Cool Breezes (Chapter and Verse part 6)

“He hath made the earth by His power, He hath established the world by His wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by His discretion. When He uttereth His voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; He maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of His treasuries.” (Jeremiah 10:12-13)

“Then said He unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of Heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52)

It’s real interesting, how the modern usage of the word “meta” almost doubles back on itself. While the original Greek meaning is “beyond”, the current, uh, slang definition simply means “me”. As in, a possibly fictionalized or at least embellished version of oneself. Okay, but why? The real struggle between the artist and themselves is that of motive. Why? Why does one want to do art? And as I would consider my art to be that of the broad metaplasm of the English language (yes, I know), I seek to remain true to the more important and fundamental and that for which the only word I truly possess in summation, is a name: Jesus.

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:40)

Regarding the second citation at the top of the page, whenever I envision the “scribe…unto the kingdom of Heaven”, I always see in my mind’s eye a gorgeously lit and expansive library atmosphere. I don’t think Heaven has dust but I’ll add a few mites here and there, floating through the golden light. If you could feel it it’d be that warmth of a Summer day after exiting an air-conditioned theater. I see spiral staircases leading God knows where and shelf upon shelf upon shelf featuring leatherbound (?) titles from eons past elucidating the minutest and most trivial-expanding-upon-world-shattering symbols and sounds and elements. This is the library of Heaven. And I see it funneled, channeled down through the clouds by the carriage of the Holy Spirit to the heart (first) and then mind of anyone inclined to write for God. But it must necessarily expand out of the original words God spoke. Either through Moses or David or Jesus or who-have-you. These men, it would seem, had the privilege of saying it first. Of establishing the rubric (like a keynote but for words) that the thousands of generations following–the believers of such–could operate with reference to. This is why the Bible is worth reading and learning from. Because the men and women God spoke to and through at that point, are precisely what we need going forward. Now look again at what Jesus said in Matthew’s gospel: “Every scribe which is instructed unto the Kingdom of Heaven…” We as artists (writers) have a responsibility to the one who gave us the gift of whatever it is we do and enjoy, namely use words to substantiate the invisible aspects and depths to ourselves.

“Behold, thou art called a Jew (or a Christian), and restest in the law (or under Grace), and makest thy boast of God, and knowest His will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law (i.e. the Bible); And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, And instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?” (Romans 2:17-21a)

Hopefully, for my sake.

Hot Air (Chapter and Verse part 5)

“Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6)

I don’t really know what to say. Honestly, if I have some grandiose notion I have something that God hasn’t already covered through “His words”, I must be nursing a Messiah complex. Because honestly, with all the noise in the world and all the opinions and thoughts flung and flying through the atmosphere, I am going to have a hard time stringing together something that someone might be interested in to the neglect of God’s obviously stronger and more powerful thoughts and sentences. I suppose, then, that the answer to my speaking and writing what I want, doesn’t lie in Fiction, nor in the incorrect exposition of God’s thoughts, but in my story. I can’t add to God’s words if I talk about myself in relation to what He’s shown me and done for me. All I can really say is what I think and what I’ve experienced and see if somehow it mirrors that which came before–in the Bible. And then center it back on Him.

“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” (James 3:13-16)

A sibilant syllabus

“For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.” (Romans 1:12)

Epenthesis is where you intersperse a slight vowel sound between two consonants. For instance, when you overpronounce something for emphasis (don’t be tumescent, if you can avoid it) or when you suffer from a speech impediment. I find that I have almost the opposite when I speak. I tend to blur sounds and syllables together in a “heap of gibberish” as Calvin put it, if I don’t slow down and pronunciate* correctly, I tend to talk too fast to the possible estrangement–at least around the thoughts I’m discussing–of the hearers. And that’s not good. Paul implies in the above that God spoke clearly the first time. And that it was impossible for Him to be misunderstood. As “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33a), anything above what He originally said must flow in line for it to be fully digestible in the heart. There’s a lot to this but let’s get started. Perhaps a little epenthesis might not be a bad thing? We’ll see.

What makes the thousands upon thousands of books in the Christian section of your local bookstore any different from the sixty-six books that make up our Bible? When you think about it, a lot of what we read in modern-day Christian titles have the same few ingredients as do the biblical books. Please don’t think me heretical. You have a human author, a desire to traffic in the written word, and (hopefully–this is the kicker) the inspiration of God behind it. And without waxing too legalistic, I would say that a lot of what goes into getting a Christian book from the mind of the author to the shelves and then hands of the reader is so much packing material. I don’t honestly find much in the way of freshness or newness when I peruse the stacks for something good. It’s this way with Christian books, and it’s this way with the mind and heart of any brother or sister in Christ, whether you know them and count them a friend, or not. And whose fault is this? It’s just the way it is.

“He said unto Him, What is written in the law? How readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10:27)

A pathetic prospectus

And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29)

So, we have epenthesis, the interspersion of a little something extra to make clearer that which we’re looking to get across. You also have prothesis. Where you add an extra sound to the beginning of what you’re saying. Extrapolating it out to prosthesis and that means you’re now adding sounds to get the meter right, say, in a poem or lyric. Adding flourishes and touches here and there to your exposition and that which comes from your heart and (hopefully) from God. But as you make your art or music or in the case of words, your writing, please don’t lose sight of the substrate fact that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5b) That was John speaking, the same John who had been with Jesus since the beginning. The first part of that verse says “This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you…” You cannot say anything that hasn’t already been said. But you can let God lead you into areas and situations He alone can tailor to your needs and your heart and the individual way He created you. And if you feel led and inclined, to write from that standpoint. Anything less is the unnecessary and confusing addition of non-essentials.

Held Back (Chapter and Verse part 4)

“When the Day of Judgement dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards—their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble—the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.”” Virginia Woolf

They have loved reading.

And Jesus, of course.

Books are an integral part of life. Whether you’ve been swept away with the current tide of e-readers threatening to render good, old-fashioned books obsolete—or you like your good old-fashioned books just the way they are, there’s no better place to get what you need to substantiate your calling before God than to read books. Read, read, read. Beyond knowing Jesus as a person and walking with Him, one of the strongest pieces of advice I would give anyone is to find whatever it is they’re interested in and read all they can about it. Become the expert on that particular subject. Who knows? Maybe that’s where God wants to use you? Do you like ukeleles? Read on. How about the work of Le Corbusier, the architect who created the Brutalist style of architecture? Y’know, his nom de guerre is a play on “raven” in French? I think that’s pretty cool. What do you love to do? Who do you want to be? The dreams you have that drive you on are like magnets pulling you toward the fully-realized formation of God’s dreams for you. No, none of this “law of attraction” stuff that’s bereft of the living presence of God. And no more wondering what it is you’re meant to do. Get to know Jesus. Then you and He will go out and go do it. Start in the library or bookstore and go from there. I feel that the child-like curiousity that propels us to continue learning about our particular trade or discipline is so important to maintain and keep pure. Without it, we become hard, controlling and bitter. We miss the true liberty of the Holy Spirit and consequently (potentially) miss out on the grand overarching calling over our life.

And here’s another side to it: “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light.” (Amos 5:18)

When we neglect to develop the gifts that God has placed within us, we end up desiring the end. I believe this. In other words, we wish Jesus would either hurry up and come back, or we get bored and wistfully daydream of Heaven to the neglect of “the duty that lies nearest” to quote Oswald Chambers. I really feel for the person who never completed high school or never went to college upon completing high school (nothing wrong with that)—and regrets it. The ones who feel they’ve wasted what time they were given and live in a state of constant regret. Whenever I hear the phrase “I wish I’d gotten an education”, I feel it’s a misnomer. A person’s education should be ever-expanding and always continuing. What they’re saying is that they regret having stopped learning. And sadly, many people who finish school, finish learning—if they ever started in the first place. Be careful.

And here’s yet another side. Notice this from the book of Acts (17:21): “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.”

There’s danger in “ever learning, and never [being] able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7) When we neglect to take the time to talk to and love and get to know Jesus, we end in missing Him and replacing the fellowship with a bunch of knowledge that won’t get us anywhere or with anyone.

So! Let your curiousity take you to places in God that you’ve only ever dreamed about.

“Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book.” (Job 19:23)

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25)

The Emphatic (Chapter and Verse part 3)

“Bear with me a little in my folly.” (2 Corinthians 11:1)

Some people talk all day and really have nothing to add to the conversation. I don’t know how many books I’ve read where I gleaned one or two things only. Hundreds of pages of text and you’ve got to read and read and read just to discover something, one thing, that makes it all worthwhile. Maybe I should have judged that book by its cover… Take a look at enough book covers and you’ll see a pattern among the pictures. Sci-fi novels that depict fantastic scenes of otherworldly adventure. The same could be said for the Fantasy genre. And we won’t even go to the Romance section. And it isn’t just the cover image either. After an author has “made it” by becoming widely known and read, they’ll be tapped for a blurb for the cover of another book similar to their own. Usually a sentence or two about how said novel was, in their opinion, the best thing since that last one… And it’s all a bunch of hot air, in my opinion. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to judge a book by its cover. But when?

People are like books. I’m sure I’m not the only person to have drawn the analogy. When you think about it, our lives are our story, lived out day by day. Page by page. Bear with me here. Look what Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) Did you catch that? Judge nothing before the time… Paul opens the chapter with a plea and a defense over what looks like a volley from his detractors. He essentially expresses his nonchalance at someone’s hating on his message. And while I may not have the details, I know that his attitude alone makes me more inclined to believe in what he’s saying than someone who would emphatically defend himself based, not on God’s overarching hand on their life, but on some ill-stated, foolish pride.

The root word of the word emphasis is “phasis”. Greek for appearance—to show. Emphasis, as you well know, is a word that’s used to pinpoint a particular aspect of a larger whole, for observation in part. The whole point of Paul’s message, while deep, detailed, wide-reaching and far-ranging, was the preaching of Jesus as the fulfillment of the law and indeed, the elucidation of His message to those who weren’t Jews (i.e. Gentiles). Whereas John the Baptist was the forerunner, Paul was the one, himself following Jesus into the forest, scattering a wide trail of bread crumbs (and stones) for those who came after.

“Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.” (2 Corinthians 10:7) This verse is from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. It would appear that they hadn’t learned their lesson from the first letter. Paul had said after he told them to “judge nothing before the time”, in the very next verse, “not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.” (1 Corinthians 4:6, emphasis mine) By the way, emphysema comes from the same root as emphasis. Puffed up. Hot air. It’s all the same.

“But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.” (1 Corinthians 4:19)

Where the rubber meets the road for these issues is in dealing with Christians who might believe just a little bit differently than you. If you deal with someone whose doctrines are backward and they don’t see it, then do it “in love and the spirit of meekness.” (1 Corinthians 4:21) That’s power. Anything more than that, any other reason you might have to disagree with them, be it social status, outward appearance, even some artificial patina of confidence (false power) or the lack thereof, is spiritually detracting and will end up dividing further the mindset of the body of Christ.

And if you don’t think this is an issue, great. Please help others to see the way you do. Not based on appearance, but with “the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16)

“Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” (Philippians 3:15-16)

“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philippians 2:2-3) When we make the effort to love others with the love of Christ, seeing, not the outward appearance, but the heart within, our church and our world will change.

Back In the Stacks (Chapter and Verse part 2)

Do you like to read? I suppose you would!

I love to read. Anything really. Reading is essential to rounding out the Christian’s experience in this world. Start with the Bible, of course. Really, it begins with Jesus, as He is the living word: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

But where can we go from here? What books has God used to substantiate your faith and help you see things in a fresh light. A new way?

Consider this quote from Oswald Chambers’ exceptional devotional, My Utmost for His Highest (ironically, the quote is from today’s entry—December 15th): “The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.”

I would consider Chambers to be the most influential Christian author in my life. His words and topics delineated in his unique style were to me exactly as he described in the above passage. My Utmost for His Highest is a collection of vignettes collated and published by his wife Biddy (Gertrude) after his passing. I highly recommend the Classic edition as opposed to the updated, modern translation. Either way, check it out.

The last verse of John’s gospel reads: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25, emphasis mine)

Speaking earlier (John 14:12) in the same vein, Jesus says “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

What Jesus—and John as well, for that matter are looking to encourage here is both the doing and recording of the things that God is doing through His body, the church. So what has God done in your life? And what is He doing that would benefit others in much the same way should you decide to share? As broad as human experience is, there is a finite number of categories. The things that you’re going through, when described and elucidated as seen through your eyes, can be of inestimable benefit for those in the world who are dealing with the same. “Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:9)

Back to the subject of reading, taking a different tack: Because the Christian genre is so saturated with titles, you really have to pick your battles. Stressing again the importance of knowing Jesus, it truly is imperative that our focus is on Him and seeing that we stay “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17) because the temptation of acquiring the knowledge of God in any other way than through fellowship with Him can be strong and subtle. We end up acting much like the superstitious Athenians in the Book of Acts (17:21) who “spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” The acquisition of knowledge without God is fruitless—a waste of time.

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” 2 Timothy 3:7

It is important however, to know this stuff for yourself, reflecting back what you read with what you already know. The things God has taught you through His word and directly. Another aspect of knowing Jesus before knowing stuff is knowing how to pray for someone who doesn’t get it. When you read a doctrinal assertion that clashes with truth, what will you do? Are you going to lambast them to your book club? Or pray for and lift them up as a brother or sister that is “otherwise minded”? (Philippians 3:15) Or worse, what if they’re “Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9)? Reading others’ opinions and assertions and then bringing them (and their works) to God in prayer and petition is a very practical way to build up and unify the Body of Christ.

“Try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1)

Other Christian authors of note are: C. S. Lewis, Andrew Murray, Charles Swindoll, Francis Chan, Mark Batterson. More include: St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain (his Philokalia is excellent), Brother Lawrence, Mother Teresa and Toyohiko Kagawa, etc. Too many to mention. And honestly, after a while, it all starts to sound the same. You see patterns and overlap and while what they’re saying is good, exceptional, sound, you really need to frame things for yourself and as Chambers says (also in today’s Utmost entry): “Struggle to re-express some truth of God to yourself, and God will use that expression to someone else.”

“Go and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37)

How Readest Thou? (Chapter and Verse part 1)

“How readest thou?” (Luke 10:26)

Did you read a story or did you meet a person?

This world is chock full of stories: novels, biographies, tales, myths and legends (urban and non). Some are true, some are believed as true but cannot be substantiated and others aren’t factual but shed light on an aspect of human nature as viewed through the eyes of the writer, whomever that may be. In other words, you really have to pick your battles. God help you.

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16)

And then there’s the Bible. The Bible is the most popular book in the world. The most purchased and the most stolen (go figure). You can pick one up for a buck or you can go all out and order a $500 custom-bound goatskin covered Bible that says the same thing as (most) all the others. It’s really about what’s inside, right?

The Bible is like a portal to another world, one in which God lives. Here, in our dead society, you can pick it up with an expectant heart and meet Him. It’s like God on paper! His thoughts, His deeds, His opinions (Does He have opinions or is it just the way things are?). What many Christians fail to realize though, is that the words on the pages, the collection of sixty-six books written and culled over thousands of years is all intended to introduce us to our Creator: the Lord, Jesus Christ. Did you just read His story or have you met Him?

We’re not asked to believe the story of Noah’s Ark (though I do, there’s even archaeological corroboration), we’re asked—commanded even—to believe on Jesus. And there’s the struggle:

“Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (John 6:29, emphasis mine)

So, the next time you pick up your Bible, ask God to make Himself known to you through His word, as the Living Word.

“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)