“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I want to noodle over with you the notion of authority, the right to impose one’s will on something or someone else, which also comes with the right to inflict pain upon the non-compliant. Jesus claims all authority in heaven and on earth, which means he has the right to impose his will on anyone or anything. He will reward those who comply and punish those who don’t.
When I got in the truck to head to the church this morning (which Violet refers to as “Bob’s house”), I left with the kind of smile on my face that can only come from being kissed goodbye by a loving, lovely wife and an adoring, adorable two-year-old daughter. On my way, half-listening to John MacArthur’s excellent sermon from this past Sunday again, half musing on church life in the era of Covid, and half wondering why I enjoyed those kisses so much, my mind began to dwell on the Apostle’s oft-repeated exhortation to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
“Alice, did you know your Daddy loves you?”
“Alice, do you know Jesus loves you?”
“Alice, pretty soon Jesus is going to send some of his friends to get you so you can go visit him, ok? They’re really nice and you don’t have to be afraid.”
Then she looked up at me with a smile and a twinkle in her eye and said, “But you can’t come with!”
Not yet. But soon enough.
- Alice in the Palace
Today, June 8, marks the second anniversary of Alice’s death. Two years since we’ve gotten to hold her; two less years until we see her again.
To mark the day, I want to make her story available to as many as possible, so this week it’s available on Amazon for $5.99, which is about as low as Amazon will allow. If you buy the print edition, you can get the kindle version free.
It gives me great delight to know Alice’s brief life continues to be used by God for the good of his people. For my part, I read Alice in the Palace again over the course of a couple nights this week, and it was sweetly painful and pleasurable to relive that journey. After all, remembering her always makes me happy, and if her death didn’t still hurt a little bit, that would just suck. I had some memories I’d quite forgotten about jarred loose, and it was fun to hear her voice in my head once again.
I was happy to discover that the things I was thinking and writing about God then are the same things I’d write today. I might be able to say it better, but wouldn’t say it and different. I am happy to offer no regrets or retractions. His promises have not failed us.
To buy Alice in the Palace, click here. If I was good at marketing I’d say leave a rating and a review, but I’m not.
To read an article I wrote for our church newsletter about some of the way Alice’s death has impacted my life, see here
When I get to heaven, I plan to make two requests: First, and for obvious reasons, I will file for an exception to the no-marriage policy for Michele and me. Second, Vasiliy, “my Russian friend,” and I desire to be next-door neighbors for all eternity.
I hope to bring Vasiliy to Lewis Lake soon and ask him to recount how, in his younger years back in the Soviet Union, he used to wake up in the middle of the night (a different night each week), make his way down dark streets and alleys for a mile or so, careful to not rouse the dog stationed outside every house, sneak into a dimly lit, tightly shuttered home where he’d find a small group of Christians slowly assembling. To minimize suspicions they spaced out arrivals and departures, since being found out by the KGB could mean years in a Soviet prison, and believe me, that was no picnic. Finally assembled, a few songs were quietly whispered, prayers would be offered, someone would read the Bible, someone share a few words, then he’d slip silently back home, crawling into bed around 4AM, only to get back up at five to begin a grueling day of labor under the cruel, corrupt communist regime.
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Now that we are, for better or worse, temporarily but intentionally shuttering certain businesses, activities, and institutions, and I have my fingers crossed that the civil liberties taken from the American citizenry will be handed back to us as freely and quickly as they were taken, we find ourselves categorizing certain kinds of activity as “essential” and others as “non-essential.”
The concept of essential is simple enough: In this particular pandemic, the value of certain activities continuing outweighs the progress made against the coronavirus if they were stopped. The societal value of getting your hair cut and colored is less than the value of spreading COVID-19 to everyone at the salon, so let’s just all suck it up and deal with being and looking at uglier people for a while. In our purest moments, we admit that good looks are a luxury, not a necessity. On the other hand, if we, in the name of public health, quarantine the guys who feed the gerbils running the wheels at the electric company, we’ll quickly discover the tragedy of thousands dead from COVID-19 is a picnic compared to the catastrophe of world in blackout. You think life is hard now.
A hierarchy of essential is emerging. Doctors – essential. Theaters – not essential. Grocery delivery trucks – essential. Elective surgery – not essential. Dismembering the inconvenient unborn – essential. Liquor stores – essential. Eggs over easy, bacon, and white toast, served with a smile every Wednesday morning by Lois, my favorite waitress, who hasn’t bothered to take my order for a year because she already knows what I want – not essential. Lois and I, not to mention the café owner, might disagree.
Churches are now wrestling to find their place in this hierarchy – how essential are they? This is the question I want to explore for a little bit.
But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:15
We’re living through a bit of a national nightmare right now. Maybe I should call it a bad dream, leaving room for it to get worse and then call it a nightmare. And it’s rather unsurprising that in this particular rough patch, when the pressures are mounting, some pretty deep fractures are beginning to appear in our society.
The sides being drawn up, and look roughly something like this:
The glory of young men is their strength Prov. 20:29
I write to you, young men, because you are strong 1 John 2:14b
Ηusbands, [show] honor to the woman as the weaker vessel 1 Pet. 3:7a
Having encouraged the young women to resist the temptation to be more than God intended, I now want to exhort the young men to resist the equally destructive temptation to be less than God intended.
I’m going to assume something, then proceed merrily along without apology:
God created men strong, and on purpose.
As per usual, the devil and a handful of minions are in the details, such as “strong compared to what?” “in what way?” and “for what purpose?” My plan is to tackle the “for what purpose?” and hopefully the other things will sort themselves out.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? – David, Psalm 27:1
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. – Jesus, Matthew 10:28
I want to offer up a few words of encouragement in light of the current state of affairs in which we find ourselves. The ranks of the fearful are swelling, and they want to know that it’s going to be okay. So let me begin by saying I’m not qualified to offer that kind of comfort just yet, because what do I know about tomorrow except that, in the words of our Lord, it has enough trouble of its own?
On the spectrum of male personalities, I fancy myself resting far more comfortably and happily on the “medieval Norseman devouring mutton off a rusty knife” side of things than the “Ken in the passenger seat of a pink Corvette” end. So it’s a sign of God’s good sense of humor that of the six children he has chosen to give me, five of them are lovely, very girly girls, meaning I live, move, and have my being in a world of dolls, dresses, and emotional roller coasters.
I have probably witnessed (and unwittingly caused) more female tears in my life than the Average Joe (zing!), but I tell you this: I wouldn’t trade any one of my daughters for a pack of sons. And I’ve found that nothing stirs up this old crustaceous soul like the love and affection I feel for my girls, not even a pallet of beef jerky, and that’s saying something. I don’t feel the least guilt about entering the door of my little tumble-down farmhouse-castle, taking my seat at the head of our rough wooden table lined on both sides by lovely ladies, diving into a meal fit for a king, prepared by my faithful wife. These women are my greatest treasures, and I’d die for any of them in a heartbeat. Burying one of them was, as you know, the worst. Alice used to show me her broken toys and say “Daddy fix it?” and as often as possible, Daddy did. So it nearly killed me when she was broken, and Daddy couldn’t fix it.