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november-azalea

november-maple

I posted a couple of photos on Facebook on Tuesday that captured the odd juxtaposition of seasons that we are experiencing in our yard right now: pink azaleas in full boom and a maple with its leaves set ablaze in incendiary red.  Despite the climatic prankster who keeps radically moving the thermostat up and down (a high of 84º yesterday and frost likely by this weekend), the spring-like blooms and the autumn foliage are complementing each other beautifully.

While summer is enjoying a last gasp, colder weather will soon be here for its seasonal stay.  Plants that become dormant during the winter will invariably do so again this year, even if they’re currently staying up a little past their normal bedtime.  Those that always flower in March, April, and May will burst forth in bountiful botanical color again, keeping their unbroken bloom streak alive.  It’s simply the ongoing fulfillment of the postdiluvian promise: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease,” (Genesis 8:22).

I’ve commented recently on Facebook and in my weekly bulletin article about the splendor of the night sky and the tranquil beauty of daybreak that I have experienced on early morning trail runs over the last couple of weeks.  Setting out from the house at 5:00 a.m. yesterday, I wasn’t really anticipating being overly impressed after having experienced the simultaneous setting of the supermoon in the west and a picturesque, pink dawn on the eastern horizon on a crisply cool and windless morning earlier this week.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  Though the moon was beginning to wane from its fullness, it was no less brilliantly lit in the cloudless sky, still bright enough to cast shadows on the trail.  It was as if the Lord had left the porch light on for all who were out in the darkness.  Then, just for good measure, He traced a lightning-fast backslash in the northern sky with a shooting star.  Yes, yes, I know; it was a meteor and not really a star!

Big and small; terrestrial and celestial.  Thank you, Father, for daily reminders, both subtle and sublime, of your creative power, majesty, sovereignty, wisdom, goodness, and grace!

 

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one-another

One:  “having the value of 1; used to refer to a single person or thing.”

Each:  “every one of two or more people or things considered separately.”

As they relate to all of the people in our lives and those who surround us every day, the gist of the words “one” and “each” is: a single person considered separately.

We are all familiar with the multitude of “one another” and “each other” passages in the New Testament; fifty-nine of them according to one list that I found online.  While many of these reiterate the same imperative instructions, it is still quite an extensive list.  Love one another.  Forgive each other.  Serve one another.  Encourage one another.  Carry each other’s burdens.  Be kind and compassionate to one another.  Pray for each other.  Offer hospitality to one another.  Be patient with each other.  Stop passing judgment on one another.  Simple statements.  No difficult words.  Pretty straightforward, right?

The challenge is that, given our great familiarity with these passages, it is all too easy for us to subconsciously begin to view the intended targets and recipients of these attitudes and behaviors as the vast, vague, all-inclusive aggregate of humanity.  “One another” starts to mean everyone, which in effect means no one; i.e.,  everyone in general, but no one in particular.  Au contraire, mes chers frères et sœurs!!!

It’s not “everyone in general,” but “that person in particular” that God has in mind. That person with their own distinctive face, name, date of birth, Social Security number, workstation, address, cell phone number, and Facebook account.  Love him.  Forgive her.  Serve that man.  Encourage that woman.  Carry that grieving person’s burden.  Be kind and compassionate to that exasperating, insensitive, tiresome individual.  Pray for that politician.  Offer hospitality to that stranger or homeless person.  Be patient with that brother.  Stop passing judgment on that sister.

You know who they are.  Look for them.  They are everywhere.  They are us.

november-3-2020

(Do Not Open Until Election Day 2020)

November 3, 2020

 

Dear followers of Jesus,

It’s Election Day!  Wow!  Has it been four years already?

Today, the people of the United States will either: 1) re-elect President Donald J. Trump to a second term, 2) elect another Republican in the rare event that someone successfully challenged President Trump in the primary elections to become the party’s nominee, or 3) elect the Democrat candidate in the 2020 Presidential race.

I’m writing this letter to bring some things to your remembrance and to ask some things of you, especially if the third possibility becomes a reality today and a Democrat is elected to lead our nation as the next President of the United States.

1)  Keep praying. 

Four years ago, in the days following President Trump’s election, many Christians composed some beautiful and deeply meaningful prayers on behalf of the President-elect and our nation.  Some posted and shared these prayers on social media.  They acknowledged and praised God’s sovereignty, credited His wisdom and His guidance upon the electorate, professed their confidence that His divine hand had been decisively active in the outcome of the election, and petitioned His richest blessings to be upon the new President.

I hope that you saved those prayers in an easily accessible place.  Please retrieve them and pray them again today and in the days ahead… verbatim.  Change them only to reflect the name of the new President-elect.  They would be splendid prayers for you to continue praying over the next four years.  I’m asking this of you simply because I don’t recall the composition of such prayers in 2008 and 2012, and it would be a real shame to reserve such lofty petitions only for candidates of our liking and choosing.  Or is it possible you believe that God only selectively involves Himself in our elections, with unfavorable outcomes serving as an unmistakable signal as to which ones He has chosen to sit out?

Oh, and the countless public prayers that I have heard in Christian assemblies over the last four years that specially requested heavenly blessings upon President Trump, openly and unashamedly mentioning him by name… those would be great to continue as well.  Again, my mind isn’t quite what it used to be (I’m nearing 60 now), but I just can’t remember such prayers being offered with any regularity during the eight years prior to President Trump’s election.

2)  Keep reciting and living out Scripture.

Do you remember those Scriptures and memes that were so prolifically posted on social media when President Trump was elected?  They included Biblical texts like:

“First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:1-4)

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good… Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the emperor.” (I Peter 2:13-17)

That was so great!  Please do that again!

Many Christians experienced a miraculous measure of renewed interest and dedicated commitment to these Scriptures on November 8, 2016.  I just don’t want to see these texts fall back into the depths of obscurity, neglect, and disuse that they suffered from 2008 to 2016.

3)  Keep calling for unity, healing, and overcoming divisions and differences.

Following President Trump’s election four years ago, there were repeated calls from Christians for the nation to come together, unite, support our new President, and heal the wounds of division within our country.  Harsh rebukes were offered to those engaged in post-election protests, urging them to get over it, accept the will of the people, and respectfully support the President-elect as the incoming leader of one nation under God.

The memories of many were apparently instantaneously wiped clean of any recollection of the divisiveness, disrespect, incivility, insults, name-calling, demonizing, venom, and vitriol in which far too many Christians had been deeply involved for the previous eight years.  I lost count of the number of believers I know who stated or wrote, “Barack Obama is not my President.  He will never be my President.”  I regularly heard President Obama’s name spoken with derision and contempt.

You can’t speak like that and behave like that for eight years, and then, upon the election of your favored candidate, wave a wand, flip a switch, sweeten your tone, invite everyone to grab a hand and sing “Kumbaya,” and expect to be taken seriously.  You can’t repeatedly toss grenades and verbal weapons of mass destruction, and then glibly pontificate about the need to heal.

So, if “the other candidate” wins this 2020 election, please commit yourself to be among the first to call the nation to unity, to demonstrate solidarity and show support for the President-elect, and commit yourself to sincere and ceaseless prayer on his or her behalf, and for our nation under their leadership.  Whatever you thought “God is in control” meant in 2016, try to speak and act as if you still believe it now.

Only when we’ve lived it can we credibly prescribe it.

When we fail to do these things, the light of Christ becomes shrouded by our duplicity, our hypocrisy, and our blatant double standards.  We ensure that those who are skeptical and dubious about our belief in Jesus will find it even more impossible to accept our faith as genuine and authentic.

If we believe that our God’s sovereignty and the successful working of His will is dependent upon the election of a particular candidate or the dominance of a single political party, then our God is far, far too small.

Lest you think I’m being overly critical of believers or unduly “beating up on fellow Christians” to the neglect of pointing out the faults and failures of those in the world, please understand that the latter is not within my purview as a minister of Christ.  “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.” (I Corinthians 5:12-13)

My desire is that our light shine more brightly, our convictions more consistently, and our witness more credibly as disciples of Jesus.

Grace and peace always,

Tim

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