11 Years Ago Today – Thanking Our Father in Heaven for Yet Another Year

Originally published  in 2014, following is an edited version with new observations.

Am thankful that today marks another milestone for which God Himself only is due praise and glory. Here is the recap from a few years ago. Please make sure to visit the testimony link. 11 years!! It is overwhelming to recount the benefits this far down the road.

Now for a 2016 reflection on the continuing blessings of my 2005 cerebral hemorrhage.

1) The swiftly sudden onset of this terrifying illness continues to remind me of the boundless preciousness of life.

2) Even bad moments in life contain untold worth, and, gathered together in concerted contemplation, lead a person to realize how very truly present God always is in the lives of His children. All of life’s moments are of inestimable value.

We do very well to recall the truth of truths of the presence. Scripture references are plentiful, i.e. Psalm 16:11, 23: 5, 51:11, 90:8, 95:2, 105:4, 114:7, 139:7, Jeremiah 3:17, Jonah 1:10, Matthew 28:20, John 14:6,23, Hebrews 9:24, Revelation 7:17 among many more. Examine these, and you will be humbled and thankfulness will build in your heart and mind.

3) It is impossible for me to overemphasize the always quality/quantity of God’s presence. Turns out this is an expansion of the wonder of the above observation.

At the beginning, middle, and end of every day, the LORD is with his beloved children! AMEN!

4) The LORD’s presence is marked by the overwhelming awareness of a simultaneous, phenomenal manifestation of ἀγάπη and holiness paired and inseparably interwoven together. Two attributes that are in actuality one. All of a single piece.

5) Reality without God is an utterly ruinous, dark state of being.

6) Reality without the acknowledgement of God’s presence is a soul-destroying existence. Seek (in prayer and ἀγάπη) the welfare of your soul and that of others.

7) Reality with the active seeking of God’s face is of greatest preciousness. The pearl of great price.

Seeking, being loved by, and loving God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit is our greatest occupation. Loving (ἀγάπη) all others is the true and necessary consequence of our being loved by God.

Thanks be to the Holy and Loving God!

It is my fervent prayer that you be blessed throughout the whole of the year of our Lord 2016!

Why Isn’t Holy Week Happy, Happy?

More confirmation of my continuing admiration of Blaise Pascal…

From Carl R. Trueman at First Things:

Pascal observed the problem in seventeenth-century France when he saw the obsession with entertainment as the offspring of the fallen human desire to be distracted from any thought of mortality. “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room,” he said. And: “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.”

Trueman really captures what we miss when our focus centers on avoidance and sentimentalization of the reality of the tragic. Please take the time to read his article Tragic Worship.

The Psalm reads

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,”

and it does not stop there, as it goes on

for you are with me; your rod and your staff,  they comfort me.

Happy, clappy distraction does NOT sustain. In the end it can only strain the frailty of our resolve until it snaps unsupported by the truth of the tragic.

On the other hand, God is with us all along the valley of the shadow. Only He removes the fear of evil. Only He bestows comfort. Only His grace lasts. Distractions are – at best – sugar candies.

What Married Life Is Really Meant To Be

96-year-old Fred Stobaugh knows how REAL true love is meant to be. In some ways I can identify with Mr. Stobaugh, as I wake up every morning to the prettiest girl I’ve ever known. She is new to me every day. God has blessed me for a good while thus far with a woman of extraordinarily real but also somehow unfathomable value. Thanks LORD! Thank you, Debbie!

To my married, soon-to-be-married, hoping-to-be-married and all friends and family: take time to view this video together. Thank the Good LORD for all good relationships. Consider how you as individuals can contribute to healthy, caring relationships. Pray for one another – always.

Agapé Does Not Mean What Many Think It Means

As I have been preparing several essays on ἀγάπη I came across this from Kelly Wright:

“In an article he wrote for Ebony magazine in 1966 titled Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom in 1966, King sounded the alarm that it is a moral imperative to be non-violent: “Only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to the chains of violence in the world and lead us toward a community where men can live together without fear. Our goal is to create a beloved community.”

As King addressed the issues of his time and promoted a society of brotherhood, he wanted to avoid being looked upon as a super and unrealistic optimist in an age of cynicism and pessimism.

He wrote on page 64 of his book, Struggle to Love: “As we struggle to defeat the forces of evil, the God of the universe struggles with us. Evil dies on the seashore, not merely because of man’s endless struggle against it, but because of God’s power to defeat it.”

Dr. King did, and still does, encourage all of us to come to the table of brotherhood, to discuss our differences openly and honestly, to work and pray for a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Dr. King would remind us that in everything we do, we must act in love. Not in some sort of sentimental love.

He explained it would be difficult for men to love their enemies or oppressors in an affectionate sense. Because of that, he pushed the concept of Agape love. He explained that Agape love is not sentimental or affectionate, but is a reciprocal love.

A person will love out of a redeeming good will for mankind. It is the kind of sacrificial love that seeks nothing in return.”

Read it all here.

Seriously, hie thee hence.

You’re welcome!

The Core of Christian Ethics and Plain Old Everyday Christian Behavior

Some sweet day maybe I will figure out why working hard at chores around the homestead brings with it some thoughts from another place, a place not yet familiar, but assuredly known.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Messiah, I have been blessed in incalculable ways by my time at Asbury Theological Seminary.  My philosophy and ethics courses still stretch me  toward the ancient paths where the good way is.  After some sweat-drenched (part of my chores were outdoors) reflection the following congealed in my mind, heart, and spirit. In the event I can overcome the inertia of feeling my age right now, I will make a little pocket card that I’ll laminate and carry around. Maybe the ancient paths will be more plain to myopic me. Just pull out the card, Old Man…

The Core Of Christian Ethics and Plain Old Everyday Christian Behavior

Be, say, and do only that which

  1. Pleases the Father
  2. Brings glory to the Son
  3. Results from the movement and ministry of the Holy Spirit

from Jeremiah 6:16 ~

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
[But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’]

I may leave off the bracketed sentence on my little card, but it does serve as a stark and fitting warning. An ounce of buzzkill is better than the pounding that comes with the cure??

In, for, with, and by HIS agapé,

Michael +

Uncomfortable Words about Conduct, Critical Analysis, and Be-ing

Dear ἐκκλησία,

We live in the midst of a time in history where myriads upon myriads of voices are competing rather cunningly not only for our attention but more importantly for the most prominent places in our decision making, advisory, and influential capacities. Constitutive Christian doctrines, tenets, principles, teachings, ethics, practices, and beliefs suddenly become negotiable to the point of being unrecognizable from divine design and purpose; or optional; or even archaic.

At the following link, Dr. Wayne Grudem sets forth  a “reminder of what God’s Word has to say about homosexual conduct, a teaching many believers increasingly prefer to forget”.

It is an uncomfortable reminder that is nonetheless crucial and imperative. Please consider prayerfully and reflectively.

An admonition, if I may: please walk (and pray, think, be, and act) in αγάπη as Christ ἠγάπησεν us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  (Please note the word αγάπη. The love we be and do toward God and others is the love to which I’m referring. Got that?)   ~Ephesians 5:2

Link to Grudem’s article.

χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη πληθυνθείη

In re: Matthew 5 and the Several Blessings

Beloved in our LORD Jesus Christ, for background to my little reflection, open your Bibles to Matthew 5: 1-12.

My reflection:

The LORD Himself, I believe, enlivens my awareness of being blessed even when I may not sense it during times of stasis, stress, sorrow, sickness, or separation. I submit that He uses every avenue of approach at His disposal to reassure us of His being the one and only source of all blessing. He may do this at the biblical/intellectual/theological level in bringing to our minds the truth of God’s blessings through His covenants and myriad promises. At other times, our no longer hardened hearts become aware of an inexplicable provision or miracle or the unmistakable, solid, really real presence of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. At still other times, our LORD sends us messengers -some heavenly (angels), most walking around this earth with us (our Kingdom family members) – to be conveyors, ambassadors, sub-contractors of His blessings. There are times, I strongly believe, He uses all three at once. Mountaintop moments, we are prone to call them.

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Messiah, Be Blessed by the One Who Blesses!