“AH, A BEAUTIFUL COFFIN!”

Was Paul deaf and blind when he wrote: “Death where is your sting? Grave where is your victory”? All right, so he didn’t have our terminology, words like, hospice care, terminal wards and such. But he couldn’t have been ignorant of the stark reality of Death and Death’s sting (Sin) that was everywhere he looked. He couldn’t have missed the groaning of the diseased and dying, couldn’t have been ignorant of the cemeteries and tombs that shouted or whispered to him everywhere he walked.
What kind of fool was this man who dismissed Sin & Death with a scornful shout? Still, he might have been profoundly wise, and had a  mesmerizing philosophy and logical arguments that enabled him to know what lesser mortals like us can’t quite grasp.

He wasn’t speaking about “life after death,” don’t you know! Life after death speaks of the victory of Death and Paul was speaking of its pathetic weakness despite a world filled with the dead and dying. He spoke not of the survival of a ghostly something but of the final and utter obliteration of Death in resurrection to immortality, And what does he base his scornful dismissal of Sin & Death on?

On a single person! One human among all the humans that ever lived or will live. A young Jewish Carpenter who said to Death, “I’ll meet you on that hill yonder and understand this, I will destroy you!” Cf. Hebrews 2:14.

We’re tempted to forget how scandalous the Christian’s faith is! Everything hangs on one little human (the human God is being, but a human that God is being). Nowhere else. No one else!

If Jesus Christ did not rise, if He is not forever alive this glorious limitless expanding universe is nothing more than a colossal coffin! Tell of its beauty and magnificence, tell of its breathtaking quasar clusters, its spiral nebulae, its spellbinding galactic collisions but when we’re done, if Jesus, the carpenter Son of God, has not not conquered Death & Sin we’re describing a massive coffin where all that is kind, hopeful, gallant, unselfish and just perishes and is entombed!

“But now is Christ risen!”

ON BEING A SHADOW

I suppose we all have a favorite character in literature—fictional or historical as well as the one we dislike most. I have little liking for the Marquis de Sade. One of his chief pleasures, he has someone say, was to “corrupt the innocent.” And Shakespeare’s sly conniving Iago is ugly down deep but personally the one who sets my teeth on edge is Hawthorne’s hateful Roger Chillingworth who in “righteous” viciousness torments, tortures his alienated young wife Hester and the weak young preacher Arthur Dimmesdale who got involved with her. You must sometime, if you are a reader invest the time to read The Scarlet Letter. (Did I tell you I updated it and made it so much easier to read? Hawthorne’s style makes it very difficult for modern readers and it’s too great a book to miss. I added a few paragraphs to develop a few thoughts Hawthorne was making but the book fully remains Hawthorne’s. I hope you read it and allow his brilliant work to open your eyes and heart in many ways as it has done mine.) Believe me, “righteous” Chillingworth is alive and well in the world today.

But heroes! The countless unsung and unknown (except to a handful of the world’s billions)! Add to those the grand women and men who are known and worthy of praise—who can number them, eh? People who consciously lay down their lives in a single act of breathtaking act of generous self-giving and others (vaster in number) who lay down their lives by gallant living and working for decades until their tired bodies and willing hearts can do no more. Excluding the obvious among us whose malevolence and delight in the demonic is so startling that all the social-sciences can’t come close to “explaining”. There’s a power that we turned loose, a monstrous, stalking predator that is as cunning and well-disguised as it is vindictive and insatiable. Across the world there are places and there have been eras where it wore and wears no disguise but now that we are “wise” neuro-scientists, sociologists and psychologists we can explain all in terms of neurons, genetics, socio-psychology, cultural anthropology and more—without remainder. So much truth and wisdom there—not unwise or untrue in what it includes but blindness to what it excludes and so somewhere beyond human vision a cosmic parasite feeds on the powerless, the voiceless and the innocent through the powerful ones that it corrupts. We see it’s work and mistake the undeniable destruction for the Great Feeder and Destroyer—and that too is the deep cunning of the predator, when the genuinely wise become fools even in their wisdom (Romans 1:21-22) and serve the great corrupter.

But I’ve drifted from the point I wished to make. More than anyone else in the Bible I admire Moses. Of course he was flawed and of course he sulked and ran off and in a colossal sulk refused to circumcise his older boy and in that refusal withholding his firstborn from God and yes he tried constantly to turn down the new commission to deliver Israel. But what a man, what a burden he carried, what ceaseless criticism he endured and what a mesmerizing self-giving word to God he speaks in Exodus 32:32 (with chapter 33), “If you won’t take this sinful nation home I don’t want to go either.”

Forty years with a nation and its leaders breaking his heart, even his sister and brother joining in the attacks and then, precisely because he was so magnificent a leader and model, he is not permitted to enter the promised land though it broke his heart and he begged until God told him I don’t want you to speak of it to Me again (Deuteronomy 3:24-26). Sinner or not, flawed or not, he was someone in whose shadow a nation found freedom and shelter from the burning heat of life in a sad bad world. (See Isaiah 32:2c.)

Doesn’t the very thought of him make you want to be a shadow for some poor soul—at least one—so they can find relief from the relentless and debilitating heat of life? Oh God. Wouldn’t we like to believe that despite our flaws we could end our lives assured that we were a shadow for someone, protecting them from the blistering and killing heat that would kill them? A grandchild maybe, a son. daughter, wife, husband, a friend or even someone farther removed from us!
I mustn’t leave the impression that this is an impossible task or that it isn’t being done! It’s happening all over the place. I’ve found women and men who were shadows for me in critical times, lonnnng critical times. I just want to be that to someone.

And Moses died in faith despite the onslaught of the World Hater who used everything and everyone against him. He wasn’t alone in this. Women and men are listed in Hebrews 11 as people of “whom the world was not worthy.” And in Hebrews 3:1-5 the writer speaks of Moses in a marvelous and admiring way and then he says: BUT CHRIST…………….Finish the sentence in any way you wish. It’s no insult to Moses. On the mount of Transfiguration God said, “Don’t hear Moses, don’t hear Elijah, don’t hear John the Baptist, don’t hear David don’t hear the popular teachers…..Hear My Son!”

 

 

“You’ll Like Yourself A Lot”

Salvation, fullness of life comes to whoever by the grace of God manifested finally and completely and solely in the Lord Jesus Christ. Everlasting LIFE is God’s gift!
At this stage of my life it seems a bit tedious to go on and on saying that because to me it’s so obviously true. Still, if it’s true why wouldn’t we gladly say it.
God is magnificent and glorious for out of love He purposed a world and a human family and meant to do them good; meant to do them eternal good and He meant to do so because that’s the kind of God He is as we’ve learned from the biblical witness that comes to its climax in the blessed Lord Jesus.
I don’t know everything about anything but I’m aware that we the human family can be desperately wicked. I’ll make no attempt to prove that point—is there any sane person who would doubt it?
Let me tell you what has come home to me more clearly as the years have gone by—the human family while it can be desperately wicked can also be profoundly gallant and worthy of admiration. I’m not advocating humanism! But I will not deny that there are hosts of non-Christian people who live lives of moral grandeur. To reject! God in any of the forms that takes ends in everlasting loss.

I say that all the evil present in our world is the expression of human corruption and I believe that our corrupt state as a family is the result of many contributing factors. No one is born bad! The presence of and the pervasive nature of evil gets hold of us and as we grow we enter into that evil way.
But it’s very clear to us that evil isn’t the only thing that’s in the world. We’re persuaded beyond debate that God has not left the human family without help in His war against evil. The ways in which He helps the human family are many but He does help us! That there is good in the world as well as evil is plain to see and all the religious double-talk won’t change it. In their millions there are lovers who love others more than they love themselves. There are people who astonish us with their gallantry when they lay down their lives as caregivers to the profoundly and chronically ill. There are people young and old, rich and poor, female and male, educated or semi-literate, red and yellow, black and white who live gloriously in all parts of the world.
There! When we see such people we see the magnificence of God. There are those who wonder how a good God can be lord of a world that is so desperately wicked and that wonder is no strange thing—didn’t God’s own prophets and psalmists wonder the same thing? But there’s something else to wonder about: how can there not be a good God at work in the world when there is so much human grandeur and honor, gallantry, patience, compassion, self-giving and cheerfulness?

Why would we doubt it? What is it, are we afraid to say these people live lovely lives (not sinless lives) in case they think they will earn heaven by their goodness? Because we know they can’t buy their way into God’s love we must call their goodness evil (as some corrupt religion does) or must we avoid praising them when they do so gloriously what we wish we could do?
God help us to believe that all we see that’s lovely and fine is His work. God help us to believe that He has given them more than food and gladness, friends and family, health and political freedom. God help us to believe that He has gifted them with friends and teachers, literature and experiences that mediate truth to them—truth that shapes their character and strengthens their resolve to love and do what’s right and just and beautiful.
Tell them that! Tell them we see that in them and God has richly blessed them with it and maybe that will enable them to think noble things of God; maybe that will turn their hearts to a God who is already committed to them and who expresses that commitment in the moral glory we see in them.

That beats to pulp denying the goodness in them and damning all the evil in them. Link their goodness to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus! Link their harmless joys and pleasures with Him. Help them to admire Him. Don’t begrudge them their decency, honesty, faithfulness—it’s the work of God. Give them some praise! We don’t need to endorse corruption or remain silent about it but we need to acknowledge the presence of God in moral loveliness wherever and in whoever we see it.
Back in 1938 they made a movie about the work of a priest called Edward Flanagan who began a home for needy boys—a home that grew and grew until it became Boy’s Town. It is a moving and fine movie with plenty of interesting characters in it.
As the movie tells it Flanagan goes to the store of his friend Dave Morris [played by Henry Hull] looking for a $100 loan to lease a house to shelter the homeless boys he’d gathered up. Business man Morris wants to know what Flanagan has as collateral and the priest brings out a cheap watch that the broker has scores of—he sells them for a couple of dollars each. What else? The priest has nothing else but a10¢ toy—the kind with a clown face, two little holes as eyes and two little balls you must get settled in the eyes. That? That’s collateral? Against his better business judgment Dave succumbs to the priest’s plea and loans him the $100, refuses the collateral and urges the priest, “You better leave before I change my mind.”

Flanagan says, “Oh, I’m not afraid of that Dave!”

I love that line! I love it not only because it was the right thing to say but also because Dave Morris was such a character that the priest was able to say such a thing to him. How marvelous it is to know such people—they make a commitment and have no intention of backing away from it. You know such people don’t you? Christians and non-Christians. You’ve met or heard of them; you might well be one of them; one of those that people talk about as I am now talking about Dave Morris who helped Flanagan’s dream to become a reality and wouldn’t “change his mind” until such a place as Boy’s Town came into and remains in existence to this day.

The scene from the movie ends with Flanagan talking the storeowner into selling him some stuff for the house with Morris’ own money and then working another scheme on him. The frustrated Morris blusters and protests but is clearly weakening and the priest says to him just as he’s leaving, “Dave, tonight before you go to sleep you’re gonna like yourself—a lot!”

I love that line too and I fervently hope that some of you who read this, in whom Dave Morris is alive and well—I hope that you know God is enabling you and has blessed you and is pleased with such a spirit in you and that tonight you can like yourself—a lot.

BOY’S TOWN

 

Michael J. Fox & Robert Louis Stevenson

I’m fairly sure it was the noted author and literary critic, Arthur Quiller-Couch, who said of Robert Louis Stevenson that his life was “one long crucifixion.” Illness plagued RLS. and though he was something like that fine man, Michael J. Fox, who mostly takes the very rough with the smooth, RLS had his times as MJF has when his mental/emotional steadiness gave way as he lay coughing up blood and writhing in pain. Add to that—as if that weren’t enough—the deeper sensitivity of people like Fox and Stevenson as they reflect on the great hurt of the world. Along with the awareness of the incalculable anguish there is the soundless, lingering sense that the great suffering is also the expression of a single “great wrong.”
19th century Irish-born physicist John Tyndall, atheist, observed that his arguments in favor of atheism always felt much stronger when he was depressed and the reverse was true when his world was pleasing. I like it that he said that. I’m not using it as an argument against atheism. I just wish to say it doesn’t surprise me that dark days that come often or stay around and don’t leave—I’m just saying it makes sense to me that we wonder if there is an overarching “right!” or Someone who wants to look after us or Someone who will right all the wrongs and bring about a happy and just end to things.
I mean Someone who like Pip in the John Mills movie adaptation of Great Expectations walks into the gloomy house of death formerly owned by the now deceased gloomy Ms. Havisham to deliver his beloved Estella. She feels this gloom is all there is and so she sits in dust and degradation becoming accustomed to what she sees around her and with the heavy dust-laden curtains always drawn as did the bitter, soulless Ms. Havisham. Pip cries into the air words that defy the lingering spirit of the old woman and runs to the curtains and rips them down from each window and the bright sunshine streams in, exposing the vermin-covered tables, the rotten food and the filth of the furniture and all else. In light of the warm sunshine the astonished Estella sees the room and that house for what it is and sees life with her loved one for what it could and should be and together they walk out into life together.
I’m glad that there are gallant sufferers in the world who rejoice in times of joy, trusting through the sustained heartache. There is a gospel for the happy, thank God! But I’m glad, one way or another, to meet up with people, in literature or life who live well through pain sometimes too difficult to smile about.  It was probably during a period like that that RLS wrote this:
To go on for ever and fail and go on again,
And be mauled to the earth and arise,
And contend for the shade of a word and a thing
not seen with the eyes:
With the half of a broken hope for a pillow at night
That somehow the right is the right
And the smooth shall bloom from the rough:
Lord, if that were enough!
I think that sometimes the Lord Jesus would say, “That’s enough.”

Acts: The Gospel of The Holy Spirit (Part 16)

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.
Watch on Youtube via IFTTT

Acts: The Gospel of The Holy Spirit (Part 15)

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.
Watch on Youtube via IFTTT