Friday, June 25, 2021

Ocean Boulder


Ocean Boulder
This photo reminds me of the Bible’s historic recounting of the Prophet Jonah and the big fish. Really you might ask? If we take ourselves back to ancient Nineveh in the frontier of Syria (Assyria) in the 8th century B.C. we find an ISIS like violent people. They were a menace to Israel. They took no prisoners and were indeed pagans. So Jonah was both indignant of God’s decision to go to try to convert this nation and probably also afraid of the risk.  Jonah was coming from the Northern Kingdom of Israel, under threat from Nineveh, so he ran for it.

Jonah headed the opposite direction towards Tarshish in modern Spain because he was stubbornly reluctant to give God’s favor to an enemy. Well, as many know Jonah’s ship sailed directly into a massive storm, threatening to break it up. When the lots taken fell on Jonah it became obvious that he was the reason, the huge reason that they were all in danger. The superstitious sailors were afraid of the gods and Jonah’s admission for his disobedience being the reason for the storm. He commanded them to throw him overboard to save their lives, and they did.

We know that God provided a giant fish or “leviathan” to swallow Jonah. The image of a whale-like sea monster, reminds me of the giant bolder in this photo and the symbolic and huge problem Jonah had become. We know also that after three long days and nights in the fish belly, Jonah was coughed out on the shore. He prayed while in the whale, but was preoccupied with his predicament and not repentant. He was “spiritually wobbly” as my pastor states. He is just a great big problem child washed up on shore like a whale.

On the second command of God to go to Nineveh, Jonah begrudgingly agrees. He finds a repentant people, unlike himself. An amazing revival occurs with a nation the least likely in the world. We serve a big God who is sovereign and can bring about giant fishes, and gargantuan revivals, while changing big bungling prophets like Jonah. This is a big story of God’s great grace.


So what does the giant boulder represent? The boulder is the grace filled and awesome power of a great God. Our God can work with big problems and people to accomplish His greater purposes.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Communications Too

                                                              

I have written about the power of this image before in “Communications.” I said that there seems to be a silence between the two figures on the beach. There seems to be a posture of prayer or contemplation in the far figure. The close one might even be looking out at the distant one, wondering what he is meditating. Can one person understand the meditations of another, God can. God is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and immanent. He understands all things, as He created all things and is in all things. Not all things are God, but they are of God. Before we speak, He knows.
“Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:3-5).  This is good news, even if you do not know God. He is good and His love endures forever. He knew you before you were conceived. This is perhaps scary if you choose to walk in darkness and evil, or just in your own strength.

God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Look for the light. Pray and meditate on the light. Be still and know that God is listening and waiting for you to come to Him. He wants to know you and seeks you first. David said in Psalm 139: 8-10, “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”
I am encouraged by a God who goes with me, guides and holds me in His hand. Perhaps such a God frightens you? What are you hiding? Why do you think that you are in control of your life? Why do you think you can or ever did control anything on your own?  Well, now I am really meddling. No, God is in control and we all should be glad of it, particularly in this world that is unraveling at a high rate.

We need to communicate with God and with others. God made us social creatures meant to speak with one another and even serve one another. The photo above seems to not show interpersonal connection unless telepathically. Today our culture seems to scream at one another through social media outlets. It is impersonal and sniping. It has also been shown to be dangerous and not confidential.

We have a God who called out to Samuel as a child and he was listening even though at the time he did not know God. He grew in stature and favor with God and man. “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19). Samuel became a Prophet or “God speaker,” to whom all listened, knowing that his words were from God.

 This same God wants to communicate with you. He is the God who spoke to me audibly like to Samuel saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). When I did not know His word or His will He called me to ministry and to walk with Him. This incredible privilege was also a loving warning to me to change my ways and to walk in His before it was too late. I listened and started a new life because of very intentional and dramatic communications from God. Some of us need this kind of talk before our hearts become hardened. God is seeking all who will listen; saying “Now is the time of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Paul gave his warning to the Corinthians and God still gives it today. He wants a relationship with each of us. He is seeking and yet patient, but there is a time when waiting will be too late.

In 1871, D.L. Moody was preaching to a crowd in Chicago saying from Hebrews 3:7-15, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”  He told the crowd to think about it and come back the next night. Well, that night the great Chicago fire ravaged the city and many who had been at the prayer meeting also perished in it. From then on Moody never waited, but said something like, “Now is the time, don’t wait, Jesus is at the door, open it and let Him in.”  Now that is communicating a truth. We are to be clear and compassionate in delivering the truth and the urgency of it, for the end is near. All prophesy has been accomplished before the return of Jesus Christ to rule and reign. Then it will be too late to decide. Do it now.





Friday, June 11, 2021

Communications



Communications
Isolation is becoming endemic in our culture. We seem to be communicating via electronic means whenever possible. It is quick and painless, except when our server goes down or some other malfunction occurs. Back in the days of cave dwellers people communicated more simply with words like, “Don’t throw that rock at me.” (2000-Year Old Man, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, 1967). Yes, frustration in communications has been around a long time. Having peace with difficult people has been an issue at least since biblical times. Wars, starvation and slavery were and still are everywhere; envy and deceit, anger and rage were and continue to be common responses to others with whom we disagree.

The Apostle Paul frequently referenced the issue saying, Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice”  (Ephesians 4:31). Instead he also admonished us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).  The Apostle dealt with angry and envious people wherever he went, even those who wanted to kill him for preaching God’s truth. People are insecure and selfish. They want what they want and will destroy anyone standing in their way, even with what sound like kind words. It is just our way, unless we have been changed or by being “transformed by the renewing of our mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will”  (Romans 12:2).  In fact Paul dealt with this theme frequently, even when addressing the Romans saying, “If it is possible, as far as it depends upon you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Get it, sometimes, sadly, it is just not possible.

So, what does this discussion of mankind’s troubles with each other look like? Notice in the pinhole photo taken on the Oregon coast by my cousin Douglas F. Frank, there seem to be two rocks or perhaps people standing a long way from each other. They don’t seem to be talking. There is a vast beach and waters between. Perhaps they are praying? Whatever, there is a silence.

In People are Dying to Be Heard, a book on communications, particularly listening,  author and friend Ben Merens speaks about “Just Talk’n.”  That is the name of a radio show he hosts on RiverWest Radio in Milwaukee. I have had the privilege of being his guest several times to talk about communications of major issues in our culture. We have talked about listening, gratitude, the end of things and suffering to name a few topics. Dealing with the difficult has been a thread throughout. Our next topic is about finding refreshment or restoration and revitalization in this dark culture of complaining and anger. You may say that is a negative view of life. It isn’t mine now; it used to be. I now spend my days seeking God’s help to rise above it.

I deal with difficult communications in my calling, hospital chaplaincy. Sadly, it is often poor communications between chaplains, not just patients and their families that make the work challenging. Is it stress and poor coping mechanisms that causes unhealthy responses? Yes, I’m sure that is part of it. Is it a lack of gratitude? Indeed, that is a major player. Is it grief? Perhaps mourning, as loss and suffering are major threads through all of our lives.

Choosing to respond to our pain and problems with thanksgiving and prayer are keys to our flourishing in such a culture of darkness. Taking the high road like Nehemiah in the Bible where, “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10), is a key coping mechanism. Seeking the Lord while He may be found is essential for joyful and purposeful living. Failing that ends in nothing. Yes, God said, “Abide in me and your will bare much fruit, apart from me you are nothing” (John 15:5).


We can stand alone like the rock statues in the photo above or be changed, not by the culture, but in spite of it to stand as the Psalmist saying, “In His presence is fullness of joy, at His right hand pleasures forever more” (Psalm 16:11). Choose joy and peace, for all things are possible through Him who gives us strength.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Ecola Rock


Ecola Rock
This is the second in my “Boulder Essays” series depicting a photo of Ecola Rock taken off the Oregon Coast near Tillamook, by my cousin Douglas F. Frank. This image, a copy of which hangs in my study, is a pinhole extended exposure. It makes this Rock almost come alive as the changing and rugged environment over many hours is demonstrated in it. So life is the experience of continuous exposure to the ever-changing environment within which we dwell. Ecola means, “whale” in Chinook Indians. For them the whale represented a key to their existence. It is also a powerful spiritual image of creativity and the unknown as well.  Lewis and Clark visited the Tillamook area and traded for whale oil and blubber for light and energy on their expedition. There is a sculpture of a whale on the coast today commemorating their 1806 visit. “Clark’s point of view,” is the headland above the Ecola State Park that overlooks this historic spot and the Rock and the ocean expanse beyond.

Who or what is the Creator of all things necessary for life? Who is the spiritual Rock of our life?  There is only One who has an infinite and all-powerful perspective as Creator, Redeemer, Provider and Defender as we trust in Him. Nature also provides a strong image of God. This is not an idol to worship but symbolic of God’s presence and power with us.


In my devotional book based on the Psalms, Great is God’s Faithfulness, I teach on the Rock hard and strong principles of God. Ecola Rock is the cover photo and I begin that book with Psalm 61:1-2, “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the ends of the earth, I call as my heart grows faint. Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”  This psalm goes on to describe God the Rock as refuge and shelter, under whose wings and protection we find love and faithfulness forever. Let the immense beauty of this stunning Rock image strengthen your faith in God’s ever-present watch like a shining lighthouse in the sea around us.