In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Quickly, God was faced with a class action suit for failure to file an environmental impact statement. God was granted a temporary permit for the project but was stymied with a “cease and desist” order for the earthly part. Then God said, "Let there be light!"
Immediately, the officials demanded to know how the light would be made. Would there be strip mining? What about thermal pollution? God explained that the light would come from a large ball of fire. God was granted provisional permission to make light, assuming that no smoke would result from the ball of fire, and that he would obtain a building permit. To conserve energy, He would have the light out half the time. God agreed and offered to call the light "Day" and the darkness "Night". The officials replied that they were not interested in semantics.
God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit." The EPA agreed, so long as only native seed was used.
Then God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth." The officials pointed out that this would require approval from the Department of Game coordinated with the Heavenly Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society.
Everything was okay until God said the project would be completed in six days. The officials said it would take at least two hundred days to review the applications and the impact statement. After that there would be a public hearing. Then there would be ten to twelve months before...
And at this point, God created Hell.
I enjoy reading the funny papers. Sometimes I get some good ideas! Recently, in a little comic called Pearls Before Swine, written by Steven Pastis, one of these serendipitous insights was discovered. In the comic, various animals interact and reflect on life in humorous ways. In this one, one character – a ram of some sort – introduces a new acquaintance (an actual human) to a mouse-friend named “Rat.” He says, “Rat, this is my friend, Bob. He won an Emmy for a T.V. show.” The friend, wearing sunglasses of course, proudly holds his Emmy award.
In the next panel, Rat says “So he entertained a tiny fraction of the population in one country on a small planet in an insignificant solar system on a non-descript arm of an unremarkable galaxy in a universe of over 100 billion galaxies.”
In the final panel, the new human friend has fled, and the ram says, “He’s crying in the bathroom.” The mouse says, “Perspective is cruel.”
Oh yes it can be! Human pride is easily overcome with perspective.
Three memorable passages address the issue and are linked together. Proverbs 3:34, particularly in the Greek translation, is cited by two New Testament writers, James and Peter. James says in James 4:6 - “But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:5 – “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”
Look at the contrast. We understand the one side of it – God opposes the proud. But the other side is just as powerful – “He gives grace to the humble.” That implies there is a grace problem for the stubbornly proud among us. If I want to receive the grace I so desperately need from God, I must reject pride.
Just a little perspective.
Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
PS. - Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with 'quick'?
It is that time of year – resolution time! I don’t know how seriously you think of New Year’s resolutions – it is a personal preference whether you do at all. If you do, however, consider something different this year: think of a song. It is one of our oldies, but goodies – “I Am Resolved.” It is often used as an invitation song, but read all the words, it is written to everybody – the lost, the saved, the wavering, and the strong. The lyrics of this song might serve you well in the New Year as the basis of a powerful resolution!
- I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.
I will hasten to Him,
Hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest,
I will come to Thee.
- I am resolved to go to the Savior,
Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true One, He is the just One,
He hath the words of life.
- I am resolved to follow the Savior,
Faithful and true each day;
Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
He is the living Way.
- I am resolved to enter the kingdom,
Leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
Still will I enter in.
- I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay;
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We’ll walk the heav’nly way.
A New Year focused on and devoted to Jesus? Sounds like a great plan!
If we could borrow Marty McFly's time machine and set it to the 1st-century AD, let's say December, 95 AD, in Ephesus, and we could find the church there and listen to a sermon or two, what might we hear? Would we hear a 'Christmas' sermon? Well, perhaps. But it certainly would not use the word "Christmas," invented much later, nor would it probably deal with the popular themes of modern Christmas messages like angels and shepherds and mangers and stars.
In fact, if we were fortunate enough to hear a sermon from the apostle John, author of the gospel that bears his name (along with 1-3 John and the incredible book of Revelation) he may well talk about the coming of Jesus Christ into this world, but I doubt it would sound much like what you can hear from a pulpit in December of 2017.
John, we believe, was an overseer and evangelist with the church in Ephesus. His first letter sounds a lot more like a sermon than a letter. And one of the foci of 1 John is the truth of Jesus' first-coming and what is important about it. I plan to explore this with you at 36th Street in December.
I want to lead us through some of John’s most important teachings on this theme. We will do this not only on Sunday mornings but also at our evening assembly, where we will address some special topics related to this that come from John’s letters – things like the Anti-Christ (1-2 John), and the danger of false teachers (2 John), and the importance of hospitality (3 John).
I hope this will be a helpful and challenging and meaningful series of message for our spiritual family in December! Hope you’ll come!