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“Finally, Brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time as the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

One would have to be clueless, to doubt the fact that the days are evil.  The days have been evil ever since the game-changing fiasco in the garden.  But Eden did not have cell phones, a worldwide internet, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and billions of people—starving, warring, and suffering unspeakable horrors.  Eden’s evil was not so sophisticatedly organized, so widely and criminally justified by evil national majorities—so whitewashed to appear humanitarian, reasonable, rational, “kind to the planet” and altruistic, as the convoluted sin of these days.  It took thousands of years to get here.

Those of us who prefer keeping our heads in Scripture rather than sand believe we are nearing the book of Revelation, when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth to establish justice and reign in His Holy City, Jerusalem.  No we are not to name the day or the hour.  But YES, we are to watch for the signs prophesied by Old Testament Prophets, the Lord Jesus in His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), and New Testament letters culminating in Jude and Revelation. 

The days are evil, and we are nearing the end of the Church Age.  In the words of beloved Christian brother, Francis Schaeffer, “How do we then live?”  How am I to respond or react to evil times?  Am I to go high stress, slap-dashing about in a fervor of Chicken Little-ish behavior?  Wrong!  Am I to think about nothing else than the fact that the days are evil?  Wrong again!

Am I to eschew beauty and instead fashion a drab, lackluster world around me, an environment which says nothing about creative living?  How horrible is that!

So what is Right?  My quest for an answer always comes back to the above quotes from Philippians and Ephesians, and countless other passages having to do with gracious, Spirit-filled living.  Joyous living.  God is still in charge.  God has always been and will always be in charge.

Yes, we are to speak up and out whenever we can.  Yes we are to pray with compassion for those who suffer all over this crazy, convoluted earth.  Yet it is still God’s earth.  As well as being fully God, Jesus was fully human—modeling the perfect humanity intended for people on earth, until man and woman (not in that order) blew it in the beautiful garden which God had provided for them.

Our Lord Jesus Christ will return, to reign on earth for 1000 years.  Scripture predicts a New Heaven and New Earth.  Certainly we will not fathom details until they unfold, but nowhere in the Bible is “earth” left out of the equation.  God created earth, and He loves His creation.  In light of that truth I can only gather that we humans, the most valued of His creation, are to go on living and loving the life He has given us on earth.

That means gratitude rather than gloom.  That means serenity rather than stress.  That means pure, down-to-earth appreciation for and pleasure in His boundless gifts—people to love, gardens to plant, creative hobbies to pursue, art, music, poetry, sports, sunshine, fresh air, the list is endless.  Earth gifts!

There is a pathetic “hangover” from past Christian eras and persuasions which taught that physical and soul pleasures were intrinsically evil.  Hence:  the monks who starved themselves or didn’t converse with each other, those Christians who wear drab clothing because anything eye-catching might lead to idolatry (or immorality), and believers who avoid the enjoyment of any pastime without blatantly “spiritual” overtones.

Asceticism is NOT BIBLICAL.  It NEVER WAS BIBLICAL.  Asceticism is a boring, yet potentially devastating ploy invented by the Evil One who—if he cannot get Christians to throw in the towel and quit, will instead lure them into nurturing a sense of pride in not doing this and not enjoying that.*

The paradox here is that within God’s creative, expansive and wholesome arena of “this or that”, we are to walk with joyous confidence; it is the pride inherent in asceticism which God hates, and holds us accountable for.  The person who lives by asceticism may be bowing before the idol of pride!

Life on earth is to be loved, savored, celebrated, and enjoyed to the max while never losing sight of our Creator, never forgetting that He is the Creator of all things—every breath we inhale, every flower we plant and gather.  With our heads full of God’s “whatsoever things”, our lives will shine out to the lost souls who desperately need to know about our Saviour.  As long as God’s people remain on earth (His earth!) and continue to redeem the time, there will be some light, and some good, although the days are evil.

Margaret L. Been — January 26, 2016

(First posted in “God’s Word is True”, September 25, 2015)

*THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, by C.S. Lewis provides a witty and wonderful treatise on the pitfall of asceticism.

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Last week I enjoyed an occasion that has been a frequent event in my life for over 50 years:  lunch with a gathering of special friends.  We’ve known each other since school days in the 1940s and early 1950s, and began getting together as a group when we were young moms.

There were thirteen of us to begin with, a “baker’s dozen”.  (We even published a little cook book in that name!)  Now our numbers have dwindled, but eight of us are still present.  “The girls” supposedly meet monthly, although not every one can always be on hand.  For years we met in our homes, for a gracious three-fork spread.  Now we’re apt to include a restaurant meal here and there.

I’m frequently asked, “How can the same people be friends for all those years?  The answer is what I call “Friendship’s Glue”—and that term actually signifies the lack of gossip.  There isn’t a single backbiter in the group.  We respect each other, we don’t meddle in each other’s business, and we don’t gossip

God’s Word comes down hard on backbiting, also called “whispering”—the King James Version term for gossiping and stirring up dissention, which is one of the six things God hates as listed in Proverbs 6:16-19.  All too often we see the devastation of dissension and the decaying fruit of “whispering”, which separates friends.  And families!

It’s no secret that families are floundering in our contemporary society.  Evidence of unfaithfulness, lack of commitment, and self-centered agendas are everywhere.  Yet hidden among the glaring issues in troubled families, is a less publicized poison—a deadly potion that causes an undercurrent of strife and heartache in what often appears on the surface to be “the very best of families”. 

How many families positively shine on the outside, with a shared value of “togetherness” and mutual support, yet are riddled on the inside with scars and dissensions perpetrated by whisperers?  A group may include a number of backbiters, so that it’s impossible to guess where it all began. 

But it only takes one whisperer, one back-biting telephone call (or, as a friend commented, one entry on FACEBOOK) to set a destructive process in motion—resulting in the walking wounded, those individuals who have been misunderstood or torn to shreds by an unkind and unruly mouth.

How precious, how wonderful to have friends and family members mutually bonded by Friendship’s Glue!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012 

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An online dictionary defines the word “subtlety” as:

1.  The state or quality of being subtle.

2.  Delicacy or nicety of character or meaning.

3.  Acuteness or penetration of mind; delicacy of discrimination.

4.  A fine-drawn distinction; refinement of reasoning: the subtleties of logic.
 
Children are known for their spontaneous thoughts and bluntness of expression.  A child tends to say whatever pops into his or her head; that can be charming, hilarious, and thoroughly delightful.  Some of this blunt quality is admirable in adults when it involves clear thinking and no-nonsense conversation.  Yet carried to extremes, the adult who thinks and speaks like a small child can be wearisome—as such a person lacks the mature refinement of subtlety.
 
The presence or absence of subtlety may be evidenced not only in what we say, but in how we perceive words that are spoken.  For instance:  If I see you doing a thing one way, and then take it upon myself to say that you should to do that thing in a different way, I am—in essence—saying “You don’t know what you are doing.”  I’m telling you that I think you need my advice! 
 
Yet I might vigorously deny having said “You don’t know what you are doing” on the basis of not having used those exact words.  I might emphatically deny having dispensed unsolicited advice.  My denial indicates a cluelessness on my part, a lack of subtlety.  I didn’t think carefully enough to perceive the inference of my words. 
 
Conversely you, the mature and subtle party in this hypothetical scenario, are subtle and sensitive enough to perceive and interpret my comments as unsolicited advice.  You correctly “heard” me as saying, “You don’t know what you are doing”—even though I did not use those specific words. 
 
I might then insist that I did not mean such an inference.  But the projected meaning was implicit in my original words whether I was perceptive enough to realize it or not.
 
Too often we humans create confusion, simply by failing to realize the subtle implications of our words!  Chaos results when we speak without weighing our words, without considering what those words will mean to the other person when carried to their ultimate conclusion!  Careless words can cause wounds, and sadly enough they often do!
 
“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even tempered.”  Proverbs 17:26 (NIV)
 
Margaret L. Been, ©2011 

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