Monday, October 20, 2008

Dark Horse

Dark Horse
Always running
Behind the gaudy star
Closing in 'til the very end

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Perhaps no other falsehood is so often quoted by the young. Yet it tells us something about human nature: Invented as a defense against a juvenile onslaught, it verbalized the pain a "name" had caused. The truth is, physical abuse hurts the body, but words assault the soul.
We use names to categorize people. We prejudge them with one word labels (radical, liberal, fundamentalist) and file them away in our mental data banks. We are no longer threatened with friendship. We are protected from the vulnerability of a relationship.
"Him? He's strange." No need now to lend a hand. Her? She's plain." No need now to look for beauty. "Them? They're just a bunch of fanatics." No need now to understand.
By categorizing people, we build what we presume are walls of security. In reality, they make us isolated prisoners. Labels push us away from people so that we do not have to accept our differences- or even face them.
Call me "stupid" and I will make no attempt to learn. Call me "rich" and I will have nothing else to share. Call me "perfect" and I will mask my weakness. Call me "carnal," and I will cease to pray.
If we are ever going to love each other or achieve any sense of unity, we must end this distancing process. No man is one-dimensional. We must be willing to learn more about a brother than what he wears or how he looks. We must accept and encourage him where he stands. Love must come before labels. Perhaps Leo Buscaglia, popular writer and professor at University of Southern California, put it best: "There is no word vast enough to begin to describe even the simplest of man."

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Knock of God

O. Hallesby, in his classic book entitled Prayer, brings prayer down to its basic elements. For him, prayer is simply our answer to the invitation of God for our fellowship. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock."
To Hallesby, this is the essence of prayer- to respond to the knock of God. Before we ever hold our hands or bend our knees, the rap on the door- that gentle tapping- has already sounded. We need never fear that one day we will awake to silence, the profound loneliness of a man without his God. Christ's desire for our fellowship is consistent. He is knocking; our response awaits.
Throughout Hallesby's treatise is the continual refrain: "To pray is to let Jesus come into our hearts." Do we feel frustrated and helpless? Will not the One who knocks provide? Do we need revival? Is not the promise "I will come in to him and will sup with him" the place where revival begins? Do we need forgiveness? Would the One who knocks so tenderly ever withhold it?
If this is prayer, we have but one responsibility- to let Him in. We do not need to storm heaven with bold and reckess demands; nor do we need to fear that our faith is not strong enough to gain His ear. It is only a question of the will. Once I put my hand to the knob and swing wide the door, prayer -and real friendship- begins.
One day the Lover came, his head drenched with dew. He came with grace and tenderness, words sweet and compelling. But the Beloved had retired. Tiredness and self-concern held her back: "I have taken off my robe- must I put it on again?" She hesitated too long and her Lover slipped off into the night. She did finally answer the door; then love replaced apathy. "My heart began to pound for Him... my heart sank at his departure... if you find my lover, tell him I am faint with love.
Can we not empathize with her words? Is it not the same when we hear the knock of God? The beloved need not fear, her lover will return to knock again. So will Christ. This time, let us also answer.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Comparison Christianity

Who am I? What is it that gives me value and worth? Am I pleasing God? Will I ever be content with myself and my contribution?
When I begin to answer these questions, my natural inclination is to look sideways at my brother. I begin to develop scales upon which to weigh our efforts. If I am smarter or stronger or more spiritual, then I am worthwhile. If I fall short in any of these areas, then I am inferior and I swallow the bitterness of jealousy and self-condemnation. If I allow myself to continue along this neurotic path, I will soon be speaking in superlatives and will have enslaved myself to an impossible dream.
This strange malady breeds well in Christian circles. If my numbers or dollars or buildings or buses measure well against your numbers or dollars or buildings or buses, then my ministry has value. This comparison, along any line, brings competition. And if I see that you are running too far ahead, I will break fellowship. I will find some chink in your armor and rationalize my superiority. Now comparison has bred criticism.
"Each one should carry his own load" (see Galatian 6). When I look inside, I see my own strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices. I have my own gifts and my own responsibilities. I am an individual. To compare myself with you is to deny my uniqueness. I will test my actions in a divine mirror. I can take pride in myself because of my growth without ever looking at what you are doing. If I see distortion in the mirror, I find no condemnation. I admit weakness and consider it a challenge to change.
"Carry each other's burdens." Comparison will never breed cooperation. We will never work together if I measure myself against you. Instead, I must rejoice in your strength when I am weak and be grateful for the strength I possess when you stumble.
It seems a general rule that in competition there must always be a "winner" and a "loser," the "victor" and the "vanquished." This is not true when comparision enters Christianity. We both lose.