Taming God

Throughout history men and women have tried to tame God. I liken it to damming a river to control the normal flow of the water. What’s possible with rivers is also possible in religion. A group of people can claim that a portion of the river is theirs. They construct dams to control the living water, pave a parking lot, pop up a building, and hoist a sign with a catchy company name. Let’s call ours Choppy River Church. The river is real, but already altered by the dam. Domesticated. Cultivated. Tamed.

ocoee2-4[1]Choppy River Church advertises, “Come whitewater rafting on God’s true river of life!” When you arrive, you’re handed a life jacket with the company logo, then shuffled to the formal boarding area where you step into a raft emblazoned with the brand name. Reps from the company man the rafts and guard the shorelines. If your raft catches an unexpected rapid and sends you off the man-made course, workers on the shore use long poles to push you back where they want you. The river is so controlled it no longer represents who God is.

When your ride on that short section of the river is over, you are expected to gratefully disembark and say complimentary things about the company. And its management. And the exciting river. Any honest reactions to the adulteration of the river are quickly met with disapproval from peers or company leadership. If you still don’t comply with the unspoken codes of behavior, you are summoned to a meeting for a stern rebuke. Those inclined to question or resist further find themselves evicted from Choppy River Church.

If that sounds familiar, you might think you were rejected from the river of God BY God. But that’s not the case. Not at all.

White_Water_Rafting[1]There is a river that extends far beyond the trifling range of Choppy River Church. There his river is unaltered by man. The water is unrestrained. Exhilarating. Powerful. Potent. Anyone is welcome at any time. People who gravitate to it are inclined to respect, love, and treasure the river. They bring rafts and ride the waters at will. Rafters come and go much like nature lovers come and go from the earth’s forests, deserts, and mountains—they leave it like they found it. Spotless. Pristine. Natural. Wild.

The river is available for all, but owned by none. Even those who work there full-time as whitewater rafting instructors don’t assert it’s theirs. Those who choose to frequent riverside buildings do so to exalt God together. And to support each other. Nobody aspires to subdue the river. They wouldn’t dream of exploiting it for profit or power.

They value it for what it is: Bigger than man. Mightier than man. Unpredictable and fearsome. But, paradoxically, also soothing. Calming. Restful. Healing.

Choppy River Church does not equate to God. They are not one and the same. A place that claims his name might be contrived, but he is not. He is infinitely more than a controlled, tamed, ineffectual river, and yours for the asking.

 


References: 1. http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Rev/Vision-River-Life

2. http://www.gotquestions.org/living-water.html

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Kick Against the Pricks

For two days a phrase has been on repeat in my mind:

“It’s hard for you to kick against the pricks.”

Finally, I remembered it in song form, leading me to listen to Johnny Cash’s familiar “When the Man Comes Around” with fresh awareness.

 

So, what does it mean, this phrase, “kick against the pricks”? An investigation yielded this explanation from “Got Questions Ministry”:

“It is hard for you to kick against the pricks” was a Greek proverb, but it was also familiar to the Jews and anyone who made a living in agriculture. An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered. Thus, Jesus’ words to Saul on the road to Damascus: “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.”

Of the better-known Bible translations, the actual phrase “kick against the pricks” is found only in the King James Version. It is mentioned only twice, in Acts 9:5 and Acts 26:14. The apostle Paul (then known as Saul) was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians when he had a blinding encounter with Jesus. Luke records the event: “And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 26:14 KJV). Modern translations have changed the word pricks to goads. All translations except the KJV and NKJV, omit the phrase altogether from Acts 9:5.

The conversion of Saul is quite significant as it was the turning point in his life. Paul later wrote nearly half of the books of the New Testament.

Jesus took control of Paul and let him know his rebellion against God was a losing battle. Paul’s actions were as senseless as an ox kicking “against the goads.” Paul had passion and sincerity in his fight against Christianity, but he was not heading in the direction God wanted him to go. Jesus was going to goad (“direct” or “steer”) Paul in the right direction.

There is a powerful lesson in the ancient Greek proverb. We, too, find it hard to kick against the goads. Solomon wrote, “Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path” (Proverbs 15:10). When we choose to disobey God, we become like the rebellious ox—driving the goad deeper and deeper. “The way of the unfaithful is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). How much better to heed God’s voice, to listen to the pangs of conscience! By resisting God’s authority we are only punishing ourselves.


Text credit belongs to “Got Questions Ministry”

“When the Man Comes Around” song credit belongs to Johnny Cash

 

 

You Belong

Cindi Gale

Lou Lourdeau's pottery pics, potter spinning clay

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“Behold, I belong to God like you; 
 I too have been formed out of the clay.” 
Job 33:6
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DSCN1961.cropped and framed for blog jpg

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“But now, O LORD, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.”
Isaiah 64:8
 
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Lou Lourdeau's pics, shelves of pottery

   


Photography by Lou Lourdeau, August 2014. Images of ceramic artists shown with their permission. Many thanks to each of you.

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Enlightenment

It’s been less than three days since the most deadly shooting in modern U.S. history. Immediately, the Internet, television news, and social spheres were abuzz with opinions. We’ve heard it all before:  “Gun control is the answer”; “No, gun control won’t stop mass murder”; “Trump did this”; “Trump didn’t do that”; “A white male murderer gets labeled a lone wolf, but after a Muslim or black murder, a whole religion or race is vilified”; “The guy’s a sociopath, don’t lump me in with him just because I own assault weapons”. And on and on it goes.

It’s not who’s right and who’s wrong that caught my attention today. It’s something else that hummed behind the usual roar of discordant voices …

The ink dried on a host of opinions before the victim count in Las Vegas was even finalized. We have become people of instant opinions

There’s something wrong with that.

The same people were saying the same ‘ol, same ‘ol. They’ve held those exact opinions for years. Nothing had changed in the slightest.

There’s something wrong with that, too.

It seems others’ worst tragedy is another person’s opportunity, their opening to set up soapboxes uninvited, from which to bellow personal, staunch beliefs.

There’s something very, very, very wrong with that.

Do people not need time to take in transpiring events and to wait for information before broadcasting their views on this, an unprecedented, bizarre, horrible, numbing, inexplicable event?

Obviously they don’t think so. Or maybe they just don’t think to think.

Watching all this, wide-eyed, baffled at all that is happening, this occurred to me today:

Instant opinions are a sign of closed minds. 

A closed mind can’t do new things, it can’t think outside of the box, it can’t realize it may not know everything, or consider it needs to stay open so it can correct itself when needed. A closed mind can’t listen to others or absorb novel information. A closed mind can’t invent, discover, or pioneer.

So, I wondered, what are the qualities of inventors, discoverers, leading-edge thinkers, or pioneers?

This word came to mind:

Enlightenment.

Enlightenment, by definition, is:

1. having or showing a rational, modern, and well-informed outlook.
the more enlightened employers offer better terms”
2. spiritually aware.
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It’s synonyms are:  informed, well informed, aware, sophisticated, advanced, developed, open-minded, broad-minded, educated, knowledgeable, wise; civilized, refined, cultured, cultivated “enlightened people don’t punch out people who think differently”
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Pioneers, inventors, avant-garde thinkers, discoverers and others who have something helpful to offer in changing times, are enlightened.
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I suspect enlightened people are unlikely to form instant opinions.
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There’s something right about that.
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They are the people we need to hear from. They are the people who have earned a voice by virtue of their long-standing habits:  They are consistently slow to opine and quick to listen and learn. They are committed to credibility. They dig for answers, and don’t stop until an acceptable one is found. And then they make it prove itself over time — if it doesn’t hold up they go back to digging.
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Hopefully, if we will give these people an opportunity, and as listeners adopt a semblance of their patience, they will willingly share some of that wisdom they’ve labored to acquire. Because …
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We need them. 
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In this climate of abrasive noise, the same ‘ol, same ‘ol unyielding and unhelpful opinions, and shouting, back-and-forth, closed-minded voices …
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It is the enlightened voices we need to come from the background to be heard.  
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When they do, there will be something very, very, very right about it.

In Times Of Trouble

Cindi Gale

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

Don’t be alarmed when God leads through horrendous conditions instead of routing away from trouble. Keep the faith. It may not look like a good thing while we’re in it, but the training ground will result in good things in time. He has a gain in store — those are the conditions in which we develop command over trouble.

After the “gain from the pain”, we find ourselves elevated a bit more from the earthly plane of living. We are able to more quickly understand God and His ways. We can look back and see how He…

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Truth Is Our Friend

Cindi Gale

Nobody likes unwanted news. We don’t want to believe that a diagnosis is dire, or our behaviors are destructive. We don’t like to hear that someone important to us is not who we thought they were — we won’t accept that a person we’re invested in is a thief, a traitor, an adulterer, or an abuser. Some of us will do anything to avoid unwanted truths like these.

To cope personally, or to save face publicly, we spin or outright deny the facts — it’s remarkable how spectacularly we pull off mental contortionism in our quest to disguise them.

Which is silly if you stop and think about it. No amount of distortion, denial, fabrication, justification, deflection, or delusionment will ever change truth. Like it or not, truth is what it is.

Isn’t it a marvel that people who initially choose deceit out of shame or inability to cope, quickly progress to actually believing…

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