“Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” A wonderful prayer for many occasions

While reading in Acts recently, I was struck by Stephen’s last words (Acts 7: 60, above), and by the power they could have as a prayer for anyone.  If you see something you know to be wrong, you can pray this prayer; it replaces anger with hope.  It can be used for the small or the big; for individual actions or world events.  It is a cry for healing and forgiveness.  I think when you ask God to forgive someone, you forgive them a little bit yourself.  Maybe not completely, but at least you start the process.  Moreover, you take the focus off of the wicked or foolish action and put it on Divine Power.  I think when we mull over the wrong, we often place it “on the throne”; we are correct to be righteously indignant, but incorrect to let negative thoughts supercede thoughts of God’s grace and power. 

Of course, one cannot help also thinking of Jesus’ powerful words at His crucifixion:  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23: 34). 

Sins are committed for a variety of reasons–ignorance, malice, foolishness, weakness, pride, greed, fear…the list goes on…  Whatever the case may be, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” 

 

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God’s still, small voice

I Kings 19:9-13:  “…and, behold, the word of the Lord came to [Elijah], and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?  And he said…the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.  And he said, Go forth [from this cave], and stand upon the mount before the Lord.  And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind:  and after the wind was an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:  And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire:  and after the fire a still, small voice.  And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.  And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?”

At this point Elijah repeats his story of the unfaithfulness of Israel and the plot on his life.  God then gives him instructions about where to go and what to do, and informs him that there is yet a remnant of seven thousand souls in Israel who are not worshippers of Baal.

There is very little I can add here that the receptive mind will not already perceive, but I do have one specific comment. 

This passage immediately puts me in mind of the basic fallacy behind the noisy, me-centered worship in many churches today.  Instead of treating God’s house with reverence and dignity and waiting quietly for His great Spirit to speak, many Christians today are treating church as merely another entertainment:  the music is loud and worldly (often with vague, self-centered lyrics about “feelings” instead of sound doctrine), the atmosphere grotesquely chatty and casual and geared toward creature-comforts (jeans and flip-flops and a latte bought in the lobby), and preaching which values showmanship over substance. 

How can anyone hear the still, small voice of God amid all this clatter?  Church should be a refuge from the busyness and confusion of the world, not an extension of it.  Besides, I think it is pretty clear from this passage that if there’s any great show of force to be made, it will be by God, not by us.  We can jump around and turn our amps up and wave our arms and  shout “Amen” till the cows come home, but it is merely a puny, self-pleasing display, lacking in both humility and reverence.

Christians, grow up and stop demanding to be entertained.  Listen for the still, small voice.

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Ruminations on the earth*

The American poet Wallace Stevens wrote, “The greatest poverty is not to live in a physical world.”  I have been thinking lately of this “physical world” which we all inhabit, and how straying too far from it and its truths is unwise, if not disastrous.

Think of the Bible, and the way in which mind, body and spirit are constantly described in terms of physical life–wind, water, air, sun, seed, and soil.  This seems to be something that everyone understands, regardless of rank, station, creed, color, or education.

Much of the world is consumed by the physical necessities of existence.  Thankfully, we here in America are mostly insulated from the pressing daily problems of food, water, and hygeine.  For instance, when we say, “There’s nothing to eat in the house,” we usually mean there is not enough to provide a sumptuous meal, or not exactly what we immediately crave.  In actuality, our perceived lack would be considered opulence in much of the world.  And, of course, our water–clean, for the most part–comes (hot or cold) as an act of magic…from a tap inside our home.

All of this ease is progress of which to be proud; it has assisted us in eliminating so much needless want and disease, and we should never apologize for innovations which raise our standards of human dignity.

We should also never forget that behind all this convenience, the physical reality of the earth is still our foundation.  Sociologists believe that civilizations cannot  progress into the realm of art, music, philosophy, religion, etc., without first conquering physical privation.  This can be seen to some extent in the devlopment of our own country; men and women hacking their way into the North American wilderness did not have time, energy, or inclination to write sonnets or compose concertos–meaningless abstractions when confronting the realities of basic survival.

And yet, inevitably, any civilized society, once stabilized, will proceed naturally from the things of the earth to the things of the mind.  Once the flesh is satisfied, the soul must be, also.  If nothing else, there is always the desire, once the story is lived, to tell it and try to make sense of it.  Art, music, and literature are man’s way of telling about his journey of existence–progressing organically from the basic truth of “I Am Here,” to the narrative of “How I Am Here,” and finally to the philosophy of “Why I Am Here.”

So we see that the world of ideas is based in the experiences of the earth, in the physical world. 

I would conclude, by both experience and observation, that we become sad, useless, and confused when we stray too far from this basic truth–that we are physical creatures.  By this I do not mean that we are to be “worldly”–indeed, as Christians we are called out of the world and into a life in Christ, a life in the Spirit, a life in which the Spirit overcomes the base wants of the flesh.   What I mean is that when we pile too many purely mental blocks one upon another, they inevitably collapse in a heap of nothingness.  When we absorb and accept too many purely “intellectual” things without understanding their origins in the physical world we are engaging in mental games, not in productive thinking which leads to wisdom.

For what it’s worth, my advice for maintaining mental stability is to try to connect each philosophy or idea to some known reality.  A baseless idea is the proverbial house built on sand which will slide away into ruin. 

The Bible had it right all along, of course. 

Addendum:  A related idea, the myth of Hercules and Antaeus (from Wikipedia):  “[Antaeus] was indefatigably strong as long as he remained in contact with the ground (his mother earth), but once lifted into the air he became as weak as other men.  [Hercules], finding that he could not beat Antaeus by throwing him to the ground as he would regain his strength and be fortified, discovered the secret of his power and, holding Antaeus aloft, crushed him in a bearhug.  The story of Antaeus has been used as a symbol of the spiritual strength which accrues when one rests one’s faith on the immediate fact of things. The struggle between Antaeus and Heracles is a favorite subject in ancient and Renaissance sculpture.”

*not the “environment”…

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Was the parting of the Red Sea the only time waters were parted in the Bible?

No.

Joshua, who succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites, was told by God that He would part the waters of the Jordan River for the entrance of God’s people (and the ark of the covenant) into the land of Caanan. 

Joshua 3:15-17:  “…as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water…the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away…and the people crossed over opposite Jericho.  Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground…”  Joshua 4:9 adds, “Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenenat stood; and they are there to this day.”

The prophets Elijah and Elisha also parted the waters of the Jordan River. 

2 Kings 2:8:  “Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them [Elijah and Elisha] crossed over on dry ground.”  When they had crossed, Elisha, knowing that Elijah was about to be taken up to heaven, asked that a double portion of Elijah’s spirit be upon him from that time forth.  Elijah answered that if Elisha actually saw him being taken away, this would be granted; Elisha did see, and “…he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, ‘Where is the Lord God of Elijah?’  And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over” (2 Kings 2:14).

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Hurl Rock, or Hurl Rocks, or The Hurl Rocks, or Hearl Rock(s), or The Indigo Rock(s)…

If you know what I’m talking about already, you are one of a dwindling number!

When I was a young thang visiting Myrtle Beach, we would usually stay at the Swamp Fox Motor Inn, which was just a short walk (south) from what I always knew as “Hurl Rock.”  This was a large (I’m estimating half-a-football-field’s-worth) grouping of slippery black/grayish mossy rocks which protruded unevenly from the sand;  the tallest ones were not much more than a foot off the ground.  They went maybe 20 or 30 yards out into the ocean, so at low tide some people would wade out and fish from them.  At high tide, they were not visible.  Climbing on them was slippery business.  Across the street was a Hurl Rock Motel, and out on Kings Highway (U.S. 17) was (I think) a Hurl Rock Mini-Golf (or some similar name).  Anyway, this little area, not more than a couple of blocks square, was known informally as Hurl Rock.  The original name had been “Hearl” (an Horry County surname), but was later changed to the simplified spelling; so, even though the ocean does hurl itself against the rocks, and although a few people and small boats over the years have probably been hurled as well, this is not the reason for the name.  In fact, the rocks were at one time called the Indigo Rocks, probably because the area nearby was known for the cultivation of that plant (a motel called the Indigo Inn is still nearby). 

So…imagine my surprise when, many years later, I asked a lifeguard in the area about Hurl Rock…and she had no idea what I was talking about!

Well, turns out it’s not her fault; the rocks were apparently covered up during a beach renovation some years ago.  This is what they looked like in the 1970’s and 80’s: 

Photo undated.  Click to enlarge.

There is, indeed, a small city park in this area.  The next photo is a diagram of the ocean in the marked area (A through A’).

Click to enlarge.  The following chart shows the changes the shoreline has undergone from 1989 to 2007:

Apparently the rocks were covered over sometime in 1997 when the beach was “nourished” with extra sand.  Click for a larger view.

This plaque stands in the Hurl Rocks Park parking lot, Ocean Boulevard at 20th Avenue South.  When Bartram first discovered the rocks, they were as much as six feet tall, but were subsequently significantly eroded.

This sounds vaguely threatening… (Photo taken by yours truly in June of 2011.)

And finally, the name lives on in yet another way:

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Myth: Jesus appears only in the New Testament

Fact:  Jesus appears many times in the Old Testament, although not always by name.  For example:

In the book of Daniel, chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship a pagan god.  The fire does not burn them up; rather, when the king looks into the furnace he says, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (verse 25).

This is just one of many examples.  The theological term for an appearance of Christ before he appeared in bodily form on earth is Christophany.

(Art by George Kornegay)

By the way, Isaiah 43:2 says, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

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Valley of the Dry Bones: Ezekiel 37: 1-3

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about:  and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.  And he said unto me, son of man, can these bones live?  And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.”  (KJV)

THE FOLLOWING TEXT IS FROM http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/6412713/content/60076697-the-valley-of-mysterious-dry-bones

During the May 2004 Operation Imminent Trumpet Expedition in Israel a group was taken to a mysterious valley in the wilderness of Zin where the burial place of Aaron is located on the mountain seen in the background. It was here that the children of Israel wandered for forty years in this harsh desert and thus did not enter the promises because of unbelief. What is so mysterious about this valley and what has baffled archeologists and geologists, was how did these hundreds of thousands of rounded stones get here at the base of this mountain? With this seen nowhere else in Israel, how did this placement of smooth large stones come about? Did the ancient Israelites place them here to commemorate the death of their families or did God supernaturally create this valley for a future purpose?

You will notice that this valley is exclusively covered with rounded stones and rarely is one stone found on top of another! One Israeli archeologist believes that this is the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37) and that this is the location not only to commemorate the burial place of Aaron, but also of the entire generation of Israelites that were laid low in the wilderness by God. This site is located just a few kilometers away from…the entry point that the 12 spies were sent by Moses into the Promised land.

These unusual stones are made up of calcium and phosphate (exactly what is contained in human bones)…and since this is the same area that the Children of Israel could not enter the Promised Land, and later died in this wilderness during their forty year march, then this is a very special and mysterious valley indeed!

And the Lord said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, Thou knowest.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ So I prophesied as He commanded me and the breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.” Therefore prophesy, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My People; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.” (Ezekiel 37:3-4;10-12)

Tel Aviv : Israel | Jul 29, 2010
 
The American version?
 
 

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