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Humility not hubris

When it comes to peripheral doctrines, I think we need to be extremely wary of a narrow dogmatism. It is quite possible that we may be wrong and the brother that we’ve labeled “heretic” may be right, at least as much as a stopped clock is right twice a day. And this should give us pause and cause us to reflect on that possibility. After all, if we are secure in our understanding what harm could come from listening sincerely?

One of the things that should stay our attitude is the almost certain reality that when we come into our Lord’s presence and are more enlightened as to the deep things of God, how humbled we will be by how much we got wrong and how much more we have to learn.

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The Devil’s Beatitudes

“I Walked A Mile With Sorrow…

by John J Kirkwood (from 04 April, 2016)

Just a random rambling over my first cup of coffee, listening to Bobby Bland. (forgive the typos, have to go to church).

Suffering?  Where is God?  There is no God?

Have you considered what suffering has given you, what suffering has given us? From the Declaration of Independence to Bobby Blue Bland, from Beethoven to Miles Davis, from Van Gogh to Bobby Fischer, from Florence NIghtengale to Dr. Scholls. Suffering gave us Anne Sullivan, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Joe Scheidler, and Jesus Christ.

Suffering has led to the highest poetry, the greatest intimacy, the most remarkable acts of humanity, and the greatest opportunity to reflect the love and compassion of almighty God to those in need.

So the alcoholic becomes the greatest counselor and thousands of lives are touched, the heroin addict goes from abuser to nurse, the homeless man rises up and starts a chain of rescue missions still touching lives today. The man whose girlfriend aborted his baby doesn’t stop spreading truth and healing and his joy is exuberant.

The battered wife becomes the shoulder and the strength to lead women through or to lead them away, the song written by the outcast is played over and over to allow a generation to overcome. The poem, the movie, the stand-up act may do the same. Jazz, country, the blues – Americans excel at suffering and the natural consequence of the godly under the whip. They take their inspiration from the history of the Jew and from the “negro spirituals.”

There must be something about “That book” that unites them all. Ultimately, it’s suffering that gave us “That book,” suffering that is infused and then defused down a blood stained path – the Via Dolorosa, ending with a man of sorrows who hung on a cross of suffering and an empty tomb that announces its defeat.

That’s right, suffering for the Christian isn’t karma from a previous life or inshallah – the will of God; suffering is an enemy, and it’s a beacon, it’s man-made, and it’s only undone by the pierced hand of a risen savior.

You suffer? Hallelujah, you’re still alive! You’ve suffered greatly! Great! Bring it to the altar, offer it up to God. Thank Him for the opportunity that it has given you to show His strength, to spread His comfort. Then show your scars to your kids and share the wisdom that your pain has purchased.

Take your suffering and put it into verse, or song, and most importantly, into your life’s work. Use your suffering to offer the hand to the next guy, pull him up from pain, confusion, and despair.

If you must suffer, and we must, suffer righteously. Suffer like Ken Hutcherson, who thanked God for his cancer and the opportunity that it gave him to display the love of Christ in his broken body. Know that brother Ken didn’t thank God for giving him cancer, that would be blasphemy because Adam gave him the cancer. No, brother Ken thanked God for the opportunities that cancer opened for him, as Paul thanked God for his chains and the furtherance of the gospel that a Roman imprisonment opened for him.

Would I want to live a life devoid of pain and sorrow? No, I’m not willing to give up suffering for the sake of your idea of a sane universe, because I’m not willing to give up what suffering has given us. What suffering has given me.

Suffering gave me a compassion for the incarcerated, the addicted, the lost. Thank you Lord, for allowing me to suffer.

I’ll take Bobby Bland on a cold April morning in Chicago and a big heaping side of worship with the people of the Book.

WHAT ARE THE RIGHTEOUS TO DO?

by John J Kirkwood

My #NeverTrump friends have me convinced that Trump is evil. My#NeverHillary friends have me convinced that Hillary is super evil.

So what is a believer to do when confronted with evil?

Sorry friends, this isn’t rocket science.

A believer confronted by evil is to reject it, expose it, rebuke it, and to overcome it, but we are never asked by the Father or by the Son, nor are we ever led by the Holy Spirit to embrace evil, or to accept it, or settle for it, or to celebrate it. We are not to condone evil nor are we to justify evil, not even Evil Lite that tastes great and comes with 1/3 less calories.

It takes human nature to come up with something as deceptively evil as the doctrine of the lesser evil.

If you’re struggling with your decision it’s because your New Nature and the Holy Spirit with which it resonates is convicting you of what your flesh is dragging you to do.

Who wins? Hint: It’s the dog you feed.

“Two natures beat within my breast
The one is foul, the one is blessed
The one I love, the one I hate.
The one I feed will dominate.”

-Anonymous

those-who-struggle-in

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My Brother’s Keeper

By John J Kirkwood

Netherlands, 1944. A village where Jews are hiding in Northern occupied territory is alarmed to find out that a new governor is to arrive within the month. The man is a reputed monster, no doubt sent by the SS to root out the Jewish population that has been rumored to be “festering” in the area.

Word comes to the community that a local businessman has a solution. On the eve following the next Sabbath, a boat will arrive providing an escape for us to flee through the Biesbosch to the liberated area in the South. The cost is small for such a great risk. But something doesn’t feel right.

You inquire among friends who have friends who know this businessman. Your fears are confirmed when you find out that this man has been a Nazi-sympathizer who has business ties with the Nazis, and has done very well. You even find newspaper articles that show this businessman cavorting with Nazis. And to your horror, even the notorious governor.

You rush home to warn your family. They refuse to listen. You go to the rabbi and leaders of the community, they seem fearful and dismiss your news as fear mongering. The more evidence you share, the more they speak of the evil of the coming governor, and when you persist they accuse you of being sympathetic to the occupiers.

You go back to your brother and sister and beg them to listen. Your sister refuses and warns you not to bring it up again. Your brother gets so infuriated when you show him a picture of the businessman with the Hauptsturmführer, that he punches you in the mouth.

On the night of the escape, curiosity and fear get the best of you. You arrive at the shore and see a row boat taking your friends out to the waiting fishing boat. It makes several trips and you’re torn between swallowing your pride and running out to catch the last boat or staying put in the shadows of the treeline.

You see your sister, Miriam, and your brother Yitzhak board the last boat. It’s not full, there’s room aboard. You stand up but your legs won’t carry you, there’s still a nagging pessimism that you hope isn’t arrogance. And then they’re gone.

Now you can only make out the silhouette of the fishing vessel against the night sky. There are no lights on the boat to betray it, just a faint moonlight. The boat turns and slowly makes its way to freedom.

A wave of guilt rushes over you.  Though indifferent to your own well-being, you suddenly feel shame. All you can think of is how foolish you were to try to talk those that you love out of escaping. What if they would have listened? What if they were standing right next to you seeing the last hope of life and freedom drift off into the dark horizon.

Your regret is shattered by a bright light. A boat has appeared next to the fishing vessel and a spotlight illuminates the startled cargo. There is screaming, and shouting in German, and then a burst of smaller lights that precede the horrid staccato sound of machine guns.

It comes on like thunder and then it trickles to a stop. Finally, just a few random bursts and then, nothing. You fall to your knees and weep uncontrollably. Miriam, Yitzhak, your rabbi, the little girl and her mother that hid in the same barn as you for the last month, gone. All of them, gone.

And then you see it. A faint ripple on the water that grows closer and closer to shore. You make out a figure crawling on all fours up the shoreline. You hear his breathing. You rush out of the shadows and offer up a prayer, hoping this might be Yitzhak. You grab him by the shoulders and he lifts up his head, his body tensing until he recognizes you. It is not Yitzhak.

“Reuben, it’s ok, it’s me, it’s me.” His body goes limp and he falls back to the ground. You stand up and offer him a hand. He takes it and rises to meet you eye to eye, your right hand holding his, your left hand steadying him on his shoulder.

He spits in your face. He pushes you away. He disappears into the forest.

A month later you pick through the garbage and find a day-old newspaper. It shows the arrival of the new governor. The town has thrown him a welcome party. Over the Hauptsturmführer’s left shoulder is a familiar face. The businessman who had promised deliverance, raising his glass for a toast.

The date was January 20, 1944. How strange though, the paper had a typo. It read January 20th, 2017.

A few years after the war, you see Reuben once more. He sees you first and has already started to cross the street. You begin to raise your arm in welcome when you realize what he is doing. He’s purposely avoiding you. It was then that you had the fleeting feeling that maybe you would have been better off boarding that boat.

No! And how foolish to even think it. Truth matters! No matter what, truth is worthy of all our small sacrifices and inconveniences. And maybe, in some future day, posterity will take note.

*Inspired by Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book, and the 2016 Presidential Campaign

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