(Holy Father, you remain to me in so many ways the “unknown God” Paul spoke about. But I can’t deny that Jesus has persuaded me that what I think I know or what I know I don’t know changes nothing about who you are essentially. I and multiplied millions like me are trusting Him and so we are trusting you. If you can actually experience pain that rises out of your sadness at the agony of the world’s great wrong and the consequences of it, you are a strange God indeed. Many truths help me live at peace with my ignorance but that you showed us yourself in Jesus of Nazareth, the resurrected One and that He is image of where you purpose to take us is a life-sustainer. By Him I’m greatly helped to believe that there is a glorious, happy and righteous ending to all this. Thank you in the name of the Living Lord Jesus.)