Famous But’s of the Bible

baby-boy-2137395_1920I really relate to Moses’ reaction when God told him to go confront Pharaoh.  It wasn’t just a matter of “let me sleep on it”.  Moses’ response was an immediate “But, Lord…!”  In fact, one translation records around five ‘buts’ in the same conversation!

I’m so thankful God is patient.

Contrast that with a follower of the up and coming Christian religion.  His name was Ananias.  News might not have traveled quite as quickly as it does now, but we can tell something had reached Ananias’ ears concerning a man named Saul, and his treatment of the people of The Way. 

“Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.”

So there Ananias is, minding his own business, when God taps our erstwhile hero on the shoulder to deliver a personal invitation to this rabid Pharisee…

“But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem!  And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”

Only one, “but, Lord”.  Impressive.  God, in His mercy, pats His servant on the back with a few words of encouragement.

“So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me…”

Ananias calls this infamous malcontent “brother” based solely on God’s recommendation, completely against everything he has heard about the man up to this point.  Equally impressive, and some lessons are to be observed:

approved-1966719_1280Acceptance does not mean approval.

I’m well entrenched in the “Show Me” state of Missouri.  Unfortunately, however, “showing fruits in keeping with repentance” and “study to show yourself approved rightly handling the gospel of truth” tend to be concepts that the 21st century American church like to keep on the back shelf. 

On the other hand, Saul, (who changed his name to Paul after his conversion), stayed with the believers and risked his own life in the synagogue to the point that they had to help him escape his former bosses by lowering him in a basket over the town wall!  Paul was loved and accepted into the family, but trust came from proving his character by his observable behaviors and decisions.

shield-31869_1280Courage to act. 

I can only imagine that Ananias needed more than a little courage to put his faith into practice.  Sure, he had experienced a clear and specific vision from God, but if he is anything like me (like most of us?) there had to be that sneaky little voice from back in Genesis saying “Hath God really said…?”  And it’s a good thing for all of us that Ananias obeyed, Paul writing more than half the New Testament and all.

anchor-2536643_1920A strong link. 

Interestingly, we don’t hear anything about Ananias in the rest of the Bible, not even from Paul in any of his writings.  Ananias was ‘merely’ a link between the old and the new.  Now, if it had been someone in our 21st century what-about-me culture, he might be tempted to compete for a place in the spotlight.  But that’s not what God had in mind for this faithful disciple. 

We tend to think of a wrecking ball as doing the big demolition, but it would be impotent without the strong links of chain that hold it up.  Paul was a great wrecking ball against Satan’s kingdom, but he needed each link of the chain to do that work effectively.

Minding my own business and staying out of trouble.  I rather like that plan, until God taps my shoulder and points in a different direction way out of my comfort zone.

How many “but, Lords” will He get from me?

Acts 13:1,13-14,17  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Liar, liar, pants on fire (#2)

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280Did you know that middle school kids lie?  Now I realize that may be an astounding revelation to some, so don’t choke on your Coke.  One of the wonderful teachers I’ve worked with for years cracks me up; she encourages the kids to “come up with something better than THAT” when they feed her an obvious falsification about why they don’t have their homework.  (She’s been around a while…)

Of course, kids aren’t the only ones skilled in what my brother-in-law refers to as “a flexible sense of integrity.”  For example—

The story of Hezekiah is fascinating.  Here the king of the formidable Assyrian nation comes knocking on Judah’s door demanding submission, or else.  Reading the accusations, there are several things the Assyrian head of state gets wrong:

  1. He says that the God of the Hebrews Himself told him to attack and subdue Judah, (2 Kings 18:25). Okay, that’s been done before so the idea isn’t completely foreign; however…,
  2. In the paragraph preceding that part of his tirade, he asserts that Yahweh is pretty ticked off with Hezekiah for destroying all the other alters of worship expect the one in Jerusalem, (2 Kings 18:22).   Guess the king of Assyria hadn’t done his background homework, because those other alters were one of the very things that made God quite upset with His people, and tearing them down was a definite plus in the Jews’ ledger sheet.
  3. Then this would-be tourist proceeds to lump Yahweh into the list of “all the other gods” who were unable to stand before the mighty Assyrian nation, (2 Kings 18:33-35). That was certainly an epic fail.  Not only was this a colossal insult, but also an incongruity in his argument—why would God tell the Assyrians to destroy His people if He couldn’t Himself stand up to the instrument of His own choosing?

There’s more to be gleaned from this account of Hezekiah’s dealings with Assyria, but here’s one of the points worth mentioning:

lies
Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/tsandwick/realies/

Liars have to keep lying, and generally someone is going to catch their slip, whether it’s a gap in logically reasoning, a contradiction, whatever.  You have to have a certain level of talent to deceive consistently, (granted, there are quite a few talented people around today.) 

Satan, however, is the best, as he has been at it quite some time now with amazing proficiency.

“When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

And his lies are not merely to inconvenience, but like the king of Assyria, Satan has much bolder plans—

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.”

Satan’s lies are aimed at the heart, the very place God says we are to guard since “the wellsprings of life” come from that very spiritual place. And what is at the heart of every Christian, but our intimacy with our Father Himself?  Satan will try every which way to convince us that we are rejected by God, not accepted into the family of God, or at the very best, a doormat for the more “important” saints.  Or that God, Himself, is mad at us. 

The list goes on, but eventually his logic does break down, because it’s no match for the Cross. 

Or as Wally Fry puts it so well at Truth in Palmyra:

satan liar

“Don’t let Satan set the ground rules”

John 8:44; John10:10  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

In Acceptance Lieth Peace

quill

This is a poem that I got from Elihu’s Corner, by a poet named Amy Carmichael.  I have contemplated the difference between holy surrender and apathetic resignation, and his particular post (in which I found Carmichael’s poem) speaks eloquently and insightfully to this issue:

He said, ‘I will forget the dying faces;
The empty places,
They shall be filled again.
O voices moaning deep within me, cease.’
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in forgetting lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will crowd action upon action,
The strife of faction
Shall stir me and sustain;
O tears that drown the fire of manhood cease.’
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in endeavour lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will withdraw me and be quiet,
Why meddle in life’s riot?
Shut be my door to pain.
Desire, thou dost befool me, thou shalt cease.’
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in aloofness lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will submit; I am defeated.
God hath depleted
My life of its rich gain.
O futile murmurings, why will ye not cease?’
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in submission lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will accept the breaking sorrow
Which God tomorrow
Will to His son explain.’
Then did the turmoil deep within me cease.
Not vain the word, not vain;
For in Acceptance lieth peace.