Monday, November 26, 2012

Third Thanksgiving Payback: Purpose

The turkey has been eaten or frozen for later. The mammoth sales are over. The game's glow of victory or shadow of defeat has faded.

The Thanksgiving weekend has ended.

Let us hear the end of the whole matter:
Fear God, and keep His commands,
For this is the whole of man.
~ Ecclesiastes 12:13

"Fear God, and keep His commands" might accurately sum up human purpose. But it comes at the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon's long lament about the "whole" of life as "meaningless," "vanity," "pointless," or "useless" (depending on your Bible's translation). How do we reconcile the wisdom of Solomon simultaneously viewing the whole of life as meaningless and the whole of man as "Fear God, and keep His commands"?

And further, from these, my son, be warned;
The making of many books has no end,
And much study is a weariness of the flesh.
~ Ecclesiastes 12:13

King Solomon possessed greater luxury, peace, and wisdom than all before or since. Yet he wearied himself searching for his "whole" in many women, much study, and a multitude of writings. He rightly concluded that the whole of man is found in fear of God and obedience to Him, but evidently found no satisfaction in the conclusion.

Solomon's descent came not in the loss of any blessing, but in failure to be content. His father David lived much of his life in exile and want, enduring hostility and war, yet he expressed continual gratitude to God through it all. Solomon's two psalms, volumes of proverbs, and Ecclesiastes elegy fail to speak of gratitude at all despite his enormity of blessings and peace.

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work."
~ John 4:34 (NKJV)

Jesus knew His purpose and it was food to Him, body and soul. Gethsemane revealed that although human will and purpose are quite distinct, they find harmony in acceptance of God's will as blessing. We see in Scripture that Jesus, God the Son, always gave thanks to God the Father for His food, including the food of God's will, for He gave thanks for the covenant cup (Matthew 26.27-28)—a cup made available only because Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, also accepted the cup of God's wrath (Isaiah 51:17, Matthew 26:39,42).

This grace was given me: to proclaim goodness … the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make visible to everyone our share of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things … according to the eternal purpose which God accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~ Ephesians 3:8-11

In the giving of thanks, we make invisible God visible. We have highest purpose.

The Thanksgiving weekend may be over. The giving of thanks has no end.

Gracious Father, reveal to us Your will and our purpose. Lord Jesus, thank You for Your glorious example. Holy Spirit, empower us to live up to all we are to be, to our Father's delight.

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – use *after* buildingHisbody
Copyright 2012, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Second Thanksgiving Payback: Protection

Most humans think that our greatest source of suffering and our number one enemy is named Death. We fear its process if not its outcome. We avoid discussion of it, as if to disallow it in conversation is to relegate it into nonexistence. We fight it at any cost.

But I assert that Death is merely a portal, and our number one enemy is named Sin. Whether or not Suffering travels with Death, Suffering never leaves the company of Sin. Suffering and Sin both, like cancer, grow wherever they find a foothold. Sin assaults soul, hurts neighbor, weakens every community in which we have a part, and affronts God. The Suffering which enters with Sin can be neither measured or called back.

You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask bad, that you may expend it on your desires.
~ James 4:2-3

… lust … covet … desire … Here is where sin originates.

"Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses."
~ Luke 12:15 (NKJV)

Here too is the difference between the hungry third-world child, happy to play in the dirt with his companions, sticks, and rocks, and the round first-world child who cannot content himself in a house filled with luxuries.

"And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
~ Matthew 19:24 (NKJV)

And here is the difference between two men of equal means—one who looks upon what he has, and one upon what he has not, whether material wealth, health, or relationship.

"Wealth consists not in the abundance of our possessions, but in the fewness of our wants."
~ Unknown

In the practice of thankfulness, gratefully focused upon all we have, we become increasingly oblivious to the desires which invite sin and lead to suffering.

For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.… O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
~ Romans 7:19, 24-25 (NKJV)

If Sin is greatest enemy, giving thanks to God is perhaps the most effective protection we can employ against the tyrant.

Next time: Third Thanksgiving Payback – Purpose

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – use *after* buildingHisbody
Copyright 2012, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

First Thanksgiving Payback: Peace

For many people, next week will be four days off of work for gorging on food, football, and frenzied shopping.

For others, the celebration of giving thanks is an opportunity to indulge in blessings remembered and to renew thanksgiving as a way of life.

As a way of life, thanksgiving offers paybacks exponentially higher than 5% cash back on a credit card. Whatever else we do in pursuit of health in body and mind, heart and soul, the exercise of giving thanks returns a plethora of rewards for a person's well being, and peace is first on the list.

Peace with Life
"A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves." So said Henry Ward Beecher, and so I have observed to be true, foremost of myself. When I believe I should have more than I do—more wealth, more health, more esteem—I am not at peace with life. But when I see myself as a worm who is unworthy to live in a free country amid plenty, or as a sinner undeserving of God's mercy grace and forgiveness, I am then utterly amazed that my Creator has blessed me as He has. In such a condition, I am at peace with life and know contentment in the midst of trial.

Peace with People
The same humble spirit necessary to heartfelt gratitude enables peace with even the most contentious scoundrels. God's Word directs, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18, NKJV) If some scoundrel will not be at peace with me, I will yet be at peace with him (wherever possible), ready to see the opportunity to return thanks to him (whenever possible), channeling to him the abundant grace poured out upon me (however possible). And, perchance, he (or she) will come to know peace with me in the process.

Peace with God
Truth be told, this is hardly different than peace with life. For God is Giver of life and all its complements. No circumstance of life arrives absent the permission of Almighty God. I would believe that my complaint about circumstance benignly evaporates, the thin air into which it was breathed dissipating its substance. Yet is complaint not a plaintiff's testimony against God's goodness, carried into the world and heavenly realms alike, summoning the Lord as Defendant and declaring my opposition to His sovereignty? On the other hand, the plea to receive strength and wisdom for a test is to invite His grace. And to offer testimony of thanks is to proclaim God wise and good and righteous and loving, declaring myself at peace with Him.

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so.
~ Psalm 107:1-2 (NKJV)

Next time: Second Thanksgiving Payback – Protection

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – use *after* buildingHisbody
Copyright 2012, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Biblical Purgatory

"If you're going through hell, keep going."
~ Winston Churchill

If the Bible repeatedly speaks of Hell as an actual locale of the afterlife, it just as assuredly tells of another hell involuntarily frequented by mortals in this life. If afterlife Hell is defined by horrific and unending torment and flame (Luke 16:19-31), the hell of this life is defined by such intense human agony as to beg the question: why does a good God allow suffering?

Theology follows a progression from free will to sin to suffering, rationalizing the equation for affliction. But it proffers no pact to regulate pain. An athlete amiably shrugs, "No pain, no gain" and halts at the finish line. But the victim of dire straits becomes a quarry which gave no consent to the contest and may perceive an abyss of no return.

Meet biblical Purgatory, the place of purging.

Purgatory: The souls of those who have died in the state of grace suffer for a time of purging that prepares them to enter heaven and appear in the presence of the beatific vision [visible God].… It is an intermediate state in which the departed souls can atone for unforgiven sins before receiving their final reward.
~ From The Catholic Encyclopedia

This view of Purgatory has no foundation in Scripture. Its only connection to biblical truth is that the Holy Spirit indeed works continual purging of sin from our lives—a work that begins with the atonement of sins rather than completes atonement. The Bible contrasts the above definition with clear affirmations that Jesus completed, with His death, the work of atonement for all of our sins (Hebrews 10:10-14; John 19:30; Romans 5:8-11; 1 John 1:7). Chapters 9 and 10 of the book of Hebrews are particularly emphatic on this point.

Note that 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 refers not to Purgatory but to the testing by fire of our faith and works. A sure and strong faith is attested by works which are purified by fire and receive rewards in both this lifetime and the next. Faith that is just barely sufficient for salvation receives that salvation, but is accompanied by vain works that are shown worthless by fire, with the soul alone escaping the flames.

Fire testing, or fire baptism, is the purging—the biblical Purgatory—that we rightly call "going through hell."

"Why did I not die at birth? …
Then I would have been at rest …"
~ Job 3:11-13 (NKJV)

"Have I sinned? What have I done to You? …
Why have You set me as Your target … ?"
~ Job 7:20 (NKJV)

"Oh, that the Almighty would answer me!"
~ Job 31:35 (NKJV)

The "patience of Job" had its limits. Like so many people going through hell, Job also begged to question why a good God would allow suffering, with an edge of demand in his voice which the traveler through biblical Purgatory understands.

The Lord often answers our queries with His own, and Job received four chapters of them. The Lord concluded His lengthy interrogatories with none-too-casual observation about children of pride. And Job, purged of his pride, repented of his query with his face on the ground.

Job received not an answer but a purging. No mere pawn in a contest between God and devil, Job held a status as beloved of God. What the devil meant for evil, God used for good, adding multiplied blessings to Job's intense but brief suffering.

So it shall be for us, as the Holy Spirit continues His work of preparing a pure and glorious bride for her Bridegroom.

"If you're going through hell, keep going."
~ Winston Churchill

Faithful Father, whatever the fire, please carry us through it, beyond it, to the place of blessing.

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – use *after* buildingHisbody
Copyright 2012, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.