Monthly Archives: July 2009

WHY ARE YOU PERSECUTING ME?

         I began this series of blogs by theorizing what it might be like to have a face to face conversation with the Lord God Almighty, Maker and Ruler of Heaven and Earth.  A bit presumptuous on my part, I admit; but it occurred to me while thinking prayerfully about even the possibility of such a “conversation.”  I’m aware of theological thinking and writing which tells us God has already spoken.  Clearly.  In several ways, through the ages.

         For example, one of the Psalmists expressed that thought this way: 

         “The heavens declare the glory of God;  the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

           2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night  after night they display knowledge.

            3 There is no speech or language where their  voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-4.)

            We’re also told by the writer of Hebrews that God has spoken to us through the prophets, His written word and the Living Word (His Son.). Hebrews 1:2.

           I believe that is true.  But speaking ‘to’ someone is different from speaking ‘with’ someone.  I wasn’t thinking about some kind of  séance or falling out into a trance or babbling incoherently in some indecipherable language.  I was just thinking having a conversation, and that led me to think:  Suppose God did decide to just converse with me.  Wouldn’t it seem sensible that He’d begin such a dialogue with a question?  And, I reasoned further, would such questions be any different from the ones He’s already asked some others of His children at another place in space and time?  And if He asked, would He, out of simple courtesy, await an answer before continuing any conversation.

         And, as I shared in earlier posts, I couldn’t avoid another question:  For whose benefit would God raise any question?  If He’s omniscient (has all knowledge), why would He need to ask anyone anything?!

         At any rate, I found myself out there with Saul of Tarsus (not yet the man known to us as the Apostle Paul) on a mission and on his way to Damascus:  His religion and way of life were being threatened. Therefore, he accepted the assignment to search out and destroy the heretics who were not yet designated as “Christians.”  Here’s how the incident is reported in the book of Acts:

Acts 9:1-5, “But Saul, still breathing threats of slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, that if he found any men or women belonging to this Way (a word used for Christianity), he might bring them in bonds to Jerusalem. And as he went on his journey, it came to pass that he drew near to Damascus, when suddenly a light from heaven shone round about him; and falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?” And he said, “Who art thou Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom thou art persecuting.”

         This is another of the questions I’ve been considering.  If you think about it a bit, I believe you can understand why I’m having difficulty trying to relate to it and taking more time than usual to address it. I haven’t considered myself to be guilty, or even capable, of persecuting the Lord.  Persecuting the Lord!?  Why would I do such a thing?  How could I do it?

         Nor do I believe the Apostle Paul viewed what he was doing through the lenses of that question.

         Frankly, it is the kind of question from which I want to turn away.  It should make any thoughtful person uncomfortable.

         This was a question which the Lord posed to Saul of Tarsus.  The problem with that was Saul did not view what he was doing as persecuting the Lord.

         Why are you persecuting me?  Saul probably didn’t even realize he was doing that.  In fact, he was confident that he was serving God.  Whole heartedly, but mistakenly.  What remedy is there for such misguided zeal?  Misinformed.  Wide-eyed and wide open, he was doing what he thought was service for God, namely killing these new “religious fanatics” and just erasing them.  They were heretics, as far as he was concerned, just a small, insignificant blotch on the religious scene, but a nuisance to him.  The “small sect” had not yet even been named “Christians.”  He felt his religion, based on centuries of teaching and tradition, was being threatened. Aroused, angry, very concerned, and perhaps frightened,  he went to war and was endorsed fully by the best that religion had to offer in that time.

         Organized religion can be completely wrong. And, as history has demonstrated so often in so many way, totally ruthless.   You can be mistaken, misguided, and devoutly religious. And not even aware that you’re wrong.

         What was Saul doing at this time?  It appears that he was simply carrying out instructions.  Trying to promote his religion by stamping out Christianity.  He’d gotten caught up in a mania… controlled and compelled by group thinking.  At first, he probably was just an observer.  Next thing, he was holding the garments of those who stoned Stephen to death.

         That does not seem to fit any definition of persecution that I know of.   Is it possible to persecute Christ and not even be aware of it?  Is it possible that you may think you’re doing Him a favor, when in fact you’re breaking His heart?

         “Why are you persecuting me?”  I didn’t realize I was doing that, Lord.  How was I persecuting you?  Is it possible for those who are ardently religious to be guilty of persecuting the Lord? 

                  I cannot begin to answer that question for another, or ask it of you or anyone else.  But I’m driven to think carefully and deeply about it if it’s addressed to me.

                I’ll be back after I’ve had more time to think.

 

God’s servant and son, your friend and fellow student,  ~donkimrey

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ME AND MY BUDDY

 

          Many of my friends have offered encouragement concerning the little project which has occupied many of my waking hours for the past several weeks. I actually had my first official order from one of them, even though we’re still tweaking the manuscript and trying to settle on a publisher/printer.   Making every effort to see that the finished product is as good as I can make it, what is supposed to be  the final draft of the manuscript is experiencing what I hope will be the final revision.  Of the three who are reviewing it, one is a college English professor and a published author.  Another was formerly a journalist with United Press, working in Europe.  The other just happens to be an intelligent, very avid reader whom I’ve asked to serve as a “friendly adversary.”  By the time it gets between the covers,  the work should be one of the most carefully, thoroughly  critiqued minor manuscripts ever.  That, of course, doesn’t guarantee a trip to the top of the best seller lists or reviews in the New York Times.  

          My  first  “official order” came from my first real buddy growing up, Jerry Miller Perdue.  In days gone by we did some serious hunting (with our Daisy air rifles which we sometimes turned into war weapons. Pretty soon sparrows and blue jays lost their appeal. They couldn’t shoot back at you! So, when we had enough for three on each side, we’d choose sides and a war was on. We had some battles that would have impressed old George “Blood and Guts” Patton and General Chesty Puller. That is, until one of the little ammunition carriers got stung in the seat and ran home crying to his momma. We got dis-armed quickly and confined to quarters.). Jerry and I explored the woods and trails, fought imaginary Indians, bandits, and “Huns” and “Japs,” and seined all the creeks around our houses. Our “call to arms” across the hollow separating our homes was bellowing out the Tarzan yell. And then we’d be out on our adventures. It was hard to tell which of us was Tom Sawyer and which was Huck Finn.  After our practiced yells that would curdle and gorilla’s blood, we had to drop the Tarzan thing, because neither of us was willing to play the role of Cheetah or Jane.  

          Jerry was also responsible for “fixing me up’ with my first real girl friend, who was a member of his class in high school .   In my junior year I asked him and Janice Moon Isley to be co-campaign managers when I was nominated for a student government office which I had no Idea of winning. At the time, I was interested in Janice, another of Jerry’s cute classmates (There was a really great class of freshmen at GHS that year,) and I thought it was pretty clever that we had our strategy sessions at her house. Dogged if they didn’t win me the election, although I made no points with Janice Moon.

          My ‘best pal’ was with me the time I was going to demonstrate how I’d learned to “shallow dive.” I’d seen Joe Holt do that a couple days before when a bunch of us guys went skinny dipping after football practice. Back Creek was like the Arctic, even in late August, and as I stood on the bank in shivering admiration, Joe explained: “All you needed to do is turn your hands up toward the sky as soon as you hit the water. “Piece of cake.” And he had done it from a branch of a tree that hung out over the creek about ten feet above the water. Add to that  Joe performed a beautifully executed swan dive! 

          I explained the technique to Jerry with the assertive, almost arrogant confidence of any teenage expert. Then, from the bank of that little stream that rambled through a meadow across the tracks, and from a spot about two feet above the surface of the stream, I dived in. Headfirst. The stream was probably fourteen to eighteen inches deep. The stars when I quickly reached bottom were bright and beautiful!

          Needless to say, I was lucky to escape with only a bloody forehead and not a broken nose or neck. That was the summer I decided I’d never make the Olympic diving squad.

          Jerry and I kept in touch from time to time across the years, and the friendship remains intact. Since I wanted honest, down to earth evaluation of a book which I was writing for honest, down to earth folks, I sent him an email copy of one of the drafts of God’s Comeback Kids. And asked if he’d give me his honest, down to earth opinion of the book.

          Dogged if he didn’t read it! And wrote some nice things I’ll use on the book jacket or the website.

          After he did that, though, he went a bit further.  He brought the book up in his Sunday school class, and told me some of the class members wanted to buy a copy. Some of them who knew me back then, back when, weren’t even aware that I could spell. . . much less write. And Jerry, God love him, said he was going to buy a copy for the Bethany Presbyterian Church library in my home town.

          And he didn’t even ask the price (which I don’t  exactly know now). He did ask when they’d be available (‘soon’ was my best answer).

          Knowing he was always as good as his word, I consider that my first sale.  (Actually, payment in FULL, in ADVANCE, arrived in yesterday’s mail.)  Now, all I got to do is get the thing printed! But, I got a sale! Yahooo! I got a sale!  

          Who’s next?

 

God’s son and servant, your friend     ~donkimrey

(A parting note.  Those of you who think and study know it takes time.  It takes concentration.  And, unless you’re “full time” or some kind of automaton, you can’t just crank out stuff that’s worth writing, or reading, much less remembering or using in a practical way.  I’ve made it a habit to keep and cultivate a little “thought garden,” but I’ve got sense enough to know I don’t just go out and jerk something up by the roots to see if it’s growing.  Or producing anything useful, or beautiful, or edible.  I keep telling me:  “Be patient, Don.  Be quiet.  Listen.  Think.  Pray.”  I’ll let you know when I have something of value to share.)

REALLY NOW, IS ANY THING TOO HARD FOR GOD?

 

          Still I’m working on the idea of God conversing with us. I’m not getting glassy-eyed or frothing at the mouth. I simply posed a rhetorical or hypothetical question to my self and wondered how such a thing might take place. (Just meditating, you understand. I’m not given to rambling around aimlessly, mumbling and muttering under my breath.).

         Engaged as I was in this little ‘spiritual, intellectual exercise,’ I moved quite naturally and logically to conclude that almost all of us sometimes begin conversations with a question. Then, we wait for an answer. And, of course, silence is sometimes part of a conversation. If we were attempting to speak with God, wouldn’t it make sense that He might begin a dialogue with a question? And then be quiet and not say anything else until His question was answered? And, out of respect for us He might follow the question with silence in order to give us time to ponder our reply.
        

          Doesn’t’ that seem logical and sensible?
         So far in previous posts we’ve asked ourselves some of the same questions God asked others in the past, namely: Where are you? (Adam) Who are you? (Jacob/Israel) What is that in your Hand? (Moses)
In each of those instances, the questions were asked and the person addressed was expected to reply before the conversation continued. They were also expected and encouraged to think
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me? Therefore, thus says the Lord: Behold, I am giving this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it.” {Jer 32:26-28 RSV}
         Is ANYTHING too hard for Me? A confident Deity would surely have no need to ask the answer to such a question.
The question was asked in a very troubled and turbulent time. The nation of Israel was in grave peril. The kind of times that try men’s souls and tests faith to the breaking point. The kind that causes Henny Penny to rush about frantically crying: “The Sky is Falling Down! The sky is falling down. What are we going to do? What can we do? The world is teetering on the edge of destruction. Where do we go? What can we say? What is there to cling to?”
         In Psalm 11:3, a rhetorical question is raised: “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The short, simple answer is “They should go on being righteous.”
Now the question is on the table. The more dangerous the conditions, the more is riding on the answer. In your own personal situations, that question is crucial. I believe the question is asked in such a way it presupposes an answer. God already knows. He’s confident in His ability. Some who need to ‘get a handle’ on the answer are writing or reading and considering the question now.
You and I need to answer the question for ourselves. If we answer “Yes,” the only option left open to you is to take all matters into our own hands. If our destinies are not secure in His care, they are not safe anywhere.
If you answer the question correctly, a world of infinite possibilities and endless hope is open immediately. If that is the case~ That is, if nothing is too hard for the Lord, does it take a large stretch to go from there to being able to say: “I can do all things through Him who loved me and gave Himself for me?”*
        

         Here’s what I’ve been doing. I’m imagining God engaging me in conversation, and He does that in this instance, by asking another probing question: “Is anything too hard for me? Don. I’m talking to you. Do you honestly think ANYTHING is too difficult for me?”

          Sometimes it seems we’re pushed to the outer limits of our ability. If things are within comfortable boundaries which we establish, I can handle that job all by myself. Thank you. In such cases, I may delude myself into thinking I don’t really need God. In other instances, though, it seems God allows me to have challenges which are clearly beyond my ability.

         Abraham Lincoln must surely have felt that way when he said: “I’ve been driven to my knees in prayer often when I felt there was simply no place to go.” I’ve known the feeling, even though nothing in my experience has come close to the burdens such a man had to carry. Still, it’s as if He permits that kind of thing to happen. It serves as a “wake-up call.” It reminds me that God is God, and I am not.
So, honestly and humbly I admit there are many, many things which are forever beyond me.

         But, thankfully, they are not beyond Him. I believe what the Bible says is true: With God, all things are possible. And, believing that, we can also confidently affirm: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
          

          So, if God were to ask: “Don, do you really, really believe that nothing is too hard for me?”

         I will answer: “Yes, Sir. I do believe that to be true.”

          I imagined Him going a bit further, delving beneath the surface, and perhaps discussing the things which have stumped me. Problems which my best efforts have failed to solve. He won’t let me off the hook. In the same way that Jesus posed the question for Peter that morning by the Sea of Galilee: “Simon, do you love me?” He poses the question, presses it, and waits patiently for our answer.
What if God were to ask you, in light of every challenge facing you, every problem that threatens to break your heart, blow your mind or destroy your world . . . “Do you think THAT IS TOO HARD FOR ME TO HANDLE?”

         If you’re really convinced that nothing is too hard for the Lord, why not let Him handle the things you cannot?

 

God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student, > donkimrey >

* (Philippians 4:13).