- Is the feeling of guilt useful? Psychologists continue to think so. [The New York Times]. But, what are we supposed to do with it? Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul offered a suggestion : “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.” [1 Corinthians 7:10].
- Thermotherapy can keep berries from becoming moldy? [The New York Times]. After limited exposure to hot water (between 113 to 145 degrees), berries are far less likely to become moldy (1 out of 48 became moldy after heat was applied, as compared to 7 out of 52 became moldy without applied heat). Similarly, is not Jesus a hot refining fire that cleansed us to prevent our becoming spiritually moldy? [Malachi 3:1-2 – “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me … For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.”)
- Is Summer 2009 the “Summer of Death”? [New York Magazine]. If so, are you ready? [Matthew 25: the story of the ten virgins concludes: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”)
- Is the NYC Department of Education’s Rubber Room a wasteland of human life? [New Yorker] This setting is polar opposite from the God’s calling over the life of a precious human being: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
On the one hand, I find this story hilarious: it reminds me of an evil cartoon character’s plot of doom getting foiled with a cloud declaring, “BOOM!” or “BAM!” The dramatic irony of verse 6 can’t be beat: “Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.’” NIV. Saul cannot win; the more deeply he enters into his hate, the more outrageous and pathetic his attempts at murder become.
On the other hand, this story makes me ache for David (and Saul), reminding me of my grandmother saying: “No good deed goes unpunished.” David is being faithful to God and is compensated by Saul repeatedly trying to kill him. In verses 4-5, Jonathan pleads to his father on his friend’s behalf: “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly…. The Lord won a great victory for Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?” NIV.
David’s experience with Saul’s enmity defined how he prayed and lived. We can watch David wrestle with this disparity/inconsistency in Psalm 7 (NIV):
“O Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me…
O Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands…
then let my enemy pursue and overtake me.
My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.
The trouble he causes recoils on himself;
his violence comes down on his own head.”
Throughout this episode we see God’s grace to both Saul and David. God is active in both their lives, but they respond in contrasting manners. God basically gives David’s life and success to Saul, but instead of receiving the gift, Saul develops envy and hatred towards David. To David, God gives incredible friends who are willing to protect him and constantly shield him.
Pastor and author Eugene Peterson observes: “David refuses the way of violence and embraces the way of love and service…. Evil doesn’t diminish David; it doesn’t narrow him (Leap Over a Wall 57).” Although I identify with Saul’s ingratitude and fear more now, I yearn to grow into a David who is wide awake to God’s presence in his life.
On a regular basis, we read stories of miraculous rescues. Yesterday, The Miami Herald ran a story about a 3-year-old girl who was rescued after having spent an hour with her arm in a pool drain. Recently, we all followed the dramatic rescue story of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were freed by North Korea after Clinton’s “humanitarian” trip. Finally, of course, we remember one of the greatest and most challenging rescue efforts in our nation’s history: 9/11 and its aftermath.
Although these stories vary in circumstances and results, all of them have one thing in common: the rescued survivors celebrated their redeemed lives by demonstrably sharing their affection with family and friends.
In Romans 16, Paul concludes his letter to the Roman church. In winding down, he asks the letter-bearer to greet more than thirty named individuals on his behalf. At the end, he writes: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” NIV. 16:16.
Does all of his emotion seem too much?
Before becoming a Christian, Paul persecuted and killed Christians. In fact, Paul’s first mention in the Bible happens at the stoning of Steven, where Paul was “giving approval to his death” (Acts 8:1). On the Damascus Road, however, Jesus came to Paul in a vision and asked, “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). It was here that God opened Paul’s eyes so that he could became a Christian, an event which he constantly remembered (see Acts 22:7, 26:14).
What does Paul’s conversion have to do with his greetings in Romans? Since Paul lived in the truth that God rescued him from condemnation, Paul’s joy in other rescued Christians was exponentially immense. Every day, in his interactions with other believers, Paul lived as if he were the 3-year-old girl in the pool, or the two reporters in North Korea, or those rescued in 9/11. He wanted to celebrate his rescue with his fellow rescued Christians with much affection.
So, am I like Paul? As a general matter, unfortunately, I do not live in the mindset that God has rescued me from condemnation and, as a result, I start to treat my relationships with my Christian brothers and sisters as ordinary ones. But, I should not. Rather, I should greet them with an immense joy – recognizing that we have been snatched up in God’s love so that we’re heaven-bound to be with him.
- What should our schools be teaching? [The New York Times]. No matter how that question is answered, it must break God’s heart (and, to a certain extent, anger him) that he is not even a consideration in our system’s education. After all, “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36). How ignorant are we to the profound truths that comprise our realities? Do we only see partial truths of science, sociology, art, etc.? (1 Corinthians 13:12 – “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”).
- Shouldn’t the Bible be at the top of a Christian best-sellers list? [The Examiner].
- Is it appropriate to boycott Madonna because she disrespects the Christian faith? The church in Bulgaria thinks so. [The Associated Press] Apparently, on her “Confessions” world tour in 2006, Madonna’s shows included crucifying herself on a mirrored cross while wearing a crown of thorns. [The Christian Post].
- Can only God show mercy? Some people think so and, thus, have a problem with the Lockerbie Bomber’s release by the Scottish government. [Telegraph – UK]. Times haven’t changed too much, though. During the time of Jesus, people also thought only God could forgive sins. That’s why some found Jesus offensive – for he, in claiming to be able to forgive sins, was claiming to be God himself. (Luke 5: 20-21: When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”)
- For more TPF coverage on the Lockerbie Bomber release, here.