Reflections by the Pond

#598: Standing

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April 8, 2013

We can sometimes feel as if we are in a tug of war between the forces of heaven and the battalions of earth. Like the tree, our feet are planted in the soil, but our heads—our spirit and spiritual purpose—are reaching toward the brilliance of God in the clouds. Our spirit aches to dwell with His.

Meanwhile the soldiers of the soil hack away at us, struggling to bring us down to their level, trying to pull us out of the light of righteousness. And we hold on, tenaciously refusing to join them...

#597: He Lives!

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April 1, 2013

This is where we lose them. Easter is where we lose all those who have been agreeably saying that Jesus was a righteous teacher, a nice guy who told us to "love our neighbor," an all-round honorable, sympathetic fellow. Easter is where we lose all those who end any remark about Jesus of Nazareth with, "But he certainly wasn't God."

Easter is the dividing line between polite condescension and true faith. The resurrection event winnows out the fence sitters and leaves only believers. For "nice guys" don't walk out of tombs; "righteous teachers" don't come back to life after death on a Roman cross; the dead do not squat on the beach and roast fish for breakfast. Only God could rise out of cold death to an unnatural body, then ascend into heaven with it forty days later.

At this point the fence sitter smirks, "Yeah, right."

#596: Is This the End? (Special Issue for Easter)

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March 25, 2013

In the heavy darkness just before dawn, the walls of the city loomed ominously over the Garden of Gethsemane, nestled in the valley beneath. Hidden deep in the shadows of the ancient olive grove, two men huddled together. Pursued by the guards, those with orders to arrest anyone associated with the rabbi from Nazareth, they had escaped. And even though it was no secret that the rabbi and His disciples had frequented this garden, the two brothers were willing to risk the danger. This had been not only their home away from home, but in its precincts they could still feel the presence of their Master and Lord.

James, the older of the two, finally broke the silence. "Is this the end?" He asked. "Is this the end of it?"

John answered his brother with a weary sigh. "I don't know, James. I really don't..."

#595: Unlocking the Ice

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March 18, 2013

This is the time of year when humans are transitioning. Those of us living where there is real winter are anxious to break the seal on our windows and once again let fresh air into the house. After almost four months of smelling nothing fresher than the layer of dust deposited on the furnace filter, it's time to throw open the shutters and inhale the revitalizing aroma of spring. Give us temps marginally higher than freezing and we're quick to shed our layers of winter protection, to strip down to shirt sleeves and embrace the quickening warmth, to inhale the forgotten musk of thawing soil and the sweet fragrance of reborn grass.

The cloistering winter can also bring a stale lethargy to our connection with God, as if the leaden clouds of snow have somehow shuttered our view of Him—as if our normally Spirit-rich oxygen has been replaced by stale, recycled air...

#594: Instinctive Behavior

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March 11, 2013

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. Romans 7:18-20

Righteousness and purity go against the nature of flesh. We are born of the mud, and some of it still clings to us no matter how long we soak in the spiritual bath. Even under the blood of Christ, I may still revisit old, natural habits—habits I would rather put away for good. But they periodically rear their unsightly visage, injecting themselves back into a life that would prefer that they just go away once and for all. I have the promise of their eventual demise, but that day has not yet arrived.

But it will.

#593: An Enveloping Purity

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March 4, 2013

Some people think of the Holy Spirit as some ghostly apparition, hovering, floating out there in the ether—always in the vicinity, but never within reach. To them, He is more of an "it," and something, if perhaps necessary, more often to be avoided. The Spirit is, to them, a little too spooky.

Some think of the Holy Spirit as radiant energy, and thereby find it impossible to establish a meaningful relationship. He glows in the dark, and makes mysterious, other-worldly things to occur. To them He is something like invisible, yet admittedly powerful, electricity. But we do not have a relationship with the electricity coursing through the walls of our house; we have relationships with the people who live in the house.

The Spirit is a person living within the four walls of our corporeal house. As He fits Himself into that house, making Himself comfortable, we are to make ourselves comfortable with His ways. We are to mold our lives to His shape and dimensions. As He comes upon us, we are to accept His presence as something familiar—and wonderful...

#592: Doing Things the Hard Way

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February 25, 2013

Many people—including some Christians—shake their heads over the "work" some others put into living life as followers of Christ. They watch others rise early on a Sunday morning to congregate in their finery for worship and study, and they conclude that that requires far too much effort on what is supposed to be a day of rest. They see Bibles and study books sitting around, and wonder why their friends bother. They observe their believing friends delivering or preparing meals for others, spending their Saturdays building shelters for the homeless, or spending their vacations treating the sick in Haiti, and they scratch their heads, thinking, "Wouldn't it be easier just to donate some money?"

The answer is, yes, it would be easier. But that's not the point, is it.

The Christian life is more than salvation...

#591: Hardened

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February 18, 2013

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
1 Corinthians 10:12 nkjv

It is born in the heart of man to think himself strong. But strength—imagined or real—is first cousin to arrogance and pride, those unsightly twins that encumber repentance. For when we think ourselves strong, we think God weak. The heart is thus padlocked against His mercy and grace.

Even believers swim upstream against the hard-coded pride of flesh—but that does not mean we are left helpless. God in Christ offers us a most remarkable tool for combating this inherent, negative force:

Faith.

#590: Self-importance

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February 11, 2013

Similar to the movement of society in general, our worship—especially our Sunday morning corporate worship—has devolved from God-importance to self-importance.

When we behave in the worship setting as has become commonplace in society, it is not just distracting to those around us, it is not just being rude to fellow parishioners, it is a form of blasphemy.

There is to be one object of focus in worship—and it is not us.

#589: Breath Most Foul

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February 4, 2013

There is an acrid stink in the air. It cannot be seen. People who remain residents of this world rarely smell it. They hear tales about it; they perhaps catch its fleeting, vaporous shadow in their peripheral vision. But for the most part they go about their lives blithely unaware of the putrid smog that envelops them.

There are others who dwell on this world, but are not of it. They are just visiting, passing through on their way home to a better country. These individuals once were residents; they too were happily ignorant of the stink. But one day a new wind came upon them, and from then on they were equipped to know that there was something better—a place where the air was indeed clean and fresh...

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