Where do we draw the line between obedience and defiance to authority? Maybe that is not the right question. Maybe it's more a matter of who - and whose - we understand ourselves to be.
Daniel 3:12-18; Job 13:15-16, 19:25-27; Thessalonians 5:8-11; Revelation 12:10-11
The Fiery Furnace, Gustave Doré.
Music: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo,” The Abyssinians, The Abyssinians Live, Ackee Dist 2012.
No matter how diligently we try to avoid controversy and hard choices, eventually they overtake us. It is another paradox of life that even refusing to choose one way or another often means to have made a choice, and in so doing to endure even greater harm. This is not new. Our ancestors going back to the beginning have dealt with hard decisions. What can their choices teach us?
Exodus 1:8-10; 1 Samuel 23:15-18; 2 Samuel 2:8-11, 3:6-21; 1 Kings 2:5-6; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Romans 12:14-13:15; Ephesians 6:10-19
Scene from Shenandoah, 1965 film starring James Stewart. Imaged by Heritage Auctions, HA.com.
Music: “Shenandoah,” Mitch Miller and The Sing-Along Gang, The Essential Mitch Miller, Columbia/Legacy 2014.
Life is one grand paradox. To enjoy life to its fullest, we have to live within the boundaries our Creator established, even if those boundaries displease us. Going beyond those boundaries to grasp more of life brings very disagreeable consequences, but what happens when we stay within those boundaries even when they are constricting, unpleasant, and painful?
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-19; 1 Kings 3:5-14; Isaiah 5:18-24; Romans 6:8-11
1963 paperback edition of Joseph Heller's Catch-22.
Music: “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” by George Bassman and Ned Washington, performed by Members of the Original Tommy Dorsey Band, Original Big Band Collection: Tommy Dorsey, Classic Fox Records 2007.
How fractured is humanity? The Scripture record says we have been fighting one another from the very beginning. Will we ever get over that and be at peace with one another? Yes, that is our Creator's promise. However, He also gives us responsibility to work toward that promise. Oh yes, we do need His help to get there, but if we don't put forth the effort, how will we even begin the journey?
Genesis 4:6-12, 44:18-34; Ezekiel 37:15-28; John 17:20-23, 26
"Two Brothers" statue that stood at the entrance of Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska, from 1977 to 2017. Photo: Nonpareil photos, “Boystown,” Council Bluffs Public Library, accessed December 21, 2020.
Music: “He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," Bobby Scott and Bob Russell, performed by The South African National Symphony Orchestra, Classic Unchained Melodies, Prestige Elite, 2007.
Most people just want to live in peace, but there are always a few who want to take that peace from them. Why do the majority let them do it? Maybe because they don't think there is a need to do anything about the evil in their midst until circumstances get so bad that they have to do something about it. Apparently this is a common thread of our shared humanity. So how do we change it - or should we even try?
Judges 6:6-20, 7:19-25; 1 Samuel 14:6-23; 2 Kings 6:16-17; Psalm 44: 17-26; Romans 8:31-39
Photo from The Magnificent Seven, 1960 film starring (L-R) Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, Horst Buchholz, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, and James Coburn. Imaged by Heritage Auctions, HA.com.
Music: “The Magnificent Seven,” by Elmer Bernstein, The Magnificent Seven Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Sony Masterworks, 2016.
We live in the present, but we are linked inextricably with those who have come before - just as those who come after are linked with us. What do we remember of our fathers and mothers of old? Do we want our sons and daughters to remember us in the same way?
Psalm 34:16-23; Hebrews 11:13-16, 32-40, 12:1-3; Acts 7
JRR Tolkien, shortly before his death in 1973. Shelfmark: MS. Tolkien photogr. 8, fol. 122 Image by © The Tolkien Trust 1977.
Music: “Into the West,” by Annie Lennox, Fran Walsh, and Howard Shore, performed by Peter Hollens, Misty Mountains: Songs Inspired by The Hobbit and Lord of the Ring, Peter Hollens, 2016.
There is merit to living in the moment. After all, we don't want to miss out on what is right in front of us. However, if we do not understand how we came to that moment, then we might miss something even more important.
Exodus 20:12; Psalm 106:43-46; Malachi 4:5-6; Luke 1:68-79; 1 John 2:13-14
Dennis Quaid (L) and Louis Gossett, Jr. (R) in the 1985 film, Enemy Mine.
Music: “Firebird Lullaby & Final Hymn,” Firebird Suite, by Igor Stravinsky, performed by Igor Stravinsky conducting the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of New York, Firebird Suite (1945) and Fireworks - Fantasy for Orchestra, Op. 4 (1908), Columbia Masterworks, 1947.
Courage is always desirable, but it can be dangerous if recklessly pursued. If our God exhorts us to be strong and of good courage, then maybe we should learn how to cultivate the kind of courage He would find admirable.
1 Samuel 15:22; Proverbs 14:12, 16:25; Matthew 8:5-13; Mark 12:28-34
The First Minnesota, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 2, 1863, by Don Troiani, National Guard Bureau.
Music: "The Battle Cry of Freedom," Gettysburg College Singers, Songs of the Civil War, Vintage Music, 2015.
Everyone wants to be a good citizen and a good neighbor, or at least that's what we should want. But is that enough? Perhaps there is more to living out our Kingdom calling than simply trying to avoid evil.
Jeremiah 5:20-31; Matthew 5:13-20, 23:27-28; 1 Peter 5:5-11
Chancellor Adolf Hitler and President Paul von Hindenburg, March 21, 1933, Bundesarchiv Bild 183-S38324 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons.
Music: "In the Hall of the Mountain King," Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46: IV, by Edvard Grieg, performed by Wiliam T. Strømberg conducting the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Edvard Grieg Music to Henrik Ibsen Peer Gynt, Blikkboks Ltd, 2018.
Our Messiah won a decisive victory at the cross, but He did not call us to lay down our arms. In fact, He said He had come to bring a sword to the earth, not peace. How can this be? This is another paradox, but the answer becomes clear when we understand the type of warfare He calls and equips us to wage.
Judges 3:1-4; Isaiah 2:2-5; Micah 4:1-5; Matthew 10:34-39; Luke 22:35-38; 1 Corinthians 15:42-47; 2 Corinthians 10:1-6
The Minute Man, Daniel Chester French, Concord, Massachusetts, via Wikimedia Commons.
Music: "The Minstrel Boy," Thomas Moore, performed by The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, Irish Gold: The Best of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Essential Media Group, 2007.