A Picture, a Prayer, & a Prediction

The picture: This is from this evening where I was walking at dusk. The sun set over the oaks I love and I hope it never rises again in a land where Roe ever reappears, except in its bloody shame. The blood of 65,000,000 murdered babies cries from the ground.

A prayer: Lord, have mercy upon us, a nation that spits in the face of the Holy One and mocks holiness. Thank you for your mercy upon this land under divine judgment in the overturning of Roe. You are merciful, even to the wicked when we repent and return. May you grant sufficient grace whereby we learn from judgment, repent of our national and individual sin, and be granted the ability to flee to Christ who came for broken and contrite sinners, and thereby receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

A prediction: Those who hate the truth of all boys and girls being created in the image of God (imago Dei) and the biblical worldview will steal, profane, desecrate, and destroy property in the coming days, and they will murder, just like their father, the devil (John 8:44). And they will call it justifiable and ‘good’ and ‘right’ to do so–while denying the only theology and coherent framework that birthed the very concepts of justice, good, and what is right.

The Power of Jesus’ Metaphors to Understand Christian Labor, the Trinity, Attendant Suffering, & Faithfulness

In a few moments I will again be leading soldiers in the study of Christianity 101, the gospel, the person and work of Christ, and what it means to follow Christ.

Today we are studying John 15. This chapter is filled with metaphors. When the chapter begins, Jesus is speaking of God as triune. He says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2 ESV).

The first metaphor Jesus uses here is that of himself as the true vine. The second is of the Father as the vinedresser. Then in verse 5, Jesus says that Christians are the branches, a third metaphor. Then in v. 26, Jesus says the Helper (the Holy Spirit) will be sent by the Father and Son, and he will bear witness about Jesus.

It’s all there: Christians are branches, grafted into Christ (the true vine). The Father prunes us so that we would be more fruitful. Pruning can be painful but its aim is good and righteous: Christian fruitfulness.

What are Christians to do? It’s right there in verse 8: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” That means labor, Christian. Work. Work hard in and for the Lord. Enough with foolish bromides like, “Let go and let God.” That Keswickian sentimentality is unbiblical. It is not as if God needed your permission, as if you and I were in charge of salvation. It is not as though we could ever save others. We cannot. People saying “Let go and let God” may be deceiving themselves into a pietism that is actually spiritual indolence.

We are to work hard in proclaiming the truth but God is the only One who converts sinners from spiritual death to spiritual life. Labor hard, yes, but trust the Lord to do what only he can do–regenerate spiritual corpses.

And we need to remember that we are guaranteed suffering. There’s no evading it if we are Christian. Listen to Christ tell us plainly: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19 ESV).

It’s so clear: the metaphors of God as triune, the labor that Christians will do, the suffering we are guaranteed, and the Helper who indwells the believer and testifies/bears witness to Christ, and the call to faithfulness/fidelity.

It amazes me each time I go through it all with my guys. It is so clear, so accurate as to human nature, so true to experience. People are the same in each place. The same cold hearts until God gives them new hearts, the same self-referential questions until God gives them new eyes, the same complaints about evil until they see the evil inside their own hearts. God is so patient with us.

May we be faithful to labor, to bear witness to the truth, to embrace our suffering, and know that we’ve a Helper who sustains us throughout. Press on, Christian. Have courage. God is faithful.

New Life Amidst the Heat & Humidity

I don’t know about where you are but where I am, it is hot and humid. The older I get the more I appreciate weather in the 50s. But it’s double that temperature in Dixie currently.

When I was on the track this morning and the sun came up, the heat and humidity were like a wool blanket, about the last thing I desired. Even the pines seemed to dread the haze of these days.

But the fawns are out and about now, their wobbly legs learning their design. And the A/C in my car is pumping. And summer in the South is here … with a vengeance.

Under the Oaks

Today has been sunny and warm here. I went for a few miles on the trails. Worked up a good sweat, passed an armadillo that had seen better days, chatted with some cyclists, crossed the Chattahoochee, slow in its muddy course in the sand and clay, and ended back where I began a few hours earlier, under the oaks. Miss my family but thankful for the small things.

Bluebirds, Blues, & Thoughts on the Near Future

First, some uplifting shots of bluebirds, their babies, and reminders that creation, fallen though it is due to man’s sin, still reflects the goodness of God.

Second, I want to address some of what I am witnessing. I see it in others and I see it in myself. It’s the blues. Not the musical style (my favorite musical style, too) but a world-weariness, what in German is called weltschmerz, a melancholia that is due to the state of the world and its effects upon the human spirit. In short, it’s the blues.

Perhaps an illustration would be helpful. I have a friend that I don’t get to see very often due to my military duties away, but she and I text back and forth regularly. Recently we discussed what we all are experiencing: soaring prices. When I walked into the commissary (grocery store) on post this week, the shelves looked like shelves I have seen in the Middle East or in southwest Asia or in parts of Africa I’ve been in. They were often bare. I had to go to two stores before I could even find a jar of peanut butter. And because I usually eat a couple of boiled eggs at breakfast, I thought I’d pick up some more organic eggs. The price of eggs floored me. I almost dropped them on the floor when I saw the price tag. Then there was more to come. I needed gas in my car. Overnight, the price of a gallon of 87-octane gas had risen 11 cents. We are approaching $5 a gallon here. And GA has among the lowest in the nation currently. In states run by liberals, gas is beween $6 to $8 a gallon. Folks, let me state the obvious: this is painful and there will be reactions from Americans.

My friend and I texted back and forth and what developed was a clear text thread of lamentation. We were and are both saddened by what is being done to our nation. I am a soldier, and thus cannot comment on political matters. My friend, however, is a civilian, and she wrote what we both feel. It’s a sadness over the state of things. It seems a national suicide is occurring. I have heard more than a few people prognosticate that we are on the verge of a serious recession, and possibly a depression.

But because of my nature, my training, and my disposition, what I am seeing is what Scripture calls “the fruit of their way.” What does that mean? Simple: we reap what we sow. Some folks call it the law of the harvest. Scripture puts it this way in Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Solomon expressed wisdom regarding the same principle in a poetic form when he wrote, “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices” (Proverbs 1:30-31).

In plain language, we are getting what we asked for. But like my wife and I discuss all the time, most folks refuse to see evil and folly until they show up on their doorstep. People might say there’s no price to be paid for not prosecuting crime, or enabling indolence, or rewarding vice, and delight in virtue signaling to the mobs. But when the thugs show up on your doorstep, suddenly you become less abstract in your thinking and your heartrate increases. Why? Because you can pretend that bad ideas don’t have bad consequences, but reality has a way of clarifying your thinking. As another buddy of mine says, “The bad man’s gonna show up. And when he does, you’re gonna want the good guy there. So, plan accordingly.”

But in this period where I believe many people are on the existential gut level, they’re battling the blues. They feel like the world has gone upside down, like folly is in charge, like reason has been abdicated, like a spirit of intellectual stupor has descended upon the land like a fog. And when clear-thinking people try to say something, they get canceled and shouted down by the mobs. Folks, that is dangerous. But I fear that we are well beyond even that now.

I am sensing a time of spiritual coldness. I know that may sound ethereal to people who do not speak or think in theological categories. If you’re an atheist, for example, I’m simply saying that people are growing more callous towards one another. Not everyone, of course. I’m aware of my logic. But generally speaking, I’m sensing a growing impetuousness, a growing coldness, a dangerous severity in the air. And so many soldiers and civilians I’m with are enduring it: the blues. A wearing down of the person’s spirit. And so often, a heavy sadness accompanies it. Again, it is what God calls the fruit of our way. God calls, people suppress that call, and the results follow.

Lastly, some thoughts on the near future.

First, some dark days are here and will continue. We do not seem to learn many lessons from history–whether those lessons are about Marxism, biology, or justice. If you think Marixism is going to lead you into a progressive utopia, you are a special kind of stupid. You need to read an actual book of true history and move out of your mom’s basement.

Second, judgment is real. For my atheistic readers, you will deny that God is teaching lessons because you don’t think God exists, so these are just random collisions of molecules and a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing, as the Bard wrote. Okay. But for most of us, we admit that God exists because our consciences bear witness to him, creation bears witness to him, Scripture bears witness to him, and Jesus rose bodily from the dead. You can deny those things if you wish, but they abide nonetheless.

Third, a great revealing is taking place. We are seeing who folks really trust–themselves, big government, or the Lord.

Fourth, the courageous and the cowards are being revealed.

Most folks, it is clear, follow. They don’t want truth. They want comfort, to be taken care of, to not have to work hard or do much. But pressure is about to be applied, I believe, and we will continue to see a great sifting and sorting and revealing take place.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so. It is cliche but true: some folks know a few things because they’ve seen a few things.

I think folks are on the cusp of learning some lessons our culture has suppressed for a long time. Reality is a rather stubborn thing, however, and we’re about to reap the whirlwind. Again, I say, it’s what Solomon called the fruit of their way.

Ruminations on a Monday Evening

I just rolled back into my place after a great weekend and after hours in the car on the way back to work. I had several hours in the car to think, and thus what follows is an assortment of observations, pictures, snippets, anecdotes, commentaries, curiousities, and maybe even some ruminations.

As background, this was the first time I’d slept in my own bed two consecutive nights in quite some time. I relearned the preciousness of lying upon one’s own sheets with his bride and waking up where the sun rises over the ridge I view from the bedroom window.

The weather was clear and sunny at home and the morning sun burst golden and brilliant over the ridge and washed the bedroom and back porch with gold. When the rays came through the oak leaves and tall pines, shadows played upon the ground with the wind, and if you paid attention, you might think God was speaking through his creation.

We took our son to Six Flags and rode the Great American Scream Machine, Goliath, Superman, Blue Hawk, Twisted Cyclone, and more. I paid way too much money for bottled water and a plastic bottle that can be used to get ‘free’ refills. O my! Of course. I have to laugh. I mean, I get it; it’s business. But good gracious, Six Flags. Upwards of $35 for a water bottle? Okay, enough of that. Hey, but my bottle of Dasani was just below $5.00. What a bargain, right?

Saturday before amusement park time, I was able to do enjoy perhaps my favorite relaxing time of labor, or what I was raised to call “piddlin’.” I piddled in the yard. I went across the property with my weedeater and tidied things up a bit, landscape-wise. I picked up limbs. I blew off the driveway and front walkway. I burned some debris from the woods. I played with the dogs. I watched the deer and birds that feed in the woods at our place.

We enjoyed some fajitas from one of our favorite Mexican eateries down the road. We people-watched at an outlet mall. I worked on my Sunday school lesson from Hebrews. We took in some time at the pool and met some more neighbors who were enjoying the long Memorial Day weekend.

We chatted with a neighbor who’d taken her girls to pick strawberries earlier in the day. She gave my wife and me a plastic bag of them to take, saying, “Please take them. We have so many, and they’re delicious.” So I accepted them, and my wife and I immediately ate one each, and tasted the sweetness as we bit into the deep red strawberries picked today.

The sun was perfect today for being at the pool. Families brought coolers out. Men, women, boys, and girls of all ages took to the water, some with floats or goggles. Others clung near the edges of the pool, their fingers making water stains on the concrete the sun dried moments later.

Lifeguards held whistles between their lips and every thirty minutes or so would say, “Adult swim.” And the kiddos would climb out and some older folks would enter the pool and swim a few laps or sometimes clutch a foam noodle and mill about.

When we came back home, I saw deer in the backyard and took some pictures with my iPhone from the upper deck. Finally, when my wife came back from walking the dogs, the deer wandered into the thicker brush until the dogs went inside.

I drove down this afternoon and thought about how excited I am for next Sunday. Our Sunday school class is doing breakfast and my wife has already told me what we are bringing. And one of our members, currently off at seminary in VA, will be home, too, and we’ll get to see him again and love on him and hear how he is doing in his studies.

And a precious brother in the Lord sent me some pictures of the birds he so enjoys.

And I was reading tonight, when I arrived down here, this line from the Psalter and it seemed to encapsulate what I am driving towards: ” . . . for all things are your servants” (Psalm 119:91b). The first part of that verse says of God, “By your appointment they [all created things] stand this day” (Psalm 119:91a).

There is so much theology therein, folks. That word—appointment—is huge. Purposefulness, intentionality, governance. All things are servants under the sovereignty of God.

For the secularist, he has nowhere to go. Why pray if you’re a secularist? There’s no one to whom to pray. There’s no objective reason to hope. There’s just the void. And you’re part of the void–no rhyme or reason. Boy, what a philosophy. “Nowhere man in his nowhere land and making all his nowhere plans for nobody.”

But the truth is that all things are God’s servants and that they are appointed. Because that is true, prayer makes perfect sense. And there is reason to hope. Because the heavens are not matter in motion with no conductor. On the contrary, all the heavens declare the glory of God. And God has entered his creation in time and space. Light has come into the world.

When I watched the sun pour through my bedroom window, and I reflected on the birds, and I watched the deer feed from the forest, and I watched my dogs play in the yard, and when I tasted the sweetness of the strawberries, it all cohered; it made sense because all things are God’s servants, just like the Psalm says.

So if you’ve a chance to unplug and just look around and taste and see that the Lord is good, creation calls to you. Why? Because it’s not haphazard or random or accidental. But it serves its master so that men and women would look to the God of redemption who does all things well.

“Chaplain, Can We Pray?”

Permit me to share a short illustration from my real life.

On Wednesdays at noon, I lead a Bible study for my soldiers in my unit. I feed them lunch and we go to the Scriptures.

Currently we are walking verse-by-verse through the gospel of John. Today we were in John 11. This is where Lazarus dies, where Jesus weeps, where Jesus commands a dead man (Lazarus) to come out of the tomb. Eyewitnesses were in rapt attention. And at the word of Christ, a corpse came out of the tomb. Correction: A corpse didn’t come out of the tomb; a live man came out of the tomb, at the express will of God in Christ. How? Because Jesus has power over life and death, because God raises the dead, because God is God.

I walked the guys through the text. They asked questions. We all marveled at the hardness of heart of the scribes and Pharisees. We rejoiced at the reality that God’s power is monergistic. His will cannot be thwarted. Some believed Him and the evidence; others with hard hearts denied the evidence and turned away; still others hated Jesus and tried to kill him. Yet God’s will prevailed. Jesus continued His mission to the cross; He was betrayed, crucified, buried, and raised on the third day–in precise fulfillment of prophecies in both the Old Testament and New Testament. God’s will was being executed, His plan for the fullness of time, fulfilled.

As the hour wore on in our study today, we had all interacted with the Scriptures, trying to picture Lazarus, Mary, Martha, the scribes, the Pharisees, and of course, the Lord Jesus. It’s important to realize these were real men and women on a real day that had a real sunrise and a real sunset. History matters, so I try to take time with the guys, getting them to see the context of what we read. Details matter.

And I let a pause hang in the air, trying not to talk too much, but to sense where the guys were, and what God was and is doing.

Then, one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met, a guy who has more muscles than I can even name, a guy who runs marathons and triathalons and has all the toughest schools the Army can offer him, looked at me and said, “Chaplain, can we pray?”

He voiced concerns over the murders in TX, the politicization of nearly everything, and asked if I’d pray for it all, and even for our guys in the unit.

Folks, I cannot comment on things political as a soldier still in uniform, but when my guys, guys that are my mission field, ask their chaplain to pray, it is one of the greatest blessings in my life. It reaches my very core.

And all I could do, as I struggled to find the words and prayed publicly before my men, was to also say silently to myself: Thank you, Lord, for who You are. Thank You for what You are doing in and through these men.

“Who Provides?” God’s Question to Job

Three beauties from my friend Jim and a question from Job: “Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help, and wander about for lack of food?” (Job 38:41).

These are not ravens or raven eggs, obviously, but the answer to the question from God to Job (and to us) remains obvious.

Thank you, Jim, for the pictures.

See you Sunday.