Wednesday, January 19, 2011


By J.B. Gable

“But let justice roll down like waters, And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24

I like water. I like it for all the obvious reasons, of course, but so much more I like it as a metaphor. Let justice roll down like waters. Awesome. But that is what water does naturally, isn’t it? From its source at some high and lofty place, a drop of water instinctively searches out the lowest elevation it can find. Some will gather in ponds and lakes, some will make it all the way to the sea and some will even manage to pool underground. Then when it finds that low place, some water droplets will ascend into the sky and begin the process all over again. Jesus seemed to reveal to Amos that justice as an act of true worship naturally acts the same way.
Justice, like water, will begin at the loftiest of places and immediately seek the lowest. This is what Jesus, the Living Water, seemed to do. Existing before the beginning as God, He descended down the mountain until he gathered in low places. Wherever He pooled, the landscape changed. He refreshed the land and ended the concept of drought. He made new water out of raw elements that were drawn to Him, things began to grow and the ones who drank were never thirsty again. These ones He made are just like Him and He appointed some of them to re-pool in the low places, some to gather underground, some to constantly be rushing wild and some to ascend to the high places. But, like Him, these ones that He made also make new water wherever they go.
This is what our little zedekiah project must be about. We raw elements who have been gifted with the opportunity to drink deep of the Living Water and continue to be re-made into Living Water ourselves now instinctively search out the low places in our world and in ourselves. And when we find these low places, let justice roll down and gather in everlasting and ever-growing pools of righteousness.  

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Jamais vu is the phenomenon that is roughly defined as the opposite of déjà vu – that is, instead of seeing something new and feeling it is familiar, jamais vu is the seeing of something familiar in a new way.

We’ve all had it – often the most exciting instances where you read a familiar scripture but your eyes are suddenly opened to see a different kind of significance or meaning or truth present in the words you’ve seen a thousand times since childhood. I wish I was sharing some kind of new, brilliant theological insight derived from the Bible today. But I’m not.
No, my latest experience with jamais vu involves Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Sorry.

Driving home from the grocery store last night with my iPod on “shuffle,” I suddenly found myself hearing the chorus to “Waiting is the Hardest Part” devoid of any of the familiar context of the song:

The waiting is the hardest part.
Every day you see one more card.
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart.
The waiting is the hardest part.

It really is, isn’t it? In our get-it-done-yesterday kind of world, it is sometimes extremely difficult (if not impossible) to calmly and patiently and genuinely wait for the Lord to reveal His plan rather than rushing into whatever course of action seems best to us. It’s terrifying, that nebulous in-between place of what you want to be doing in the present and not knowing if it is in line with what God wants for your future. Sometimes, you may even be dreading the outcome, but desperate to know it for sure just to end the torture of uncertainty.

But each day, each hour that we place in His hands with the desperate faith that He will craft it into something that conforms to His ultimate plan – if only we will allow Him the time, space, and materials – we do, in fact, see “one more card” and (as the second chorus states) we “get one more yard.” We see a little more of His plan and we move a little bit closer to it. Maybe we don’t always understand the card that is turned over, and maybe we only move forward by inches instead of yards, but the point is that when we truly wait upon the Lord (Isaiah 40:31) we are moving, working, climbing, building towards something.

May that simple reminder be an encouragement to all of us as we pause to wait and listen for the Lord’s voice and direction. Because the waiting really is the hardest part.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

7 Books To Read Before Christmas

I love lists. It's very satisfying to write something down, then cross it off-- no matter the task, the accomplishment becomes very tangible.

In pursuit of this satisfaction, lists coupled with time-tables are the ultimate satisfactory high. As Christmas approaches and the calendar becomes more full, here are 7 books I'd like to savor in the next 7 weeks.

1. Past & Present by Thomas Carlyle- It's allegedly the most influential book of the humanist movement in the 19th century. One can't under stand the 21st century without having a handle on the 19th & 20th.

2.  Democracy and Education by John Dewey- Exploring the idea that an uneducated electorate makes democracy dangerous. You have to educate the people to keep them and their country free.

3. Peddling Prosperity by Paul Krugman- It's supposedly the new "The Wealth of Nations." That's some big expectations for book subtitled "age of diminished expectations."

4. The Next Christendom by Philip Jenkins- Speaking truth to the American Christian-- that they are not only Christians in the world.

5. All We're Meant To Be by Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy A. Hardesty- While the approach isn't anything new, I could use some new language to describe the fundamental human and social importance of women.

6. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert- Always good to laugh at yourself from time to time.

7. The Razor's Edge by Somerset W. Maugham- The journey of a man struggling to find himself post world war I in a foreign land. Has to be something for everyone in this book.

Friday, November 5, 2010

5 Things I Hate About The Cam Newton Story

 In any story flying high atop the national media headlines, it is quite easy to get wrapped up in the visceral reaction a particular event has upon you.

Before you spend any more time and energy on what may or may not have transpired, let me give you five (mostly) objective thoughts on the over-arching ramifications of this ESPN Story:

1. The Obvious- That the line of deductive reasoning could well end up being proven true, in which case, Cameron Newton should be ineligible.

But, only $200,000? That seems like a real steal for anyone considering that the revenue from #2 jersey sales alone likely dwarf that. (See below for Follow-Up)

2. The Starkville Factor- Somehow Mississippi State comes out looking like good guys. Seriously!-- Mississippi State!

3. Vicarious Victories- The never-ending avalanche of slack-jawed yokels that trumpet the story as some kind of vindication for their school's loss to Auburn.

You want a vacated victory? Really? You're the same guy who wanted your future wife to have been dumped by the man of her dreams right before she started dating you.

4. The Outcry for Oversight  - The only way to curb agent involvement and extra benefits to collegiate athletes is to make it criminally negligent to offer or accept such benefits. Being professionally or financially liable for the risk doesn't quite seem to be doing the trick does it?

Without getting political, does anyone want to spend another couple of million tax dollars on enforcing this?

College football and how it makes you feel is more important than some of the programs getting cut from our schools and states in an effort to spend less?

This is the type of person who buys football season tickets, then gets evicted from their home in October....except this time you're asking me to chip in for the tickets.

5. Diminishing Returns- In general, this story is going to cause more emotional reaction to the readers of it than real, honest to God problems going on in your life, neighborhood, or city.

A story that you had no hand in making or preventing is gonna give you more pause or cause to celebrate than people going cold or hungry near you right now? It means more than reconciling relationships?

That may not be how you feel, but a willingness to re-post the story on your social media, or re-work fight song lyrics to fit the allegations reveal a disposition and priority on how you spend your time.

It's November. Goodwill is having a coat drive. It's just one suggestion in a nearly endless list of opportunities you have to actively do something for someone else.

If you have a broken relationship, spend the same amount of characters you did on your trite jubilation or displaced despair into fixing it. You might find your time better spent.

Now, before you think I went about writing a would-be lecture to those willing to read this article, I took a trip to my local Goodwill to drop off all but my essential cold-weather coats.

I also used 112 characters of text to reach out to a broken relationship-- and I tell you truthfully-- whatever happens with #2 and Auburn football, is gonna be alright with me. Simply acting on the right priorities straightened out everything else. 

Of course, it's your right to seethe, gloat, or be indifferent about Cam Newton and the story unfolding down on The Plain-- I just hope you won't give yourself license to spend emotion and time on sporting news before you spend it addressing something real.

Just a few things to think about this weekend while you watch the highlights-- Cam Newton will probably be in a couple of them though.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Receiving the Hand of the LORD

A year ago today, I thought my world had ended.

When I went in for my four-month check up, we discovered that the child we had prayed for for two years had died. What’s more, my husband was in Afghanistan in the fourth month of his eight-month tour. Not only were we losing the child whose birth we had been joyfully anticipating when he returned, but he would never get to experience the growth of our baby firsthand, as I had not even learned of the pregnancy until two days after he shipped out.

I remember sitting on the sofa that evening after the devastating news, waiting for my mother’s plane to arrive, grateful that I had family that could fly out to be with me. And as shock gradually gave way to overwhelming grief, one verse kept scrolling through my head: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21b).

In the coming weeks and months, I can’t tell you how many times I read and re-read the book of Job. I know it is cliché to turn to the book in times of suffering, but I was reading it again with new eyes. And in the many additional challenges that the next 12 months brought, I found myself always returning to Job 38 and onward, where God finally speaks in response to all of the pseudo-philosophers/theologians surrounding His servant Job. The poetry in this section, where the LORD explains how He is the God of the unknowable, and the sarcasm He employs even as he challenges those who would question His actions – they have provided me with more humility, chastisement, and assurance than anything else.

Most scholars believe that Job is the oldest book of our Old Testament, that it was written down at least a century before a scribe or prophet penned even the book of Genesis. And I can’t help but take comfort in knowing that the book that in many ways speaks the most clearly and relevantly to the universal experience of human suffering is the first one of our holy scriptures to have been composed. To pull from another book, Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 states: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has already been in the ages before us.”

I will never fully comprehend the “Why?” of human suffering, but over the past 365 days – some days when I really felt so weighed down with grief that I didn’t know how I would make it to the next – I have come to at least understand that the question is not why, but how. How will we react when tragedy befalls us? How will we carry on when it feels like our world has ended, our prayers are going unanswered, and the universe just feels, well, mean? Through it all, we are to remain the trusting, hoping, and often desperate children of God who look to Him in all things. As Job says to his wife, “‘Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?’” (2:10b).

We may not want it, we may have to struggle even to look up and see it some days, and we may just be too tired to imagine enduring even one more thing, but as long as we are receiving from the hand of God, we know that we are close to His side. And there is nowhere else I would rather be.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Work

"There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in --that we do it to God, to Christ, and that's why we try to do it as beautifully as possible."
- Mother Teresa

What? and Why?-- The 728b Foundation

A close group of friends had an idea a few years ago: Start a non-profit that meets the fundamental needs of orphans and children wherever they may be.

When you're doing something that is a calling, even the mundane and tedious details become a source of excitement and joy. Coming up with a name that suited us was not difficult, as it had been established long ago, but finding the right words to explain the meaning of the name has taken a little time.

We are the 728b Foundation. We send doctors, engineers, farmers, teachers, and supplies to areas in the world where children, who do not have their basic needs met, can finally have the resources to help them build a future of their own making.

But, the question must be asked: Why 728b?

Because in any old hymnal, found on the backs of solid wood church pues all over America, there is a song titled "There is A God", and every member of our Foundation grew up in such a church. The common numerical reference to this song is 728b.

There is, beyond the azure blue
A God, concealed from human sight
He tinted skies with heav'nly hue
And framed the worlds with His great might

The words are simple, but at the heart of the song, awareness of our own existence is demanded; an authentic recognition that this physical world possesses powers unseen that rule fundamental human truths (regardless of religion or culture) that unite us in a common human spirit; and endowed by a creator.

A resolute duty permeates the praiseful hymn through the chorus:

There is a God (There is a God), He is alive (He is alive)
In Him we live (In Him we live) and we survive (and we survive)
From dust our God (From dust our God) created man (created man)
He is our God (He is our God), the great I Am (the great I Am)

It's one of the great marches of the Christian Church, but is so often mistaken for just another song we sing on Sundays when the song/praise leader is in a particularly chipper mood.

Should we take the charge of the song seriously, and recite our beloved hymn more as a mantra than a melody, a powerful call to action is found in the words.

We are His creation. He defines the world. He designed us and called us for the purpose of service. We are His hands and His feet during our time here. We are to serve Him through serving others.

If we approach life with that attitude, the denominational tradition from which the hymn came is irrelevant. Its words hearken to us all who profess ourselves followers and disciples of Christ.

This organization is striving to be a model for an active faith of genuine discipleship. In our minds and hearts, as they are united in common service, there is no doubt that we will begin to affect positive, sustainable, and lasting progress in this world, one small part at a time.

Although your connection with the 728b Foundation may be through a facebook group or visiting our blog, it provides the very first of abundant opportunities to serve those who need it most; the care for the most basic of human necessity of love and compassion being delivered through medicine, food, clothing, and education.

Come make a difference in the world with us.

Start with our small group of dedicated people-- and never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world....because it's the only thing that ever has.

We hope you'll join us in the journey.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Taking stock

Audit. Simply the word sends chills down the spines of most Americans. If you know that your finances and paperwork are all in order and everything is on the up-and-up, it can be a scary process to have to submit it all to the IRS for review, but at least you know that you did everything asked of you.

But how often do we consider the prospect of being audited by God? How would you feel standing before the Lord as He reviews the assets of your life: your time, your talents, your financial resources, your thoughts, your motives, your energies, your attitude…

Would you have cause for concern? What discrepancies might He find? What inconsistencies might exist between what you say and what you do, what you teach and how you live?

If you had the opportunity to look at a log book that showed all the money you had wasted on clothes you never wear, flashy toys purchased for your own amusement, or dollars carelessly dropped for a few laughs – would you want to see the total? To be honest, I’m not sure I would. I’m afraid the number would make me too sick and too depressed to know what to do with myself.

Now consider if the same thing was true for your time. If you could see what percentage of your life has been spent being lazy or selfish or engaging in activities or talk that are negative – would you want to look? Or would you be too afraid to admit how much of your life you have wasted that you will never get back?

I would challenge all of us to conduct an audit of our own lives – an on-going review of how we are really utilizing the blessings entrusted to us. We all must give account someday; does the thought of yours give you concern or confidence?

Monday, October 11, 2010

On Love

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."- Martin Luther King

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bridging The Divide (part 1)

Bridges are one of the great architectural achievements in human history. Where a road would once end in air, or sea, or horizon, it could now continue to far off places. It allowed for the trade of goods, the sharing of cultures, and it was the first of many technological feats that has lead to the increasingly globalized world we have today.

The construction of a physical bridge is usually the precursor to metaphorical bridges of greater understanding between nations, cultures, and ideas. But all too often in our unhealthy modernity, ideas that ought not be reconciled have strong ties linked by a bridge. Sometimes they are a bridge to the reconciliation of thought and action that leads to peace-- but sometimes to tyranny. It can also be a bridge to nowhere. 

America has one particular bridge that dominates the landscape of its history, present, and future. It is a grand, ornate, 16-lane super bridge with the philosophy that links Christianity to a ideology that seeks to codify Christian principles into governmental law.

This particular bridge is built on multi-million dollar churches, lobbies, and businesses; the sum total of which reaches well into the billions of dollars in assets and influence.

It is purportedly built on the idea and tradition that America is a  "Christian Nation"; paved by the blood of patriots who died for this country; and held up by those willing to serve its cause today through giving money and votes out of "devotion to Christ."

No matter how well the construct may function, we should take some time to examine the divide the bridge conquers. So, we have to ask ourselves several questions:

First, what is the divide?

Second, should it be bridged?

I submit this thought for scrutiny-- is the divide human nature and the bridge Christ? or is the divide Christ himself, and the bridge human nature, attempting to bridge what should be unbridgeable?

Even in the first establishment of a Hebrew Kingdom in I Samuel, God has shown that an earthly kingdom and the desire for a "King" is a rejection of Him; it directs attention away from serving God and abiding in His promises for something greater.

In the New Testament, we see Christ's attitude toward government is best displayed in Mark 12, Matthew 22, and Luke 20. "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

This seems to be a clear delineation between God's law and gentile law. Taxes and monies are distributed by the government, therefore, can be collected by the government.

God, through Christ, demands that our hearts and actions are to reflect our voluntary obedience to His laws. This is the fundamental and intrinsic freedom given to us by our creator in free will. Do we, as Christians, need government to protect more than our freedom to worship?

Christ himself shows we do not even need that protection in the pages of secular law to be Christians, as He died by the hand of government.

The only laws we seem to hold fundamentally true throughout Christian history and denominations is this-- to be true in our submission to Christ-- wherever we may find those in need, we are to give freely of what we have-- our bank account is their bank account, our roof is their roof, our food is their food.

There are more scriptures (Matthew 26, Romans 2, Romans 13) to examine from the Christian perspective, and we'll save them for next week. In the mean time, it's not a subject that is deserving of a lecture, but of thoughtful and careful consideration to the consequence of the answers. Therefore, it begs the question...what do you think?