Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Living Word.4


"You search the ancient prophetic writings because you are seeking the path to eternal life. The prophets themselves testify clearly of me. And yet, you hesitate to come to me that you might find new life."
-- Jesus

Any modern day traveler has most likely had a disturbing debate with a high tech navigator that goes something like this:
Automotive-GPS-Navigation-Car-GPS-product-gallery-driveassist-1-Garmin.png (450×267)
Garmin: "In one mile turn left."
Me: "I don't want to turn left."
Garmin: "In 500 feet turn left."
Me:" I told you, I'm not turning left!"
Garmin: "In 25 feet turn left."
Me: "Why aren't you listening to me...WE ARE NOT TURNING LEFT!!!"
Garmin: "Recalculating...in one mile turn left."
Me: "AAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!"

Finding the right path has always been daunting...

Modern day navigation tools give us a wealth of information such as weather conditions, traffic delays, distance and time to destination. But whatever navigation tools we use, it is still up to us to accurately interpret the information.

And whether it is modern technology or ancient writings, what they can't give is a guarantee that our anticipated destination will match our resolute determination.

Think of the unsuspecting women hoping to land a major role in a Harvey Weinstein movie...
Image result for nazareth jesus
So the problem with the people of Jesus' day wasn't in the navigation, the prophets took them right where they needed to be, it was in their pre-determined interpretation of doctrines and theories about Messiah!

Could modern day religionists possibly be guilty of the same: promoting doctrines and theories over The Living Savior?!

What's Not To Love?

Image result for nazareth jesusThe townsmen of Nazareth probably offer the greatest example in Jesus' life of how to be at the right destination with the wrong determination!
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 'The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.' And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, 'This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.'—Luke iv. 14-21.

MacDonald observes:
"...to Nazareth He comes with the sweetest words of the prophet of hope in His mouth—good tidings of great joy—of healing and sight and liberty; followed by the godlike announcement, that what the prophet had promised He was come to fulfill. His heart, his eyes, his lips, his hands—his whole body is full of gifts for men, and that day was that scripture fulfilled in their ears. 

The prophecy had gone before that He should save his people from their sins; He brings an announcement they will better understand: He is come, he says, to deliver men from 
  • sorrow and pain, 
  • ignorance and oppression, 
  • everything that makes life hard and unfriendly. 
What a gracious speech, what a daring pledge to a world whelmed in tyranny and wrong!

To the women of it, I imagine, it sounded the sweetest, in them woke the highest hopes. They had scarce had a hearing when the Lord came; and thereupon things began to mend with them, and are mending still, for the Lord is at work, and will be. 

He is the refuge of the oppressed. By its very woes, as by bitterest medicine, he is setting the world free from sin and woe. This very hour he is curing its disease, the symptoms of which are so varied and so painful; working none the less faithfully that the sick, taking the symptoms for the disease, cry out against the incompetence of their physician. 'What power can heal the broken-hearted?' they cry. And indeed it takes a God to do it, but the God is here! In yet better words than those of the prophet, spoken straight from his own heart, he cries: 
'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' 

He calls to him every heart knowing its own bitterness, speaks to the troubled consciousness of every child of the Father. He is come to free us from everything that makes life less than bliss essential. No other could be a gospel worthy of the God of men.

Best of all, the story of him who is Himself the good news, the gospel of God, becomes not only more and more believable to the childlike heart, but more and more ministrant to his life of conflict, and his assurance of a living father who hears when his children cry. The gospel according to this or that expounder of it, may repel him unspeakably; the gospel according to Jesus Christ, attracts him supremely, and ever holds where it has drawn him."

The Ignoble, Influential, and Indifferent response to The Infinite.

The Ignoble, like the men of Nazareth who, with fierce nationalistic pride, reserve the "right" to determine for themselves what claim Jesus has on their faith in Him while their supposed familiarity with the "scriptures" breeds the worst kind of contempt: truth in Him was not truth in them! 

The "truth" they were determined to find was a conquering King for whom they would gladly take up sword and club to break hearts (and heads) in the name of the Healer of Hearts!  

Jesus walks away from them...

As for the Influential, those who fancy themselves powerful enough to both insulate themselves from the miseries of this world and manipulate miseries in order to control others for their own pleasure, would find this good news, The Man, in a word, threatening!

Jesus calls them out.

The Indifferent, may stumble into Him, but will never really understand Him because of a greater commitment to their own ways than His.

Jesus keeps calling.

So then let us remember that doctrines and theories about the Creator, Redeemer, Savior and Messiah may help us navigate toward Him, but may be the very thing that keeps us from truly coming to Him!

(adapted from Jesus and His Fellow Townsmen, The Hope of the Gospel, by George MacDonald, emphasis added.)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Living Word.3

"Listen: the hour is coming, and has already come, when even the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and whoever hears his voice shall live."
--Jesus

I have a great idea for a movie: A dead person who hears the living!

Oh wait, its already been done. The movie The Sixth Sense focused on a little boy's "ability" to "see dead people." But the tragic twist in the story was the startling moment when a dead person realized he could hear the living!
The-Sixth-Sense-1999.jpg (1920×1080) Creepy dead people aside, the movie offers some interesting insight into spiritual transformation: for it wasn't until psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crow realized he was indeed dead that the recent events in his life, including his adoring wife's unusual emotional coldness to him, began to make sense. His good intentions to help his "patient" Cole with his struggles to understand the unusual "gift" of helping the dead accept their condition and move on to the next life did little to prepare him for the shocking reality that he was one of the dead people Cole could see!

Here's another shocking reality: spiritual death is just as debilitating as physical death! The church of Sardis (see Revelation 3:1-3) received a jolt when Jesus identified their true condition:
"I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you."

Signs That I Might Be Spiritually Dead
  • When there is a growing distance between me and my Friend(s)
  • When there is a lack of meaningful conversation in my life
  • When I fail to realize my true condition
  • (or worse) When I deny my true condition
  • When I truly can't remember the last time I did or did not do something Jesus wanted.
  • When I'm more concerned about being right than being true
  • When I'd rather feel good than be good
  • When I'm more concerned with right reputation with people than right standing with God
  • When I allow Impurity to poison principled passion and Complacency to kill Spirit-empowered compassion
With all the popular attention given to the relationship between the living and dead in movies and novels, no one has solved the question of "how does one become 'undead?'

Except Jesus, of course! Spiritual rejuvenation begins with Hearing His Voice!
"With vivid flashes of life and truth his words invade our darkness, rousing us with sharp stings of light to will our awaking, to arise from the dead and cry for the light which he can give, not in the lightning of words only, but in indwelling presence and power."
George MacDonald, It Shall Not Be Forgiven

How To Hear His Voice
  • Read His words
  • Practice what they say
  • Learn from your attempts at obedience and His corrective actions to fortify your faltering steps
  • Grow in your ability to distinguish between your doubtful thoughts and His Spirit-empowered directives
  • Repeat

Soon you too will be able to see dead people...and give them words of Life!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

THE LIVING WORD.2

"These words that I speak are not my own, but come from the Father who has sent me.
They that hear the words that I speak, and believe in him who has sent me, will have everlasting life.

They will not be condemned but will pass from death to life."
--Jesus

God the Father has always desired and worked to explain how He would have us think of Him. From the moment we enter this world His revelation in nature begins its
work of helping us connect with our Creator. The unchangeable-ness of His nature, for example, can be understood in pondering the "solidity" of rock.

The artistry in a flower tells us something about His beauty. The vitality of water helps us taste a little of what the
"inventor and mediator of thirst and water" intends for our thirsty souls to find in Him.

Words mean things. That seems simple enough to understand, as concepts go. But for some reason, in today's turbulent political/social scene, people seem to be having a hard time understanding the meaning of words. More precisely, in a world rapidly resembling Orwell's 1984, words are being assigned new meanings while ignoring, vilifying, and repudiating their natural, historical and common meaning.

Have we lost the capacity to understand the meaning of things? Or the will? Or, could it be, there is no longer the kind of faith Jesus came to advance to be found on the earth?

Written oracles claimed by human beings to be the "Words of God," test our capacity, will, and faith to measure what they say, what we think they mean, and how accurately they depict our recognition of what we know to be like God. To embrace in our imagination the power to see the truth of a thing and to reject what we know to be false, is the development of faith.



Jesus, the perfect revelation of God, was sent that the Name of Truth could connect with man. The Son of Man leads each person to a higher plane: the moment when Truth goes beyond intellect, comes in contact with the will, and forces a choice to be True or False concerning the Life He reveals.

Putting into practice Jesus' words, given by God, reveals in each individual a perception of Truth (itself a gift from God) that acted upon transforms a man to a right relation to the Creator and the created. This is the perfecting of Life everlasting in the man!


"Man is man only in the doing of the truth, perfect man only in the doing of the highest truth:fulfilling his relations to the purpose for which God created him.
He has relations with his fellow man, closer infinitely than with any of the "things" around him, and to many a man far plainer than his relations with God. Now the nearer is plainer that he may step on it, and rise to the higher (but till then the less plain.)
These relations make a large part of his being, are essential to his very existence, and spring from the very facts of the origination of his being.
They are the relation of thought to thought, of being to being, of duty to duty. The very nature of a man depends upon, or is one with, these relations. They are truths, and the man is a true man as he fulfills them.
Fulfilling them perfectly, he is himself a truth, a living truth.
As regarded merely by the intellect, these relations are facts of man's nature; but that they are of man's nature makes them truths, and the fulfilments of them are duties.
He is so constituted as to understand them at first more than he can love them, with the resulting advantage of having thereby the opportunity of choosing them purely because they are true; so doing he chooses to love them, and is enabled to love them in the doing, which alone can truly reveal them to him, and make the loving of them possible.
Then they cease to show themselves in the form of duties, and appear as they more truly are, absolute truths, essential realities, eternal delights.
The man is a true man who chooses duty; he is a perfect man who at length never thinks of duty...who forgets the name of it."

A young man I work with has fathered two children with a woman he did not marry and now no longer lives with. In fact, his relationship with his kid's mom is rather antagonistic. Each day presents more challenges testing his will and capacity to care for his children. His son, in particular, has some lifelong health issues he'll have to deal with for years to come.

I admire this man's devotion to his children, though as a "Christian" kind of frown on how he got himself in this predicament and wouldn't have prescribed it as a way to begin a life of fulfilling parenting.

I'm sure if he had to do it over he would have found a better way. But that is hardly the issue. The difficulties he faces, whether self-inflicted or not, and the way he is accepting his fatherly duties is helping to shape both his own character and the character of his posterity!

Those difficulties, in fact, make him more humble and receptive to a word of Truth from time to time. And open to the possibility that God is looking out for him and pleased that He is displaying true Fatherhood by fulfilling his duty to care for and protect his kids.

 For the rest of us...
Do we not take joy in the midst of severe crisis such as the recent hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes in various places at the accounts of people fulfilling their duty to help and care for one another? Whatever problem we have with the political philosophies guiding modern journalism, we smile that they can't help themselves but to report the wonderful capacity of people to respond with earnest and tender help when duty calls!

Whatever the "professionals" may attribute that response to, we can with confident faith know that it is the God of Life who is continually working to shape mankind in His image!

His Words, His meaning, His Life!

adapted from George MacDonald's, Justice, Unspoken Sermons III


Sunday, September 3, 2017

THE LIVING WORD

"The Father who sent me has instructed me as to what I should tell you.
I know that his words lead to everlasting life; so whatever he tells me to say, I say."
--Jesus

It's always fascinating to listen to a montage of today's media personalities describe a particular event. For example, every news network recently focused on President Donald Trump's flyover of the ravaged remnants left behind by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Without fail each report centered on the word "empathy" and the notion of the President's complete lack of it.

Whether it was ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, the Huffington Post, NYTimes or Washington Post, they all used the same word to describe, in their vaunted opinion, the President's miserable failure to properly respond to the devastation.

You'd almost think there was some kind of coordination or collusion going on! And since this happens regularly to those caught in the Major Media's cross-hairs, one can't help but be suspicious that they are getting their instructions from the same source!

By repeating what they are to report and how to report it, the question begs: do their words lead to Life or Death?

To answer that one only needs to look at how the media is focused on anti-Trump sentiment or describing the recent events relating to taking down statues commemorating confederate soldiers. One group, Antifa, has emerged as the organized leader in violently protesting Trump's election and eradicating the lessons of the American past. Using tactics not unlike the Nazi "brown shirts" the "Antifa group, short for "anti-fascist," holds anti-Trump protests across the country where protesters destroy property and injure police. The group has encouraged violence in their protests, saying it is the only way to fight the Trump administration." (foxnews.com, emphasis added)

How does CNN report it?
Activists Seek Peace Through Violence
Which is more troubling: that a person could write that mishmash of mutilated meaning with a straight face or that they might actually believe it?

Once again we are reminded of just how potent and relevant the Words of Jesus are yesterday, today, and forever!  If the powerful forces directing the attacks on the timeless truths and principles of freedom can inspire such mindless violence and hatred leading to death and destruction, how much more vital are the words of Everlasting Life coming from the Source of all life?


Related image
image from lifefrankyansacremento.com
Let us then, follow Jesus' example especially in this: 
listen and speak 
what Life tells us to say!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Revelation.10

"This is the will of God, that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him will have everlasting life. 

If you believe in me, I will raise you up on the last day. Do you believe in the Son of God? It is he that is speaking to you." 
--Jesus

True or false: is only our brain full of things concerning Jesus, or does he dwell himself in our hearts, a learned, and ever being learned lesson, the power of our life? 
-George MacDonald


Image result for mexican dairy farmers
image from pinterest.com
Currently I am employed as a maintenance worker on a local dairy farm.  Now I'm not a cow guy (and you can't make me one!), but I love the rich diversity alive on the farm. From the variety of projects to the many nationalities represented, each day provides an abundance of opportunity to hear Jesus speaking!

Just yesterday I had a brief moment, in the midst of a flurry of activity preparing the farm for an "agri-tour", to have a meaningful conversation with a dear Mexican brother/friend.  He related how he really dislikes people and tries to avoid parties the likes of which the farm was readying to host.  His repulsion stems from an evil incident he encountered as a young boy.

We talked about how important it is to keep our eyes and ears focused on Jesus the author of healing, courage, kindness, forgiveness, faith, hope and love.  His choosing of us and the places He strategically puts us succeeds in producing fruit in and through us.  Fruit that brings His father glory!  Perhaps that fruit is simply letting go of bitterness and fear. Once let go of, more fallow ground is available for a greater harvest of goodness and grace...the very essence of His Life!

In that brief moment we experienced a strengthening of the bond of love only the Savior of the world can provide to those who, regardless of skin color, nationality or social status, want the Life He freely offers!

Keep speaking Master, your servants are listening!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Revelation.9

"In me you will know the truth, 
and the truth will set you free; 
and if the Son of God sets you free, 
you will be free indeed. 

I tell you this that you 
might have faith to believe, 
and be transformed." 
--Jesus

A co-worker was relating an incident in a grocery store: She was trying to make eye contact with two young children and
get them to smile.  Suddenly, the mother, a woman who seemed to be middle eastern, noticed what she was doing and hurriedly pushed her children away.  In telling me the story she concluded that it was obvious this woman had been treated poorly by Americans!  As surprised as she was at the woman's response to her attempts at friendliness, I was shocked at her conclusion. When I suggested that maybe her culture raised the woman to be fearful, my friend scoffed at the notion.  

My question then is what is the truth? Are Americans more or less like my co-worker who took it upon herself to bring a little cheer into the lives of children? Or are Americans more or less likely to bully foreigners in our midst?  Answering these is important because it gets to the heart of what Jesus is saying: what a man believes is true impacts the actions he takes.  The actions he takes reflects whether he is free to do right things or is enslaved to brutish behavior.

"What is Truth?" That haunting question posed by Pontius Pilate, the representative of the world's most powerful military/political system to Jesus hours before his brutal death, is at the heart of the life and death struggle facing humanity today.

As it has throughout the history of mankind, political expediency and correctness crushes its competition.  

But out of the corruption and decay of this sordid world order, Jesus -the Truth- triumphantly arose.

In Me


In Jesus we have the Living Example of the benefits of truth: transformational freedom and resurrection power!

In Jesus we can live free from the deceptive, polarizing, demonizing and organizing forces squeezing the world into its mold.

In Jesus we know that love and forgiveness are the ultimate
weapons to conquer the stubborn, fearful human heart!

In Jesus we have the confidence that obedience to his word results in a deeper understanding of the truth of things.

In Jesus we can, with courage and compassion, face difficulties whether personal or public.

In Jesus we live to help set people free by fearlessly speaking the Truth in love knowing that, in spite of cultural influences masking brutal evil, people are capable of recognizing and responding to truth. And love.

Speak Truth. Be Free.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Revelation. 8

"My peace I give to you, 
a peace far surpassing that 
which the natural world 
is able to impart."  
--Jesus

The 2017 French presidential elections, in the midst of violent social & political turmoil, have ignited a global debate: is living with the dread of senseless terrorist attacks the "new normal" for civilization?

In our own sleepy rural community, the county sheriff, alarmed at the increase in homicides, suicides, drug use, break ins, assaults and gang activity, is warning people to keep their houses and belongings locked up.

In the historical struggle between barbarism and civilization, doesn't it feel like the barbarians are winning? And when the apologists for the barbarians don coat & tie, lab coats, press passes, government credentials and professorships the deck looks​ pretty stacked against the good guys.

Is the church the primary vehicle for the advancement of civilization? Or is its work limited to advancing only "the gospel"? Is the revelation of Jesus' Life, Death and Resurrection the keys to the advancement of civilization here on earth? Or is it the relic of ancient myth no longer useful, but counterproductive to the advancement of world peace?

Is the growing influence of Islam a counterfeit Christianity? Is it on the side of barbarism or civilization? Does it pose the primary hope for humanity or represent a long, grievous history of oppression and tyranny?

Turning Cheeks or Turning Tables?
American society has become a confused rabble of competing philosophies. In marginalizing the influence of Christianity on American culture  --by building a fictional wall of separation-- there is no longer a filter by which we can accurately judge between competing philosophies.  An important influence of Christianity on our culture was that we knew that ideas were "elite" and were compelled by reason to embrace good ideas and reject bad ones.  Another important aspect of Christian influence is that people, in our system, have been considered "equal" in the eyes of God and therefore equal before the law.  

Today, however, it is exactly the opposite: people are "elite", i.e., the credentialed, experts, government officials, celebrities, and academia are superior to the average among us and must be treated with the proper deference. We allow them to dictate what is fashionable and acceptable by cowing to the false notion that we are not capable of reasonable decisions for ourselves.

Ideas on the other hand are "equal" and no one idea is superior to the other.  To reject an idea, philosophy, attitude, behavior or opinion is to be racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, or hateful.  To tolerate the ignoble, dishonorable, unworthy, base, shameful, contemptible, despicable, dastardly, vile, degenerate, shabby, sordid, and mean, while repudiating the noble, righteous, virtuous, good, honorable, upright, decent, worthy, moral, ethical and reputable, is the mark of a society in decline and the breeding ground of barbarism.

The scope of Christianity is wide.  Consider that Jesus
demonstrated in word and action the broad width of dealing with the struggles of everyday living.  As individuals we are called upon as His followers to "turn the other cheek" to the abuse of the ignorant. Lashing out by repaying "eye for eye" to the attacks of abusers hinders the work of God's spirit in bringing conviction of sin in the heart of the unrepentant. Overcoming evil with good is one of the primary means of turning a foe into a follower of Jesus! We are all the same in this vital respect: Becoming a follower of Jesus is the reason we are all brought into this world!


But there are times, as well, when we ought to "turn over the tables" on intolerable attitudes and actions of those who ought to know better and are creating an atmosphere of hostility to the truth!  When the mob came to bring a woman, "caught in adultery", to Jesus to measure his response to their malignant superiority, Jesus, of course, stood with the woman and against the mob. 

The same Spirit that helps us endure the abusers gives us the wisdom and strength to stand against the mob!  Being led by the Spirit is the path to peace. The natural world's peace is predicated on complying with their dictates.  The Peace promised by our Prince of Peace is predicated on obedience to His Spirit!

In a world increasingly hostile to the message of our Master, making that choice is getting increasingly more difficult. Think of each difficult decision to choose obedience as practice and perfecting of the Kingdom character in us!