You’re Right … And You’re Right, Too

I must have seen the movie, “Fiddler On the Roof,” a half-dozen times. In one scene the portly lead character, Tevye, is in a lively discussion with a group of his Jewish neighbors.

One of them states a strong opinion about whatever the subject was. Tevye looks at him and says, “You’re right!”

A man across the small circle delivers a contrary opinion. “You’re right, too!” Tevye says.

Someone else says, “Wait. He’s right (indicating the first man) and he’s right (indicating the second). They can’t both be right.”

Tevye thinks a minute and says, “And you’re right, too!”

That’s the way I feel when we start arguing about God. One says, “God is great and powerful, glorious and mighty. He’s all-powerful, all-present, all-knowing, eternal and good.”

And with Tevye I say, “You’re right.”

Another says, “Jesus is my best friend. I talk to Him like I talk to you. Why just this morning I was saying, ‘You know, Lord, I’ve got this ache in my toe. And did you see how those people acted towards me at church last night? And by the way, Lord, I’d sure appreciate it if you could help me get a parking place and (chatter, chatter, chatter) and could you wait a minute, Lord, I’ve got to go to the bathroom? I’ll be right back.’”

And with Tevye I say, “You’re right too. (Kind of).”

How can God fill the far corners of the universe yet be near enough to hear my weakest cry?

You’re right, too! He’s all that and a lot more. He’s God. Continue reading

Do You Walk With God In Eden?

sceneryThe other day as I sat next to my river (the Marne) I had a thought: God loves to walk in beautiful places with us.

He loved walking with Adam, then Eve in the cool of the evening. He’s still walking with those who love Him. He’s made gardens everywhere–rivers, mountains, valleys, seashores.

When we go there and get quiet inside we hear his slow footsteps around us.

Some things mess it up for us. For Eve it was a quest to know, to be like God. She wanted God to scoot over on the throne to make room for her, so that she could run her life and the world, I suppose.

For Adam I think it was a relationship gone wrong. Eve was no longer the same after she ate the fruit, and to keep her he had to disobey God and become what she had become.

And the evening walks stopped.

Sitting there, a breeze murmuring God’s voice in the leaves of a tree, river’s water flowing His peace into my soul, I realized that God didn’t quit walking with His people. Continue reading

Wow! Who Is This Friend?

Thirteen minutes that can change your life. There’s a new audio podcast at the bottom of this page called, “How To Quit Being Miserable In Christ.” Take 13 minutes to listen to it. It might change your life.

 It hadn’t been his best day. He had just moved to that country and things weren’t going well. Today topped off his misery and in frustration he went walking in a forest near his home, trying to drown his troubled thoughts in fall leaves.

A worn used path wandered deeply into the woods and to his surprise he arrived at a little glade with a bench and a fountain. He sat down miserably and chewed on his problems until his gloom was interrupted by the sound of nearby footfalls coming his way from the other side of the clearing.

A stranger walked easily into the little glen and came up, sitting down beside him on the bench. For some reason this seemed like the most natural thing in the world since the newcomer seemed to belong to that place.

After awhile the miserable man opened his heart and began to talk to his new acquaintance. Quickly the intruder seemed like an old friend. The sad man came back to the fountain each day and each day his new friend showed up. They walked round the little glade and talked of everything and nothing.

Slowly, the mountain of problems seemed to shrink in size as the listening ear of the stranger and his few well-placed counsels put things in perspective.

One day, though, another man came running, interrupting their conversation. “Sir, sir! Come quickly! You’re needed.” The friend excused himself and left in a jog.

Curiosity got the best of the first man. Who was this friend after all? He must be important if he had a servant.

So he followed at a distance until the woods thinned and he saw his friend mounting a huge white horse. Several others climbed on smaller horses around him and they galloped away.

“That horse alone is worth two fortunes,” thought the man as he continued to the edge of the forest. There in the distance he saw the band of men moving towards the wall of a town; a majestic castle reigned over this place. “This must be the regional capital,” he thought.

Other riders, an army in fact, rode out to meet his friend and opened it’s formation to let him pass, taking their place in riding into the city after him.

Who was the friend of his? Evidently, he was someone important. Could he be the king? Might the man have been walking and talking with the king of the country all these weeks?

Who Is This Friend?

Sometimes I feel that way about God. He’s a Friend who sticks closer than a brother and like old Adam who walked with him in the evening of the first days, I love to walk and commune with Him.

Then I look up and see hundreds of millions of stars embedded in a universe that would take billions of light years to cross. The Lord made all this by the power of His Word (Hebrews 11:3) Who is this Friend of mine?

I love His closeness and the sense of His love, so much so that I can easily forget that He’s a holy God and that He expects me to walk justly before Him. When I read of how he judged those liars Ananias and Sapphira, this couple who hungered after men’s praise but were struck dead by a word from Peter the apostle, I stop and shake my head. (Acts 5) “Our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

And I think, “It’s better not to trifle with this friend. He’s so infinitely loving and patient– good news for me–but He will react when people persist in their rebellion and hardness of heart.”

So, I may be a little afraid to approach Him. Maybe He’s far away and unconcerned, this distant friend. But then I read,

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 14, NIV)

It’s evident that my friend is complex and it takes time to get to know Him. The wonder of it all is that I can know Him, feel the beating of His heart.

Paul probably knew Him as well as any of us and this is what he thought,

“Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly] … [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly]…”    (Phillipians 3:8, 10, Amplified Version)

Who is this Friend of mine?

It’s a question that’s going to keep me occupied for time and eternity,

Hmmm …

“One of the most important decisions each pastor must make is whether to impress people or influence them. You can impress people from a distance, but you have to get up close to people to love and influence them.” 
Rick Warren

Mrs. Table?

French and many other continental European languages have a peculiarity that drives English speakers crazy—their nouns are either masculine or feminine. No one seems to be able to pronounce the simple little word “the” so everything is either la or le in French.

Maybe a long time ago, when the French and the English fought all the time, the cave-men French tried to come up with a fail-safe method to stop the cave-men English invaders.

“If we could invent a tank that spouted fire, and ran on tracks we could beat them,” volunteered little Pierre. “Have you been sneaking into the wine again, little Pierre?” said his father. “Nothing like that will ever exist.”

But one day some one must have come up with a fool-proof method to stop their enemies. “Let’s make all our words either masculine or feminine. That way when they yell horrible things at us, they will be confused and we’ll defeat them.

If that was what happened, it must have worked something like this: A big English soldier yells at the French lined up against them: “Rendez-vous petite espèce de vauriens! … ummm … attendez-vous un moment …” (“Give up you little good for nothings… wait a minute. ”)

“Hey, Richard, is “espèce” masculine or feminine?”

“You got me, I think it’s masculine.”

“Don’t be stupid, it feminine,” pipes up Rodney from the second row of soldiers!

“No, it’s masculine,” yell two or three others.

An while the English soldiers argue among themselves, the French mount a surprise attack and push them back to the English channel.

Now, I’m not sure that’s how the masculine and feminine article adjectives came to be. It’s a thought anyway. One thing I know is that they can drive you crazy if you’re not born here. “La foi means “faith”, le foie means liver, but the noun is pronounced the same way, so missionaries in France have been know to preach messages on the necessity of liver.

For a long time, I thought the gender of the adjective must have something to do with the object in question. In English, if an object is masculine it’s because it’s—well, it’s masculine. It’s a man. A woman’s a woman. So, I figured la table (the table) must have something feminine about it that made it la instead of le.

But then why, le camion–the truck—(lorry for our British readers), and la camionette—a van (lorryette for our British readers?)

One day, I had a revelation, though. On television I saw the host of a program ask a French person, “Do you think this word is masculine or feminine?” I don’t remember what the word was but if it had been me, I would have immediately considered whether that thing had more masculine or feminine characteristics.

You know what the French person did? He repeated the word and listened to it. He thought it sounded masculine or feminine. Suddenly, a light went on in my head. “It’s not considered masculine or feminine because of the characteristics of the thing, dummy! It’s because of the way the word sounds!”

Head slap to one’s own head!

I have bad news for language learners. A language isn’t just a series of noises that communicate ideas. Often it represents a way of looking at the world—a worldview. To really learn to communicate, you have to learn how a people think.

Another Way Of Seeing Things

That’s why some folks don’t always understand committed Christians. We see the world differently. Our worldview starts with God. Our heart has been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit and we want to do what pleases Him.

Jesus is our King and we’re subjects in His kingdom. We want to promote what He wants promoted, do what He wants done, accomplish what gives Him joy.

Eugene Peterson captures this conflict of worldviews well in his translation of parts of 1 Corinthiens 2:

“The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text: ‘No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, never so much as imagined anything quite like it—what God has arranged for those who love him.’

“But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you … The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be know only by spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing …” (From 1 Cor. 2, the Message).

Simply put, you have to understand God to know how He works; When He renews you, your way of seeing the world changes radically. The world thinks you’re a bit strange just like I think French masculine and feminine articles are strange.

There’s probably a reason for them, but I’ll bet that even the French don’t know why it all started. It might be because few seem to be able to pronounce “th” which makes it difficult to say “the” all the time. I think they inherited their articles from the Latin language.

But the worldview of Christ? When you know Him, it all makes sense and if you don’t know Him, it all seems silly. Only … only, it’s the most important thing in the universe to know and understand Him.

Cry out to Him in prayer. Read His Word, the Bible. Those who seek, find.

They find le chemin. (=”The way.” And that’s masculine, thank you, but it’s for women too!)

Talking Heads

You can say a lot with your face, even if your mouth remains (momentarily) shut.

Mama had a look that she shot at me when I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to. It was guaranteed to curdle milk at ten paces; absolutely no words were needed. The message was, “Quit that or you’re dead meat!” At least that was how I interpreted it.

Not all looks are scary. Once when I was leaving class in college, a beautiful freshman girl that I didn’t know, flashed me a friendly smile. She was running for cheerleader, I think, and unfortunately the message was simply, “Vote for me!”

When my son Steve was about seven months old, we were in the grocery store with my wife and mother-in-law. Phyllis was buying and her mom and I pushed the buggy with little Steve in it.

As I “goo-gooed” and “gaa-gaaded”, playing with him, suddenly his face changed and he looked at me in a way that said unmistakably, “I love you!” I had never seen a baby do that and would have thought that I imagined it if my mother-in-law hadn’t said, “Did you see that? It looked like he said that you were the grandest guy in the world.”

All that helps me to understand Bible verses like these:

“Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Selah. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.” (Ps. 24: 6-9) NIV)

What’s all this about seeking God’s face?

When you’re close enough to see God’s face he can communicate with you. You may get a message to someone by yelling at her from 75 yards away but you’ll never see what her face is communicating in return. You’ve got to move in close to catch the nuances that speak from her visage.

God communicates best to those who are close to Him and for that kind of communication we must battle through all the distractions, busyness, unbelief and dead emotions that conspire to keep us far from His presence.

Often the beginning of our prayer time seems like what a jungle explorer must feel as he hacks through thick underbrush and vines, seeking a way through the tropical forest.

Ah, but when we get close ...

… We see such a look of love for us, that we hadn’t really discerned when we spoke with Him from a long way off. That was worth the trek!

… Now that we’re “up close and personal He can direct us. “ I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Ps. 32:8, KJV). When you’re that close, He can look in the direction He wants you to go and you’ll understand. A look, a nod, a wink, a twinkle in the eye, a low whisper—we miss all these when we remain at a distance.

… Sometimes we’re afraid to get too close because we dread seeing reproach in His face. If you’ve sinned, come anyway. God’s will forgive, cleanse and deliver you in His presence if you really want Him to.

A father told the story of trying to spank his son. When the little one realized that Armageddon had arrived he did a surprising thing. Instead of running away from his dad, he ran to him and latched onto his leg for dear life. The father reported that it was harder to give a good spanking from that angle and he really didn’t have the heart for it anyway.

God’s presence is a healthy, healing place, even if he has to deal with us sternly at times. Come running—right up close!

Young lovers seem to say whole libraries of meaningful things as they look in their sweet thing’s eyes. Wriggle through the crowd into His presence. See His face. Hear Him speak with His eyes.

A lot gets said in a look.


“We’re trained to use our minds to get information and complete assignments; but the God revealed to us in Jesus and our Scriptures is infinitely personal and relational. Unless we take the time to be quiet, in a listening way, in the presence of God, we never get to know him.” Eugene Peterson