All posts by tunemyheart

Mark Browning lives on 60 wooded acres in the Greater Bates City, Missouri metropolitan area. For over a quarter of a century he has been wed to the lovely Penny with whom he shares four children and four grandchildren. In his spare time, he teaches English at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.

Fussing with the Boss

Psalm 5:1-3

Pray like you’d talk to your best friend.

When was the last time you grew irritated with God? If you’re not comfortable with that question, then try this one on. When was the last time you grew irritated with your best friend?

I’d suggest that if you have a friend with whom you never disagree, who you never find aggravating, with whom you never argue or fuss, who doesn’t receive some harsh words now and then, then you really don’t have much of a friendship with that person.

Friendship, of course, ought to be mostly a positive thing. It wouldn’t make much sense to have someone you hated as your best friend. On the hand, though, is there anyone on this earth with whom you always agree? And if you spend a good deal of time with that person, if you really wrap your life significantly into your friend’s life, then you’re going to have some tense moments. It’s okay for friends to disagree and argue now and again.

So is it okay to disagree and argue with God? Yes, but there’s one significant difference. When you argue with God, you are, by definition, wrong. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but you’re going to wind up being wrong.

These opening verses of Psalm 5 show David as a demanding and rather gripy-sounding fellow. And that’s okay. Friends will disagree. Friends will become irritated with each other.

If you’re never arguing with God, then perhaps your friendship hasn’t reached that level of intimacy that allows such talk.

  • What do you (or should you) argue with God about?
  • Have you ever had the experience of being set straight after you begin to argue with God? How did He do it? How did it feel?
  • Resolve to pray as earnestly and openly this week as you would talk with your closest companion.

Never Say Die

Galatians  5:7

Keep your faith-tank full.

As I write this, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are duking it out in Game Two of the NBA Finals. Most of the experts figure that last year’s champions, the Warriors, will handily win the series, and in the first game, three days ago, Golden State made a pretty emphatic statement, drubbing the Cavs by 22 points.

I’m no expert on basketball, but I’ve heard that even before that first game, the Warriors were prohibitive favorites. What I know for certain is that if the Cavaliers believe that there is no point, that they can’t win, that the die is cast, then they’re going to go down.

Two years ago, when the Royals improbably won the World Series–and the year before when they even more improbably reached the Series–the experts simply knew my favorite team wouldn’t win. The thing is that nobody seemed to convince the Royals of that. They just kept winning those games that they were supposed to lose. When there was no hope, they just won. Had they decided that they had no chance, then they would have been right.

Think about the toughest case of an unsaved person you know, the person who will resist, it seems, until the bitter end. Do you believe? Do you have the faith that God can do for that hard case what He has already done for you? Have you kept your faith?

Losing faith in sports is not terribly important. In our Christian walk it is almost everything.

  • Have you lost your original faith? Do you have the sort of confidence in God’s power that you had when you were first saved?
  • In what situations is it hardest for you to maintain your faith?
  • Pray that God will show you the way to maintain your early-day faith?

I Know the Plans

Jeremiah 29:11

Stay on course.

My wife and I had a long conversation recently that dealt with, among others, the verse that I’ve cited above. I can’t recall what provoked the discussion, but it boiled down to this. When God says, in this case, “I know the plans I have for you,” is He talking to you and to me or just to Jeremiah or just to Jeremiah’s people?

I know that we’d all like to claim that verse and its promise for ourselves. We all want to believe that God has big plans for us and that He knows what they are  and they’re good and all that. But when I read the entire paragraph from which that verse comes, I have to admit that it is talking to somebody who isn’t me.

Am I waiting around for 70 years to be accomplished in Babylon? Is God going to collect me from the land where I’ve been in exile? Those are the plans He’s talking about here. This precise verse speaks to Jews who have been dead for centuries. That was my position when I discussed this with Penny.

On the other hand, if God knew the plans He had for those people, wouldn’t He know the plans He has for me? Should I expect that He has crummy plans for me? Is He maybe waiting to torment me and shoot down all my hopes? I don’t think so.

We’ve been set on a course. If we follow that course, good things will happen. That’s the promise running throughout the scripture.

  • What do you believe God’s plans for you are? Are you cooperating with them?
  • What evidence do you have that God’s plans are to prosper you rather than to harm you?
  • Pray that God will reveal His plans for you and give you the endurance to follow them.

Do Not Go Gentle

Deuteronomy 3:22

Fighting the good fight.

The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas famously urged his father not to die too easily but rather to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” While Thomas is far from a Christian poet, there’s something we can learn from his admonition to “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Our world seems each day to be dissolving into an ever bigger mess. Just this weekend, several misguided fellows went on a stabbing rampage in London, while a couple of weeks ago, Paris suffered a bombing at an Ariana Grande concert. I could go on, and these are just the headline-type problems. Sometimes it seems as if the other team is winning the fight.

Maybe, in the worldly sense of things, the other team is winning the fight. While my reading of end times events is not completely confident and detailed, I think I can safely assert that some pretty terrible things will go down in that day. Do we expect that we won’t experience any of that downward spiral?

We know that Christ will triumph in the end, but we don’t know how much muck and awful we’ll have to face before that end comes. Sometimes we might be tempted to curl up in a ball and wait for the end, but that isn’t what God called us to do.

The odds may be long and the enemy abounding in the strength, but Christians have been called on to fight. We might find ourselves poured out like a drink offering before the return of Jesus, but that doesn’t matter. We’re called to fight, to rage against the dying of the light.

  • What events in your life or the world around you tempt you to withdraw from the fight?
  • When we fight against the negative direction of this world, what do we do battle against?
  • Pray that God will help you to stay in the fight and not to mistake petty differences with others for a fight against evil.

Keep Lifting High the Banner

On February 19, 1945, American Marines stormed onto the beach at the tiny volcanic island of Iwo Jima. In the grand scheme of things, this little dot in the Pacific amounts to very little, but in the ways of strategy, it could not be left in Japanese hands as the American juggernaut moved inexorably toward the Japanese home islands and the close of the war.

In Washington, D.C. (or actually just across the river in Virginia), the Marine Memorial captures in bronze the iconic photograph of six of those Marines raising the flag atop the island’s only landmark, Mount Suribachi.

I’ve had occasion to think about that battle and that statue recently after speaking with a veteran of the fighting.  As I’ve reflected on it, it occurred to me that there’s an important lesson to be taken from the memorial.

First, we have to recognize that those six Marines had no idea that they were making history to quite the extent that they were. Three of them would not survive the struggle for the island. I’m sure all of them knew that they were involved in something significant, but did they realize that this would probably be the most celebrated moment of their lives?

Second, that statue catches the Marines in mid-motion. There’s another photo snapped a bit later by the photographer, Joe Rosenthal, showing the erected flag and Marines standing around saluting, but it’s not the one that earned the Pulitzer Prize. It’s not the one that fires the imagination. The struggle seems to be captured in that photo, and the struggle almost always seems more interesting than the aftermath.

However, that flag in Washington will never be fully raised. For 63 years it has remained at precisely the same angle, always yearning toward but never reaching its final position. That statue locks six men and a flag in time, potentially forever.

My friend who survived the battle–in fact, who survived five combat landings without receiving a Purple Heart–understands that while the events on Iwo Jima might be the most exciting and historically significant part of his life, he cannot remain locked in time like those statues.

When I think over my life, I can point to some moments that, if not statue-worthy, are certainly moments of some glory, the exciting times when I felt as if I might be performing the most significant work of my life. Hopefully you have those moments as well, but we would both be foolish to allow ourselves to latch on too firmly to our glory days.

As believers, we understand that the “flag” of our faith will never be fully raised under our power, and our glory days will pale when compared with the day of Christ’s triumph. Until then, we need to be, Marine-like, semper fidelis, always faithful. We need to strive to lift high the banner of Christ, keeping faith with those who have come before and still striving into the future.

The day will come when the end result will be far more exciting than the struggle. But until then, let us stand firm.