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.

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.)

MR. BOJANGLES

Who are these two in Acts 3:1-6? Indeed, they’re Peter & John.

Yes, but who are they? Who or what are they filled with? And if we know the answer to that what drives them? What “leaves them no choice” to engage in their commission and purpose in life? And if we know the answer to that, what will they offer the crippled beggar?
The beggar thought they were going to offer him money.

And we’re tempted to think they were offering him physical healing. There’s an element of truth in that, of course, but with the treasure they had to offer, to offer only that would have been robbery.

To physically heal him so he could dance joyfully would be no little thing but the years would go by and aging—the approach of Death—would enfeeble him and finally Death would rob him of his dancing. They didn’t want to give him less that joyful ‘dancing’ they wanted to give him more! They wanted to give him Jesus, immortality and the power and reason to dance even a world of pain. A dance that Death couldn’t end! They were offering him DEATHLESS LIFE as a gift from the Living Lord!

The government may provide health through medicine, good income through economic structures, national freedom through military might, education via educational systems and society may give us pleasure through movies, literature, partying, music, art and other fine things (and some not so fine). But Death trumps all these. Only the Lord God trumps Death and He shows that in Jesus of Nazareth who is now Lord of All and conqueror of Death (Acts 10:36; Hebrews 2:14-15). With HIM to offer, they couldn’t and wouldn’t offer less!
And in light of the Lord of Glory they offered him a new vision of the WORLD. His world had been a world of beggary and disease, rejection and helplessness and they offered him a new way of seeing it, a new way of experiencing it. It’s true there was still beggary, injustice and the poor; but now GOD was in it for him. And since God has no “pets” this man is an assurance that He sees all and cares for all of the helpless. God hasn’t died since Acts 3. They offered him a new experience of God! God as one who had heard his prayers, as One who saw his being carried every day and as One who heard his daily begging that had so little success that like many others he just uttered the words without looking (cf. 3:4). What they offered this man was an experience that really did change the world!
In Wasserman’s stage-play, the imprisoned Cervantes is mocked by a lawyer when he heard Cervantes was a poet. The sneering and “realistic” lawyer accused him of spinning nonsense out of nothing and said that people should “see life as it is.” Cervantes snarls back:
Life as it is. I’ve lived for over 40 years and I’ve seen life as it is.
Pain. Misery. Cruelty beyond belief.
I’ve heard all the voices of God’s noblest creatures. Moans from bundles of filth in the street.
I’ve been a soldier and a slave.
I’ve seen my comrades fall in battle or die more slowly under the lash in Africa.
I’ve held them in my arms at the final moment.
These were men who saw life as it is,
yet they died despairing. No glory, no brave last words,
only their eyes, filled with confusion, questioning “Why?”
I do not think they were asking why they were dying,
but why they had ever lived.
When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies?
Perhaps to be too practical is madness
To surrender dreams – -this may be madness;
to seek treasure where there is only trash.
Too much sanity may be madness!
And maddest of all—to see life as it is and not as it should be!

( Holy Father how vast is the host of suffering humans that were and are compelled by the savagery of life that they couldn’t and can’t take their eyes off “life as it is” for them? Only you know. They were never given an occasion to dance and still in their millions they can’t dance and hard people rule over them and won’t allow them to dance. One Mr. Bojangles and his lovely story doesn’t seem enough, surely it isn’t all you have to say; You will do what is right and beautiful. And so it is that even now I have seen some of them smile and dance even in a world of abuse and heartache and heartbreak. Did you do that?  Did you empower them to dance? Even though they don’t know it? I believe you did. Will you thrill us with the teachers the cripple met, won’t you thrill us with the Lord Jesus they gave to him and won’t you enrich and skill us so that we won’t offer people less than the joys of this life but more! Help us also to offer You and change someone’s world. This prayer in the Blessed Savior’s name, Jesus of Nazareth.)

WHY 74 TIMES?

In the book of Ezekiel we hear God saying “That you may/will know that I am Yahweh (Lord) ” 74 times (on my count—it may be a few more; I blink and lose count). Averaging it out the phrase occurs about three times in every two chapters.

I have little interest at this point in questions of etymology or the origin of YHWH (Yahweh); that’s for the scholars if they’re still interested in that question. Just so you know I’m following those who claim it’s linked to “I Am” and should be understood as, “I will be Who I will be,”  or “I will be Who I show Myself to be.”

But in the end a word or a phrase (whatever its origin) means what a writer/speaker means it to mean and current context is king. And we also learn what a word means* by the company it keeps and the setting in which it often occurs. You expect to see “gentleness and kindness” together—the one suggests the presence of the other in a person, doesn’t it?! You’d be surprised to hear someone say, “She is a woman of integrity and uncertainty.” Why would you not be surprised at, “A woman of integrity and honesty,”? They go together; they suggest one another’s presence don’t they!

The name Yahweh (Lord, LORD in the KJV) carries different messages depending on context. It speaks of sovereign power in some contexts, of covenant faithfulness in others, of in-comparability in others. The word (Yahweh) designates God who makes Himself known in many ways depending on the situation or the relationship under consideration.

It doesn’t matter how the “name” originated! It may well be as some older scholars suggested that God refused to give Moses a “name”.  He didn’t want to be “pigeon-holed”. Imagine Moses saying, “Who are you?” and God saying, “I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:13-14. Other gods and goddesses may have names but in one sense or another: the “UNKNOWN God (Acts 17:22-29) is “The God without a Name.” (At least until He took the name of Jesus of Nazareth.)

Okay I’m done with that—I didn’t intend to write it but I see no benefit in deleting it.

74 times in Ezekiel and by far most often immediately linked with destructive judgment that God claims HE carries out and He claims He does it “that you/they may know that I am the LORD.“ (He also takes responsibility for blessing that “You may know that I am the LORD (Yahweh).” 34:27, 30, 31 illustrate

Ezekiel 28:20-23; 30:10-19; 35:1-4 illustrate the point that He makes His name known in devastating judgments on the nations.

If OT critics wish to expose a God who orders and carries out what they call “genocide” or “infanticide” or “murderous cruelty” they don’t have to use a fine-toothed comb through the OT seeking out verses here and there. The prophets are saturated with God’s taking responsibility for destructive wars, famines and the like Amos 3:6b and context illustrates. If that offends us, it isn’t some verses here and there that offend—it’s the recurring speech of the entire Holy Scriptures—Ezekiel only being a particularly clear showing of that.

If we should say that these books and chapters and verses were lies, written by pagan-hearted, vicious writers and compilers of the (allegedly) Holy Bible, then we should be ashamed to go behind a lectern or into a pulpit with such a Bible in our hands. If what these critics say is true they’re honoring a Bible that teaches in the name of God what is no less than demonic and satanic. What else can it be if it does what they say it does?

My own sense of it is that the vast majority of those who are part of the evangelical believers aren’t aware of what is being said by these Bible-carrying critics who undermine the very Bible they carry. They get in the pulpit or behind a lectern meaning to and demonizing the OT (the OT in particular, but not without the NT) which they say praises and vindicates genocide and murderous cruelty. Still, they often choose bits from the OT and preach fine things from the suitable parts. This masks where their heads and hearts really are.

Instead of looking for a hermeneutical strategy that honors the God of the OT and the OT that proclaims that God they follow the path that one writer took in saying , “The Old Testament is a mill-stone around the neck of Christianity.” Ranting atheist, Richard Dawkins, must love these people and yet despise them for what he would regard as hypocrisy.

I mean to continue this and suggest a interpretive strategy that doesn’t demonize the Holy Scriptures or the God presented in them if it appears it’s thought worthwhile and God enables me.

  • We use the word MEAN or MEANS in numerous ways don’t we! “This means war.” Or, “What do you mean I didn’t repay you; why I…” etc.

Why Did God say He Was Afraid?

The text says GOD said He was afraid! That’s DEUTERONOMY 32:27.
But everyone knows God is afraid of NOTHING!
Yes, yes, but let’s let God say what He wants to say, eh?!
Read many verses leading to 32:27 and many following it.
He “explains” what He was afraid of. Read it carefully!
He “explains” it and yet He doesn’t give the entire story.
What is it that the pagan armies with their gods and goddesses NOT do?
SPELL OUT what the idolatrous hordes did NOT do! SPELL IT OUT!

WHAT’S THE UNDERLYING MESSAGE?

EYES DON’T SEE THE EYES!

Not all Christians are individually called to suffer the way the slaves of 1 Peter 2:18-21 were called to suffer. But it’s important to remember that no Christian or group of Christians exists as an independent unit, as if they were not a part of the Community of Faith. This means that while only certain members of Christ’s body are called to some particular experience or path that it is nevertheless the Church as a single body that experiences this or walks that path. If a finger or eye is badly mangled the body suffers.

As a physical body has many parts and is yet one body so also is the Church (Romans 12:4-5 1 Corinthians 12:12). It’s true that the eyes don’t do the hearing and the nose doesn’t do the seeing; but it is not true that seeing and hearing and smelling are completely isolated and independent workers. Seeing is a function of the body and not merely the eyes!

The eyes don’t see through the eyes; it is the body that sees through the eyes! The ears don’t hear through the ears; it is not the nose that smells through the nose. Hearing and smelling is what the body as a single and undivided unit does and it does these things through the various parts of the body.

So it is with the Body of Christ. There are no isolated parts that function independently of the rest of the body. A hand in a body has no existence without the body. It can only be understood as a hand PRECISELY BECAUSE there is a body of which it is a part.

This remains true even though the hand is not the foot and the eye is not the ear. There is diversity within the parts of the body and the hand mustn’t abandon its function and lay the burden on the eye. Each one must bear his or her own specific burden and be held accountable in that regard. The church takes care of its children via its parents and it respects it parents via its children. The church serves its wives via its husbands and its husbands via its wives. Family members were instructed to take care of needy widows so that the “congregation” as a congregation should not be burdened (1 Timothy 5:16) and so be free to deal with other matters that specific individuals cannot handle.

The Bible and life has “a doctrine” of specificity of responsibility (for example, 1Timothy 5:8). But we’re not to allow that to mask the truth that when these specific responsibilities are being fulfilled by the various members (parts) that this is the Body at work; this is how the Body does its work!

When God calls specific people within the Body to a particular role we’re not to conclude that they are not functioning as the Body! Not everyone was called to patiently endure mistreatment at the hands of harsh masters but when God wills to allow it (1 Peter 3:17), because they are members of the Body it is the Body that is under attack by harsh masters. Christ told Paul in Acts 9 that when he persecuted the people of God he was persecuting their Lord. “Do it to me,” Jesus said, “You’re doing it to Me.” (Matthew 25)

It’s nonsense for us to think that any one of us exists independent of the rest of the People of God.

We are not “in Jesus Christ” independent of one another! The Spirit of Christ does NOT dwell in us independent of one another! We’re not “in the Body of Christ” independent of one another. We’re in this TOGETHER or not in it at all. By His grace and in faith I was Baptized into Jesus Christ and became part of a called out People, a Holy Nation, a Kingdom of Priests (Romans 6; 1 Peter 2), a part of the One Body (Ephesians 4).

To think of ourselves as independent, free-standing, individual Christians would be as foolish as an American thinking she/he is an American independent of America and the American nation.

[Holy Father, do deliver us from an unhealthy individualism! Deliver us too from a creeping “anarchy” that would dismiss all truth about “submission” and “authority”. Yes, and please deliver your People from those who would “lord it over” them. Cleanse and purify our hearts and minds so that our vision is clearer and so we will be more open to your teaching and more eager to happily, contentedly embrace and embody iit. This prayer in the Blessed Lord Jesus.]