Next.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. Titus 3:4-8 (emphasis mine.)

As a dad with three man-sons, my wife and I have to insist on certain kinds of behavior from them: “Stop jumping on the bed; slow down; wash behind your ears; tell the truth; leave the frog in the pond; say you’re sorry; go to sleep; drink your milk; say your prayers; stop and think . . . ,” all with varying degrees of compliance.

Why do we do that? Continue reading “Next.”

Unison.

“. . . and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison  in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord . . .” 2 Chronicles 5:13

Solomon has just completed the construction of Israel’s first, permanent temple. This passage is one sentence from many that describe the grateful king’s dedication ceremony. As a musician, I notice passages like this, and they stop me in my tracks. In this scene, there were 120 priests participating, each with a trumpet. That’s an impressive ensemble if only for scale, but what stuns me here is not the size of the group but what they were doing: they are playing in unison – all together – same notes, same rhythms, same volume. They are one.

How did they do that? Continue reading “Unison.”

Vicarious.

If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:17

When I was a boy, I had a monthly subscription to the magazine, Sports Afield. It was an awesome magazine, full of colorful pictures of wide-eyed, antlered deer in deep woods, huge bass splashing on a line a foot above the rippled surface of a country pond, profiles of tough men telling dangerous hunting stories. I loved their daring journeys through desolate mountain passes. As I read these articles and saw these pictures, I was transformed into a great hunter/fisherman/outdoor expert. I loved it.  Among the courageous, I was one of them. This was my personal catelogue of adventure.

There was just one problem: I didn’t actually do any of it. Continue reading “Vicarious.”

Too small.

“And Moses said to Korah, ‘Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also?'” Numbers 16:8-10

Too small a thing . . . a group of people among the now-freed slaves of Egypt, the Israelites, had become discontented with their lot in life: it was no longer enough to be singled out among the hundreds of thousands to serve God in the daily work of worship in the tabernacle: they wanted more, and they were going after it.

What do you do when you are discontent and want more from life than you have? Continue reading “Too small.”

School’s out.  

“. . . always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:7

Remember the last day of school when you were growing up?

Etched in my mind are wonderful memories of textbooks stacked on tables, empty spaces on classroom walls where posters and signs from the year had been removed and stored for the next group of young minds, and taking a paper sack to school in which to carry home the broken pencils and wrinkled contents of my desk. The spirit in the school was light and forward-looking. (The teachers seemed especially happy, for some reason.)

My elementary school was in the middle of rolling farms bounded by thick stands of woods, so the months of May and June were rich with bright sunshine and the sounds of surrounding meadows returning to life. Through open windows everywhere came the humid scent of blooming trees, honeysuckle and newly mown grass. Our three-room school was steeped in it.

These were the signs that said the time of learning was ending: the time of trying was beginning. Ready or not, we were free.

But free for what? Continue reading “School’s out.  “

In between.

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” John 16:16

These are the words of Jesus to His closest friends, hours before His betrayal, arrest, trial, beating and crucifixion. They were having supper together. The mood of the room was serious. Passover was underway. As if with a riddle, He prepares them for what is to come.

Soon, He would be gone, but then He would be back.

Their eyes locked on His, the disciples fill with silent questions.  Continue reading “In between.”