Sunday, December 30, 2012

On Being Born a Second Time.1

Do not marvel when I tell you that you must be born anew.
Truly, I tell you: 
      unless you are born anew, 
you will not see the kingdom of God.
Except you are born
     of water and 

     the breath of God, 
you will not enter into the kingdom of God.
--Jesus


Two criteria for entering the Kingdom of God:

I.  
Water or natural birth.  
The first birth gives existence.

All things are possible with God, but all things are not easy


It is easy for him to be, for there he has to do with his own perfect will: it is not easy for him to create—that is, after the grand fashion which alone will satisfy his glorious heart and will, the fashion in which he is now creating us. 



In the very nature of being—that is, God—it must be hard—and divine history shows how hard—to create that which shall be not himself, yet like himself. 

The problem is, how far to separate from himself that which must yet on him be ever and always and utterly dependent, that it shall have the existence of an individual, and be able to turn and regard him—choose him, and say, 'I will arise and go to my Father,' and so develop in itself the highest Divine.



II. 
Spirit or God-Likeness.  
The Second Birth gives Conscious Desire

It is the absence in the man 

      of harmony with the being whose thought is the man's existence
       whose word is the man's power of thought

It is true that, being thus his offspring, God, 

      as St Paul affirms, 
cannot be far from any one of us: 
were we not in closest contact of creating and created, 
      we could not exist; 
as we have in us no power to be, 
         so have we none to continue being; 

but there is a closer contact still, 

       as absolutely necessary to our well-being and highest existence, 
        as the other to our being at all, to the mere capacity of faring well or ill.

For the highest creation of God in man is his will

   and until the highest in man meets the highest in God, 
    their true relation is not yet a spiritual fact. 

The flower lies in the root, but the root is not the flower. 

The relation exists, 
         but while one of the parties neither 
  • knows
  • loves 
  • nor acts upon it
 the relation is, as it were, yet unborn. 

The highest in man is neither his intellect nor his imagination nor his reason; 

all are inferior to his will, and indeed, in a grand way, dependent upon it: 
   his will must meet God's-a will distinct from God's, 
   else were no harmony possible between them. 

Not the less, therefore, but the more, is all God's. 


For God creates in the man the power to will His will. 


It may cost God a suffering man can never know, 

 to bring the man to the point at which 
he will will His will; 
but when he is brought to that point, 
and declares for the truth, 
that is, for the will of God, 
he becomes one with God, 
and the end of God in the man's creation, 
--the end for which Jesus was born and died,--
is gained. 

The man is saved from his sins, and the universe flowers yet again in his redemption.


With his mind and heart he cries:


'Father, hold me fast to thy creating will, that I may know myself one with it, know myself its outcome, its willed embodiment, and rejoice without trembling. Be this the delight of my being, that thou hast willed, hast loved me forth; let me know that I am thy child, born to obey thee.'



adapted from various MacDonald sermons, especially Life


Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Great Commission.18


"These words I have spoken to you, that in me, and in your obedience to them, you might find peace. In the world you will experience pain and trouble; but rejoice, for I have overcome the world."
--Jesus


Pain & Trouble

In this communication rich world our pain & trouble are magnified beyond comprehension.  Politicians and pundits will argue incessantly about solutions to the pain and trouble.  Well meaning debates, but in the end futile.  Is there enough security to prevent every act of lawlessness?   Are there enough doctors to heal every wound? 

But the fact that we are aware beyond our ability to process only serves to illuminate for us the wonder of Jesus' statement, nay, the wonder of His being!  Tragic deaths, senseless carnage, irresponsible leadership, unconscionable corruption, accelerating deterioration, unfathomable apathy, brazen brutishness, global unrest all work to define the brightness of the light that exposes the darkness of the human nature, and the power able to destroy that darkness.


For one said, "is God bound to forgive sin or to destroy sin?"  To put behind sins awfulness for all time by eternal choice of the Beloved is the work of overcoming.  Each step toward obedience is that choice.

May we be ever grateful for the work of Pain & Trouble as our constant reminder to trust in Jesus and His power to overcome!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Great Commission.17

Whoever hears the words that you speak, hears me; and those that despise you, because of your words, despise me. In rejecting me, they reject the Father who sent me. So, endure the criticism of skeptics and nonbelievers for my sake. Stand firm, and in so doing, you will be blessed.

--Jesus

As a school bus driver not infrequently did I have to reprimand older students on the use of the “F-word.”  Usually the reprimand came with a solemn warning: “if you limit your vocabulary to one word for all parts of speech, you’ll soon find you’ll be reduced to pointing, grunting and clubbing each other to communicate ideas.”  


If one believes in Natural Law and the Creative Mind behind that law, then it makes sense that the idea of the Truth of a thing has something to do with the purpose the Creative Mind gave it.  Does it not follow that if that Creative Mind also created the ability in the created to understand the truth of a thing then we--the created--have some obligation to search for it?  Our ability to understand the truth lies in the individual and is subject to each one’s own temperament, curiosity, hunger, intellect, spiritual affinity, maturity, perseverance, teachable-ness, honesty and openness.

Jesus, early in his teachings, took a child into the midst of an argument between his disciples on the issue of "greatness".  Visually he was able to not only demonstrate the character of his kingdom--childlike loving obedience to the loving will of the Father--but the Truth of the link between that character, himself, and his father.

Here at the end of his ministry he again teaches that the link is inexorable to the worst mischief man can devise.  If his words are alive in us, the very meaning of the logos of God, in God, is God that became flesh which beloved apostle John came to grasp in the opening of his gospel, alive in a way that demonstrates that link to a corrupt, unbelieving, rebellious world then we can stand, like Him, firm in inspired confidence.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Great Commission.16

When you are confronted 
by the world's hatred, 

remember how it hated me
 before your time. 

And when they persecute you in one place,
move on to the next. 


You will not have reached 
all the peoples of the world 
before the Messiah returns. 

If a city refuses to accept you, 
or heed your message, 
shake the dust of that city 
from your feet 
as you depart. 

In the  final day of judgment, 
it will have been better to be 
from the land of 
Sodom and Gomorrah 
than from such a place.
--Jesus


We have all, from birth on-wards, encountered hatred in one form or another ranging from mild annoyance to seething resentment to physical violence.  But the hatred Jesus warns of here is that unaccountable form that speaks to the nature or kind of hatred.  "Remember how it hated me..." is the lesson Jesus must teach us.

The root of all sin is rebellion to the Father.  It is antagonism--to His will, His ways, His righteousness, His Truth, His love--that energizes evil deeds and is best described by the Psalmist:

Why are the nations so angry?
Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepare for battle;
the rulers plot together against the LORD
and against his anointed one.
"Let us break their chains," they cry,
"and free ourselves from slavery to God."


"The slaves of sin rarely grumble at that slavery; it is their slavery to God they grumble at; of that alone they complain-of the painful messengers he sends to deliver them from their slavery both to sin and to himself.
They must be sons or slaves.
They cannot rid themselves of their owner. Whether they deny God, or mock him by acknowledging and not heeding him, or treat him as an arbitrary, formal monarch...taking no trouble to find out what pleases him...they are slaves, and not the less slaves that they are slaves to God; they are so thoroughly slaves, that they do not care to get out of their slavery by becoming sons and daughters, by finding the good of life where alone it can or could lie.---MacDonald, Freedom, Unspoken Sermons III
As a potent witness to the message of the Master--of repentance leading to the putting away of sin and running in childlike wonder to the arms of the Father--we must understand the nature of the hatred we encounter from the world and neither be fearfully paralyzed nor intimidated to silence by it.  How difficult to grasp that the message of love, repentance and freedom, of good deeds done in compassion and kindness would generate such hostility.

Remember the cross and keep moving!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Great Commission.15


"Truly, it is a fire that I have come to bring upon the earth. How I long to see it ablaze! Did you imagine that I had come to bring peace and tranquility?  No, I tell you, I have come to spread division! From now on, there will be five in one house, divided as to what they should believe, three against two, and two against three."
--Jesus


"For Richard was now but too well convinced that he had no power of persuasion equal to the task of making Dorothy see things as he saw them.  The dividing influence of imperfect opposing goods is potent as that of warring good and evil, with this important difference, that the former is but for a season, and will one day bind as strongly as it parted, while the latter is essential, absolute, impassible, eternal." --MacDonald, from St. George and St. Michael.

Sadly, mine is a divided house.  One son coaches wrestling for Central Michigan University; two sons wrestle for Michigan State University.  Normally it's not much of an issue...until the two teams compete against each other.  Normally CMU wins and the trash talking ensues.  Normally, love of wrestling heals all wounds...

Sadly, the USA is a divided house.  But it is not divided over a favorite sports team.  It is divided over what we should believe.  Many of us believe, rightly in my opinion, that it is a "warring between good and evil", rather than opinion over "imperfect opposing goods."  Whether it is economic issues such as private property vs redistribution, or social issues such as "pro-choice" vs "pro-life"; it is imperative to the health of the nation that we are able to see the debate for what it really is and know if we still have the capacity to distinguish good from evil.

The point here is not to rehash why one view is better than the other, but that there must be a point when the fires blaze!  Jesus was not advocating anarchy, but purity of conviction which leads to the rule of righteousness.  We have long debated whether Abraham Lincoln was a hero or tyrant.  What we cannot debate is that the eradication of slavery was a costly victory that only came as the fire of passions blazed!  The only question that remains: are we a better nation because we paid the price?  Is the world a better place because the people of the United States of America were willing to pay that price and make a statement against an evil practice that was old as human society?

This question still remains: do we have the courage of our convictions even today?  Will the evil of
tyranny & despotism finally be eradicated in the world by the fire of conviction and the will to righteousness beginning here in the land of the free?  Are we still the home of the brave...or, as Mark Twain observed, ‘the average man’s a coward...’  

May the guiding hand of Divine Providence help us answer that question even as Jesus proclaimed to every generation of mankind: ‘how I long to see it ablaze!’ May the love of good and hatred of evil inspire us to be men of courage to this generation!  

The world will be a better place for it.




Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Great Commission.14


If I had not come 
with the message of truth,
   the inhabitants of the world 
would not have been 
aware of their failings 
and wrong behavior. 

No longer can they hide behind their former ignorance of the truth. 


If I had not 

performed miracles among them, 
   they would not have known 
that the kingdom had come 
to dwell among them. 

Now those who have rejected the truth

 have also been witness to the miracles, 
   and hate both me and my Father. 

This is come to pass, that the prophecy might be fulfilled: 

"They have hated me without cause."
--Jesus


What is harder to imagine:  
the majestic grandeur of heaven 
-or-
 a world where Jesus 
'had not come?'

What better occupation for the Son of God than carpenter to build an understanding of all that is True into the fabric of social relations!

For what is True?  In carpentry it is the intersection of complex influences on the senses: perspective, level, plum, geometry, equilibrium, optics, and gravity.  However complicated these intertwining concepts there is a simple tool to measure True - a carpenter's level.

Jesus is the Level of Truth.  By Him mankind was given the gift of True; the way to measure all the convoluting influences on right behavior.  By pointing all things to our Creator Father we can understand better ourselves.  He taught us that it is in the doing of truth that we only understand the truth of a thing.


"Ask a man of mere science, what is the truth of a flower: he will pull it to pieces, show you its parts, explain how they operate, how they minister each to the life of the flower; he will tell you what changes are wrought in it by scientific cultivation; where it lives originally, where it can live; the effects upon it of another climate; what part the insects bear in its varieties-and doubtless many more facts about it. Ask the poet what is the truth of the flower, and he will answer: 'Why, the flower itself, the perfect flower, and what it cannot help saying to him who has ears to hear it.' The truth of the flower is, not the facts about it, be they correct as ideal science itself, but the shining, glowing, gladdening, patient thing throned on its stalk-the compeller of smile and tear from child and prophet.
The truth of a thing, then, is the blossom of it, the thing it is made for, the topmost stone set on with rejoicing; truth in a man's imagination is the power to recognize this truth of a thing; and wherever, in anything that God has made, in the glory of it, be it sky or flower or human face, we see the glory of God, there a true imagination is beholding a truth of God.

Man is man only in the doing of the truth, perfect man only in the doing of the highest truth, which is the fulfilling of his relations to his origin. 
But 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, 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 fulfillments 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. 
The duty of Jesus was the doing in lower forms than the perfect that which he loved perfectly, and did perfectly in the highest forms also. Thus he fulfilled all righteousness. One who went to the truth by mere impulse, would be a holy animal, not a true man. Relations, truths, duties, are shown to the man away beyond him, that he may choose them, and be a child of God, choosing righteousness like him. Hence the whole sad victorious human tale, and the glory to be revealed!"  --George MacDonald, The Truth

Thus it is essential to our being to obey Jesus who leads us always to Truth!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Great Commission.13

"Remember that in the earthly kingdom no servant is greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you, punishing you for my cause, not realizing Who it was that sent me into the world. If, however, they accept and follow my message, they will accept and follow yours as well."

--Jesus

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent.
Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed me,
I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole.
Can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?
--Amy Carmichael 

How about we not just pray for the persecuted church.  How about we be the persecuted church that like its Master lives a life so selfless, compassionate and giving we can't be overlooked by "Brutalism's political empire."  How about we remember why we choose not to live under the radar of radical righteousness: there are those who will accept His message!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Great Commission.12


"If you are accused and brought to court, 
do not fear at your lack of words. 
They will be given to you in that instant.
You need not rely on your words alone, 
for the breath of God will speak through you."
--Jesus

What scares you more:

  • being accused of following Jesus
-OR-

  • lack of evidence that you ARE a follower of Jesus?

The greatest evidence that we are a follower of Jesus is that we rely on the Breath of God to invigorate our speech...everyday!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Great Commission.11


"Be warned: there will be those who will attempt to silence your witness of me. You will be summoned to court, and dealt with unfairly, and imprisoned on behalf of me. Because of my words, you will be asked to testify before those who do not believe, before rulers, governors, and kings."
--Jesus


Warned
   Follower of Jesus do you consider your witness of the Master a thing so potent that you must be a target of aggression?  Better yet, is not this a good measure of our witness?  If we are feeble and barely make a ripple on the waters of the conscience of those around us, should we not be more alarmed at that then the possibility of persecution for a bold and steady call to repentance?  Recall the scene in "Saving Private Ryan" when Corporal Upham sat paralyzed in fear heedless of the dying cries of his comrade in the room next to him.  Having completed his death match, the Nazi walked on past with sneering disregard for the miserable mass of cowardice sniveling on the steps. 

Silenced
    The silence is deafening as the world casts a deaf ear to the influence of Christianity -- from removing prayer in schools, to Roe v Wade, to the sterile world of leftism's love affair with science and reason marginalizing people of faith.
    
Summoned
By definition a summons is to call or notify to appear at a specified place, especially before a court.  It is usually followed by apprehension, dread or fear by the summoned.  But as Jesus' followers it ought to be seen as our commission by the One who chooses and strategically appoints us to our tasks for the Kingdom.  In my day job I have been chosen to train new field reps.  I recently was "summoned" to go on a training mission.  Not only did I represent my company but also my King as the rep and I had memorable conversations about the perfecting love of God in Jesus.
    
Dealt With Unfairly
   If we ever need to be reminded that we are not yet in the Kingdom whose King is love, it is only to have to deal with this world's system.  Daily we are reminded by news stories that this world is not our home and we ought to carefully guard our hearts from expecting true justice and "fairness" in our dealings.

Imprisoned
    I had dream that I went to prison for opting out of social security for my work as a pastor.  I was greatly troubled by the dream.  Not for going to prison as much as the reason.  The founder's of our faith, the apostles, considered it a privilege to suffer for the King.  But they also warned that our persecution should rest on righteousness not bumbling badness.

Testify
    If we are the followers of God's Logos and trust Him daily to teach us the meaning of His words by living in obedience to his great heart, then surely we can trust him to give us His words, full of His meaning, at the right time!  Notice the progression:

  • those who don't believe
  • rulers
  • governors
  • Kings
What a thrill that His words--lived out in our lives--are so full of potency that we must give an account to and potentially change the hearts of people in power who, themselves, will one day give an account to the King of Kings!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Great Commission.10

"Do not hesitate to accept hospitality, yet remain purposeful. Resist aimless wandering. Enjoy whatever food and drink is offered you, for the person who labors is worthy of just wages.
Those who accept you, accept me also, and they that accept me welcome also the Father who has sent me."
---Jesus


Remain Purposeful.

Have you been on a mission trip at anytime in your Christian experience?  Remember the excitement of being prayed over and the sense of really "doing something for Jesus?

Most of us who've grown up in the church have been brought up on a steady diet of spiritual dualism, the notion that there are certain activities that are more important to God like "bible studies" and career choices, like "missionary", than the mundane endeavors we find ourselves in and wonder if He cares much about.  After all did not Jesus call Peter and the boys from the tediousness of fishing to a far more glorious work of "fishing" for men?

Aware of this tendency in the holy huddle of the Christian community, as a pastor I tried to avoid this dualism by celebrating "secular" accomplishments in school, work or home-life by focusing on the evidence of  God's pleasure and power in those things as well..  But the real challenge is to instill in every follower of Jesus to "remain purposeful" in all the activities of life by living with an awareness that He is always leading us triumphantly to overcome sin in our own lives and helping others in their struggles as well.

Resist Aimless Wandering.

In my "secular" work of sales I catch myself "aimlessly wandering" from time to time.  Although I try to start each day with a plan I am aware that a set back, a broken promise, a rejection, or geographical lost-ness can throw me off target.  Even a significant success can lull me into a sense of self-satisfaction that slows my mission.

As a follower of Jesus we do, indeed, live with a sort of dualism in that we have confidence that whatever the work we are doing, when we are doing it with a whole heart for his glory and excellence, brings Him pleasure.  And confidence that along the journey there are precious moments of ministry when we surely are His eyes, ears, hands and mouth to bring blessing to those he's led us to.

Not infrequently do I have those moments as I do my work.  One favorite moment was while talking to a lady about our organization, she seemed distant and distracted.  She apologized and told me she'd just found out that her married son and father of her three grandchildren had just learned he had cancer.  Her own battle with cancer gave her hope that it could be won, but not without great pain and sacrifice.  I asked her if we could pray together.  As we bowed our heads, Jesus surely showed up to minister to that lady!

Worthy of Wages

If we love God and his Son, Jesus, with all our heart, soul and strength.  If we demonstrate that love by loving others with all our heart, soul and strength.  Then we taste the reward in small portions of his joy in precious moments of ministry like that.  No matter what the sum in the wage box shows on our check...we know we have a down payment on eternal joy waiting in oneness with Him!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Great Commission.9

"Whenever you are invited into a house, offer first a blessing, and say: "Peace be to this house." If those in the house are for peace, your blessing will be accepted, and they will be benefited. If not, the benefits of your blessing will return to you." 

--Jesus




Visiting our local high school one day, I couldn't help noticing the large number of youth lounging on the floor outside the cafeteria during lunch.  When I inquired why, the principle sighed and said, "It's the way they eat their meals at home."  I approached a strange situation: a girl, back against the wall, with a boy laying prone on the floor face down in her lap.  Using my foot I rolled the lad over demanding: "What in the world are you doing?"  He looked at me like I was an alien...

The lesson here:

behavior shaped in the home 
shapes the community!

Who shapes the home?

Better yet: who has authority to shape the home?



Answer:
Door Knockers for Jesus!
(How's that for a 40-day spiritual adventure slogan?!) This same Jesus who knocks at the door of every heart, sends his followers to knock on the physical doors of the home in order to find those who are yielding to the gentle knocking of the heart.

As a field rep for the nation's largest small business organization I knock on hundreds of doors weekly looking for a certain kind of businessmen: patriots!  Searching for the "Men of Isaachar" who are described as "men who knew the times and knew what Israel should do."  We match these patriots' desire to change the political environment with the effective activity to accomplish it.


Similarly followers of Jesus are called to go find the "man of peace"; i.e., those who are dissatisfied with their present condition and want to match their desire for life with the knowledge of how to know the Life-Giver!


"Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee."

- Augustine

If we are honest with ourselves, isn't going door-knocking one of the most terrifying experiences of a human being?  "Jesus you don't really expect me to do that...they'll think I'm one of those JW's!"

But if overcoming fear, discouragment, apathy and other "works of the devil", laying down our lives, looking for the lost sheep, bringing the "benefits of blessing": Light, Life and Love into dark places isn't like the Master, what is?  

Our calling into the Kingdom isn't about knowing stuff about Jesus, its about being like him: to look through love eyes, faith eyes, truth eyes into the eyes of those on the other side of the door...

Music Link:
This Is Where The Healing Begins - 10th Ave North

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Great Commission.8

"If you are not for me, you are against me; 
and they that do not gather with me, scatter."
--Jesus

I gather.

I gather many things.  

  • Pop bottles on the side of the road.  
  • Tools and lumber to build things.  
  • Family & friends for holidays. 
  • Small business owners for membership in the association I work for.
  • Friends who pray for friends.
  • People to meet my Lord.

My gathering is motivated by many things.  Duty. Maturity. Responsibility. Joy. Happiness. Livelihood. Ambition. Obedience. Love. Coffee.

Jesus commands us not, primarily, for activity, but for our development as kingdom citizens.  Gathering is not what we do, as His followers, it is who we are.  By the activity we become the command.  Activity empowered and guided by His Spirit.  Commands that reflect his nature.


  • "His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
  • "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"
  • "Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, 'Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"
  • "The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers,"
  • "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."
  • "And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
  • "But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?"
  • "And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost."
  • "And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, "Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe."
  • For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them."
  • "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God's messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't let me.
  • One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn't even find time to eat.
  • I sent you to harvest where you didn't plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest."

Economy

Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations, explains that in order to efficiently make something as seemingly insignificant as nails, it takes many workers each doing a small part from gathering ore, to melting it down, making the casts, separating the cooled metal, burnishing the edges, packaging, distribution, and sales.  If one person were to do all those activities only a few nails per day would ever be produced.  But by many people doing a small part, thousands of nails are produced daily.

Jesus has one work of the Father: building a kingdom of righteousness, faith & love.  If our mindset is His, we daily do our part of helping in the effort.  Small as it is--a kind word, a sacrifice of giving, a prayer offered for a friend, work done with integrity, a cup of cold water to a child, a testimony born of need, healing hands, gracious words spiced with a little salt--gathering activity that is marked by His nature.



Friday, September 14, 2012

The Great Commission.7



Go announce to the world: "The kingdom of heaven has come to dwell among you."
Heal the sick, restore the lepers to health; raise the dead; cast out devils! Remember what I have told you: "Freely you have received. Freely give!"
--Jesus

Question: What, for God's sake, is the Good News of His Kingdom?

Answer:  That the evidence of the character of His Kingdom is in you, follower of Jesus!!


The angels, in a purity of strength and conviction barely comprehensible to humanity, announced Good Tidings of Great Joy: the Great Gift of God to the  World, the Only Son, the Great Prophet, Healer, Teacher, Giver of Good Gifts, Who Will Save Us From Our Sins!


Years later, reading from the Isaiah scroll in the temple, all of Nazareth's finest gathered to hear their homely son, speak these sweet, gracious words, 'I am come 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!" 

 "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."

Would it be more or less like Him to commend his followers to the same effort?  

Heal the sick.  In the distracting debate over healthcare, with the world's best resources in science, medicine, and technology, with the ability to routinely replace vital organs, joints and hair we have lost the answer to the question: where does one go to heal a broken heart, a wounded relationship, debilitating despair, enervating evil or empty existence?  What cost to heal the body, what willingness to endure financial, emotional, physical pain for temporary relief?  Freely we have received from the treasure house of healing the things that make life truly worth living: perfecting love!  Let us give freely!



Restore Lepers to Health.  Who are the socially outcast, the ugly, untouchables longing for the gentle touch of humanity to enfold them and draw them away from their loneliness and isolation? In the Kingdom of Love there is no place for racism, bigotry, fear, meanness or misunderstanding.    In the parking lot at Walmart last night I noticed a "man of color" looking under the hood of a car and explaining something to a lady nearby.  After he shut the hood I asked if everything was alright.  He smiled and said he was just explaining how to fix a problem the lady was having with her car.  At the moment a lady of Caucasian complexion strode up offering assistance with a smile.  It was a moment in the brotherhood of kindness.  A moment to drink deeply the love that binds, overcomes, overlooks.

Raise the Dead.   As surely as the fact that there are none so blind as him who will not see, there are none so dead as him who will not live.  May we never be intimidated by the hostility of the spiritually dead but live to bring them to life. "To believe in such a man as Jesus is life from the dead!  To yield oneself, to live no more in the idea of self, but with the life of God.  To commit the creature he has made that He may live in it, and work out its life--develop it according to the idea of it in His own creating mind.  To fall in with His ways is to trust him, to believe in Him, to obey him, to be rendered capable of and receive a pure vision of His will, freedom from the limitation, from bondage to a finite existence.  Less than the liberty of a holy heart, less than the freedom of the Lord himself, will never satisfy one human soul."


Cast Out The Devils.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.  Jesus lived to do His Father's perfect Will.  Jesus died that we might die like him, die to any ruling power but the Perfect Will of God. To be a follower of Jesus is the reason every human being is born!  To live in his power and purpose is light to the world!



quotes from MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel, Jesus and his Townsmen

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Great Commission.6



"If you wish to serve me, follow me; 
and where I am, there you, my servant, 
will be as well, honored by my Father."
--Jesus


As Jesus went out of a house, the young man came running to him, and kneeling down in the way, addressed him as 'Good Master.'  (St. Mark 10:10 and 17)

The words with which the Lord interrupts his address reveal the whole attitude of the Lord's being. At that moment, at every and each moment, just as much as when in the garden of Gethsemane, or encountering any of those hours which men call crises of life, his whole thought, his whole delight, was 
  • in the thought,
  • in the will, 
  • in the being of his Father.
The joy of the Lord's life, that which made it life to him, was the Father;
            of him he was always thinking, 
                     to him he was always turning. 

I suppose most men have some thought of pleasure or satisfaction or strength to which they turn when action pauses, life becomes for a moment still, and the wheel sleeps on its own swiftness: with Jesus it needed no pause of action, no rush of renewed consciousness, to send him home; his thought was ever and always his Father. To its home in the heart of the Father his heart ever turned. That was his treasure-house, the jewel of his mind, the mystery of his gladness, claiming all degrees and shades of delight, from peace and calmest content to ecstasy. 

His life was hid in God. No vain show could enter at his eyes; every truth and grandeur of life passed before him as it was; neither ambition nor disappointment could distort them to his eternal childlike gaze; he beheld and loved them from the bosom of the Father. 

It was not for himself he came to the world—not to establish his own power over the doings, his own influence over the hearts of men: he came that they might know the Father who was his joy, his life. 

The sons of men were his Father's children like himself: that the Father should have them all in his bosom was the one thought of his heart: that should be his doing for his Father, cost him what it might! 

He came to do his will, and on the earth was the same he had been from the beginning, the eternal first. He was not interested in himself, but in his Father and his Father's children. 

He did not care to hear himself called good. 
It was not of consequence to him. 
He was there to let men see the goodness of the Father in whom he gloried. 
For that he entered the weary dream of the world, in which the glory was so dulled and clouded. 

'You call me good! You should know my Father!'

from The Way, Unspoken Sermons II, George MacDonald

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Great Commission.5


"Even greater works will you accomplish, 
for I must return to my Father in Heaven."
                                                                 ---Jesus

Where I Belong (click on link for a powerful music video)




For the past few weeks I've worked in an area far from home. The hospitality of my father-in-law has made the time away easier...but it is still not home.

If Home is Where the Heart Is it must not surprise us that for the entire time Jesus walked this planet, surrounded by a faithful earthly father, loving mother, admiring followers, and countless beneficiaries of his amazing grace and power, he yet longed to be where He belonged.

His message was a simple one: if you think I do great things, you should know my Father!  He dwelt for a time in the shadowland, but his heart beat for the Land of Truth and Reality where there is no shifting shadow, no misunderstanding, no illusion, pretense, falseness, impiety, meanness, unfairness, lying, deceit, carelessness, indolence, greed, envy, immorality, impurity, cowardice, infidelity, mockery, murder, anxiety, indifference...

His "must return" is our beacon light to follow as we climb the summit of faith ever closer to the place where He dwells -- in Oneness with the Father of Light, Life and Love.  As we travel our legs grow stronger, our love gets better, our works look more like His, so that even the smallest act of kindness to the least of his brothers multiplied by the innumerable count of faithful followers shines like the stars of heaven!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Great Commission.4


If you believe in me, you will do the same works that I do. 
--Jesus

Immerse yourself, for a moment, in this proclamation by our Elder Brother, Friend, Savior, Lord and Master.

Now combine that thought with this MacDonaldism:
"Jesus has a right to our absolute obedience."

If you, lover of truth, can handle the truth.  
If you, lover of truth, allow truth to stand in judgment of you 
              and resist standing in judgment of truth.

Then let this truth fill your heart: God has a design on our lives that goes beyond occupation, degree, matrimony, parenthood, community standing or history.  It is our birthright.

Notice at the top of this blog page the words: "Will and Obedience the perfecting link between God and man."

Think on the relationship between Perfect Father and Perfect Son.  Perfect Will.  Perfect Obedience.  Obedience is as divine as Will, Service as divine as Rule.  They are one in nature; they are both doing of the truth.  The Fatherhood and the Sonship are one, save that the Fatherhood looks down lovingly, and the Sonship looks up lovingly.  Love is all.

Think about the requirement of the kingdom of God: childlikeness.

Why childlikeness?  Consider the dull disciples arguing about "greatness" in God's kingdom.  Consider our own insecurity in relation to others of skill, wealth, humor, passion, leadership, athleticism, intellect, persuasiveness, experience, position or purpose.
Jesus tells the dull of all ages that the nature of His kingdom lies in the virtue of childlikeness. The very idea of ruling is excluded where childlikeness is the One Essential quality. It is to be no more who rules but who serves; no more who should look down upon his fellows from the conquered heights of authority, but who should look up honoring humanity, ministering unto it, so that humanity itself might at length be persuaded of its own honor as a temple of the living God. Nothing is required of man that is not first in God. It is because God is perfect that we are required to be perfect.

Stop then, this very hour, being a salesman for the local church you attend, the party you rally for, the team you cheer, the race of your birth, the ideology you hold, the doctrines you claim.  Be, from the core of your existence, the thing God designed you for and is perfecting in you: the obedient child of his heart.  Let your "belief" not be demonstrated in the loudness of your words, but in the quiet confidence of the works that tell the world I am like my brother, Jesus. I do his works.  I help, heal and save just like my Father.  Bring Light to dark places.  Bring hope to the hopeless.  

Be the sign of truth that lies in your childlike heart that the eyes that see you and the ears that hear you should be channels to the heart and wake in them the love that peculiarly belongs to the kingdom of God.
(from MacDonalds Unspoken Sermon vol. I, The Child In the Midst