Life, the Universe, and Everything, from the Outside In

Archive for the ‘joy’ Category

Aborting our Souls?

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The Wall Street Journal today, in a story about an upcoming report on the effects of the abortion trauma on the mothers involved, quotes one clinic director, Susan Hill, who runs clinics in five southern states, as saying that, “‘..women today need less counseling, less psychological care than they did in 1973,’ when abortion was legalized but still carried an enormous stigma.” We might speculate that this is in line with the overall loss of sensitivity for human life, generally. Over the last thirty or so years we seen a shift from a time when the film, Bonnie and Clyde

(From Warner Brothers, no less- What’s up, Doc?) stirred such controversy over its gory scenes. Now Hitchcock’s style of suspense stories has been replaced by “splatter films,” and pop music now features brutal rape and murder in place of undying love and devotion.

Ms. Hill, who has been in the business of “providing abortions” for thirty five years, said she, “has tried offering postprocedure counseling sessions — but very few women show up.” In her words, “They want to get past it and move on with their lives.” Overlooking the possibility of all kinds of motives for not returning to the “clinic” to walk through that trauma all over again, it might be good to consider the real effects on all the people in this picture. Read the rest of this entry »


Written by Robert Easter

Tuesday, 12 August, 2008 at 15:32

A Word about Worship

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Like we were looking at earlier, good theology comes from a heart of worship. Any old sinner can put some pieces together to form a statement of some kind, and with a knack for salesmanship can even make a “go” of it. To stick my neck out just a bit here, while I do want my readers to come away from this blog thinking that they learned something, or at least got a new angle from which to think about the things of God, most of all I really want folks to get the idea just as deep down as possible that “the Lord, He is God,” and to let that make a difference in the whole quality of their lives from the heart, up. Like in the Psalms, “When thou saidst, ‘Seek My face’ my heart said, ‘Thy face O Lord, will I seek,'” and this blog is your invitation to seek the Lord, and worship Him in the beauty of His holiness, along with me. So the bottom line, as you read what I offer here, is not if you think I’m interesting, or a good or sloppy writer, or even if I line up with this or that denomination’s statement: What matters is if something you read here brings your heart closer to God, and plants a notion to give Him the glory for some aspect of how great, and loving, and holy, and
compassionate, and wise, that He is. If this happens, then this blog is a success. If not, then it’s back to the prayer bench. I do pray this blog is a blessing to you!

Written by Robert Easter

Wednesday, 16 January, 2008 at 23:21

Curse God and die!

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That’s what the man’s wife was telling him to do. His story comes to us from the Near East, maybe in the area we call Iraq. He was the “man with everything.” Big, loving family, health, home, land, successful business, strong faith. Suddenly all he had left was a shaken faith, and his wife was nagging him to throw that away, and just die!

“Curse God and die!” He had sat down, right down in the ash pile, and gone over his whole life. What had he done to deserve all this? What had he done? Searching over all his memories, as if there were a diamond in the grass, a clue of what he had done, of what should he repent to at least get out of his present condition. The bad news was that there were no easy answers. He was innocent. There was no sin for which to ask forgiveness, and if God could be bought off, he had nothing to offer.

Curse God and die? In older cultures a curse carries real meaning. In Kenya, if a person is cursed by their parent that person is without a family, and so cast out from the community. As they say, “I am because we are.” This modern worship of the exalted self, the heroic individual, has no place in the past, and its future doesn’t look too good, either. If a person is cursed, then that person is cast off as dead. All relationships are severed, and that person is considered dead. To curse God is to denounce Him as unworthy of our fellowship and so to reject any relationship with Him.

Curse God and die! Maybe his wife was thinking that it was better to die than continue to suffer so. “Just tell God what you think of His little plan! He’s a big boy- He can take it!” As the pain of his disease increased and waves of loneliness swept over him, there was sure to be that temptation. Death would be a relief. There would be no more pain, no more loneliness, no more the disgrace of sitting there in the rubble of what had been a prosperous life. Surely it was only God, the source of all life, Who was keeping him alive through all this. To sever himself from that sustaining power would surely be the last blow, and he would have peace, wouldn’t he? The one thing that held him up was the love of God. He knew, beyond knowing, that God loved him, and he loved God. He could not curse the One he loved: His faithfulness to the Faithful One carried him through, and in the middle of the troubles he could still say,

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He will stand at the last day upon the Earth. And though the worms destroy body, yet in my flesh I shall see God!”

Written by Robert Easter

Sunday, 11 November, 2007 at 14:49

Real Wealth

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Some people choose wealth, and achieve it. They make it their one goal in life, and whatever they do becomes an expression of that desire. Their choice of friends, if they go to church they find the one with the best connections,, etc. Sometimes they succeed, and find themselves climbing that slope which they expect to bring them to great happiness. The farther up they go the more the scene changes from being somewhat singled out in the crowd as the one with “ambition,” to being singled out by the crowd as the one with nothing but his ambition. No longer in the crowd, because the crowd “had nothing to offer,” there is now a lonely figure, alone, struggling up the slope toward “great happiness.” The many stories of those who have reached that peak, and found it dry and barren, have little effect in getting past their mantra of “but I’m different.”

On the other hand, we might observe that some choose poverty. For the sake of a simple life, and being accessible to one’s friends, poverty has its advantages. The main drawback is that, while the rich person has a measure of control over how much money they have the poor really doesn’t. And, for the most part, the rich is rich by choice, but the poor one is seldom poor by choice. Those that are, and honestly so, find that the way up is a lot longer than the way down. That probably explains the fellow that history just calls, “the Rich Young Ruler,” who wanted to be Jesus’ disciple. Jesus required of him the one thing he was most afraid to lose: Control. Likely all his wealth was from one of two sources. Either it was inherited, or it was made with wealth that was. To give it all up would mean staking his whole life on the teachings of this Rabbi- not just the intellectual or contemplative components, but down to how the next meal was coming. To choose poverty is to relinquish control, which is not a bad thing if it’s the Lord to Whom we relinquish. To his credit, and the Lord’s happiness and great glory, though the young lad turned back at that time, Church tradition tells us that the young man who was following Jesus from the edge of the group, wearing only one garment, was the same who had, “had great riches.”

There is a verse in Proverbs which tends to get translated two different ways. It is often read as a man ignoring the counsel of friends to do as he pleased. The other, as found in the King James and not many others, gives a picture of one forsaking all pleasures and distractions to seek “all wisdom.” Not being a Hebrew scholar I would have to consider that the difference would have to be more how it is read than how it was written. If we follow the Calvinist view that sin is the supreme force in this world, then the pessimistic reading would support that, The Bible says that, “..where sin abounds, grace that much more abounds,” and that would make God’s grace the greater, so I can thank the Lord for the inspiration,

“Through desire a man, having separated himself, mixeth and intermingleth with all wisdom (Pv. 18:1)”

Written by Robert Easter

Thursday, 8 November, 2007 at 9:36

Growing in Love

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Reading some amazing stuff this week by one of the “Old Guys” of the Church. In On Loving God St. Bernard, as the spiritual leader of a monastery, speaks of how we discover love, and how that love can lead us to God. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Robert Easter

Sunday, 14 October, 2007 at 20:48

Growing in Love

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Reading some amazing stuff this week by one of the “Old Guys” of the Church. In On Loving God St. Bernard, as the spiritual leader of a monastery, speaks of how we discover love, and how that love can lead us to God.

First, there is the step we are all familiar with: Loving ourselves, for ourselves. Jesus Christ said we should love our neighbors as ourselves, so some latter-day genius has decided that we all need to learn to love ourselves. A lot of people have jumped onto this, since everybody likes a good mirror. There’s really no challenge here. Sometimes you’ll see some kind of mirror out in public, maybe in a clothing store, or even on the front of a store building. Watch that mirror, or rather, watch people walking past it and see how many will look at themselves in it, at least cutting their eyes over to it, as they pass. Learning to love ourselves is little more than polishing our mirrors to get a more pleasing look at ourselves. If our neighbor is in real need, then we’re sorry to hear that- If we have a need, then the world stops until that need is met. And so our world stops, and we begin to pray. Is this a bad thing? This is a good thing, because even though we might blame ourselves for asking, it is God’s great delight to care for our needs!

Then, we begin to love God for our own sake. We learn to love God for His benefits. This is good, because He loves to care for us, and to use His gifts to teach us about Himself. “This is love,” the apostle says, “not that we love God, but that He loved us, and gave Himself for us.” Comparing our own abilities with His, we can say that this is much like a small child who loves nothing more than her own convenience. When she is hungry, or tired, or wet, then that is the One Thing that must be addressed, and there is no peace until it is. That child is not being selfish, as we count selfishness, but is simply being honest about her situation, and doing what she must to get the care she needs. Again, Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive,” and the picture there, from the Greek it was first written down in, was to “ask, and keep on asking.” Later we read, “Pray (make requests) without ceasing,” and “Pray everywhere.” God knows that we’re not Him, and we don’t need to be. He is able to meet our needs; we just need to keep that communcation open!

After getting a taste of how good the Lord is, we begin to love Him for His own sake. As that same child grows, she learns to appreciate her parents for a lot more things than just warm milk or dry diapers (nappies?), and begins to find satisfaction in the sound of a voice, or the touch of a hand, even when she has needs. Not only does God provide for us when we pray, but there are so many things He already has provided, which we just didn’t notice before; but as we learn to know Him we begin to recognise things He has done which had escaped our short sight before, and all this gives us more to acknowledge, and our lives begin to be filled, not with just a love for ourselves and concern for our own convenience, but the love of God begins to take its place, and for the first time we are able to genuinely love our neighbors for their own good and not for the satisfaction we might get from doing them good. Jesus words begin to take root in our lives as He said, “Freely you have received, freely give.”

Then, the circle begins to close to perfection as we learn to love ourselves for His sake It is more common in our culture for, say, a newlywed or someone deeply in love with another to looks in the mirror and is glad to see the face of the one their beloved loves. No bride or groom is any more than the smallest glimpse of this kind of acceptance, and His forgiveness is bounded only by our willingness to repent (and even then, He graciously supplies us that willingness as we ask Him!). The Psalmist wrote, “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” we learn that our own strength is limited, but His is boundless, and is “mighty on our behalf,” so that He becomes our main desire. Bernard writes, “And real happiness will come, not in gratifying our own desires, or in gaining transient pleasures, but in accomplishing God’s will for us, even as we pray, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” Our greatest pleasures in this life surpassed by the joy of pleasing Him Who died and rose for us! Some writers say this last love is only found in heaven. Surely, it will be perfected there in measures we cannot imagine here, but is it not possible to love God for the wonder of Who He is, and for the beauty of His presence here on earth? Those writers say that this only can happen at death, but then the Bible says that death is the last enemy that will be destroyed at the Last Day. Can death, then, be our sanctifier and our best friend? Jesus said that “with God, all things are possible,” so is it not more reasonable to look to God, the Holy Spirit, to perfect His work in our lives?

Written by Robert Easter

Sunday, 14 October, 2007 at 14:48

What More Do I Need?

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Probably more people than I realise today have been in a good number of different churches One person may be something of a Baptist/Presbyterian/Pentecostal now attending an Orthodox church, or another some other blend . And the more “blended” Christians become, and the more blended the churches become, we all tend toward the things we all agree on, and say things in a way that’s the most agreeable to the most people; and all this can be really good.

Anybody who has built a fire knows that, once it is kindled one can expect a great flame at the first as the flame spreads through the clean material. Once the fire has spread, the material tends to collapse together and a layer of ash forms which limits the air flow, and the flames die out. The wood has “internalised” the heat, and as without the flames to keep the air flowing, tends to die out entirely.

After three years’ time, we might say that Jesus “built” His Church. A mass of over five hundred followers, with eleven dedicated apostles to lead them, eleven into whom He had poured His life in teaching them carefully all the principles of the Kingdom. According to the best human reasoning, the stage was set for the Church to start gathering in the harvest of God, but Jesus saw it differently. He did not just send them out from the point of His ascension, as a quick read of only one account might suggest, but sent them first to go and wait. He did not want a Church merely well-structured, or well-equipped, or well-educated. His first requirement was for a church ablaze. They obeyed, and ten days later, of the five-hundred plus who had seen Him resurrected about one-hundred twenty were still there. After ten days of that prayer meeting the Holy Spirit arrived in force and set their lives ablaze. In the next hour five thousand men, plus the women and children, had received salvation. The fire spread, and the Gospel went out through Jerusalem and outward. Not only were people believing the message of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection, but the new converts were receiving the same fire that had set on the disciples on Pentecost.

A few years later, Paul and Silas were in Ephesus, and met twelve disciples there who seemed to be missing something. After a brief conversation, they prayed, and the fire was blazing in their lives also. Ephesus became home to a thriving Christian community that flouished until the Saracen massacres created an all-Islamic Turkey.

There is something about being human that craves a “comfort zone.” We all just naturally want to be able to say, “I understand this,” or “I can handle that.” To be ablaze with the Holy Spirit brings us very quickly to say, “I can’t, Lord, but You can!” This violates our pride, and, while pride is the first principle of our sin and destruction, that pride is a major part of our comfort zone.

When Jesus was first talking to the Twelve about the Spirit, He called Him the “Comforter.” So why is He a threat to our comfort zone? What we call comfort is a soft chair, or a hot bath, or a plate full of rich food: things that cause us to relax into a state of, “fat, dumb, and happy!” The kind of comfort Jesus was talking about is more about “strong, wise, and joyful.” We can use joy here as rejoicing other-ly, toward God, rather than merely in our own convenient happenstance. Then we can pray, with no reservation, “It’s not about me, but Thee!”

When Jesus was still teaching the First Bunch, He told them of His coming death. They responded by murmuring amongst themselves, “What does He mean?” Nobody was really willing to find out from Him what He meant; they preferred their own, more comfortable, opinions.

Look at the Roman Catholic. Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, or Greek Orthodox, or whatever other group you like, and they all affirm being “filled with the Spirit.” In almost every case, if we polled the thousands of traditions and denominations, you would find the term used to apply to all kinds of different things. Many say that all Christians are “filled with the Spirit” from conversion, leaving Scriptural commands to “be filled…” in the realm of handy preaching phrases with no real meaning to worry with. Others want to make it a warm feeling, or some a “real good time” in church. In short, it is defined in every term the comfort zone will allow!

In the mean time, the churches in North America are shrinking weekly when, according to the Bible plan, they should have encompassed the world with the Spirit’s joy long ago. The average “evangelical christian” today has never shared his faith with a single soul, from lack of boldness, or of the love that creates that boldness. Yet if asked, they will surely say that they are Spirit-filled Christians! What’s wrong with this picture?

“Church” in the West today is the product of four and a half centuries of “simplifying.” At first it was simply getting rid of the idea that a paper ticket could buy a short cut to Heaven. Then ideas of the clergy controlling our salvation, or that the virgin Mary was somehow divine. All these things were vain, and needed removing. However, after a while the idea got to be more of stripping things down to the bones, and then debating on which bones needed to be there. Today we have a field of bleached bones, and we brag on how pretty they look in the bright sun!

The Church today needs the Holy Spirit no less than at any time, ever. To define terms here would take any number of face-to-face conversations, with so many people being accustomed to so many more very comfortable ideas. We need to, each, come to the place of not caring how we look, or feel, because without Him we are helpless, useless, and hopeless. Woman, if you worry about appearances when your man wants to stand close to you or to kiss you, then you love your appearances more than your man. Man, if you look around to see who can hear you before you tell your woman you love her, then there is a message there as well. Kid, does your parent’s love embarrass you​​? Then please catch this clue. We all need to be able to sing, “I Surrender All,” or “Have Thine own Way” with a full desire to see that happen, and no care at all about what His will, or His way really is. It may mean moving to a new home, it may mean staying put when you would rather move. I could mean a lot of things, but it will mean moving from the “comfort zone” to the depths of His love!

Written by Robert Easter

Sunday, 23 September, 2007 at 21:02