Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Revelation.6

"I and my Father are one. 
In his name I have come to you 
that you might have life, 
and that you might have it 
more abundantly." 
--Jesus

Abundance.

In reading Hugh Ross's book, Improbable Planet, How Earth Became Humanity's Home, I'm struck with how many times the word "abundant" is used to describe the formation of the one planet in the entire universe designed to sustain Life.

"...research now shows that Earth is far from ordinary in multiple respects, and certainly in its abundance of elements and diversity of minerals. These rich ore deposits enabled
humans to develop beyond Stone Age civilization. Plate tectonics and bacteria helped provide the soil on which our large population depends for food. The presence of land plants and animals as early as conditions would permit provided humanity with a huge treasure chest of elements, of fossil fuels, and of fossil building materials, such as limestone, marble, and gypsum."
Jesus, as Creator of the universe, endowed this planet with an abundance of resources, and yet even in this richness hinted that there is something more we need to obtain to have an "abundant" Life. 

Why is it when we hear the word "abundant" we tend to focus on what we don't have rather than what we do?  If we are awash in abundance why do so many struggle with meeting their daily need for the essentials?

Ross shares his insights:


"The perfect world we have not been able to attain— and yet still long for— gives a clue to the purpose of our existence. As we strive for peace, wars multiply. As we strive for unity, polarization intensifies. As we strive for liberty, bondage increases. As we strive for wealth, poverty spreads. As we strive for equality, intolerance grows.
Of all the proposed explanations for these realities, the one that aligns most closely and completely with the available data emerges from the pages of the Bible. We are fallen and alienated from our Creator..." --Ross, Hugh. Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity's Home (Kindle Locations 3760-3765). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. Emphasis added.

MacDonald expands on the idea of God's perfect, eternal plan:
"...I imagine that God has never been contented to be alone even with the Son of his love, the prime and perfect idea of humanity, but that he has from the first willed and labored to give existence to other creatures who should be blessed with his blessedness— creatures whom he is now and always has been developing into likeness with that Son— a likeness for long to be distant and small, but a likeness to be forever growing: perhaps never one of them yet, though unspeakably blessed, has had even an approximate idea of the blessedness in store for him.

Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because he would give the best, and man will not take it. What Jesus did, was what the Father is always doing; the suffering he endured was that of the Father from the foundation of the world, reaching its climax in the person of his Son. God provides the sacrifice; the sacrifice is himself. He is always, and has ever been, sacrificing himself to and for his creatures. It lies in the very essence of his creation of them.

...not even the lovingest heart that ever beat can even reflect the length and breadth and depth and height of that love of God which shows itself in his Son— one, and of one mind, with himself. The whole history is a divine agony to give divine life to creatures." -George MacDonald, Life, Unspoken Sermons II. Emphasis added.

So, follower of Jesus, when we think of abundance let it reminds us of our mission: to use the richness of His resources in sharing God's divine desire for Oneness with each one of us! In a world capable of sustaining billions of people we have much work to do! 




Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Revelation.5

"I have not come to you on my own behalf, but have been sent by the one who is truth. Nor have I come down from heaven to do my own will but the will of the Father who has sent me. I was born and came into this world for one purpose: to be a living witness to the truth.
Those who love the truth will follow me."
--Jesus


The Truth Jesus Gave Living Witness:

Jesus Christ Is the Eternal Son of God,
    My Elder Brother, My Lord and Master

Jesus has an Absolute Right to my obedience
    In whatever way I may come to know
    What it is He wants me to do.

To Obey Jesus is to climb to the height of 
    my human potential. To not obey Him
    would be to deny Him.

Jesus died that I might die like Him:
     Die to any ruling power in me but the
     Perfect Will of God.  To live ready to be 
     nailed to a cross, if God will it.

Jesus is my Savior from myself.  
     From all that comes from loving myself,
     From all that God does not love,
     From all that God would not have me love,
     From all that is not worth loving.

Jesus died that the Justice and Mercy of God
     might have its way with me:
     Making me Just as God is Just
     Making me Merciful as God is merciful
     Making me Perfect as He is Perfect.

God will give me what 
     punishment I need
     -to set me right
     -Or keep me from going wrong.

Jesus died to deliver me from all

  • Meanness
  • Pretense
  • Falseness
  • Unfairness
  • Poverty of spirit
  • Cowardice
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Self-worship
  • False Trust in possession
Jesus died to make merry as a child,
     The child of our Father in Heaven.
     Loving nothing but what is lovely,
     Desiring nothing I would be ashamed to let
          the universe of God see me desire.

God is just like Jesus,
     Only greater.
     For Jesus said so.

God is absolutely, grandly beautiful,
     even as we might, in our loftier moments,
     count beauty.
     Beautiful beyond what our soul can 
          even imagine.

God is beautiful with a beauty that creates 
     beauty, not merely shows itself beautiful.

God has always done, is always doing
     His very best for every man;
     No man is miserable because God is
          forgetting him.

He is not a God to crouch before,
     but our Father, to Whom the Child-heart
     cries: 'Do with me, Father, what You will!"

There is nothing good for me or anyone 
     but God,
          and more and more of God.
     That alone through knowing Christ
          can we draw near to Him.

No man is ever condemned for any sin but one:
     That he will not leave his sins
          and come out of them
     And be the child of Him who is his Father.

Justice and Mercy are simply
     one and the same thing:
     Without Justice there can be no Mercy
     Without Mercy to the full there can be 
          no Justice.

This is the Mercy of God:
     He will hold his children in the 
     Consuming Fire of His distance
     Until they pay the last penny of repentance
     And drop the purse of selfishness
     With all its worthless contents,
     And rush home to the Father and the Son
     And the many brothers and sisters;
     Rush inside the life-giving fire
     Whose outer circles burn.

No Hell will be lacking
     which would help the just 
     Mercy of God redeem His children.

To the one who obeys
    and opens the door of his heart
    to receive the Eternal Gift,
    God gives the Spirit of His Son,
    The Spirit of Himself to be in him,
     and lead him to the understanding
          of all Truth.

The True Disciple shall always know
     what he ought to do,
     though not necessarily 
     what another ought to do.

The Spirit of the Father and Son
     enlightens by teaching Righteousness.

No teacher should strive to make men
     think as he thinks,
     But lead them to the Living Truth,
     To the Master Himself,
     Of Whom alone can they learn anything,
     Who will make them in themselves know
     What is True by the very seeing of it.

The Inspiration of the Almighty alone
     gives understanding.

To be a Disciple of Jesus Christ
     Is the Goal of our existence,
     The reason we are born.

To persuade men to be
     Disciples of Jesus Christ
     Is the Goal of Teaching!

adapted from Justice, Unspoken Sermons III, George MacDonald.





Monday, March 13, 2017

The Revelation.4

"He who speaks only his own ideas, does so to gain honor for himself. But he who works for the glory and honor of the one who has sent him is true, and there is nothing false or vainglorious in him."
--Jesus
"No opinion, I repeat, is Christianity." 
-George MacDonald


1199_hf-dep.jpg (800×795)My wife and I were deputized after joining a county Sheriff's Posse.  How exciting to be fitted with a uniform and badge! It was, however, mostly ceremonial: parades, fairground parking patrol, fund raisers. No search & rescue or chasing bank robbers on horseback... And, rather unceremoniously, we were un-deputized after being told we failed to get the proper identification.  Another posse member was removed after it was learned he improperly used his badge to intimidate a local convenience store attendant! Choosing whom you want to represent your office can be difficult business!
 

Our friend George MacDonald wasn't shy about what he thought it took to represent the highest office revealed to man:

"...how many of us are such as God would choose to represent his thoughts and intents by our opinions concerning them? 

Who is there of his friends whom any thoughtful man would
"depute" to represent his thoughts to his fellows?...

I reply, that none can understand, still less represent, the opinions of another, but such as are of the same mind with him— certainly none who mistake his whole scope and intent so far as in supposing opinion to be the object of any writer in the Bible. 

Is Christianity a system of articles of belief, let them be correct as language can give them? 

Never."
MacDonald, George.  Unspoken Sermons II, The Truth In Jesus 

Is there any other way of knowing if a person is "of the same mind with God" than what their actions reveal about their faith?

Recently, pollster George Barna conducted an extensive research campaign called the "Worldview Measurement Project".  The objective was to determine if people who consider themselves Christians actually live out their beliefs. 

According to Barna: “It’s very important to know how many people have a biblical worldview because peoples’ behavior is driven by their beliefs – we do what we believe. In other words, our worldview determines the choices we make and the resulting actions we take,...Everyone has a worldview. The critical question is which one people have embraced. If we want to transform our culture then we will need to change the choices people make that produce that culture. And in order to change those choices we must identify the beliefs that led to those choices.

...in developing this instrument we discovered that someone may claim to believe something, but if their behavior does not reflect those beliefs, it is doubtful that they really believe what they claimed to believe,” Barna noted. “Jesus taught His disciples that the right beliefs are good, but the real measure of where you stand is what He labeled the fruit of a person’s life, referring to the product of applying one’s convictions. As a result, we created this measurement process with the intention of blending both core beliefs and core behaviors to estimate the biblical consistency of peoples’ worldview. Because that process involves both beliefs and behavior, with the intention of being an imitator of Christ, we chose to call such people Integrated Disciples. They are effectively blending their beliefs and behavior into a Christ-like lifestyle.”

So what did Barna discover?  Is there a significant gap between those who claim to be followers of Jesus, and those who, like Him, work to bring glory to the One they represent?  The results, sadly, speak for themselves:

"The survey of the general public revealed that 10% of American adults currently have a biblical worldview. That pales in comparison to the 46% of adults who claim to have such a worldview. How big, numerically, is that difference? With the adult population presently at an estimated 244 million, the 10% of the general public with a biblical worldview represents about 24 million who are Integrated Disciples, compared to roughly 112 million who would classify themselves as such – a gap of 88 million people!" (excerpts from https://www.culturefaith.com. Emphasis added.)

Still think that arguing your opinions about doctrinal issues will change the world?

Never!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Revelation.3

"It is written in your earthly laws that the concurring testimony of two witnesses is true. Accordingly, I bear witness of myself, as does my Father who has sent me. I know that the witness he has given of me is true. Because of this, I do not have need of the endorsement of any earthly authority." 
--Jesus


Much has been made recently about "fake news." Sadly, it is getting more difficult to trust our own senses as technology gives even computer novices amazing abilities to manipulate images. There are now apps available that can alter facial expressions while the subject of the hack is talking! 

We live in a volatile age when not only is it difficult to know with certainty what is true, but whether anyone really cares about truth anymore!

I recently spent the weekend at a political convention where endorsements ruled the day. People vying for political offices were actively seeking connections with the "right" officials to give their positions the proper weight of authority.  With several thousand people in attendance, the events were carefully controlled to ensure a rapid completion of party business. There was little time, correction, there was no time for thoughtful deliberation. The success of a candidacy rested firmly on endorsements. 

In a world that cares little for truth, has no time for thoughtful deliberation, carefully controls outcomes, and relies heavily on the "right" connections, now more than ever we need to follow the One who came from outside our dilemma. 

  • Who speaks to the truth inside us. 
  • Who calls us to thoughtful obedience. 
  • Who works with the consequences of our choices to produce good in us. 
  • Whose life and character is the one true endorsement we all desperately need.
Looking for the best outcomes in life?  Follow Jesus.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Revelation.2

"I do not come seeking my own glory; but there is one who seeks to exalt me, and he is the judge of all who reject me."
--Jesus


Mankind has long recognized fundamental, objective, absolute Truth as the guiding force moving the human race toward civilizing behaviors.  

 "The Chinese speak of a great thing (the greatest thing) called the Tao. It is the reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself. It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road. It is the Way in which the universe goes on, the Way in which things everlastingly emerge, stilly and tranquilly, into space and time.  It is the Way in which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar." C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.
Although there are many cultural, religious and philosophical names for this "guiding force" it wasn't until the revelation of Jesus Christ would the world have the embodiment of the Creator's purposes and plans for the human race.  Apostle John described the universal impact of Jesus' revelation:
"In the beginning the Word already existed. The
Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. ... So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of grace and truth. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son." 
John 1:1-5, 14 NLT
The Greek "logos" is the word John uses for "Word". In classical Greek logos conveyed the idea of concepts, notions, ideas, i.e., the meaning attributed to words. In
modern usage a "Logo" is used to symbolize a company, idea, person or concept. 

Jesus is the fleshed-out revelation of the Tao, Rta, Rha, Zeus, Law, Logos, or any other notion man supposed about the Creator.  Jesus also reveals and defines those qualities most admired and desired in the best of humanity. In Jesus we see the Creator's intent on making man vessels of grace and truth. Each of us, indeed, are created for good, not for evil.

Individuals and societies that conform their behavior to these observable principles position themselves to embrace the Truth when Jesus' followers present Him to the world through acts of grace and words of truth.
"...the well-nurtured youth is one ‘who would see most clearly whatever was amiss in ill-made works of man or ill-grown works of nature, and with a just distaste would blame and hate the ugly even from his earliest years and would give delighted praise to beauty, receiving it into his soul and being nourished by it, so that he becomes a man of gentle heart. All this before he is of an age to reason; so that when Reason at length comes to him, then, bred as he has been, he will hold out his hands in welcome and recognize her because of the affinity he bears to her.’ (from Plato's Republic, cited in Lewis' Abolition of Man.)


But make no mistake, those who 'reject' Jesus are not turning their back on a religion or historical figure, they are, in fact, embracing the 'did God really say' spirit of the Original Rebel.  It is small steps from there to 'did God really do?'; and from there to 'is there really a God?'  Questioning the Ultimate Authority about what He says and does puts a man in the void where only Power and Impulse rule, susceptible to delusion and lust. In this void multiple forces clamor to use the world's resources to coerce, dissuade, deceive, oppress and control the world's population into rejecting the Truth of God.

The battle for influence on the heart's and minds of mankind will only intensify to the end of the age.  Follower of Jesus stay faithful to the Logos of grace and truth!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Revelation.1

"The time is come 
that the Son of Man 
be revealed 
and glorified." 
--Jesus


The apostle Paul keenly observed this fact about the revelation of Jesus: 
"For while we were still weak, 
at the right time 
Christ died for the ungodly." 
Romans 5:6 [emphasis added]

Hugh Ross, anthropological astrophysicist and founder of Reasons To Believe, a ministry devoted to describing the harmony of scripture and science, demonstrates that the Creator of the Universe is the God of the "Just-Right Time!"

In his most recent book, Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity's Home, Ross makes the case that amazing discoveries in astronomy, physics, biology, paleontology, chemistry, geology and mathematics take us further from a naturalistic explanation of the Universe and toward a growing concensus that the evidence points to a Designer who carefully and precisely prepared a planet capable of abundantly sustaining billions of life-forms.  


Throughout his account of the uniqueness of our Milky Way Galaxy, our own solar system, and our special planet, he frequently refers to the "just-right" conditions for each step in the development of a habitable planet. Are these "just-right" conditions merely coincidental or do they help us solve the bigger questions of "Why?"


"Ongoing research tells us that Earth has been shaped not only by an intricately orchestrated interplay of physical forces and conditions, but also by its vast abundance and diversity of life-forms. By means that no depth and breadth of scientific research can explain, life arose early in Earth’s history under anything but the benign conditions it would seem to require and somehow persisted through multiple mass extinction events, always appearing or reappearing at just-right times and in just-right forms to meet the needs and demands of the revised environment.
The more thoroughly researchers investigate the history of our planet, the more astonishing the story of our existence becomes. The number and complexity of the astronomical, geological, chemical, and biological features recognized as essential to human existence have expanded explosively within the past decade.
The importance of this new information cannot be overstated. An understanding of what is required to make possible a large human population and advanced civilization has raised profound questions about life, especially about our purpose and destiny. In other words, discovering at this level of detail why the history of Earth looks the way it does impacts all discussion of why you and I are here."  Ross, Hugh. Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity's Home (Kindle Locations 134-143). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. [Emphasis added]

Hugh Ross believes, as he makes clear in his ministry, that God's work of creation is primarily redemptive. While humans debate whether driving their SUVs is destroying the planet, the scientific record (which includes effervescing data from the fossil record, core samples, radio isotopes, and solar telescopes) and the remarkable human beings who can interpret it, informs us that this planet has undergone regular cycles of creation, extinction and re-creation with each layer building up the foundation for future habitation.

Ponder that the formation of fossil fuels, metal ores, limestone, and even rock formations like granite - the building blocks of advanced civilization - required mass extinction of living organisms and their decay to pave the way for the technology enabling modern man to communicate the Good News of God's love to the masses of people this world sustains!

Now ponder this: if the God who fine-tuned the universe to prepare the way for your existence with just-right demonstrations of His power & devotion, will He not give you the just-right circumstances to help you realize your potential to love?

A friend was pondering the painful last days of his beloved father and questioning why God allowed this faithful man to leave this world in such a way. As his story unfolded revealing layers of family friction and long-term resentment, he was glad to be reminded that God always works in just right ways to heal wounds, deepen love and grow unity.  Our suffering and even death may be a just-right condition for achieving such great good!  A small price to pay for eternal joy and a reflection of the Just-Right Nature of our Creator's Perfect Will!




Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Return.13

"Be always watchful; for you do not know the day or the hour when the Son of Man will return. 

Live your life in a prepared manner, your lights burning brightly; like those servants who wait with expectancy for the sound of the Lord’s approaching.

It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one of these words to fail." 
--Jesus

After reading these words of Jesus, I turned on my Christmas tree lights...

Oh, so you don't think that's what He means by letting "your lights burn brightly?"

Silly you say?

Maybe. Maybe not.  The vast array of Christmas lights and decorations, whatever the motivation - commercialism, paganism or real reverence - is a cheerful reminder that humanity deeply longs for something science can never give: Hope in The Unseen Hand that Heals and Helps us Heavenward.

Emmanuel. 
God With Us. 
God Like Us. 
We like God. 
Oneness in Sacrificial love and giving.

"If the joy that alone makes life worth living, the joy that God our Maker is just like Christ, if it be a true thing in my heart, how can I not believe in Christmas?"
(adapted from a quote by George MacDonald)


For unto us a child is given, to us a King with the heart of childlike obedience and love! Until we can celebrate His physical return, this world-wide yearly return to the celebration of His birth is a grand reminder that love is the greatest gift of all!

A Merry Light-Filled Christmas to you!