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!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Living Word.6

"I tell you now: I am the way, the truth, and the life; no on can recognize the Father, except by my introduction.
--Jesus


Image result for santa clausRumor has it that Santa has become a Calvinist! Realizing the gravity of 'inherent depravity' he's put us ALL on the 'naughty list!'

Oh my!

Image result for tim allen santa clauseI am a fan of Tim Allen's "Santa" in The Santa Clause movies. There are several scenes when, upon returning to his "normal" self, he still has little children recognizing "Santa" and lining up to let him know they've been good!Most movies about the Jolly Old Elf have much to do with 'belief' and the point when a person abandons child-like faith in the goodness of a benevolent, gift-giving Being who tracks and encourages good behavior.
Image result for tim allen santa clauseThe Santa Clause    does a marvelous job of portraying the joy of restored faith!

Icon or Idol

Interestingly, I recall my own moment when, in the same year, about the age of eight, I learned the painful "truth" about both Santa and the Easter Bunny!

Then as a mature and serious parent I thought it my duty to speak the "truth" about Santa to my children, "protecting" them from a similar painful fate, hoping to avoid the possibility that they, when they got older, might feel violated by my lack of candor when they finally realize "Santa" is not real!

(To demonstrate how effective we were in conveying the "truth" about Santa, son Stevie, at the manly age of three, squashed the giddy excitement of a little girl in a doctor's office waiting room. As she excitedly chattered about the things Santa was going to bring her, he stoically reprimanded her declaring "Santa is not real!" Shocked, she ran crying into an angry mother's lap! Painful...)

Having grown up a practicing Protestant, I really have little understanding of "Icons" in religious symbolism. But I recently read an interesting insight by writer Rod Dreher, a former Methodist turned Catholic turned Eastern Orthodox, in his book "How Dante Can Save Your Life":
"An icon is an image for contemplating a reality that transcends the specific image; the image leads the mind, through the senses, to direct communion with the intelligibles...icons, damaged though they may be, [are vehicles] through which the light of God [shines]. They [are] not ends, but imperfect means to the perfect end: God... 
[we ought to] judge all things by the degree to which the light of God shines through them, and to which they serve as a sign pointing toward God...The pilgrim’s movement toward unity with God is measured by his increasing ability to see things as they really are. Believing is seeing."
Dreher makes the point that icons can become idols when, rather then seeing them as pointing us to higher Truth and toward God himself, we put our hope or trust in the icon itself.

Jesus constantly repudiated the religious leaders of his day for their failure to recognize the truth of God in the things he said and did! And rather than offer himself up as some kind of imperfect icon hoping to nudge them toward truth, he made it perfectly clear that unless they recognized His divine Godness, the very God they purported to represent would be unrecognizable to them!

So have fun with Santa, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, et al insofar as they give us an iconic view of the nature and character of God, and teach us and our children how to recognize Jesus in His grace and goodness!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Living Word.5

"Though not appearing to you personally, or speaking to you audibly, the Father has born witness of me.

By refusing to believe in me, the one sent to you by my Father, you close your ears from hearing the very voice of God.

How is that some of you say, regarding the one whom the Father has set apart as his very own and sent into the world,

"He commits blasphemy because he says,

'He is the Son of God'?"
--Jesus



The cultural landscape is full of craters attesting to the explosive battles waging war for the hearts and souls of mankind!

These battles demonstrate that there are always consequences for Refusing To Believe.

Refusing to believe in "man-made global climate change" incurs scorn from the media...or crippling lawsuits (ask author Mark Steyn).

Or

Refusing to believe in "gender fluidity" arouses the wrath of faculty in taxpayer funded universities. (check out teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd's confrontation with Laurier University officials).

Or

Refusing to believe in Democratic Socialism incites riots. (Here's looking at you Antifa).

Or

Refusing to believe in open societies labels you racist. (Welcoming America isn't very welcoming to those who don't agree with them).

Or

Refusing to believe in moral relativism gets you spurned as intolerant. (How's the "sexual revolution" working out for you Harvey Weinstein?)

Or

Refusing to believe in "marriage equality" bankrupts you. (To all the Bakers, Florists and Pizza Makers standing against the LGBT assault).

But...

Image result for deafness
image by Hariomji
Refusing to believe in Jesus results in spiritual deafness.

Inability to hear the Voice of God reduces people to slavery. They make themselves slaves to the Peddlers of Passion and Power.

As there was pressure from the religious and political powers of His day to disavow Jesus, so today growing opposition to faith in Christ and Truth, makes it crucial and costly to daily take up our cross and follow Jesus!

But the choice couldn't be more clear: Believe and Perceive
God
Truth
Justice
Mercy
Righteousness
Compassion and
Perfecting Love

OR
disbelieve and stumble in spiritual stupor!

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 we will like what we find when we get there!

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 that Jesus didn't match up to 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 expectations!
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 . 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