Tag Archives: Savior

“There Is Nothing New Under the Sun”

“There is nothing new under the sun,” writes the wise man in Ecclesiastes (1:9).

That argues for knowing something about what has already taken place under this old sun. And that means learning, and learning means reading. Three cheers, for sure, for math, science, and technology, but, however proficient we are with them, if we’re willfully ignorant of history, we’re just technologically advanced (and very dangerous) fools.

You see, the same challenges keep cropping up in this old world. At their deepest level, the waters every generation must navigate have been traversed before. George Santayana long ago told the truth: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Along this line, I think I’d like to propose legislation that requires high level elected officials to spend at least an hour a day reading history. They can easily prune the time from what they’d normally spend fund-raising or generally blathering, and (this is scary) reading a book might be a new experience for many of them. Why would we ever trust anyone willfully ignorant of the past to try to plot a course for the future?

By the way, pastors who know nothing about church history are every bit as frightening as the politicians I’ve just taken a swing at. The mountains Christians of all eras have made from molehills are the very same ones ancient Christians shoveled up to trip over.

This morning I enjoyed another of James Kiefer’s brief biographical sketches, this one on the life of Church of England Archbishop William Laud (born 1573).

Kiefer writes that in the late 1500s and early 1600s, some Christians in England (Puritans) objected to clergy and choir members wearing a garment called a surplice. Cassocks (a garment normally black and floor-length) were okay, but these folks strenuously objected to the wearing of the surplice, “a white, knee-length, fairly loose garment with loose sleeves” because it was not specifically mentioned in Scripture and because it had been a custom of Roman Catholics. (It’s basically the same thinking, Kiefer notes, that caused Puritans and their many descendants to object to Christmas and a host of other practices.)

Archbishop Laud felt that the garment was nonetheless “seemly and dignified,” but the Puritans persisted to protest religiously, stinkily, loudly, and even violently. One group of Puritans broke into an Oxford chapel one night, stole surplices, and stuffed them “into the dung-pit of a privy.” This was just one issue, but Laud, increasingly unpopular, was eventually imprisoned and hanged as he prayed for peace and an end to bloodshed. (You can sing this story to the tune of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Archbishops.”)

Until I read that, I didn’t know a surplice from a surplus. It was new to me, but the “rock” upon which those folks wrecked is no new danger to navigation. The Puritans were neither the first nor the last to try to twist the New Testament into a book of codified law. The Apostle Paul warned ages ago (read 2 Corinthians 3) that if we seek salvation through stone-cold law rather than through God’s Spirit, we’ll end up fussing, fighting, and wrecking our souls on tables of stone. That course, trusting in a code rather than a Savior, has never led to life and joy and peace; it can’t, and it never will.

No, there really is nothing new under the sun. I doubt we could make any truly new mistakes even if we worked incredibly hard at it. But it would be nice, and a God-honoring move in the right direction, to try to avoid stumbling over so many old ones.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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Repeat Regularly: “There Is One God; I Am Not Him”

“Oh, I guess I’m just a perfectionist,” I opined, in an “Aw, shucks!” sort of feigned shame tone, as I tried to hide the weird contortions required to pat oneself on the back.

But twisted pride is one of perfectionism’s pernicious symptoms. Perfectionists like to think they are a cut above ordinary folks. We have, we think, higher standards, work with more diligence, and see more clearly than pretty much everyone else.

Granted, low standards, lazy workers, and the lousy outcomes produced by such are not hard to find. But those ills are never cured by perfectionists; if anything, they are made worse. Even folks who do an average to slightly above average job just want to give up under the incessant pressure of a perfectionist’s thumb; folks on the lower end of the scale won’t even try.

Perfectionism’s thinly-veiled arrogance, along with out-of-balance priorities, and deep (and sick) need to be in control, spells death to any sort of genuine contentment and pushes family, friends, and co-workers, away. Perfectionism sucks the air out of any room and throttles healthy relationships. And perfectionists are sadly unable to see perfectionism’s malignant imperfection.

Yes, its pride is stinky. But the real rot at its heart is the poison of fear, the soul-throttling terror of never being able to measure up, which leads to frantic effort—never ceasing, never resting, and, of course, never succeeding—to be completely in control.

In the final analysis, perfectionism is idolatry, and idolatry always fails. Since we are incapable of being in absolute control of our own lives—and were never meant to be—we fail at being our own gods. And since others were never meant to acknowledge us as their gods, we fail at forcing those around us to “have no other gods before us.” Bowing down to the true God is freeing; bowing down to a perfectionist is enslaving and utterly exhausting. Eventually, the slaves will revolt. The spouse has had it. The kids’ act out or get sick. The co-workers quit.

Based on miserable insecurity and fear, not on “high standards” as the perfectionist likes to suppose, perfectionism never works. “Good enough” will never be “good enough” under a perfectionist’s reign. No victimless malady, it will render both the sufferer and those who suffer the sufferer miserable.

And forget the myth that perfectionism is productive. Study after study has shown the truth one song-writer put into words: The way to write a really good song is to write a good many bad ones. Living life in a fear-based, frantic attempt to produce perfection really means not producing much at all (and certainly not enjoying the process).

Anne Lamott has written, “I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

For Christians, the truth is even more serious. Perfectionism is a denial of the gospel, a slap in the face of the Savior, as perfectionists live and act as if they need no saving at all, certainly not as much as ordinary folks. But to accept Christ’s sacrifice requires admitting our utter inability to save ourselves. It’s only when we confess our powerlessness, weakness, and imperfection that he enables us to throw off the fear, futility, and idolatry of perfectionism, to embrace his deep peace and joy and live truly gracious lives in the sure knowledge that we are saved by sheer mercy and grace.

Maybe I should delete all of the above and just write (and repeat each hour) an eight-word anti-perfectionism creed: There is one God. I am not Him.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


A “Typo” Is a Hairy Wart on Miss America’s Nose

typo 01

Typos are the bain of my existence.

Better make that “bane.” The word comes from Middle and Old English, and has to do with “a cause of misery or death.” It’s roots indicate “murderer,” “destroyer.” “Bain,” I’m told, is a French word for “bath.” And, yes, a cold bain is a bane.

Of course, a sentence such as my first in this column would not be so much a typo as a simple mistake in usage. Or, worse, a blind spot in English skill and knowledge. Or, more sinisterly still, the bitter fruit of a politically correct “education” that puts chicken scratching from an unusually articulate cannibal in a loin cloth and drinking warm blood from his uncle’s skull on par with the writings of Shakespeare. (Just take a look at some university course catalogs and weep. And, yes, I know that most of this paragraph is composed of sentence fragments, and I just started this sentence with a conjunction. Get over it.)

Some typos are just funny.

I was checking out some lyrics for a record I’m hoping to make this summer (“record” is still correct; it’s short for “recording”), and an Internet article offered from that romantic classic, “The Way You Look Tonight,” this lyrical line: “with your smile so worm.” If you prefer your beloved with an intestinal parasite instead of a warm grin, well, there you go. Some people like turnips, and I don’t understand that, either.

Perusing some old issues of The Christian Appeal, a devotional magazine I edit, I ran across three typos in five decades. I know we’ve committed many more, but I dare anyone to find a publication more typo-free. We’re almost neurotic about producing a clean magazine. Typos that slip through are as welcome as a hairy wart on Miss America’s nose, but I do suppose they fulfill one function: they argue for some humility.

I smiled when I read in one of our old issues a friend’s account of a typo in a very early edition of Handel’s Messiah. The mistake occurred, as typos often do, in the worst possible spot. Right in the midst of the great “Hallelujah Chorus,” instead of the immensely reassuring line, “the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,” something very troubling indeed was reported: “the Lord God omnipotent resigneth.”

Who could blame him?

For, you see, errors in living occur with much greater frequency and far more serious consequences than errors in publication.

After I’d sent to my senior editor brother some page proofs I’d just completed for our devotional mag’s most recent issue, his e-mail came back: “First time ever in all these years, I found not one typo.” As always, I read through again. And found one.

I appreciate and honor good editors. But thank the Lord indeed for sending not an editor to catch our mistakes but a Savior to wash away our sins.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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