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Yearly Archives: 2010

Life’s Tough, It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

I’m sure, to your surprise, that bit of wisdom did not come from C. S. Lewis. No, not Dr. Dobson either. Actually, it’s a statement attributed to John Wayne. As I typed it, I wondered if I could get away with using it in the newsletter. It seems to be ‘knee deep’ in attitude. However, the more I looked at it the more it fit into the subject of the letter, at least better than anything I could think of from Mr. Lewis or JD. And, don’t get me wrong in this letter; I have not perfected this subject yet myself. It’s just that most of the time I know what to do, I just mess up sometimes and I don’t do what I know to do. We all have good company there; Paul seemed to suggest the same in his life.

Let’s start here. The Bible describes the Christian life as a journey. The Hebrew expression is ‘a going’. I’ve used the story of Abraham so often but he simply was told to go! Kind of ‘get thee out of here!’ Nowhere does it say God told Abraham where he was to go, just get! (“Now the Lord had said to Abraham, get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee….’.) (Genesis Chapter 12) Try that some nice morning. You probably would not last the weekend on that kind of trip.

In the United States there are 4 million miles of highways in our transportation network. Those miles are only a very small percentage of the possible ways to get from point A to point B. This is a very small amount of paved area devoted to moving. We have 120,000 miles of railroad, 25,000 miles of waterway and 5,000 airports to make our lives easier. Taking those highways and transportation system routes make for a much faster, more comfortable and less challenging life experience. Imagine taking off across the country in your car without using any of the highways designed and given for your safety and ease. Tough, and like John Wayne says, life is even tougher if you don’t take the easiest way that’s been provided for you.

My father’s grandmother’s family came from Shuffle Branch, Virginia, about 1818 to Pope County, Illinois. Settled near what is now Eddyville. They came across the Wilderness Road into Kentucky, down the Ohio River and pulled ‘er in at Golconda. That was covered wagon and flatboat travel. It was hard, long and dangerous for the most part. It was the only way to travel back then, and while difficult it served them as well as could be expected. They made it after months of travel. Today we could do that trip in one day if we pushed it at all. What they would have given for a paved path all the way from Virginia to Southern Illinois. In many ways, like our highway system in this country, God’s Word has been given so that we can travel the best way, the way that is the easiest if we follow its instruction.

God has given us instructions on what direction to take, where we will end up if we take His advice and has made a multi-lane, paved highway for us to use: Scripture. Do you know what most of the world does with that ‘map’? They ignore it at best, or they try and tear it up and destroy it from being used by themselves or others at worst. We have been given the secrets of life and why we don’t follow those instructions amazes me. Now, like I said, I’m as guilty as the next guy for not doing what I know to do all the time. I know exactly how to get to St. Louis from here, although I do have my little shortcut I take to the airport occasionally. Problem is, while I know the easiest, best way to St. Louis, I could, if I chose to, cut across country and ignore those big highways 57/64/40/170N. Creeks and fences would make it more difficult and add to the time needed to get where I wanted to go, but with enough gas and time I could get there I suppose. That’s how we do God’s Word much of the time. We just refuse to go the way He says works. Anything other than those routes is a tougher way to go: harder, longer and as John Wayne would say, just stupid given the choices.

The Gospel is a little like deciding to go to Chicago from Marion. As you step it off in Marion, you might be only ½ a degree off on your direction. However, the longer you travel, the further you go off just that ½ degree causes you to end up in Indiana or in the boonies somewhere West, not Chicago! Just being off that small amount causes us to miss the mark by many miles. The Gospel is much the same. It’s important to start out in the right direction in order to end up at the final destination. The highways we take, the way we travel the Christian journey, makes a huge difference in the ease of the journey, in the goal we finally attain.

The Bible’s a map. It tells us how to get from where we are to where we want to go. Importantly, it gives us the easiest way to get there. Highways have potholes, they have repaired spots in them, but they are so much easier to travel than cross-country. There are major ways to live to be found in Scripture and doing life any other way, if not impossible, is at the least very tough -especially tough if you try and do life in any other way than the roadmap God has provided for us. We might be able to hack our way through rough country, but that’s no way to live the Christian life. The Bible should not be read as a biography, not as a history book, it’s a how-to manual.

The Gospel was nicknamed ‘the way’. Jesus was ‘the way’; we need to ‘get in the way’. I like to look at it as a great highway carrying life and we simply need to get out of the ditch and into the middle of the road. He’s moving, we should be hitch-hiking. There is always traffic and constant flow, but if we are out on our own, if we are going cross-country, we are going to find the going very tough. Loving and giving of yourself is in the middle of the highway. Trying the Gospel without getting in the middle of that loving and giving is the tough way to get to where you want to go. You may even be able to tough it out on that cross-country trip, but the trip itself will wear you out. There’s no joy on the way and you’re too weary to enjoy the destination.

Proverbs 2:7 tells us that God is the ‘buckler to them that walk uprightly’. That takes us to the old adage that the Gospel must be walk, not just talk. Literally, He is our protector, our defense, our shield, even more specifically in the original language; He is our hide, the thing that covers us. James chapter 1 tells us that we should be doers of the Word, not hearers only. If we learn of Him only, if we sing, if we study, if we memorize but have no practical application of what we have learned and sang about, according to James, we deceive ourselves. That’s part of ‘a going’. Abraham put his feet to work and combined that with his belief. There is a flow of God that makes the road, not effortless or without trouble, but much more manageable for us in this life. His is an artery of life and we will need to get into that flow in order for us to have the results we’ve hoped for. Do the Word and don’t be stupid, not taking the easier Way is a harder way to live…not sure if that’s exactly what John Wayne had in mind, but it is good advice.

Mark Schultz

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John

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

“The Scribes and the Pharisees brought you the woman taken in adultery, asking if you would break the Law of Moses and not have her stoned. Seeing if they might accuse you. … the hatred and some who sought to kill you. (Jesus) ‘You judge the flesh, I judge no man. I am the one who bears witness of myself and the father who sent me.’ And they cry, ‘Where is thy Father?’ ‘You neither know me nor my father. Whither I go you cannot come. You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples. You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ And they cried, ‘We are Abraham’s seed and were never in bondage to any. How shall we be made free?’

The crowd pressing forward, James and I stepping in front of you lest they try to seize you. Those who shouted against you, who pushed against us. …The jeering. The mockery. The ones who raised their fists, sought in the ground for stones…the first stone coming, the great surge of the people to seize you.”

I have been reading a novel about the Apostle John, therefore the excerpt above. The book is set on the isle of Patmos; John is in his 90’s, blind. It has been many years since he witnessed the miracles, years since first being with the Messiah, the One he had put all confidence in, now crucified. Much of the script is John re-living the memories, the miracles, re-living when he and his brother were a part of the twelve. The joy of that moment still vividly lives in John’s heart and mind. The setting on the isle is bleak, mostly gray rock and gray sky. John is surrounded by a few friends that have come to ‘serve the Apostle’. There is a line in the book that says, ‘How can this have been where such faith was?’ There is no physical or emotional reason for faith to thrive there, no logical way that faith should find a home there. That question is one that comes into mind throughout the book. Although I have not finished it and have no clue about how the book turns out, just the opportunity to think about that question has made it worth reading. How can this have been where such faith was? Ever felt like you’re in a place where it’s just not friendly to faith, a place maybe even opposed to faith? When I look around I get the feeling that question applies to our lives today. Where does this steadfastness we have in our hearts come from, where does it hide in our hearts, to reappear when we need it most? How does it survive in us? And it seems we need that faith desperately right now!

That faith that held John to the heart of God, that same faith, is in us who believe today. Why? I know I don’t need it as a crutch. Many say that a Christian faith is just something that makes life easier for them because we need something to believe in just to keep us sane in this troubled world. I don’t think the faith I experience does that at all, it is not generated out of that kind of psychological desert. I, and just about every Christian I know, do not use this faith as a balm for the pressures of this world. Sometimes it does just the opposite; its struggle creates stress rather than relieves it. Instead, the powerful change that remained in John’s life after political banishment and physical deterioration held fast all those years because something changed in him after meeting the Master (and that same change has happened to us) that cannot be denied. It’s not that it is only convenient to believe, it’s that it has become impossible not to believe. I think many of us have tried that unbelief stuff and it simply leads to the realization of how can we not believe?

Some people have said that the Gospel came from Paul, that he invented it. Some say it came from a group of old dudes that made it up just to control the masses. Paul answered such suggestions himself, ‘I want you to know brothers that the Gospel I preached is not something that man made up.’ (Gal.1:11) Paul suggested further that it was not received from any man. (Gal.1:12) The Gospel message itself is not a bunch of traditions built out of an ethical church system either. It is more than ethics and morals. It is a living life! It is something that Christ gifted to us. The gospel, boiled down, is not even Adam, Moses, Isaiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. The Gospel boiled down is Jesus Christ and him crucified! Paul’s Gospels, as some have called it, came from the highest authority. The Gospel came to him by revelation directly from Jesus Christ. That gospel is bigger than the problems, both internal and external in our lives. It is not about a belief system that simply gives us confidence, overcoming fears. We don’t believe it to help us soothe our ‘tormented minds’. John did not hold on to something all his life because of some psychological need for ‘mind salve’.

John had been exiled to Patmos. Upon his arrival, he had a great vision, a Revelation! That wonder was mixed with tension, hunger, storms, cold, sickness, fear and threats. No Holiday Inn here. Hard times. Barren, gray and bleak. Messages of the martyring of the other eleven, even of his brother. It would take more than a feel good story to keep his heart steadfast. It would take something so profound that he could not get it out of his mind. Something so real it could not be forgotten over time. Something so strong that it withstood the wind, the hunger, and loneliness. That’s how we feel today if we have met that same Master. Some days I would like to lay it all down and just give up on the pressure, disappointment and frustration this life brings. But I just cannot! Like John, I can’t forget a spring evening in April when I was 16 years old. I can’t forget the miracles I have seen, can’t get over the tenderhearted moments where the Spirit of God was so present that I thought He was standing behind me. I can’t forget! Too powerful. Too wonderful.

I have had a week! What that means to a radio person is that we have lost power, lost the backup generator, had to work on two software problems in the office. Been accused of playing ‘new-age’ music. I have had a week! Yet, the thing that has happened in all that is that I did not become discouraged, I simply remembered all the things of the past. The things that I can’t get over, the things I can’t forget, and they push me to tomorrow. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to just cry and throw a fit, but I can’t. This faith has become involuntary! I don’t turn it off and on. It is permanent. I have become that faith. Rather than trying to work hard to believe, I now have to work hard to get frustrated with it. That kind of faith is promised to us. I think someone famous said it was ‘the good fight of faith’. Like John, it can become not a fight to possess it, but a fight to overcome the world.