Monthly Archives: January 2013

Who is Atlas?

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I just finished Atlas Shrugged… the unabridged version.  Actually, to be truthful, I listened to it because I could do so while working on mindless projects (like cleaning or painting, etc) and driving the car.  I can’t whole-heartedly recommend the book – it’s got some things in it unsuitable for young audiences, and I did find myself fast-forwarding in an embarrassed hurry a few times.  Get the abridged version if the length puts you off (perhaps it will skip the few – unnecessary – sexual portions as well).  If it wasn’t for these brief scenes I’d make all my kids read it.

I am inclined to think it should be required reading before one is allowed to drive a car – just because that is the age where pretty much everyone agrees that there needs to be a level of responsibility and cognitive engagement in how things work economically.  It was sobering to know that a book written in 1957 had so many “prophetic” words in it.

It made me think.  I certainly don’t agree with all that the books puts forward.  Unfettered selfishness is not God-honoring no matter how you slice it.  But unbridled entitlement is just as wicked – because it really is selfishness with the power of legislation and weaponry.

But, as I mentioned, it did make me think.

What would the world look like if we were each free to perform his/her best at whatever we truly delighted in producing?  What would the world be like if, rather than being jealous of someone who is better than we are at something, we desired to learn from them?  What would life be like if we could teach our children to be people who were all-out, whole-hearted, productive people who worked hard and succeeded because of whatever talents and abilities they possessed?  And what if, rather than competition for the sake of grinding someone else to a pulp, it was to improve one’s production, talents, abilities, etc.?

Oh wait, maybe that’s what heaven will be like.  Where we will see things clearly and we will love (and be loved)  purely.  Where we’ll rejoice in what God gives to us, but  also rejoice in what God gives to others.  And most importantly, we’ll rejoice in God – period.  We’ll stop looking at ourselves exclusively and our gazes will remain lifted.

Isn’t it amazing that even from a thoroughly god-less perspective like that portrayed in Atlas Shrugged it is abundantly clear that we yearn for the perfection that God intends for us?  We were created in perfection – designed for it.  We cannot help but long for the day when right prevails and wrong is defeated.  We can’t stop ourselves from hoping that some future force will make things as they ought to be.

The trouble is, we think we can accomplish this.  We are so proud and haughty in our estimations of our own selves.  Even those who look at human history and realize that those same attempts have been made over and over again cling to a hope that “someday” we’ll get it right.

Only Jesus ever got it right – only Jesus ever will.  But praise God that he has and that he invites us to participate in that victory with him!

If you’ve ever longed for heaven on earth, you’re not alone.  The very fact that you’ve longed for it is proof that God has written the truth of that reality on your heart.  Come to him. Believe what the Bible says about the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.  You will see the world around you with new eyes and your thoughts of heaven will delight you.

Who is Atlas?  Who cares.  It’s Jesus you need to meet!

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Do you have a plan?

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We were asked by our pastor Chris McGarvey this week if we have a plan.  A plan for reading?  A plan for praying?  A plan for purposeful growth.

He has a variety of Bible reading plans listed on his blog, they’re all good – any one of them will be profitable.

But I saw this plan for praying for our children today and wanted to link to it.

How encouraging to read of a man and his wife praying for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in the same, faithful way – week in and week out, month in and month out, year in and year out.  So often I’m tempted to look to some new, creative way to talk to God, but He is not the one growing bored with our conversation – I am.  Ouch.

How refreshing to read that it is good and proper and right to simply and yet faithfully bring our little flock before the Good Shepherd.  He delights in the details of each of their lives – he does not grow tired or complacent because we pray, again, for our children to be faithful.  He is pleased with that prayer every single time.

Here is the list – again, any one of them will be profitable.  But can you imagine the godly legacy you will establish for generations to come if your children are covered with and exposed to this kind of consistent, faithful prayer?

(FYI… there is more to this list!!  Please click on the link above and visit Andy Naselli’s blog to read the rest – you won’t regret it!)

by J. D. and Kim Crowley

[The Crowleys have six children, and J. D. is a pioneer missionary-linguist in Cambodia.]

Faith

  1. Grant them a heart of repentance from sin.
  2. Give them faith in Christ from an early age.
  3. Fill them with your Holy Spirit, and may they bear the fruit of the Spirit.
  4. Lead them to be baptized into your church.
  5. Make them members of a strong church with godly elders.
  6. Give them spiritual gifts for use in the church, and help them faithfully use them.
  7. Lead them always to increase in holiness.
  8. Keep them within the orthodox faith of Christ and the apostles.
  9. Protect them from false teachers and false teaching.
  10. Make them fruitful proclaimers of the gospel, filled with love for all.
  11. Make them humbly committed to daily prayer.
  12. Give them hunger for daily Bible reading.
  13. Fill them with love and forbearance toward others.
  14. Help them endure trials with faith and joy.
  15. Help them guard their conscience.
  16. May their lives be like the sun that rises stronger and stronger until the full of day.

Wisdom

  1. Give them hearts that constantly overflow with thankfulness.
  2. Make them peacemakers.
  3. Give them a vocation/skill/work that provides for their family and is useful to society.
  4. Give them a sense of purpose and joy in their life work.
  5. Rescue them from the fear of man.
  6. Provide for them a good education.
  7. Help them apply themselves diligently to their studies and other work.
  8. Rescue them from laziness and dishonesty.

Influences and Relationships…

Who is miserable?

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I did something yesterday that I cannot recall having ever done in my life before…

I went to a movie theater for a second time to see the same movie.

I know – that’s probably a threshold many of you have crossed over long ago – but I’m not prone to watching movies over and over again like some folks are, so once is usually enough for me.  But I couldn’t resist.

Les Miserables has always been one of my favorite books – but it’s been 20 years since I read it last (I don’t tend to read books over and over again either!).

I’ll leave the cinema critique to the critics, but am compelled to talk about the story. 

WOW!

Oppressive poverty and political commentary aside, this story is about law and grace.  It’s the story of redemption about as loud and clear as the world could hear it except through the pages of scripture itself.  (You can read the story line in a thousand places, so I’ll be very brief – but if you don’t know it, do take the time to research it – or go see the movie and experience it for yourself!)

The wretched Jean Valjean is a bitter and beaten man – a convict who has served 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread and then trying to escape – but something (or rather someone) happens that changes everything.  He is utterly undone by the mercy and compassion of someone who knows his sin but chooses to forgive the wrong and suffer the loss himself.  (The loss is represented by silver candlesticks in the story – if you pay attention you see them throughout the movie.)

Jean Valjean is stripped of all of the rationalizations he has allowed himself to excuse his own wicked heart.  His soul is naked before righteousness and he knows it full well.  It changes him completely – dramatically – undeniably.  His life becomes marked – no longer by bitterness and guile toward his fellow man – but by grace, compassion, forgiveness.

Through this character, we not only see the grace extended to a criminal, we also see what that grace can do to a man.  Jean Valjean is manifestly transformed.

But we also meet the law – literally – in the character of Javert, the prison guard who exacted relentless fulfillment of any and every punishment prescribed.  In Javert’s mind there is black and white – law keeping and law breaking.  There are no extenuating circumstances allowed, no justifications – you are either innocent or guilty.  That’s it.

Javert is relentless in his hunt to root out sin and indiscretion.  He is driven to pursue righteousness no matter what.

He shows mercy on no one.  He is confident and calm, knowing that he is right.

As you can imagine the story takes lots of twists and turns, and I won’t ruin the plot for you by giving away any secrets.

But in the beginning of the story, Jean Valjean is clearly the miserable one.  The man is as broken as a man can be.  He is almost an animal.  But God meets him in his wretched state and he is completely changed.  The change is so magnificent that Jean not only sees his own life differently but he sees mankind differently.  He cannot help but to forgive and show mercy because his heart overflows with it.

And, through the twists and turns of the details of his life, when the law wants to rear its relentless head to convict him again, Jean Valjean is sometimes tempted to respond in his old way – but he cannot respond to the law in the same manner he did before he understood grace.

Grace changes everything.

By the story’s end, we realize that the Javert, not Valjean, is the miserable one.  Javert meets grace, too, but responds very differently.   Valjean finds peace – Javert finds none.

It is the story that Christ has written for us.  The law drove Valjean – pursued him! – until he came to a place where he could no longer deny that he lives “a whirlpool of sin”.  We each must come to the place where we recognize that in ourselves (it’s just as true for you and me as it is for Jean Valjean) we are incapable of satisfying the demands of the relentless, unyielding, uncompromising law.

But Jesus made the sacrifice and suffered the loss by giving his life for ours.  And to him – the loss was like the silver candlesticks in the story – nothing when compared to the value he places on gathering his people to himself.  We cannot offer him something in return – we must not try.  We need to accept the sacrifice on our behalf and know that that’s the price that was required to free us.  We need to cherish the sacrifice and love him more because of it.

The change in a man’s life is not just for the “hereafter” though it certainly makes all the difference for eternity.  It is for the here and now.

Poverty and injustice continue – circumstances are not what the story is about.  It is about the place where justice and mercy meet.  The most wonderful or most terrible place in all of time and history – depending on how you respond.