Zachary Bright

The Wonder of it All

Jack and the Misdemeanor

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“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:30-32, NRSV)

Jack1

I have some more recent photos of Jack Lewis, the Bible Study Dog (BSD), like the one above and throughout this post. Jack and I are both getting a bit crazy waiting for the Thursday Night Bible Studies (or, someone reminded me, the MOABS, the Mother Of All Bible Studies) to begin again. Did you ever hear about how Karl Barth’s prodigious writing of the “Church Dogmatics” slowed to a halt after he retired from teaching? The questions and discussions with students had entered into his massive production of words each week. Something similar has happened with my blog. When I am not constrained each week by the people I try to be salt and light for, and the biblical texts that we are trying to live into, I find that I do not know what to write about sometimes, among all the themes I could write about.

Jack and I are plotting our way back to the Bible Study Life, which we both enjoy so much, though for different reasons. We will probably be able to arrange the living room in an inviting way, even before I am able to leave the house without a wheelchair. Jack can already sense the energy and excitement in the air, since I have become partially weight-bearing, and Terry has been home this week on vacation.

Here is the BSD ‘in the middle of things’ at the MOABS:

Jack2

And here is Jack Lewis at prayer:

Jack at prayer1

And here is Jack resting in his doggyness before the Lord:

Jack at prayer2

You might be wondering why I placed misdemeanor in the title of this post. I did that just to get your attention. As I considered the word to use for Jack Lewis’ misdeed I liked the sound of the word felony, but a little research revealed that in English Common Law, felonies are serious crimes indeed, while misdemeanors are less serious crimes. Then I noticed that in U.S. law, misdemeanors can involve punishment too severe for our dear BSD. Therefore I have settled on the least serious category of crime: the infraction. Admittedly Jack Lewis is a repeat offender; but lacking any premeditation or evil design, an infraction it is.

One morning this last week, I failed to move the roll of paper towels out of Jack’s reach before I went to my office. Predictably, Jack stole the towels and spread them across our lawn, leaving the mess for our neighbors to clean up. When I came into the front room, a couple hours later, I found Jack Lewis sitting in my chair with his head hanging down, with his attempt at meek, kind eyes, and an ingratiating manner. Something was wrong. I looked around: just a few papers knocked onto the floor. And then it hit me! Where were the paper towels? Catching the gravitas in my voice, the BSD sunk even lower, if possible, unusually swung his ears back, wagging his tail. Since I never really punish Jack, why would he behave this way? In contradiction of an earlier post, Jack Lewis retained some memory of this kind of situation and wanted to please me and not displease me.

Of course, I thought of my own relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I want to please God and not displease God. However, I know that I can’t be justified or good in God’s sight by obeying his laws or rules. The more I know of God’s law the more I know that I sin. I think of verses like this: “For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20, NRSV) However, even before we become Christians, God loves us (Eph. 2:4-5, NRSV). And so “For by grace you have been saved by faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9, NRSV)

God loves, accepts and rescues people apart from anything they can do. Christians are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ in God’s sight, that is, clothed in the ‘active righteousness’ of Jesus Christ, so that everything Jesus did in his earthly life is credited to us in God’s sight (Jesus’ ‘passive righteousness’ is his death on the cross as our substitute for our sin and his resurrection and ascension). But nonetheless, since God loved me first, and I am learning to love God with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength, I want to please God, not out of obligation, but out of love. If you need a refresher on this check out my post, “What Is Reformed Coffee?” of 9/23/14.

And now let’s roll some more of those beautiful Jack photos.

Jack5

Jack4

Jack3

None of these fairly recent photos show the just-in-time-for-Halloween loss of the BSD’s hair on the top of his head (though you can see a little thinning on the temple in one photo). I was encouraged by this tweet from @desiringGod: “What if we walked in faith, rather than fear, this Halloween?” But I’ll probably read “All Hallows’ Eve” by Charles Williams.

This post was powered by “Eighty Eight” (1991) and “When Numbers Get Serious” (1999), both by The 77s, and my first hot beverage from Starbucks in many weeks, provided by my beautiful wife Terry. I fear, though, that the beverage did not contain my customary 4 shots.

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Author: Zachary Bright

Until February 2014, I was pastor of Divine Savior Presbyterian Church for about 24 years. I am interested in theology, alternative music, new worship music, culture making, philosophy and dogs. Most of all I am interested in extending the Kingdom of God and its blessings to everyone around me. I am the Director of the Southern CA. C.S. Lewis Society and I am a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and Fuller Theological Seminary. My wife Terry, my dog Jack Lewis and I host a Bible Study in our home on Sunday afternoons.

One thought on “Jack and the Misdemeanor

  1. Love it. The things God can teach us from our dogs. My pastor Ray Reynolds posts on Facebook lessons he learns from his canine companions, some of the best lessons I’ve heard. Early this Spring, my BDK–Blind Dog Kodi managed to escape his pen while Kim and I were on an excursion. Being mostly blind with a heightened sense of smell he couldn’t resist the load of fresh goodies Kim and I had just brought back from Kroger and left out on the counter in our rush to another errand. That, coupled with a, “How dare you pen me up attitude.” BDK set about eating: boxes of cereal, pie crust tins for a desert Kim needed to make, a whole box of Kleenex, even a box of Girl Scout Cookies I tried to avoid getting but Kim couldn’t resist on the way out of the store. Insidious temptations from seemingly innocent little girls. Which only aggravated the situation as the mint chocolate made Kodi literally sick as a dog. Which actually worked in his favor with my scolding as I judged from his, “I’m so sick Daddy look.” So he got more cage time on a cold plastic tray while he worked off the last of his wretchedness. I think the thing that aggravated me most was the quantity of Kleenex that was consumed and how soon I’d be seeing it again. Needless to say, there were a whole lot of lessons from God on due diligence, patience and forgiveness, along with some anger management. Lord give me eyes to see, mercy on me as I have mercy on my Blind Dog Kodi.

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