The Rescue of Our Stupid World that Feeds Anger

“The churning of milk produces butter…and pressing the nose brings forth blood;
So the churning of anger produces strife.”
Proverbs 30:33

There is a Cause to that Particular Effect…

This proverb is about the cessation of stupid. What did you think would happen if you kept prodding and poking at your nose? Haven’t you learned that if you pick at it long enough you will soon be rewarded with a blood bath? And here we also see by comparison the proverb states that if we feed the “anger monster” the battle moves to intensified strife. Is that helpful to any? I think not, except for the warmongers who thrive on inflicted misery.

The point of the proverb is the logical progression and necessary outcome of a stated course of activity. Garbage in…Garbage out. But what of the exceptions?  Agitate milk and voilà! Look what happens! Milk is magically transformed to cream and butter. Cream is a precursor to “ice cream” and we all know that is one of those “very good” things God made.

But alas, we live in an angry world. Even folks I know who ought be dancing for joy seem trained in the art of anger. Careful… it’s infectious. Abundant strife across our land is indicative of angry hearts within the breast. Men churn and agitate the flesh for ad infinitum reasons, most of no essential account, but they all produce magnified and multiple consequences.

How can we restore order to this chaotic mess? Simply put: That solution has never changed, so there must be a rending from above. We perish if God departs… or if He allows ordinary cause-effect to reign apart from radical intervening grace. He must visit us from on high. Simplistic? Ponder the rending of the heavens again; would that ever be simplistic? I think not, but always glorious and purposeful where the Gospel is preached.

Not all agitation is bad. One is a work of the flesh that stirs up enmity, and the other a grace and work of the Spirit that yields glory. There is hope for you, my friend. There is hope for me. There is hope for the nation. It becomes a question of who mans the churn and what we target as the end product of acceptable results. We desperately need the “Divine Agitator” to create some “butter”. If we continue to stir the cauldron, trouble will continue to brew up as surely as a pot of coffee is produced by my percolator every morning. (That’s Louisiana Community brand coffee, BTW.)

My experience: We are hard-wired to produce enmity, strife and jealousy by default until grace comes and conquers us. There must be “Regime” change in our hearts. Jesus must come and gentle us with restraint and self-control…the fruits of righteousness. (Consider, and then count the number of toddlers you know who play together with one toy by peaceful resolution vs contention and selfishness. Then consider even believing adults and the challenges of friendship… ungodliness and self-promoting jealousy easily rule the day. #HardWired for strife… from the beginning.)

By a gracious encounter with the One who comes to us, we are offered escape from the madness and self-destructive behavior as those who dwell in the Gerasenes. Not all those in Mark 5 were happy with the finished product. Not all will be rejoice today. There is always a pricetag. God values the individual, not the mass. Sheep crashing off a cliff hurts the bottom line in the temporal world, though we easily neglect that Eternity still rejoices over this same fact of the one clothed and in his right mind, until today. Just be aware: Many can temporarily profit from strife. Or war…

The God of grace and mercy stirs the pot, and we are refined. As we churn the same container via our efforts of fleshly indulgences we produce a sour and useless concoction that potentially harms many. Grace teaches we are perfected through the wonder of adversity, as we yield ourselves to grace as trophies, as vessels of honor and glory, going from anger to resolution of peace and gratitude in Him. Isn’t this worship? Worship is about knowing and enjoying our great “ChurnMaster” who refines us as gold or silver cast from the smelter’s pot.

From the beginning God has acted to bring light from darkness, order from chaos, He recreates something good from absolutely nothing to work with. He is Creator who does all things well and “very good.” He labors over us until Christ is formed in His people.

Today, we will encounter many who live in bondage to an angry heart. (Have you taken off the blinders to see the infection of anger all about? It has many nuances and flavors, but where is the joy of a glad heart in the world today?) What a wonder that the Gospel entrusted to us is the Light of escape from normative, fallen behavior into a glorious experience as that of the rich cream that rises to the top as milk is agitated within the churn. We never know when the Spirit will show up to stir in grace to bring glorious joy in any present circumstance.  Historically, we know the harder cases often become the brightest and purist vessels. Glory floats to the top in rich fashion. When God agitates He constructs something eternal: ordinary water is remarkably turned to exquisite wine. He makes all things new. Do we live in expectation that God is, and that His purposes CANNOT fail?

We have a saying in the OR about surgeons who keep picking at this or that, tinkering with an exposed area, needlessly prodding and poking at an vulnerable body part. If they pick long enough they are sure to stir up bleeding. So it is with picking and pressing the nose… leave it and anger alone with the expectation that God is the life and light Giver who alone can apply the perfect pressure to bring one to “Cease striving and know that He is God…”

My point probably is, (who really knows), don’t be angry; it never achieves the righteousness of God. Yet, be angry and do not sin. Turn your anger into an agitated prayer for the King to rouse Himself and “make a thousand hearts His own.” (Cowper) There are lots of churns going on all about us at any one time. May we be light and life with the Word of Truth entrusted so that we might offer escape unto joy to fallen men we know and love. May our contribution to the fracas be grace and truth, and not another voice of agitation.

A Political “If-Then” of Jesus that Helps Me Today

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting…”

We do well to remember the “if-then” of our Lord before Pilate only moments prior to full implementation of the Father’s eternal plan of Redemption at Calvary. The darkest hour for man was in fact destined to become the most glorious of all. Heaven and earth kissed when righteousness and peace joined hands: His kingdom came in power and in particular at the declaration of Sonship via the Resurrection. If we do not heed the “if-then” Kingdom clause of Jesus, we may well find ourselves in the least case distracted from the King’s true business, and in the worst case… we may find ourselves inadvertently positioned alongside Pilate as judge of the King and His business in a moment of clarity consumed by mob-rule insanity. It happens. I think we have recently lived, (are living?), through it?

Never underestimate the subtlety of the serpent to distract gospel-focus from the Light and souls of men, and make it all about the earthy.

We live in rapid-fire, culturally-charged, ever-changing circumstances that lend themselves to no one’s security and to ever man’s danger. But into this crazy world, amazingly Light entered, and the Father has said, “This is My Son, hear ye Him.” (This is what the Father pronounced in response to Peter’s plan to stay on the Mount of Transfiguration and construct three earthly tabernacles, one for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.) God “Deep-6ed” that plan before the words had scarcely stopped ringing. NO EARTHLY KINGDOMS! And we still are trying to construct both religious and political tabernacles and shrines and legacies…

Now today we have the Trumpers, we see the crestfallen Hillary disciples, we hear the disillusioned Berney followers, and there are multitudes of others who feel neglected or disaffected by earthly rulers and political parties and intrigues. Did we really think a political party or one person could offer a lasting change or a viable solution to an age-old heart problem? Well, unfortunately I suppose most do neglect the King of kings. The gospel of God and the Kingdom of God preached in power, lived in purity, and coming in glory is the hope of the Nations. We would be wise to heed the old song,

“Kings and Kingdoms may all pass away;

But there’s something about that Name.”

O Lord God, You have spoken to us in Your Son in these last days. Grant grace and principled obedience to treasure His words and build our lives upon the Rock of abiding obedience in Him that we may know joy in this dark world which we see to be filled with sorrow, yet with True Light shining… enough to see the King’s Highway. Grant that we recall and practice “Thy word as a lamp and light to our feet and path,” and as that abiding Rock that shall never pass away “though grass withers and flower fades.” Our endurance and preservation as the Sons of Adam can only be saved and reconciled to Thee in the One who said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” O Father! May we seek that King and kingdom!

If His kingdom is not of this world, then where is my heart and where is my heart’s treasure?

Lewis… illustrates the principle.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

CS Lewis

The Weight of Glory

I suggest you read or listen to this famous sermon or essay of Lewis. The Weight of Glory. 

“I was in Prison and you Preached and I could care less…”

Reflecting back on my #CCC experience from this past Tuesday night, I was providentially pulled to a new pod where the group was larger and a few prisoners were less than attentive as they did not know me nor the Gospel I preach. Others seemed genuinely struck by the word and appreciative to know that Option B was opened to them through the preaching of the Gospel and that God’s power was abundant that they might flee the wrath to come. 

I saw again that the very means appointed to save some, harden others in their indifferent iniquity that they might fill up the full measure of the wrath appointed them. All we can seek to do is glorify the Saving Christ in the preaching of a powerful Gospel to a lost and dying world.

Successful preaching does not have to end in the salvation of the hearers. (Reference Jeremiah and Noah, et. al.) Successful preaching simply leaves man without excuse for rejection of the grace that appears in setting forth the Word become flesh as He who is full of grace and truth.

“Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart.”

Preaching & Prisoners & Prayer

When prisoners of #CCC (Caddo Correctional Center) crowded round in response to the Gospel message there was joy as God made His move at the end last evening’s chapel service. They soberly entreated prayer for felt needs and tangible fears. You see they have no hope nor help unless God acts, and they daily live in the driven reality of this constraint. That is not all bad. It can turn redemptive by Divine design.

“Dust and rust, thy life’s reward? Slay the thought! Believe thy Lord!” (A Carmichael)

Ideally this present life of imprisoned restraint could actually become the narrow neck of the funnel that rapidly propels the prisoner toward that unique avenue that opens into the flowing River of Life. Part of my role as “shade-tree” pastor-counselor is to first isolate their location and then encourage their escape out of the difficult place they live by entry into the path of possibilities filled with Gospel promises. This great escape can only be offered without promise of immediate change in circumstance and with no pretense of anything beyond God’s presence and approval in the final analysis. This is not really a “hard-sell” to the inmate if they are apprehended by the God who delights to build His new house upon the very foundation that their sin constructed. It rings with a clear, full tone of eternal truth and hope. Otherwise their life seems destined for destruction. 

Simply stated their surroundings are at work to sharpen their spiritual acuity as their visual perception becomes focused upon an ever-narrowing experience of reality. The fluff and stuff of life are gone. These disappeared into Neverland with the resounding clang of the prison doors. Four walls now encroach upon their existence. Their experience is confined to the consequential grind of old life choices come home to haunt them. We on the outside easily neglect and even stumble over that which they have come to value as true needs in their distilled, simplistic world. Our affluence becomes a distortion… an idol… of our perceived reality, and we easily miss what they learn, where they live, what they value, and why this is Truth that screams incessantly to Conscience. 

In retrospect I think the real obstacle in this opportunity of prayer is to draw their attention to prayer’s reality, not as an “abracadabra magical-method” to swish away all troubles. The goal is the challenge to unmask prayer’s mystique. The prisoner must begin to embrace prayer as quiet communion with God as an elementary exercise God affords to teach us to entrust our cares and burdens to the wise, personal, powerful God who knows our needs before we even think to ask.

So my real goal in prayer with any inmate is for us to seek God together, not to the end of audible clangs of the cell doors as they rattle and swing open; rather my prayer for them is answered if I point them to a God who is near to the broken-hearted and a God who is willing to forgive the debts of those now crushed in spirit.