Author Archives: Jim McGuiggan

About Jim McGuiggan

Jim McGuiggan was Ethel's husband for fifty-three years. They have three children and eight grandchildren. Ethel went to be with Christ on Easter Sunday, 2009 at the close of a gallant life. He has written some books including: Celebrating the Wrath of God; Heading Home with God; Life on the Ash Heap; Jesus: Hero of Thy Soul; The God of the Towel, The Scarlet Letter; and The Dragon Slayer.

Maybe When You’re tired…

“There’s no use in going farther, it’s the edge of cultivation.”
So they said and I believed it; broke my ground and sowed my crop
Built my barns and strung my fences in a little border station
Hid away beneath the foothills where the trails run out and stop.
But a voice as clear as conscience rang in terminable changes
On one everlasting whisper, day and night -repeated —so
“Something out there, something hidden—GO and look behind the ranges!
Something lost behind the ranges—Lost and waiting for you—GO!”

Rudyard Kipling, “Go!”

“O thou Spy upon Mankind”

I notice when I’m in pain or experiencing loss the whole world revolves around me. If it’s a really severe case, I have little or no time to think about anyone else, little interest in thinking about larger questions or theological explanations. But now and then I think I do my best thinking (for whatever that’s worth) when I’m feeling the burden of such things. I suspect that is true for most of us, don’t you?
Once the sky falls on him I’m sure Job experienced that. He has himself in mind, his own pain, his own bewilderment, his own frustration, his own weariness and near-despair. When he speaks it’s usually “me” and “I” that dominate his thought and speech and when the sense of loss is especially acute he forgets completely the years of blessing he enjoyed. In that respect, acute pain or loss tends to make us ungrateful and shorten our memories. Still, every now and then Job rises above his own personal agony and loss and makes contact with humanity in general. In chapter 7 he sees humanity from at least two angles. He sees people as sufferers and sinners and feels hurt for them on both counts.
He now sees himself as part of a humanity in which there is too much sorrow, too much pain, too much of everything that narrows and steals the life out of life. In 7:1-2 he groans, “Does not man have hard service on earth? Are not his days like those of a hired man? Like a slave longing for the evening shadows…?” (See also 14:1-4)
Of course he knew about this earlier in life and had been deeply involved in doing lovely things to ease the burdens of fellow-humans; but it’s a different kind of knowing now. When good and generous people are involved in easing burdens they see them more clearly than those of us who don’t see fit to involve ourselves, but that kind of work has its dangers too I suppose. When you’re in the helping end the burdens are real but when you’re on the receiving end they’re real in a different way. A healthy surgeon has one view of a malignant tumor in a patient with cancer but when he is the patient he now has a different view. (The 1991 move The Doctor with William Hurt is a good illustration of the point and the movie’s well worth watching.)
In any case, now knowing at a personal level how they feel, Job enters into their pain and not surprisingly he does it at God’s expense since he’s angry with God for his own personal reasons. Now that he thinks about it he concludes that the Creator and Provider doesn’t do such a great job for humanity at large. While he has no sympathy whatever for the violent and the oppressors, on the whole, he’s sure humanity has a tough existence. This is an insight he has gained at great cost; it’s one he would never have had as he now has it since he actually shared their painful experience. It’s still costly for anyone who truly wants to enter into an understanding of the human condition because it takes a bit more than reading Hugo, Dickens or George Gissing. Those of us whose lives run smoothly are able to see what’s going on in the world but talk like this, talk like Job’s, is hard for us to enter into emotionally. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that it’s hard for people who are chronically ill or ceaselessly oppressed to keep a civil tongue in their heads. If it isn’t God they’re mad at, it’s the society and authorities around them that do nothing about the injustice that’s rampant. Or if they don’t have enough energy to be angry they don’t have enough to pay any attention to a God who doesn’t seem to pay any attention to them. Do you find that strange?
But it isn’t just the suffering and deprivation that guts Job and his fellow humans. There’s the sin issue and the moral structure of the world.
You know only too well that Job thinks God is unjust and that enrages him but he’s also burning about the claustrophobic nature of God’s moral governance of the world. Human beings are feeble and shaped to become sinners from the moment that they are born. Because that’s true, Job thinks God is too hard on them and he lashes out against Him in 7:3-10, for why should a beaten human stay quiet? “The Lord of all Righteousness” won’t give humans a break. He screams at God: “Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep that you put me under guard?” (7:12). Is Job or any other feeble human a threat to world order, are they people storming heaven to dethrone God; are they in any real sense worth the fuss God makes about their sin? It’s all too absurd; this is a divine battleship with missiles fully loaded pursuing a beetle!
Does God enjoy frightening him (and people like him) by punishing them for their sins? Does he give him and them life and use it as an instrument of torture? If so, Job would much prefer it if someone would put him out of his misery. “Mercy killing” would be no bad thing.
Then he parodies Psalm 8 with this, “What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment?” (7:17-18), Sarcasm drips from every syllable. David in grateful but astonished praise in Psalm 8 wonders why God is so good to man, why He pays him so much attention, honoring him so. Job in angry astonishment offers no praise and wants to know why God is so cruel and why He makes such a big deal out of man’s wrongs. “Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant? If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men?” (7:19-20 and see 10:20).

Job and his friends all agree that God is infinitely above humanity and that would mean He must be so far above man that He can’t be affected by human sin (see 7:20; 35:6; compare also 22:3). That makes sense, but only if it is isolated from other truths. With those truths in mind (that man is puny and lives a tough life and God is infinitely above humanity) Job is incensed that God makes a big deal of human failings. What does he expect? He punishes humans because they aren’t God? For Job this makes God appear all the more malignant when He ceaselessly watches them every second. Moffatt renders 7:20, “If I sin, what harm is that to thee, O thou Spy upon mankind?” The bottom line is that Job thinks God is guilty of overkill in the extreme. God takes man too seriously!
You must understand that Job is not speaking on behalf of the cruel and brutal and malevolent or those who live slyly and unrepentantly on the misery of their fellows. He has in mind the decent people, who know the difference between right and wrong and think it truly matters; he has in mind those who live lives of social usefulness and piety and who make the attempt to be “good” people. (I’m aware of a school of theology that doesn’t believe such people exist.)

He looks around the world with a new understanding, sympathy and fellow feeling for the rank and file. The Almighty, the ‘always-in-the-right Lord’, he would have protested, “These poor creatures are the ones you never take your probing eyes off of! These you come down on with the weight of a mountain! So what if they’ve sinned? What do you expect? They’ve been born into it and shaped by it, how then can they avoid it? You’re away up there and they’re way down here—why do you make such a big thing out of the sins of such puny creatures? What difference can it make to you? Why do you have to hurt them so? Why can’t you just forgive them and go on (7:21)? Even if they are decent and fine and work hard to be good and to be free from sin they are still vile compared with you (9:29-31). But what’s new about that? Not even the guardian angels are pure compared with you (see 4:18-19).

Must the world be a slaughterhouse or a slave camp because you are infinitely better than we are?”

Job has a point that must be heard if we’re to gain a true and balanced view of God. The truth that God is infinitely ‘just’ must not be the only truth we tell because when only that truth is told the whole of creation becomes a courthouse, humanity becomes a mass of criminals and the only matter of importance becomes handing down sentences! And if God’s chief concern is punishing sin, humans will become preoccupied with sin and punishment rather than life and joyful obedience. Gloom settles in because where there is only ‘just punishment’ there is no warmth and where there is no warmth there is no relationship or affection, no power and inspiration that cultivates glad righteousness.
Bad enough that our overriding view of God is that He’s zealous Judge who worships the law, it’s made worse by the truth that for humans sin is inevitable. It isn’t just “trouble” humans are bound to experience (14:1), they’re bound to experience sin—how can they avoid it? By the time they’re of the age to reflect on such matters they are already bent in favor of doing what’s sinful. The world humans are born into subsequent to the revolt in Eden is precisely the kind that “manufactures” sinners. David is astounded by his crimes against Uriah and Bathsheba and says the only thing that can explain it is that from the very beginning he was shaped to sin (Psalms 51:5—we don’t have to believe in a poorly worked out myopic theology to know we are pervasively corrupt and that our shaping began long before we made our first conscious choice to sin.) Humans are vulnerable to viruses and bacteria but no more so than they are to the sin “virus”. If God punishes us for our sin and our sin is inevitable—it’s easy to see that some would call the Final Judgment (or present judgment) a rip off! All right, so God is “just” and does no evil. But is his “justice” cold and clinical, the kind that can freeze salt water? Maybe we can’t convict Him of injustice but can we convict Him of being stingy and ungenerous?
These are important issues raised in the book of Job. Even Christians under pressure can be heard saying, “All right, God cannot be unjust but is He guilty of overkill? All right, He can’t be guilty of overkill but does He lack generosity and warmth? Yes, it’s true that sinners choose to sin but are they biased in favor of sin by forces too powerful for them long before they actually choose to sin? If that’s true, are these not extenuating circumstances that should be taken into account by God when he’s judging sin?”

Job thought so and so do I. Job didn’t have as big a picture as we do and in light of the coming of Jesus Christ we have reason to believe that God is generous and not coldly “just.” We have reason to believe that sin can never look as ugly and as devastating to us as it does in God’s eyes. But while God is implacably hostile to sin and will never view it as a trivial matter we have reason to believe His love for humanity can’t be fathomed.  No one sees our vulnerability and weakness more clearly than God and no one seeks our blessing as relentlessly as God. See John 3.16-17!
Listen, our sin can never be as bad to us as it is to God and one of the reasons our sins are so profoundly sinful is because they are so diametrically opposed to the character of God. In and of themselves they are pitiable and puerile. As sinners we’re not Godzillas, we’re cockroaches; we’re not storming the gates of heaven with fierce rebellious courage, we’re raping little girls and boys and robbing senior citizens, we’re cheating the defenseless and pillaging the little nations ignorant of the ways of big finance. Everything about our sinning is sleazy and weak and pathetic. It’s true that we generate pain and loss that beggars description but it isn’t brave sinning, as Milton in his Paradise Lost (books 1 & 2) makes the Satan appear. It isn’t glorious and romantic dismissal of human kindness and decency—it’s slimy and dirty, cheap and cowardly.

But there are millions who refuse to live that way! They sin, of course, but by the grace of God they aren’t so morally deformed that they can’t see they are sinners. They apologize with tears for wrongs they do to one another, their consciences accuse them and often won’t give them peace; they commit sins in part because they have been shaped that way and have often willingly gone along with it and so developed a capacity for sinning. They are not guiltless; but they aren’t out-and-out decadents and predators who don’t care about anyone but themselves. These are the people Job has in mind when he’s frustrated and angry with God’s constant record-keeping—the decent and the caring. These people aren’t sea-monsters or the sea itself (these are used at times in the ancients to speak of mythological anti-God forces)—a massive threat to world order and they’re certainly no threat to God or his divine sovereignty!
What should all of this mean to us? If we have an ounce of sympathy for any sinner who struggles against his/her environment, striving to be a decent human being, you can be sure God has sympathy for them. How humans live their lives will enter into how the Final Judgment will be conducted when God judges the world in light of Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30-31) who expresses both the faithful and saving justice of God and his redeeming heart and purpose. Be sure to see Romans 2:6-16 in this regard.
Job’s sense of things is right on target. The end of the entire Story will not be that the world will be a slaughterhouse because God is infinitely purer and holier than we are. “God so loved the world that he gave…” God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that through him the world might be saved (John 3:16-17).

Justice and retribution go hand in hand and we shouldn’t apologize for an honest attempt to factor that into our lives and the life of human society—and we won’t apologize! But he who alone knows completely what justice means is the God who created us for righteous and joy-filled life, sent Jesus to redeem and rescue us from a power that in practice is simply too powerful for us. The cross of Jesus isn’t meant to make it easier for us to sin or to think less of it but it casts a new and softer light over the issue that the anguished Job raised on our behalf.
His life in the shadows leads him to say things that shed the light of life on the human situation under God.

[I got this from by little book LIFE ON THE ASH-HEAP.]

Preparing a Young Person for Baptism

I’m one of those, right or wrong, who cannot believe that a child is born alienated from her/his Creator on the basis of someone else’s guilt. I’m acquainted with the texts used to say they are. It isn’t the texts I quarrel with—it’s the interpretation placed on them. Even John Piper a thrusting and forthright Calvinist no longer believes they are born sinners and alienated from God. Enough on that—Romans 9:11 will do for now.
With evangelicals there’s quite a bit of discussion about when children are ready to give themselves to Jesus Christ. Setting the above aside, we have questions like: “Is my child old enough?” “Does my child know enough?” “Is my child mature enough?” “Does my child ‘know’ what he/she is doing?”
These are all sensible questions and matter a great deal to people who are convinced that there is no covenant relationship with Jesus Christ unless there is a personal commitment of faith by the believer. Being one of those, and since I take the view that infant baptism hasn’t a shred of support from Scripture, the questions above do make sense.
But though they make sense and though they do indeed matter I don’t think there can be a generalized and satisfying answer to the questions. Children are all different! Some mature more quickly than others, some mature in some ways more quickly than others and at the same time more slowly in other ways. Their environments differ; their emotional make-up and their critical experiences differ from each other. Their parents differ and sometimes the parents aren’t able to assess their children’s life-experience. It makes no sense—and everyone knows it—to say, “My child gave her life to Jesus Christ when she was thirteen therefore all thirteen-year olds are capable.” There are too many variables in each life for us to be able to offer blanket and one-fits-all advice advice.
I’m certain we can more easily identify extreme positions than we can offer advice about children we know nothing about. Let me be silly just to make my point. He who says a three-year old child is capable of a faith commitment to Jesus Christ and he who says that a person must be at least eighteen is capable of rendering a faith-commitment to Jesus will have no credibility with us. It isn’t the extremes we have difficulty with.
While I presently judge we can do nothing do determine with precision when this child or that one is ready to give him/herself to Jesus in faith, we can certainly do something about taking seriously a child’s growing sense that she/he is being called by the gospel. It simply won’t do for parents to dismiss a child’s expression that he/she wants to belong to Jesus in a faith relationship.
It may well be that when my child comes saying, “I want to become a Christian” that she is responding merely to some want to do what a friend of hers did—so as not to be left out of anything, don’t you know. Hearing someone say something that frightens her might result in this emotional surge. (Her parents are Christ’s and she has heard something that suggests to her that if she isn’t a Christian she will never see her parents again—no wonder she wants to become a Christian.) List your own illustrations of what I’m getting at.
But there are times when we’re uncertain about motivation even though in our wise love for the child we think she is not yet “able” to say yes to Jesus in trust with the full consent of her heart to enter a saving covenant relationship.
Let’s say, for discussion’s sake, that she’s twelve or thirteen. She’s an ordinary little girl; enjoys life, plays children’s games, watches children’s television programs and sometimes pouts like a little girl when she’s crossed. (Are twelve or thirteen year olds still that “young” that they play with toys/dolls etc,? Shape the illustration as you see fit.)
It would be easy for adults to note all that and conclude that she isn’t “adult enough” to give a heart’s consent and surrender to the Lord (especially if she still sleeps with a doll in bed beside her).
But it’s just as easy to watch adults playing their childish games and draw a similar conclusion. See the programs they watch, note the games they play and how they pout and sulk if they’re beaten or crossed in their desires by a spouse or a boss.
That we wrestle with such questions is a good thing for it shows we’re interested in something vitally important (and a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus is vitally important). We won’t breezily dismiss the questions with barely a thought. Once we come to think that this child’s conscience is awakening, that he/she is coming alive to the message of the gospel and Jesus’ call on her we will not (certainly should not!) airily put her off even if we remain uncertain.
We mustn’t give her the impression that her feelings and thoughts are not to be taken seriously but we’re not to give her the impression that she is an adult. However we work with the matter it can only help her if she knows we’re anxious to give her a hearing and to help her, while we live up to our own responsibility toward her/him as our child. To put her off making a public commitment to Jesus with a few sentences while we’re watching television or heading for work, or wherever, should be avoided under all circumstances but especially if she is repeatedly raising the issue.
If the boy is persistent and anxious (that will be determined by those who are in the position to know) even if the parents are still in doubt, it might be best to set the wheels in motion for the child’s self-giving to the Lord who is graciously drawing the boy and calling him into the grand adventure. Once all who love the child and are in the position to know best [at least better than anyone else] think the time is right for him/her to render a faith commitment of themselves to the Lord Jesus the following suggestions might be useful.
What I have to say from this point is not meant as some “this is how it should be done” outline but some suggestions as to the direction I think we could go if we’re to act wisely and well in an area where sensitive parents and children have questions like those above.
But I offer the suggestions with seriousness and if you take them to be useful perhaps you could have discussions with others about them, looking for weaknesses or strengths and drop me a note.

I think the young girl should be told how wonderful it is that she is going to become Christ’s covenant child because He has loved her all her life.

I think he should be told he is going to make a solemn and joyous meeting with and commitment to Lord and that he must prepare for it.

I think the church leaders should be consulted and asked for input on what can be done to make this momentous event memorable and substantial.

I think a period of time (maybe four to six weeks, for perhaps thirty minutes a session) should be set aside to bring the lovely matter to a conclusion.

I think a room in the meeting-house (or a home other than his/her own) should be committed to which the child travels “to prepare” herself/himself to meet the Lord.

I think the parents and select people should be there to make the child aware that his/her purpose is being taken with the joyful seriousness it deserves.

I think a curriculum should be devised for such occasions that includes foundational truths about God and the gospel and the Body of Christ into which she/he is being brought and received by the Lord Jesus who will come to live in them by His Holy Spirit.

I think it should be announced to the entire assembly in the presence of the young person what she/he is doing in preparation to give his/her life to the Lord, and the assembly should be asked to pray for and encourage this person at this special time. If screens are used for announcements, the names and perhaps pictures of those who  are in preparation for such a glorious event could be kept in the minds of the congregation—parents and young people.

I think when all this heart preparation is done and the time has come to immerse this young person into a faith-union and covenant relationship with the Savior & Lord Jesus Christ that it should be done in the presence of the entire assembly.

I think that his/her first engagement in Holy Communion at the Lord’s Supper should be underscored perhaps by having them come to the front to be served first.

Other things, little things, could be done to emphasize “the magnitude of the moment.” (Discussion with creative women teachers might be especially beneficial on such occasions. I say women only because in my experience they are more attentive to class-creativity than men.)

The room at the appointed time could have his/her name put on it and the time appointed. The night before the morning of baptism could be made a special evening in the home, some people appointed for the purpose could call him/her and commend them to God. Congregational leaders and teachers might visit and speak God’s name in blessing on the young people. Perhaps women who will continue in a teaching capacity with the young girl might be especially appropriate.

The object of it all is to focus the mind of the young person and the minds of the parents and the assembly on what is happening. My own view is that the “salvation” and “initiation” (?) of young people in this situation is taken far too lightly, off-handed almost, and where that occurs it’s tragic.
Perhaps a document could be created and framed marking the grand occasion, and an opportunity for the entire congregation to sing its welcome could be recorded and given as a gift. It’s nice to imagine such a person, when many years have passed, being able to look back on such a momentous occasion with joy and contentment and saying, “After that experience there was no going back!” It must be made joyful, but but the faith commitment is made to One who says, Follow Me!”

There is more than one benefit to such a period of preparation (however it is structured). Once completed, we would know that this child wasn’t simply expressing a momentary and passing emotional desire that rose out of fear or merely wanting to do what some other young person did. We will know that this child’s coming to Christ in a covenant commitment mattered not only to the young person. When this boy or girl is buried into Christ’s death and rises again in Christ’s resurrection everyone will have had the opportunity to hear again cries around the cross, the rumbling of a great grave stone and the good news, “He is not here. He is risen just as he said.”

`       (Holy Father, help us to help one another to take younger persons seriously in such seriously WONDROUS situations.)

Trumpets In The Morning

Lawrence Lipton’s poem Trumpets in the Morning leans on the Jewish legend that the Satan misses something of life in heaven.
Reb Yussel heads for the synagogue as usual but on this occasion the unusual happened. His shadow ran ahead of him up the steps, shows itself on the wall and then turns into a majestic prince with garments to match and an offer of much knowledge—even knowledge of the future. Reb knows it is the proud Satan who was banished after a failed coup against God—so they say—but he treats him with respect. Yussel doesn’t want to know about the future; instead he asks the proud one who has so much knowledge:
What is it you miss
more than all else
Of heaven’s bliss?

The Satan pondered long.
Bowed down his head,
then sighed and said:
“Trumpets in the morning,”
and then was gone
.

The old legend says that in his banishment, which meant he walks the earth in eternal night, Satan misses the music of a new day, the sunrise that was announced by the blowing of the trumpets in the morning.
Imagine that just as God was about to make his appearance everyone would know that another new day had come and everything would be fresh and new and adventurous and filled with life that is brimming with life—imagine at that moment the trumpets sound.

Now that would be something to miss!

In a better, lovelier world where life is brimful of life and newness a trumpet sounds the arrival of a new and wondrous day because the One who makes everything new and fresh is about to make His appearance. In such a world the soft and comforting darkness takes its leave as the trumpet calls the glorious sun to rise and so announce the appearance of the Living God.
And every Lord’s day, the day of Resurrection, the beginning of a new week, that marks the beginning of a new world, a new creation, wise congregational shepherds and ministers of the Gospel of God see to it that the congregation celebrates this ongoing newness and freshness in the presence of the Living and Returning Lord for the benefit of a tired and weary world that so desperately needs good news.

(Holy Father, we know you are too marvelous for us to fully grasp. But must we your People continue to be fed the same familiar moral exhortations, week after week after week? If it is indeed your will that your Church be the carrier of your saving gospel about your good news will you not give us teachers that will feed us truth about YOU that will shape and enable us so that with joy, assurance and brave hearts we can speak as well as do your blessed will. For the Church and for a world you love. This prayer in Jesus Christ.)

CELL 39

Victor Herman, in his Coming Out of the Ice, tells of a man who kept him from going insane during his first 24 hours in the Russian Gulag.
His cell (No. 39): five and a half feet wide, and ten feet long with a boarded up window at the far end and the cell door at the other. Two benches along the walls and sixteen men to the cell and closest to the door, a parasha, a round vat that served as a latrine and was emptied every ten days.
The stench was choking, silence was required and so was movement. From dawn to darkness they were forced to sit, silent and stare at a hole in the cell door through which the guards were able to watch them.
At night they lay like eggs in a carton on the cold stone floor. Every inch of space was taken and the slightest movement to ease a pain was bought at the expense of a fellow-sufferer.

Herman confessed that after only 24 hours of it he was on the edge of madness and was kept from it only by “the Elder.” The Elder—no names—sat closest to the parasha and to the door and if a guard had it in him to vent his bad temper or rage or whatever the Elder was always the first to get the beating.
This leader earned the right to make two decisions each day. One of them was to give the sign when everyone was to begin to eat. He would count sixteen bowls of soup as they came through the feeding hole in the cell door to ensure that nobody received less than his share. Twice in the night he would signal for the men to change sleeping positions so as to ease the awful agony of cramp and disability when the morning came.
I accept the fact that there are and should be people “over” us—we must have leaders, it isn’t a question of will we or won’t we; we’ll have them! We can juggle the language, change terms, substitute this word for that but we will all be “under” someone in some area of life; there’ll always be someone (or someones) who shows us the truth of things and when he/she does, in that realm we submit ourselves to them.
At its best authority compels us by persuading us that the leader has more in him/her than we have; more of the right spirit or wisdom or devotion, or whatever. They don’t compel us in the sense of coercing or making formal demands for recognition—they earn our respect and submission to their lead simply by their skill their giftedness, character and behavior. But at one point or another if we’re going to live as a community there will be “leaders”.
Leadership can be looked at in terms of how many people we can get under us but that’s the pagan kind that Jesus spoke about on the betrayal night when He spoke of leadership in terms of service. He said, “There’s either pagan authority or Mine.” So, maybe it’s not too sugary to say leadership at its best is seeing how many we can get under so as to lift them. Maybe it’s more about seeing how many we can get into to transform.
There’s something sinister (I think) in attempts to get rid of leadership (however that’s attempted) because we will always end up with leaders (call them what we may or call them nothing). They may speak quietly and with a smile, there may be more than one and they may even ask for opinions now and then but we will have leaders. The group may even “democratically vote” on occasions but there will be those that (ugly phrase but still) “call the shots.” There will always be those judged (not wickedly) not gifted to do this or that and they will happily follow the leaders & happily submit to them. (Call them what you want but they will lead and there will be followers.)
I can’t help thinking “the Elder” at the door was regarded as “the Elder” by common consent and not because he demanded recognition or because he somehow rigged the vote. He manifestly served, but “the elder” still called the shots twice a day and was obeyed without quibbling or worry about questions of “equality” in all things. (There’s something strange too in a person or a group that is pre-occupied with “I must be understood and treated as equal in all ways.” ) We will “obey” someone! Even if I’m given a turn at “calling the shots”—I’m given it by someone(s) with the authority to do it.
This entire area needs, and is worth, thinking about. I recognize that the most compelling piece of this little thing is the telling of Herman’s cell, so reflect on that a while. I’m tempted to say that those who are our best leaders are those who suffer most for us. But, yes, it’s too simple; still it’s not too simple for us to take that aspect of leadership seriously.

 

Sweet Seeing-eye Dog

“Shut up! Will you shut up?!”
It didn’t make a button of difference.
In fact, it only made matters worse. He went on and on.
There was a great crowd and the shouter couldn’t see the one he wanted to see.
But he knew He was there somewhere.
He couldn’t see Him but it wasn’t because of the crowd.
He knew He was there somewhere because he had heard He was passing by; that’s when he began to shout .
He couldn’t have known it but this was the last time David’s Son would pass this way.
This was Timaeus’ boy. Poor thing. But blind or not he believed the stories he’d heard about Him and that’s why the crowd couldn’t shut him up and why he was calling Jesus the Messiah (David’s Son).
Was Jesus impressed by the ceaseless calling and His being recognized for who He was when so many didn’t? Was there a note of desperation in the tone? Who knows! What we do know is that Jesus stopped and asked that someone bring him to Him.
“What do you want me to do for you?” He asked him.
“Lord, I want to see,” he said as he looked out of sightless eyes the way we’ve seen blind people do. Maybe his eyes were closed. (Try it! Look in the way such dear people do as if they were trying to do what they know they can’t do. Did you try it?)
“Lord, I want to see,” he said.
“What if I gave you a white cane that you could use to pick your way past obstacles?”
“Ah no. I don’t want a walking cane. I want to see, please.”

“How about a dog? A sweet-natured seeing-eye dog that would guide you through difficult places and around crowds?”
“No thank you, my Lord. I don’t want a seeing-eye dog—I want to see!
“Maybe a good job, well-suited to your affliction; a job that would give you some dignity, some self-respect.”
“Ah, no my Lord; I don’t want a cane! I don’t want a dog! I don’t want a job and self-respect!—I want to seeeeeeeeee!

Smiling, happy Lord Jesus, “Receive your sight! Your faith has made you whole.” (Mark 10:52, Greek. “Your faith has saved you.”)
Gracious, powerful, compassionate adequate, searching Lord Jesus! He walks through all the Jerichos and El Pasos of the world asking, “What would you like Me to do for you?”
Sigh.

Will I Find God There?

“As the deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” Psalm 42:1.

If I ask you what that “means” you can easily tell me. That’d be a very good question but a better question would be: “What do you SEE when you read it?”

There he is standing in the middle of the stream chest heaving and heart thumping like a runaway train speeding downhill. His wide-eyed and wild-eyed look scours every foot of ground around him but there’s no sign of them. Maybe he finally shook them off but his legs are trembling, throbbing and weary from miles covered at breakneck speed, his ribs are aching from the pressure of lungs expanded to their limit in sucking in great gulps of air, his throat is on fire and his mouth though foam-flecked is absolutely parched. He can wait no longer, danger or not he must find the nearest stream and drink or die.

The long chase, the fierce pack, the cunning way they pursued, always keeping him running full tilt with a single leader dog while the rest waited until he tired and then they’d take his life. This time he outwitted or outran them but the strain and the effort has been close to overwhelmingHe pants for water. No sipping, no little desire but a desperate and unquenchable thirst. He finds the stream and sinks his muzzle in the ice-cold water and swallows it down in big life-giving gulps.

The psalmist might have seen that from some high place, have seen the drama of it all and rejoiced at the escape and felt like rising to his feet and applauding. That’s the picture the psalmist paints for us in Psalm 42:1. “As the deer pants for the flowing stream so my soul longs after you.”

How could he not be thrilled at the “great escape”? Did it not remind him of the days when he was pursued long and hard, like a frightened deer, a period in his life when he heard the ‘dogs’? There he was, hemmed in by circumstances beyond his control, his strength almost gone, his friends not within reach, the effort to stay on his feet having drained him and driven him to the edge of the abyss. He must find GOD. “My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’” [42.2]
As the deer at the limit of his endurance instinctively knows he must find water so this little human knows he must find God for it’s only in God he has reason to hope! He tests every offer of help with the question: “Will it help me to find God?”

“Here, here is good advice and counsel.”
Will it help me to find God?

“Here, here is an offer of friendship.”
Will it help me see the face of God?

“Here, here is a place you can run to.”
Will I find God there?

“Here, here is a book you should read, a movie you should see, a seminar you should attend, a habit you should develop.”
Will they bring me to God?

(Holy Father, help us to see you in the words. Help us to see you EVERYWHERE. Help us to WANT to see you everywhere. And though you are not far from any one of us sometimes we’re so tired and afraid that we feel the need of something more “face to face.” We’re giving you no ultimatums Holy One but so many things frighten us and take us to very dark places and in our weariness we need your nearer presence. We are brave, because you have made us brave and we see gallantry in so many fine people. But sometimes, don’t you know, we feel like just sitting down. This prayer we bring to you in Jesus Christ and by His Spirit.)