twin towers: what to remember?

 

Let me briefly tell you about two friends of mine from years gone by.

The first was in many ways a tall tower of a good man. He was a very hard worker. He was honest and trustworthy. He was often a man with great self-control. He was very good to his wife.

But, he hated and despised anyone who even remotely looked like they could have been from somewhere in Asia. Deeply so. As in the deepest bitterness I’ve ever seen in a man.

Why? He was a Navy veteran of WWII. He had served aboard a ship that was docked in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941. His ship was one of the few that was able to get underway and make it out of the harbor during the attack. Following, he helped collect the bodies, and parts of bodies, burned and blown to bits, out of the water, off the deck, and off of his clothes.

He became an atheist that day. And forty years later, whenever we happened to be together and saw someone of Oriental descent or it was getting close to December, it was easy to see the anger, rage, and resentment that made his blood boil all day long. Some of his rants felt like fire; they seemed to melt all good away.

The second man was also a tall tower. In fact, he was one of the finest men I’ve ever known in life. Far more than hard-working, honest, trustworthy, self-controlled, and good to his wife, he was an obvious embodiment of the all that is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I saw him in a great many settings across the years, but never saw him express even a hint of anything less than genuine care and love for every person he ever met. Not once.

It wasn’t because he was an Army veteran of WWII. Since he had served in an elite special ops unit known as Merrill’s Marauders (aka: Unit Gallahad) he had seen and experienced, in ways far beyond what words can describe, some of the worst that war can bring to combatants and civilians. The horror of it all was so complete that he very rarely spoke of his experiences at all and when he did, he always did so briefly … trailing off in a broken voice with tear-filled eyes.

He had been a Christian before he became a soldier. And he would tell you, thanks be to God, that the horror and terror he endured, and inflicted, didn’t destroy his faith in God. But, it radically changed it. Anger and bitterness, hate and resentment: he was done with for good. He simply had no room for such in life anymore. He had experienced enough taking of life; he was determined now to give it and share it with all, no matter who you were.

Now I ask you: what made these men different?

Who, what, and how they chose to remember.

Period.

One remembered inhumanity and evil, and so, grew cold and hard, remembering only that. He sailed the rest of his life through in darkness. Another remembered savagery and suffering, but did not stop there, choosing rather to remember it all in light of a still present, ever good, holy, and generous God. He marched through the rest of his life in the army of God.

One, due to memory, chose a path of unforgiveness and so, chose a life of living dead. Another chose, due to memory, the way of forgiveness and so, chose life with, and of, God, here and now.

Neither of these two towers stand anymore in this world. But, their lives still stand in my mind as witnesses of, and monuments to, the choice we each make every day: to move on to love, forgive, and hope, or to cuddle up with anger, hate, and despair.

May God help us all to choose well. To choose God, to choose his ways, and to make him our tower, and strength, and shield. Daily. And nothing less. Lest more innocent and guilty alike die daily, a thousand deaths.

“… if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. Think about the things above and not things on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. … put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth … set aside … anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. … Take off the old human nature with its practices and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people. … as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. … forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts …” (Colossians 3.1-3,5,8-15)

this went thru my mind

 

Apocrypha, Bible, & canon: The Second Canon

“Just how Protestants came to lose these books is a curious story. Reformation-era debates over the Bible naturally focused on issues of canon.”

Complaining, criticism, leadership, ministry, self-pity & whining: * No Whining; * How To Respond to Rejection and Unjust Criticism

* “Just about the worst thing a leader can nurture in his heart is self-pity. And just about the worst thing a leader can do in front of his people is murmur and complain. I understand there is an appropriate place for lament. I know it is not always wise for leaders to quietly endure injustice. I’m not encouraging leaders to be stoic and indifferent to pain. What I am saying—and rather forcefully I hope—is that leaders must not be whiners.”

* “Many Christians cannot get over rejection, let alone misunderstanding. And that is why there is no resurrection in their lives. In our own natural power, we are incapable of responding to pain the way Jesus did. But the good news of the gospel is that He lives inside of us, giving us both the power and the will to do His good pleasure. The secret is in letting go.”

Culture and the U.S.: A ‘Whom Do You Hang With?’ Map Of America

“The idea here is to show America not as 50 states, but as regions where people do stuff together. In other words, a ‘Whom Do You Hang With?’ map.”

Discipleship: Five Reasons We Don’t Disciple (links to parts 1, 2, & 3)

“Seven years ago Christianity Today magazine asked John Stott to assess the growth of the evangelical church. This was his reply: ‘The answer is “growth without depth.” None of us wants to dispute the extraordinary growth of the church. But it has been largely numerical and statistical growth. And there has not been sufficient growth in discipleship that is comparable to the growth in numbers.’ Sadly, seven years on, that assessment still rings true. Although our growth has been wide as the ocean, it’s often about as deep as a puddle. Why is that?”

Faith & grief: One Month by Keith Brenton

“Will I choose to continue believing, go on trusting?”

God, church, power & self: How Shall We Keep Going On? by Terry Rush [required reading]

“In actuality, if it is to be it is up to Him. Why do we need this reminder? When we think church is up to us, we become overwhelmed and inwardly overwrought with exasperation because WE CAN’T DO IT.  Frustration, guilt, and bummerism subdue the spirit of each servant.”

Preaching: * 5 Strategies to Get More Out of the Sermon by Sean Palmer; * When Your Sermon is Only a Single by Philip Nation

* “You have a role to play in helping your preacher preach better.”

* “Each week, we hope that our sermon will be a homerun. However, I’ve hit a lot more singles and doubles than triples. I’ve hit even fewer homeruns. In all honesty, there are many Sundays my sermon feels like a poorly executed bunt that I have to hustle out to first base. So what are you to do when you just hit a single?”

Productivity: How I Improved My Workflow, 90-Minutes at a Time

“Timing is everything, as they say, and your workflow is no different. The human body is hard-wired to pulse. To operate at our best, we need to renew our energy at 90-minute intervals — not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.”

this went thru my mind

 

Addiction, alcoholism, bitterness & forgiveness: Rodney King Looks Back Without Anger by Jim Kavanagh

“Yes, I’ve forgiven them, because I’ve been forgiven many times.”

Anonymous comments: Why I Never Read Anonymous Letters, Comments, Emails, or Notes In The Offering by Brian Jones

“I have a simple rule: whenever I receive anonymous letters, notes, emails, or blog comments they go straight into the trash. I never read a single word. Ever. Why?”

Ants: SCLQ – Ants by John Acuff

“… [in] this [3 min.] video … scientists pour 10 tons of cement down an abandoned ant colony structure underground. After the cement is dry they excavate the entire colony and study the structure, which is amazing.”

Birds: Study Sheds Light on How Birds Navigate by Magnetic Field by James Gorman

“… two researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, Le-Qing Wu and David Dickman, have solved a central part of that puzzle, identifying cells in a pigeon’s brain that record detailed information on the earth’s magnetic field, a kind of biological compass.”

Blogging: 11 Life Skills Learned Blogging by Joshua Becker

“… the discipline of blogging was forcing me to learn new life skills – life skills that are highly transferable to other endeavors.”

Cell phones: More People Have Mobile Phones Than Electricity Or Drinking Water [infographic]

“How big is mobile? Really big. This slide from analyst Chetan Sharma shows that mobile is the most pervasive technology ever invented.”

Depression & faith: Depression ≠ No Faith by Leanne Penny

“It’s not always easy to be a Christian with depression, because there are still some people in the church that really don’t understand.”

Enemy: “Who Is My Enemy?”A Reflection from Lee C. Camp

“If the light of Christ has overcome the darkness through suffering love, if at the cross of Christ the justice of God was satisfied, and if we are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus, what then? Could it be that the killing of Osama bin Laden is but a continuation of bin Laden’s ways, which in the end can only be overcome in the longsuffering love of Christ? These are neither trivial nor flippant questions, and I raise them with much trepidation.”

George Harrison: The Passion of George Harrison by Dave Urbanski

“More than a few interviewees note Harrison’s determined, at times defiant, nature, most notably when it came to his main spiritual thrust: The ultimate goal of seeing his body, possessions, and the earth itself pass away to make room for whatever was next.”

Government assistance: Myths and Facts: Poverty and the Federal Budget by Amelia Kegan

“Most Christians agree that helping poor and hungry people is an important part of Christian discipleship. But not all agree on what the government’s role should be in this effort. Research … suggests that government programs play an essential role in helping low-income families.”

Handwriting & your brain: How Handwriting Trains the Brain: Forming Letters Is Key to Learning, Memory, Ideas by Gwendolyn Bounds

“… researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.”

iPhone app: Prayer Notes

“If you don’t have a prayer app on your mobile device, yet, you may want to consider installing Prayer Notes. … We check Twitter. We check Facebook. We check email. … How about checking Prayer Notes?”

Journaling: Why I Don’t Journal: The Danger of Words by Dan Bouchelle

“I do not journal. … I know it is a helpful spiritual discipline for many. … What I need most is not to speak (or write) but to listen.”

Life lessons: Turning 60: The Twelve Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned So Far by Tony Schwartz

“For several weeks now, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned during the past six decades that really matters. Here’s a first pass …”

Non-violence: Nonviolent Resurrected Jesus by William Willimon

“… we have many instances in the New Testament of people violating and killing the followers of Jesus. But we have not one single instance of any of his followers defending themselves against violence, except for Peter’s inept, rebuked attempt at sword play. This consistent, right to-the-end, to-the-point of-death nonviolence of Jesus has been that which Jesus’ followers have most attempted to modify. … You can argue that violence is sometimes effective, or justified by the circumstances, or a possible means to some better end, or practiced by every nation on the face of the earth—but you can’t drag Jesus into the argument with you. … Sorry, Jesus just won’t cooperate.”

then stop

However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic. (James 3:14-15 CEB)

Have you ever noticed how radically different the Bible reads in comparison to how we tend to want it to read?

Take for example our seemingly unquenchable thirst for “relevancy.” We yearn for “what to do” to be spelled out to us. We expect sermons to be filled with the “how to” dimension of things and we call for teaching to be saturated with “points of application. We want an  “explanation.”

But the Bible rarely speaks in such terms. In fact, what you typically find as you engage Scripture (and not merely writings or teachings about Scripture) are a multitude of statements without any “how to” statements attached whatsoever.

This passage in James is a perfect example. James, writing to Jewish Christians scattered across the Roman world of his time, tells them that he’s aware of pervasive jealousy and ambition among their ranks. These are not surface problems, but are harbored in people’s hearts and are points of deep bitterness. Further, these pervasive problems are resulting in ways of living that deny the truth of God’s good news and even well up to the point of their bragging about it!

You can almost hear the Christians addressed so ask James, “What are we to do, James? Tell us.” And James says, “I’m glad you asked. Stop it.” And that’s all he says.

Not once does he illustrate or give example of the sort of thing he’s talking about. He doesn’t provide a ten step “here’s how to change your life” plan as a solution. He doesn’t lead us through a series of references to positive elements we can plug into our life that will help push out the sin that he sees in us. He doesn’t provide a list of resources or aids available to us that will assist us in making this “stop” happen. He simply says:

“... then stop ...”

Stop bragging. Stop denying the truth with your life. Stop filling your heart with selfish ambition. Stop nurturing and coddling bitter jealousy in your spirit. Just stop it. Period.

This, I believe, is a very good thing to do still today. It was good enough for James and his Christian brothers and sisters then and it should be good enough for us as Christians today. And let me tell you why: the silence of no “how to” challenges us to discover the way ourselves.

It’s this simple: the things we discover for ourselves are the things that typically work the best for bringing about real change in our lives.

The way will be different for each of us. Some of us will find our greatest help to be in the companionship of solid Christians. Others of us will find our great change-making strength to come through private prayer. Still others of us will find it comes through saturating our lives with Scripture so that we’re more mindful of what God wants of us all of the time. And the list can go on and on, but it basically boils down to this …

The who we need to focus on is not us, but the Lord and the thing we need to hear is not so much the how as it is the what.

Now stop … and think about that.

Let’s pray.

Father God, prevent me from burying your good news underneath a mountain of words not from you. When I, as a little child, cry out incessantly to you “Why” or “How,” remind me with love of your perfect will and call me to trust you. May this be enough for me to do just that and to show it by my actions. This I pray in my Lord’s name. Amen.

Look at your heart and see if you coddle bitter jealousy and strain to have things your way. See if you’re focused on talking big about what you can do or what you don’t do. See if you live in such a way that denies God’s truth. And if you see such things, stop them for you know that any “wisdom” they appear to have isn’t from God, but is earthly, empty, and evil. (James 3:14-15 DSV)