Man Food

Several of the recent conversations on The Front Porch Swing have been heavy. Caution: more to come later.

But, this afternoon let’s just enjoy a few minutes together without deep theological issues or a sermonette.

My wife recently saw a quaint wooden sign at our local Hobby Lobby with rules for a front porch. It even had a swing on the sign so she snapped a picture with her I-Phone camera. I have been saving it for a day like today- beautiful, warm autumn afternoon in Central Oregon.

I trust you can read most of the guidelines for using a front porch swing effectively. Feeling the breeze. Enjoying friends and family. No flowers left to smell here but a few autumn colored leaves cling to the tree out front.

So, guys, what do you prepare for lunch when your wife is out shopping or sipping tea with her friends?

What’s the “go to item” in your “man cupboard?”

For me, when I am on my own to prepare a meal for myself, you can wager it will probably be something from the sea. I love seafood. On a cruise, I am a site to behold. Seafood for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Is that a taste of heaven?

But, left home alone today, I went to the pantry to retrieve my “go to menu.” A can of sardines, yep! I don’t dare fetch them when the grandkids are here lest I hear groans and threats to vomit from the aroma. Out of respect for Mary, I only eat the little fish when she is gone.

I know you all want the recipe so here it is: one tin of sardines, two slices of bread with butter, a dollop of yellow mustard and a slice of sweet onion topped with lettuce.

That’s it. I savor each bite- grateful for a little fish that sacrificed itself just for me. I eat to the glory of God and sense, I think, His pleasure. After all Jesus fed a multitude with a boy’s biscuits and sardines. Doesn’t get a whole lot better than that, at least not when I am home alone.

So, guys, what’s in your man cave pantry? What’s your go to item? Hey, if it is a sardine sandwich, ring me up.

Perhaps we can sit on our front porch and listen to the birds and the breeze while we imbibe on the bounty from the deep.

When Good becomes Evil

I’m angry and approaching livid.

It upset me when I read the account of a 10-year-old boy in Tarboro, North Carolina, who was recently disciplined by his fifth-grade teacher for referring to her as “ma’am.”

Teretha Wilson said she noticed something was wrong when Tamarion got off the school bus from North East Carolina Preparatory School. “I asked him what happened,” she explained. “He said he got in trouble for saying ‘yes ma’am.’”

Tamarion pulled out a sheet of paper with the word “ma’am” written on it four times per line on both sides. He says his teacher told him to write the word on the sheet because he kept referring to her as “ma’am” despite her instruction not to. As part of his punishment, Tamarion also had to have the paper signed by a parent.

The next afternoon, Mrs. Wilson met with Tamarion’s teacher and the school’s principal. Mrs. Wilson also brought a separate piece of paper on which her son had written the definition of ma’am. (According to the Oxford Dictionary, ma’am is defined as “a term of respectful or polite address used for a woman.” The dictionary in my study adds, “…especially for a woman in authority.”)

I wonder how Tamarion’s teacher might have responded if the young boy had, like so many today, simply smarted off in class? Would she have responded as severely? I don’t apologize for using the word severe to describe a teacher humiliating a child who has been taught by his parents to show respect for adults. Honestly, I question who was the “childish” one in the classroom that day?

I suspect the prophet Isaiah might have responded, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)

Just writing those words from Isaiah retrieves the memory of an autumn Sunday afternoon in the late 1950s. My uncle was listening to The Hour of Decision radio broadcast with his head literally bowed over the radio. Billy Graham had chosen the above text from Isaiah for his sermon—a sermon so powerful I can still hear his voice pronouncing Isaiah’s curse on those who dare call evil good and good evil. Billy was livid as he preached against the gross moral degradation in America back then in the “Leave it to Beaver” era. (Some of you younger readers may need to ask your grandparents about the Beaver.) Billy was warning about God’s judgment on cultural sins; things that now seem almost innocent. Billy Graham and Isaiah could have been describing our contemporary culture.

Before I continue, please hear my confession. My first sentence in this blog is not true. Sure, I was a little angry when I read about Tamarion Wilson being disciplined for calling his teacher “ma’am.” It wasn’t fair. In fact, it was downright wrong. Was I livid? No, not really. After briefly venting I forgot about all about Tamarion.

If you are really interested in seeing me reach “livid” on the anger chart, you need to be here the next time I receive another robocall offering me a low or no interest Visa account. Just got another call a couple of hours ago.

This company has harassed me with calls for almost two years. I have reported them to the government “no call” Website; I have punched #3 on the phone, as per their instruction, to say that I do not want to be called again. I’ve told them again and again (and again) that I am not interested. I have asked to speak to their supervisors who always promise to remove me from the list. On one occasion I actually threatened to come to Atlanta and hunt them down.

That’s livid, I guess.

But it’s also a shallow, selfish, rather carnal response to a minor irritation.

Unfortunately, I seldom approach livid when I see real injustice or when I hear somebody justifying same-sex-marriage. Even worse, in my mind, are those who not only publicly support such behavior but also demean and attack anybody who dares to disagree. That is calling what God calls evil, good.

So-called progressive thinkers today dare to call someone evil when they speak up in defense of the unborn. Perhaps you’ve heard about Chelsea Clinton’s statement that to roll back Roe vs. Wade is almost unchristian. My response? When is it unchristian to defend those who have no voice? “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”

Throughout the Bible, God clearly declares His concern for the vulnerable and warns those who would dare to oppress them. Who among us is more vulnerable than little children—whether in the one-time security of the womb or the classroom? Who is more vulnerable than newly arriving immigrant children? How about the elderly—once on the protected list, but today too often neglected, defrauded or even physically abused?

When did our culture get turned so upside down that wrong became right and right, wrong?

I am convinced the battle against the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was less about his qualifications or character than the fear of having another conservative justice with traditional social values on the Supreme Court. It was more about being free to call evil good than doing something righteous.

To illustrate my point, consider Senator Cory Booker’s public comments back in July, shortly after President Trump nominated Kavanaugh and prior to any of the charges of rape Christine Blasely Ford leveled against the candidate. Booker used Scripture (Psalm 23 and credited it to Abraham not David) and stated that Kavanaugh was “evil” and anyone who supported his nomination was “complicit in evil.” Remember, these statements were made before any charges had been made against the justice’s character.

I can’t declare Justice Kavanaugh innocent or guilty. God knows every heart. But I am angry about the façade of liberal Democrat senators pretending their opposition to Kavanaugh was about something moral and good. Call it what it was! An effort to preserve status quo where right is considered wrong and wrong is right.

So is it right to be angry—even livid—today when I see wrong being justified? You bet it’s okay! God set the example throughout history.

If you think I speak as an old man, you’re correct. I grieve for the world we are creating for my grandchildren and great grandchildren. But I am encouraged when I remember there will be a day when God will have the last word—when the One true, righteous Judge renders the final verdict. He is the one true Supreme Court over all nations and every person who has ever lived, including Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and even a group of senators playing charades.

A Royal Invitation

Imagine receiving an envelope in your mailbox.

I’m talking about your real mailbox, not the icon on your smartphone

At first glance it’s unlike any letter you have ever received. Turning the envelope over you see a very official looking seal. Perhaps it even has a faint aroma…something royal. You read the following return address: Westminster, London SW1A 1AA, UK

What in the world? The postage mark on the unusual stamp is London, England. Curiosity drives you to carefully open the envelope right there on the street corner. Inside is another, more elaborate envelope with an invitation card like none you have seen. Trembling with anticipation you read: “Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, invites you to a private audience with Her Royal highness including an informal afternoon tea.”

This isn’t the formal high tea served in the evening on a high table with a hot meal. No, this will be time with just you and the Queen, for the purpose of getting to know one another.

I think it would be wonderful. I would say yes immediately and start looking up ticket prices to Heathrow. But I’m not holding my breath. It will never happen, and what I get in the mail these days looks more like a bill or an ad. But honestly, what if? It would make me tremble just to think about it.

After all. Who am I? Just an ordinary guy living in Central Oregon. I wouldn’t know how to act in the presence of royalty. Is it appropriate to wipe my lips on the royal napkin? What if I choked on a scone or spilled my tea. And for that matter, what could we possibly talk about?

But maybe you know where I’m going with this.

There is a royal invitation. With my name on it. It’s waiting for me to open and accept every morning and every minute of every day. This invitation doesn’t come from the Queen of England. No! It comes from the High King of the entire universe. The Lord of angel armies. And when I think about it, if think long and clearly enough, it makes me tremble. If I am unworthy to spend personal time with the House of Windsor, how much more with the living God?

I invite you to read over my shoulder as I open this unparalleled invitation. After all, it has your name on it, too.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22, niv)

In last week’s blog, Moses was restrained from entering the tabernacle by the cloud of God’s glory. Inside the tent a thick curtain separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. Only the high priest dared enter the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies—and that was just once a year on the Day of Atonement when he offered the blood of sacrificial animals for his own sins and also for the sins of his people. To make one minor mistake meant immediate death. Can you imagine the fear and intimidation the high priest experienced? There would have been no cocky, self-confidence performing this annual ministry.

Not so today. The author of Hebrews writes about ordinary people like you and me having confidence to enter “the Most Holy Place.” You and I have been invited into the very presence of the holy God. We are not trusting in the blood of an innocent animal but in the blood of Jesus Christ, the true Lamb of God, that was sacrificed once for all time for sinners just like us.

When Jesus died on the cross the evidential proof that this invitation is sincere was the ripping open of the curtain separating the two holy places in the temple. No longer do we need to depend on a human priest to present a sacrifice that satisfies God’s just wrath over our sins. Jesus is our high priest today. He is our Mediator and Advocate before the transcendent, holy God and invites us to come boldly, drawing “near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”

Paul wrote, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12, niv) Consider that for a moment. We—you and I—can approach God with confidence!

John affirms, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 Jn. 5:13-15, niv). Trusting in Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension we can know we already enjoy eternal life and we can approach God with confidence, daring to speak with our heavenly Father.

Greg Morris, on the June 3, 2018 Desiring God Website wrote, “The question can never be, ‘Who are you to go God in prayer?’ The question now is, ‘Who are you to stay away when the King has invited you?’”

We are who God says we are in Christ. We have been chosen and are now His children—no longer orphans.

So why not open that envelope, sealed with the blood of Jesus, and accept the invitation to enjoy time in the presence of the King of Kings? Don’t worry about spilling tea or getting the napkin dirty.

Come just as you are, in Christ.