"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Month: August 2016

Torturing History

“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these? ‘For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10)


There is a valid place for the discipline of history. It is wisdom to learn from the past. The whole of the Old Testament calls for a reciting of God’s mighty deeds to a new generation. The psalmist rightly cried, “O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old” (Psalm 44:1) and longs for God to so move in the present generation.

Nostalgia, however, is a different matter and is neither wise nor helpful. Mark Buchannan insightfully writes, “. . . the past was never as clean and bright as we remember it . . . He who waxes nostalgic will usually, in time, turn bitter about how the past won’t return to him . . . the church of our summertime, whether we’re still in it or long ago moved on, seems holier and truer than wherever we are now” (Spiritual Rhythm, pp.119, 120).

He is correct. History, like statistics, will tell you anything you want it to say, if you torture it enough. Sometimes we’re guilty of torturing the past until it speaks to our vanity, praises us, and describes to us an air-brushed version of events.

We need the ability to look back with gratitude, instead of with wistfulness over why things aren’t the same anymore and instead of with anger at those who seem to stand in the way of the old times returning. Gratitude recognizes God’s hand in the good. Wistfulness grieves a loss in a way that never allows us to move on. Anger dishonors the good we’ve experienced and blocks any chance of further good in the present.

The ability to look back with gratitude and yet still look around in thankfulness is a Spirit-enabled grace. For this we need God’s present enabling.

Lord, thank you for so many good memories of past graces. But enable me, please, to live fully in the present that I might taste further and more fully of your goodness. Amen.

What will it take?

“I saw the Lord, sitting upon a throne …” (Isaiah 6:1)


“What will it take to set you free from the world’s idolatries—what will it take to keep you from trusting in things that are no gods at all? What will make you free from the world’s immoralities—what will it take to make you untouched by the lust for smut that the world peddles and with which worldlings ruin their lives? What will it take to liberate you from the world’s false perspective on the way things are—the perspective that assumes there is no god, there is no revelation of truth in the Bible, and there will be no judgment?

I’ll tell you what it will take: it will take seeing God as he is. Beholding God will break the chains of idolatry because when you see God, you see what Deity is, and that exposes the idols as worthless and unworthy of trust. Beholding God will purify you from immorality because when you see God you see what beauty and faithfulness are, and that exposes the ugliness of adultery. Beholding God will give you new lenses through which to look at the world because God himself defines reality.”  –Dr. James M. Hamilton, Jr. (Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, p.130)

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