Thursday, April 26, 2018

FOLLOWING THE RESURRECTION.1

"Oh fools, and slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Should not Christ have suffered all of these things and then enter into his glory! Be faithless no longer, but believe."
- Jesus


Slow belief or Suspended disbelief?

In order to get the fullest experience from a work of fiction, whether on screen or in a book, we are often
required to suspend disbelief. We know people can't really fly around on broomsticks, or spaceships travel at warp speed to distant galaxies, or caped wonders bend bars of steel. We also know reasonably mentally healthy people can distinguish between fantasy and reality.

And we know people don't come back from the dead. Especially those who die in an exceptionally brutal manner!

To shake them (and us) out of the fog of disbelief, Jesus directs our thoughts to this powerful truth: the Savior fit to save all mankind must suffer the worst of mankind's warped world.

He created a world worth redeeming.

He came from heaven to rescue that world from natural and man-made induced suffering.

He gave himself to show what it is that makes a god worthy of universal devotion, honor, sacrifice and worship.

He lived Perfect Obedience to the Perfect Will to develop Perfect Love in all the created order.

God plunged himself into the most significant and toxic of human experiences: the suffering man brought upon himself when he realized not only his own vulnerability and the fear of exposure when his disobedience cast him out into a hostile environment, but that he could, with forethought and malice, inflict hurt on other naked/vulnerable members of the species.

As Dr. Jordan Peterson* observes,
"...the rise of self-consciousness and its attendant realization of mortality and knowledge of Good and Evil is presented in the early chapters of Genesis (and in the vast tradition that surrounds them) as a cataclysm of cosmic magnitude...
Earthquakes, floods, poverty, cancer--we're tough enough to take on all of that. But human evil adds a whole new dimension of misery to the world. Conscious human malevolence can break the spirit even tragedy [can] not shake.
...the central problem of life—the dealing with its brute facts—is not merely what and how to sacrifice to diminish suffering, but what and how to sacrifice to diminish suffering and evil—the conscious and voluntary and vengeful source of the worst suffering."

Sacrifice and Suffering

The idea of sacrifice as a means of holding suffering in "abeyance" and ensuring a more beneficial future is an idea as old as mankind itself. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the benefit.

My wife recently took a tumble with her horse resulting in a severely broken ankle. She was in another state hundreds of miles from our home on a trip she'd planned with several of her horse riding friends. Those friends demonstrated extraordinary sacrifice in ensuring the best possible future for my wife's foot. First, they immediately cut short that day's ride. Then they transported her to the nearest emergency room...an hour away. Then they rearranged their schedules to accommodate the follow up visits with the surgeon who needed to repair the ankle. And they took her place for cooking and clean up duties so that she could rest! The benefits of their sacrifice included minimizing the suffering my wife had to endure and a deepening of the bonds of friendship.

Why must the Savior suffer?

The greatest benefit for all of mankind is to be made right, eternally given to the highest good possible: Oneness with God. The disciples would have some sense of this idea as sons of Israel whose history was replete with illustrations about the purpose and effectiveness of God-ordained sacrifice.

What they certainly did not grasp is how God himself would offer himself as the Ultimate Sacrifice to achieve the Ultimate Benefit for mankind. Nor that his resurrection put the stamp of finality that this sacrifice was eternal!


image by 2013 Anatoly Shumkin
"...the Son of God, who, instead of accepting the sacrifice of one of his creatures to satisfy his justice or support his dignity, gave himself utterly unto them, and therein to the Father by doing his lovely will; who suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their suffering might be like his, and lead them up to his perfection" -George MacDonald

Just as suffering shapes the person (our response can leave us stronger, more patient, humbler, with deeper understanding of God's care and will, -or- it can leave us bitter, vengeful, angry, wounded) sacrifice shapes the suffering in giving it meaning and purpose in helping us reach our potential to love...like Jesus.

"Greater love has no one than this that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Now you know.


*Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules For Life, chapter 7

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Living Word.9

"I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world...

Surely the heavens above you, and the earth beneath your feet, will one day pass away;


but the words that I speak will never pass away."
--Jesus


Image result for earth without form and void
Image from L.A. Times
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, Let there be... and there was.” Genesis 1:1,2


Order and Chaos


From the very beginning, we are told that Speech Brought Order Out of Chaos.  


In a series of lectures on the Bible’s account of Beginnings*, Dr. Jordan Peterson, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Toronto, details how the foundational principles of all life are encapsulated in this ancient text.  The importance of understanding these principles as the guiding force of civilization cannot be overstated. For example,
  • by revealing God as the Ultimate Authority of organizational structure, a pattern of Dominant Hierarchy was established that provides a framework to build families and societies upon.  
  • “Thou Shalt Not…” established a measure for truthfulness.  
  • Cain and Abel demonstrate the difficulty both of receiving correction and mastering destructive urges.
  • Noah and the Flood teach that by aiming to live by the highest possible Good, one can find a way out of the world’s overwhelming problems while saving a life or two.
  • Ham’s curse shows the severity of mocking the sanctity of Fatherhood and
  • the Tower of Babel puts the lie to “too big to fail.”


Remarkably, many other cultures throughout history and around the globe have similar stories demonstrating, without doubt, that despite cultural and language differences humanity, in cooperation with Nature's God, has figured out the things that work to sustain Life on Earth.


These “natural laws” engraved in the narrative of human experience were encoded, through speech, into the greatest organizational/governing structure in the history of mankind, namely the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution to provide order, stability and prosperity to its citizens.

But Chaos, always a clear and present danger, lurks ever ready to upend order.

Recent events in the USA demonstrate. The U.S. Constitution stipulates that to qualify to be a U.S. President one must be a Natural Born Citizen. The Framer's relied on a historical document titled "The Law of Nations" for definitions on citizenship and state building. Author Emer de Vattel subscribed to the sanctity of fatherhood by defining Natural Born Citizen as: the citizenship of your father at the moment of your birth. So, if your father was a Kenyan citizen at the moment of your birth, you are a Natural Born Kenyan citizen. If your father was a Cuban citizen at the moment of your birth, you are a Natural Born Cuban citizen. If your father was an American citizen at the moment of your birth you are a Natural Born Citizen of the USA. For, you see, paternal Natural Born Citizenship transcends maternal, geographical and political arguments.



Several candidates from both political parties in the 2008 and 2012 USA elections were not Natural Born Citizens and in electing Barack Obama to become the President of the United States of America a Portent (a sign or symbol of something ominous) to Chaos was inaugurated. Not because of his political ideology or obscure background, but by breaching the natural, historical and customary use of language, chaos has begun to bring confusion and disorder to society.

Because the citizens of the USA were unwitting, unwilling or unaware of what was happening to the violent breach in the order of the Rule of Law chaos has gained a foothold and is rapidly eroding natural order:

-Consider the vitriol and hatred when “debating”  what bathrooms a school child should use…

-Consider that some municipalities place heavy fines on those who misidentify a person's preferred gender.

-Consider that there are now an infinite number of “genders” which one could misidentify…and be fined for.

-Consider that government feels empowered to control the speech of its citizens.

-Consider that the sacred institution of marriage has been ridiculed into Oblivion.

-Consider that the US military has become the experimental and engineering laboratory for social tinkering.

-Consider that people will violently protect the “rights” of illegal aliens to live off the largesse of American taxpayers while defending the “right” to slaughter US citizens in the womb.

-Consider that demanding free speech on a college campus can be considered “microaggressions” of hate speech.

-Consider that a few overpaid professional athletes can create havoc and disrupt a unifying national tradition.

-Consider that our nation's youth are clamoring to have the government take away more and more of their freedoms.

-Consider how fearful we've become to speak out against noxious ideas like transgenderism,  intersectionality, white privilege, institutionalized racism, political correctness, toxic masculinity, social justice and multiculturalism.

Truth reduces the terrible complexity of a man to the simplicity of his word, so that he can become a partner, rather than an event. To tell the truth is to bring the most habitable reality into Being." -Dr Jordan Petersen, 12 Rules for Life, An Antidote for Chaos

Alas, consider how Chaos has savaged truth speech, fractured partnership and is turning what once was the greatest “habitable reality” into a nightmare.

Now more than ever, Followers of Jesus must speak (and live) the timeless Truth of Jesus' words to a world gone...chaotic! If ever we needed Speech to bring Order out of Chaos, it is now in the Words of Jesus!







Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Living Word.8

I do not pass judgment on those who hear these words and do not believe; for I have not come to judge the world, but to rescue it.

Be warned; those that reject my words will be held accountable: the truth that I have spoken will stand as their judge on the last day.
--Jesus


I'm 5'4". If you factor pygmies and NBA giants I am "average" height. 



Image result for basketball dunks imagesThe"truth" of my existence, however, is that I wasn't destined to receive pinpoint passes for high flying thunder dunks!

Truthfully, as I approach the age 63, I still have nagging doubts about my Being. I have been a child, son, student, actor, athlete, musician, husband, father, clerk, salesman, laborer, printer, designer, business owner, pastor, teacher, bus driver, carpenter, farm hand.

The measure of my success has not been thunderous ovations from adoring fans, but it has been regular paychecks I received from -generally speaking- ambivalent employers for the work I produced.  In one way, my Being was "judged" by those who used my varied skill set to achieve their goals.

As satisfying as it can be to be rewarded for labor produced (with the fruit of that labor I raised a family and achieved some of my own goals) there is still a longing to know and experience greater success. Not bigger paychecks or louder applause, but the knowledge that my Being mattered; that there was a truth to my existence for which I will be eternally satisfied!

The ultimate success, according to Jesus, is how our "Being" measured up to Truth.  Not that we merely spoke accurate facts or didn't lie but that as MacDonald states:
by "obeying the Will that is the cause of our Being,
the cause that demands us to be true, and that Will being
  • Righteousness and
  • Love and
  • Truth
we begin to stand on the apex of our being, to know ourselves divine and feel ourselves free."

When a man is, with his whole nature, loving and willing the truth, he is then a live truth.

He is the thing God created him to be.

Dr. Jordan Petersen, professor of clinical psychology, observes:
"At the beginning of time, according to the great Western tradition, the Word of God [logos] transformed chaos into Being through the act of speech. We also transform chaos into Being, through speech. We transform the manifold possibilities of the future into the actualities of past and present. To tell the truth is to bring the most habitable reality into Being.

  • Truth builds edifices that can stand a thousand years.
  • Truth feeds and clothes the poor, and makes nations wealthy and safe.
  • Truth reduces the terrible complexity of a man to the simplicity of his word, so that he can become a partner, rather than an event."
-Dr Jordan Petersen, 12 Rules for Life, An Antidote for Chaos

MacDonald expands on this "partnership":
"But a man has not originated this in himself. He has seen it and striven for it, but not originated it.
The one originating, living, visible truth, embracing all truths in all relations, is Jesus Christ.

He is true; he is the live Truth.

When a man is true, if he were in hell he could not be miserable. He is right with himself because he is right with him whence he came.
To be right with God is to be right with the universe; one with
  • the power,
  • the love,
  • the will of the mighty Father,
the cherisher of joy, the lord of laughter, whose are all glories, all hopes, who loves everything, and hates nothing but selfishness,
which he will not have in his kingdom."
Adapted From Unspoken Sermons III, The Truth


When I proposed marriage to my wife many years ago I told her that my one ambition in life was to do the will of God no matter where that might lead. His will has lead us to many places, with many chapters beginning with great promise and ending, more often than not, leaving my 5'4" frame battered and bruised wondering whether I'd missed a turn along the way.

For the way of His Will is not lined with cheering crowds urging us on. It is often dark and foggy, lonely and fearful with the only thing we can occasionally get glimpses of is the Savior in front beckoning us on into the light until we begin to see that following His Will is not simply altering our direction as we mentally brace ourselves for some new duty, but loving the Will that brought us safely to where we are. Stronger, Godlier, more manifestly True than when we started.

To be rescued from meaninglessness is the cry of every human heart!

To stand in the day and hear the thunderous ovation of an audience of One is the reason we're born!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Living Word.7


"Only the breath of God gives life. Your earthly body grows old and will eventually fail, but the words that I speak to you are filled with God’s breath and are life."
--Jesus

My cousin regularly gives updates on his mom's rehab progress. She suffered a stroke recently. I appreciate his gentle encouragement and care for his elderly mother, she is the last living member of the family from whom we cousins entered this world. But the truth of the matter is her body is failing. There will be a moment when she leaves the God-breathed clay tent of her earthly body and, because of God's redemptive revelation in Jesus Christ collaborating with our faith and will, she can enter into the God-breathed life of an eternal, celestial body.

It takes an act of the human will to accept the words of Jesus as authoritative, real and true. But there has always been competition for humanity's faith and allegiance. Today's penchant for trusting in technology to bring heaven to earth is no exception.

Diabolical Distraction or Dazzling Destiny?


"Imagine that you could live indefinitely in a world in which all poverty, pollution, and scarcity has been vanquished. Imagine that there existed no limitation to what you could do or be, except for those limitations that you imposed yourself.
This scenario may sound like a cross between Thomas Moore’s Utopia and Christopher Marlow’s Doctor Faustus, but according to Ray Kurzweil it is our real and fast-approaching future. It will come about as the result of an explosion in our technological abilities. We will incorporate more computer-based processes into our biological functioning until we transcend our crude, earthly bodies entirely and become machine-based, virtually immortal. This coming period of rapid technological progress and its miraculous effects will occur within the next 50 years and is what Kurzweil refers to as the Singularity.
The concept is both startling and optimistic,but it immediately provokes certain philosophical concerns. If nanotechnology allows us to create any object, will any object ever again be valuable? What role will responsibility, temperance,and discipline play in a world where any urge can be gratified at almost the same moment it is felt? What will pass for morality when there is no mortal consequence to any action?"
--Patrick Tucker, Asnt Ed,THE FUTURIST

An engineer from GM visited with radio host Glenn Beck recently discussing the fact that by 2030 self-driving vehicles will replace our need to drive ourselves. Beck asked how willingly people will accept that proposition since the automobile symbolizes our own autonomy and independence. The engineer responded that we are already accepting it with our growing dependence on "smart" devices, while Amazon, Google and other giant tech companies create more and more convenience that we hungrily accept, unaware or unconcerned that we are surrendering more and more of our own autonomy.

Follower of Jesus, the allure of the world and its technological advances (technology, by the way, born in the mind and heart of God as another of mankind's blessings) is as strong as it ever was. Now more than ever it is our responsibility to live out the God-breathed words of Life:
"There is but one plan of salvation and that is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, to take Him for what He is -- our Master, and His words as if He meant them, which He assuredly did. To do His words is to enter into vital relationship with Him, to obey Him is the only way to be one with Him. The relationship between Him and us is an absolute one; it can nohow begin to live but in obedience: it is obedience."
-MacDonald, The Truth In Jesus

If you realize how powerful the media is in selling the Futurist Vision of a Technological Utopia, how much it affects each of us even now, and how the next generation shrugs its collective shoulder in integrating this worldview into their everyday behavior it may give pause, perspective, courage and hope to the Apostle John's encouragement: 
"Greater is He that is in you 
than he that is in the world!"


Publishing this on SuperBowl Sunday highlights a truth that only superior opposing forces are worth competing for the time and attention of the public. The Truth of Jesus' words are the only Superior force capable of opposing the corruption and domination of this world's system. Their force is felt in and through His followers living out His God-breathed words daily!