The Clunker: A Parable

Young Christian had a clunker. It was filthy and grime covered. It barely ran at the best of times. The driver’s door would not open and he was forced to enter by the wrong door and struggle into the driver’s seat. All too often the clunker refused to start and needed to be gently coaxed into running. When it did run it shuddered and shook at any speed over 50 km/hr. Billows of inky, oily smoke plumed behind. Several times people had written “Wash me!’ in the dirt. Young Christian decided he needed to do just that! He coaxed the clunker out of his driveway and shuddered and shook down the street to “Salvatore’s Car Wash”. He left it with the manager owner Salvatore with the promise that it would be “like new” when he returned.

Young Christian could hardly believe his eyes when he saw his ‘clunker’. It gleamed in the sunlight! It looked like new, better than new! It had never looked so good. “There is no charge.”, said Salvatore, for he loved to transform old clunkers.

Young Christian continued to get in the passenger door and keep the ‘clunker’ below 50, though the engine hummed as never before. There was no trailing plume behind him, yet he maintained the same habits he had developed to cope with the old clunker.

One day Salvatore waved him down and asked why he continued driving in this old way. Did not Christian know that Salvatore had done more than just wash the clunker he had made “all things new.” Young Christian decided he must break the habits he had learned during his ‘clunker days’ and learn the habits suited to the newness of his vehicle.

With great patience Salvatore offered, “I left an exhaustive manual in the glove box. Refer to it often. It will help you transition from your dirty clunker”  to life with a new one.”

Too often I forget that the Saviour does not just wash me from my sin, but he makes all things new. I struggle with the habits formed to cope with my old life. He has given me ‘instructions’ in the Bible and encourages me to check it often. In doing so I can practically realize that I am made new, that I am free and forgiven, that I do not have to live according to my old nature but with His help I can live a new life.

One day I will shed the last vestiges of this old clunker. I do not know what my new model will look like but I know it will be beautiful in its perfection for it will be made after the fashion of the Saviour!

Lent & Lengthening of Days

Have you noticed the days lengthening? They are still 24 hours long but each day the sun shines more and more. Actually, the sun continues to shine year-round, but we see it and bask in it as the year progresses.

Our perspective is so important here. Physics and astronomy might say one thing but until we experience it those truths mean little to us.

I am challenged this Lenten Season, which is named to describe the lengthening of days, to check on my perspective. I can look at life through my own quite selfish lens and be unsettled and unhappy, or I can seek the omniscient God’s perspective.

My mother uses to have an expression, “Its as plain as the nose on your face!”. By this she meant that the thing she was saying was obvious. When she would say that I would try and see the nose on my face. It was not obvious to me. Others could see my nose and I could see my nose reflected in the mirror, but I could not make out the thing that was so obvious to those who had a different perspective!

Lent is a time to see things through God’s eyes, to see truth that he makes plain in his Word. This year as I began to meditate on Lent and its meaning, I was struck with the idea that God was literally giving me more time or day light and that perhaps he wanted me to “redeem the time”. As the sunlight breaks in early and departs more slowly I have opportunity now to use the time to bless God, my neighbour and myself. I bless myself by gaining a fresh perspective seeing my true nature reflected in his Word. I bless God in growing devotion, and I bless my neighbour by putting into practise the things that are plain as the nose on my face!

Lent all to often has devolved into a selfish exercise of deprivation and self-righteousness. I would rather that it be turned into a ‘blessed season’ where I gain perspective and grow in practise. Rather than “What am I giving up for Lent?” I want to ask, “How best can I redeem the extra daylight God gives me?”

Here in Lent the days get longer and longer. They will plunge into metaphorical darkness on Good Friday and end with the Sun of Righteousness breaking from the tomb which can not hold him. The Light has come. The Light is coming (more and more). The Light will one day come and there will be no need for sun or moon for he will be our light!

Much of my ministry has been forced online this past year. I do a Bible Study three days a week and lately we are doing Romans “12 Minutes With Paul”. For years I had studied Romans and I taught it at Taylor College. I had even toyed with the idea of writing a devotional book on this epistle. I discarded that idea when I realised how many others had already done that. I have avoided teaching on Romans for the past few years because I get so excited and bogged down in its dense minutia. The last weeks have been a refreshing return to this great book, which ranks second only to the Gospels in import on my life. I have tried not to bog my hearers in detail but some days we only look at one verse. I so enjoy chapter 8 after the dark chapter 7. This study seems apt as we experience this Lenten Season.

Wipe Your Feet!

On a cold winter day my mind drifts back to warm summer memories. I travel back to my childhood summers. Brown as a bean from playing outside all day, I would return home climbing the back porch stairs and entering our tiny kitchen. The screen door would slam shut behind me announcing my arrival. From somewhere in the inner regions of the house would come my mother’s voice, “Wipe your feet!”. Halfway across the newly mopped kitchen floor I would retreat to the mat and wipe my feet. This was remarkably familiar, and I smile within with fond memories of the safety and welcome of this routine.

Today as I seek to “enter His Gates” and “Come into His courts” I still hear, in my minds ear, “Wipe your feet!” Just as my mother could not and would not tolerate dirty kitchen floors God does not and will not tolerate His throne room being polluted with sin. Confession can become an under practised spiritual exercise. In liturgical churches it can easily become rote. In non liturgical churches it can be easily omitted or perfunctory. In private devotions our rush to intercede for ourselves and our world (Good and Godly desires) leads too often to neglect of confession.

Like any other good thing if our enemy can not get us to ignore it he tricks us into becoming obsessed with it. I remember a time when I had behaved badly and lost my temper. That night in prayer I went before God. “Here I am for like the billionth time! You must be so sick of me coming like this!” and then I felt God’s voice come to me. “I certainly remember this last time,” and the scene of my offense played out before me and I felt the weight of its guilt and shame “but I don’t remember any billion times.” I confessed and felt forgiven for my sin! Later I would recall that “As far as the East is from the West, so far has he cast my sin” and that He “remembers it no more against” me.

Peter resisted having his feet washed. This is a more drastic version of wiping one’s feet. After becoming convinced of the necessity of allowing Jesus to thus clean him he wanted his whole body bathed. Jesus simply chided him that all that was necessary was a good wiping of feet.

All this to say that we do not have to flog ourselves constantly for sin. Jesus took our stripes. Once we have been adopted into the family of God we are welcome, as the writer of Hebrews says, to “Boldly approach the throne”. Yet we ought not to disrespect God and his holiness by rushing into His presence without first wiping our feet.

Many of us have mirrors by our doors to quickly check our appearance before we go out into the world. We do not want to launch out with breakfast stains on our tie or our fly unzipped. We should take a moment before our corporate or private worship to do such a spiritual check. The Psalmist invites God to search him and find any wrong, and so should we.

After wiping my feet, I was welcomed to the warmth of my family home and I could ask my mother the important questions like “When is supper?” or “Can I go over to Steve’s after supper?” But I dared not ask those questions if I had not first wiped my feet!

We are all bidden into God’s presence and family. Wipe your feet!

Heaven’s Rim Shot

Who is the shortest man in the Bible? Bildad the Shuhite! (Sound it out)

I really enjoy a good pun. I know that to some that sentence seems oxymoronic, but I do not think so. Take the play of words from Shakespeare and he becomes a forgettable hack. The best lyrical music plays with words. Puns have a distinctly high place in literature. So why is it that our first response to a good pun is a groan? Why does such a noble endeavour engender such ridicule?

I believe that a pun is like a name just on the tip of our tongue. It is just beyond our reach but once someone (in my case, my wife) supplies the word or name, we are a bit indignant. We think, “I knew that! I did not need you telling me!” The pun is amusing because it derives from our group experience. We groan because we knew that! We groan because we were not first to say it. We groan because we feel that given a bit more time we could easily have come up with a similar play on words. The thought is so common as to breed a kind of contempt.

I have learned that if one is going to share such thoughts one must develop a thick skin and indeed an awareness that the ‘groan’ is a unique form of ovation.

A restaurant would never succeed on the moon because no matter how good the food might be there would be no atmosphere!

The resistance to puns comes from an unwillingness to be reminded of our own inadequacies. This reticence plays out in people’s resistance to the Gospel. People do not like to be confronted with the truth that they are not sufficient in themselves. The initial presentation of the Gospel begins with our common need. There is an element of ‘bad news’ that accompanies the Good News, and it is against this that our evangelism first bumps. Though the experience of a need for meaning is common it lays beyond consciousness and folks resent being uncomfortably confronted, in this regard. Nevertheless, like a good punster (again nor an oxymoron) we must persist through this initial discomfort. During this stage of evangelism, the ‘sharer’ is made to feel the ‘groan’ and too often slinks off like a thin-skinned comedian. The true ‘punch line is never delivered and never received! Persisting past the ‘groan’. Past the initial discomfort and resistance to the acknowledgement of our common need. A true ‘hearing’ is regularly preceded by a rejection of some kind. A comedian learns not to take this phase personally. An evangelist learns to pass any rejection along to Jesus. Isaiah tells us that Jesus was rejected, and He is used to it! A good evangelist (certainly not an oxymoron) deflects any feeling of rejection to the One “was rejected and acquainted with grief.” The good evangelist continues faithful, over time, until the ‘punch line’ is delivered. When faithfully delivered it is amazing how effective this punch line is!

“God loves you. Stop trying to live life on your own terms as if you were the Sovereign Lord. Surrender to him and know peace and love, beyond imagination.” No better punch line exists. Listen and you can hear Heaven’s rimshot!