“Asleep In the Light”

I was dumbfounded when I read James Dobson’s July 2019 newsletter, in which he described his visit to the border at McAllen, Texas. He called it heart-wrenching. At one point he asked an official to tell some “skinny young men” in a holding pen (and my heart cracked as I thought of my own son) that God loved them, and that he did too.

But then. His finishing paragraph:

I can only report that without an overhaul of the law and the allocation of resources, millions of illegal immigrants will continue flooding to this great land from around the world. Many of them have no marketable skills. They are illiterate and unhealthy. Some are violent criminals. Their numbers will soon overwhelm the culture as we have known it, and it could bankrupt the nation. America has been a wonderfully generous and caring country since its founding. That is our Christian nature. But in this instance, we have met a worldwide wave of poverty that will take us down if we don’t deal with it. And it won’t take long for the inevitable consequences to happen.

NO MARKETABLE SKILLS? Should we have compassion only on those who can bring us profit? ILLITERATE AND UNHEALTHY? Should we turn from them, lest they infect us? THEY THREATEN TO OVERWHELM THE CULTURE AS WE HAVE KNOWN IT? Is our way of life, the Culture As We Have Known It™ our god?

How could you, Mr. Dobson, look at these people from the other side of a holding pen fence and say, “God loves you and so do I”, and then turn and warn American Christians that people such as these must be pushed back and held away lest they “flood our great land” and “take us down”? Whose ambassador are you?

We Western Christians need a fresh reading of St. James. We are in terrible danger – not of the hordes of immigrants (nor liberals, nor terrorists, nor atheists), but of our own hearts. We need to wash our hands and purify our hearts. Grieving and mourning is in order.

“Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days… You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.” (JAMES 2, 4, 5)

 "Do you see?
Do you see?
All the people sinking down?
Don't you care?
Don't you care?
Are you gonna let them drown?
How can you be so numb?!
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done
"Oh, bless me, Lord!
Bless me, Lord!"
You know, it's all I ever hear!
No one aches,
No one hurts,
No one even sheds one tear
But, he cries,
He weeps,
He bleeds,
And he cares for your needs
And you just lay back,
And keep soaking it in
Oh, can't you see such sin?!
'cause he brings people to your door,
And you turn them away
As you smile and say,
"God bless you!
Be at peace!"
And all heaven just weep,
'cause Jesus came to your door,
You left him out on the streets
Open up! open up!
And give yourself away
You see the need,
You hear the cries,
So how can you delay?!
God is calling,
And you are the one
But like Jonah, you run
He told you to speak, 
But you keep holding it in
Oh, can't you see such sin?!
The world is sleeping in the dark, 
That the church just can't fight,
'cause it's asleep in the light!
How can you be so dead?!
When you've been so well famed
Jesus rose from the grave,
And you!
You can't even get out of bed!
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead!
Come on, get out of your bed!
How can you be so numb?!
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done!
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done!
Don't close your eyes,
Don't pretend the job is done
Come away! come away!
Come away with me, my love!
Come away from this mess,
Come away with me, my love!
Come away from this mess!
Come away with me, my love!
Come away,
Come away with me my love!"

“Asleep In the Light” as written by Keith Gordon Green. Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP

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Amazing Holiness

Holiness is seriously lacking in the church today, or so I keep hearing. It’s not exactly a novel diagnosis – Spurgeon was making basically the same criticism over 100 years ago. The accusation is that there is more fun than gravity in our meetings, more world than godliness, more entertainment than Bible. “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep.” The apostle James’ words are borrowed and prescribed. “Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.”

I will not deny the absolute essentiality of holiness. Neither will I say that holiness does not ever involve tears, or that it never inspires solemnity. But I will say that I don’t believe tears or solemnity are its prime expressions. I want to defy the notion that holiness is austere, and that it is displayed chiefly by rigorous morality and a formal meeting style.

What, then, is holiness? Fundamentally, it is drawing near to God and learning to be like him. This will take many shapes! N. D. Wilson described it thus. Read and enjoy!

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“We say we want to be like God, and we feel we mean it. But we don’t. Not to be harsh, but if we did really mean it, we would be having a lot more fun than we are. We aim for safety and cultural respectability instead of following our stated first principles: that we are made in God’s image and should strive to imitate him.

A dolphin flipping through the sun beyond the surf, a falcon in a dive, a mutt in the back of a truck, flying his tongue like a flag of joy, all reflect the Maker more wholly than many of our endorsed thinkers, theologians, and churchgoers.

Look over our day-to-day lives. How do we parent, for example? Rules. Fears. Don’ts. Don’t jump on the couch. No gluten in this house. Get down from that tree. Quiet down. Hold still. We live as if God were an infinite list of negatives. He is holiness, the rawest and richest of all purity. In our bent way of thinking, that makes him the biggest stress-out of all.

But how does God parent? He gave us one rule at the beginning: “You must not eat from that tree.” Only one tree was held back. Besides, he was giving us an entire planet. A hot star. Wild animals to discover and name and tame. Animals with fangs and sinews that rippled in the sun. He gave us the Dragon to beat that beat us instead. And then he stooped down to save.

So now we have two rules—love God, love others—along with imputed righteousness, grace for our failures, and a door through the grave into eternal life. Do we act like all this is true?

Our Father wove glory and joy into every layer of this world. He wove in secrets that would tease us into centuries of risk-taking before we could unlock them—flight, glass, electricity, chocolate. He buried gold deep, but scattered sand everywhere. And from the sand came all the wealth of our own age.

Our God made things simple and funny—skin bags full of milk swinging beneath cows. And also hard: Skim the cream, add sugar from cane grass and shards of vanilla bean from faraway lands, surround with water cold enough to have expanded its molecules and become solid. Now stir. Keep stirring. Now taste. And worship.

Us: No more for you, Johnny. You’ve had enough.

God: Try the hot fudge.

God hung easily picked fruit on trees, and he hid the secrets of fine wine at the end of a scavenger hunt. He made horses with strong flat backs, lending themselves to an obvious use, and he hid jet wings behind the mysteries of steel and fossil fuels.

Without any creative help at all, our God made up peanuts and bulgy tubers. Squeeze out the peanut oil and boil it. Slice the tubers and throw them in. Now add salt from the sea.

Us: Those will kill you.

God: Take and eat.

We should strive for holiness, but holiness is a flood, not an absence. Are you the kind of parent who can create joys for your children that they never imagined wanting? Does your sun shine, warming the faces of others? Does your rain green the world around you? Do you end your days with anything resembling a sunset? Do you begin with a dawn?

We say that we would like to be more like God. So be more thrilled with moonlight. And babies. And what makes them. And holding on to one lover until you’ve both been aged to wine, ready to pour. Holiness is nothing like a building code. Holiness is 80-year-old hands crafting an apple pie for others, again. It is aspen trees in a backlit breeze. It is fire on the mountain.

Speak your joy. Mean it. Sing it. Do it. Push it down into your bones. Let it overflow your banks and flood the lives of others.

At his right hand, there are pleasures forevermore. When we are truly like him, the same will be said of us.” [1]

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[1] https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/april/lighten-up-christians-god-loves-good-time.html (accessed 02/15/19)