Friday, March 30, 2012

The Blessings.7

"Blessed are you, who are merciful. You will receive mercy in return."--Jesus

Mercy comes in where mercy goes out.

God will have us good, right and true.  He sides with humanity against the man who treats others with indifference, contempt, selfishness, meanness, abasement, slander, reproach, prejudice, injustice, foul play, deceit, or returns in kind for same.

God is merciful; we must be merciful.  God will not let it be otherwise for that would be unmerciful.

There is no blessedness except in being like God!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Blessings.8

"Blessed are you peacemakers, 
for you will be called the children of God." 

With the growing global protests in places like Ukraine,
Egypt, Syria, and Ferguson, Missouri, it might be timely to consider Jesus' promise to the peacemakers. 

Here are thoughts of hope from George MacDonald.
"Those that are on their way to see God, those who are growing pure in heart through hungering and thirsting after righteousness, are indeed the children of God; but specially the Lord calls those his Children who, on their way home, are peace-makers in the travelling company; for, surely, those in any family are specially the Children, who make peace with and among the rest.

The true idea of the universe is the whole family in heaven and earth. All the children in this part of it, the earth, at least, are not good children; but however far the earth is from being a true portion of a real family, the life-germ at the root of the world is its relation to God the father of men.
For the same purpose, the whole divine family is made up of numberless human families, that in these, men may learn and begin to love one another.

God, then, would make of the world a true, divine family.
Now the primary necessity to the very existence of a family is peace. Many a human family is no family, and the world is no family yet, for the lack of peace.

Wherever peace is growing, there of course is the live peace, counteracting disruption and disintegration, and helping the development of the true essential family.
The one question as to any family is, whether peace or strife be on the increase in it; for peace alone makes it possible for the binding grassroots of life -love and justice- to spread throughout what were else but a wind-blown heap of still drifting sand. 
The peace-makers quiet the winds of the world ever ready to be up and blowing; they tend and cherish the interlacing roots of the ministering grass; they spin and twist many uniting cords, and they weave many supporting bands; they are the servants, for the truth's sake, of the individual, of the family, of the world, of the great universal family of heaven and earth.
They are the true children of that family, the allies and ministers of every clasping and consolidating force in it; fellow-workers they are with God in the creation of the family; they help him to get it to his mind, to perfect his father-idea.
Ever radiating peace, they welcome love, but do not seek it; they provoke no jealousy. They are the children of God, for like him they would be one with his creatures.
His eldest son, Jesus, his very likeness, was the first of the family-peace-makers. Preaching peace to them that were afar off and them that were near, he stood undefended in the turbulent crowd of his fellows, and it was only over his dead body that his brothers began to come together in the peace that will not be broken. He rose again from the dead; his peace-making brothers, like himself, are dying unto sin; and not yet have the evil children made their father hate, or their elder brother flinch.
On the other hand, those whose influence is to divide and separate, causing the hearts of men to lean away from each other, make themselves the children of the evil one: born of God and not of the devil, they turn from God, and adopt the devil their father.
They set their God-born life against God, against the whole creative, redemptive purpose of his unifying will, ever obstructing the one prayer of the first-born: that the children may be one with him in the Father.
Against the heart-end of creation, against that for which the Son yielded himself utterly, the sowers of strife, the fomenters of discord, contend ceaseless. They do their part with all the other powers of evil to make the world which the love of God holds together one heaving mass of dissolution.
But they labor in vain.

Through the mass guided in dance in inexplicable prophetic harmony,
move the children of God,

the lights of the world,

the lovers of men,

the fellow-workers with God,

the peace-makers;

ever weaving the web of the world's history after a pattern devised by, and known only to God who orders their ways.
But for them the world would have no history; it would vanish, a cloud of wind-borne dust. As in his labor, so shall these share in the joy of God, in the divine fruition of victorious endeavor. 
Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God-the children because they set the Father on the throne of the Family.

The main practical difficulty, with some at least of the peace-makers, is, how to carry themselves toward the un-doers of peace, the dis-uniters of souls.

One thing is plain-that we must love the strife-maker; another is nearly as plain-that, if we do not love him, we must leave him alone; for without love there can be no peace-making, and words will but occasion more strife.

To be kind neither hurts nor compromises. Kindness has many phases, and the fitting form of it may avoid obedience, and must avoid untruth.
We must not fear what man can do to us, but commit our way to the Father of the Family. We must be nowise anxious to defend ourselves.

Whatever our relation, then, with any peace-breaker, our mercy must ever be within call; and it may help us against an indignation too strong to be pure, to remember that when any man is reviled for righteousness-sake, then is he blessed."
---George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel (edited)

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm

"If you had only known, in this your day of salvation, the eternal peace so near at hand! But now it is hidden from your eyes. The powers of the heavens will be shaken, and people's hearts will fail them for fear, anticipating the calamities that are destined for this world....
When you hear of wars and the turmoil of destruction; do not let your hearts fill with fear: for these things must first come to pass; the end is not yet. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. Fearful sights and great signs will appear in the heavens. There will be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars. On the earth will be great adversity between the nations, and perplexity, roaring like the sea's mighty waves. Famines, plagues, and earthquakes will increase. All these are the beginnings of sorrow. Because evil will abound, the love of many will turn cold.
You will be betrayed, and condemned to death, and hated by all nations for my name's sake. Remain watchful, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape these things that are coming to pass, and to stand, justified, before the Messiah, the Son of Man." --Jesus

Bible scholars for centuries have tried to make sense of these prophetic words of Jesus.  During the time interval from when he uttered them to the present the world has endured countless wars, earthquakes, fearful sights and perplexity.  Most societies, like the individuals that inhabit them, are capable of adapting and finding solutions to regather & rebuild after a catastrophe.  

So what did he mean?  It is the business of life to figure out what Jesus meant.

Since mankind has had to deal with catastrophe nearly all the days of our existence on this planet, does that discount Jesus' words? Does our ability to instantly & visually observe events around the globe create an illusion of increased prophetic activity for those who try to read signs in tea leaves?  Or was Jesus pointing to a confluence of events that would overwhelm the entire global community?

The story/movie, The Perfect Storm,  graphically illustrates the idea of a situation in which all the resources of experience, intelligence, manpower, training, equipment and courage are overwhelmed by the intensity of nature.

Some are suggesting that is exactly what is happening in the world today.  As the US Federal Reserve prints "funny" money out of thin air it is putting inflationary pressure on other global currencies giving rise to higher food prices.  Much of the protests we are seeing began as a reaction to food price increases.  Riots are breaking out over bankrupt government's inability to pay for promised entitlements.  Religious fanaticism, pirating, political turmoil adds to the uncertainty, fear & chaos.  Political Correctness paralyzes; cultural norms are in upheaval.  Earthquakes, tsunami's, shifting weather patterns, and other "signs" wreak havoc on more than just property.  Shifting alliances, shifting financial & military power structures, shifting global economies & currencies. Nuclear proliferation by rogue nations. Unparalleled changes are happening in our generation--simultaneously!  It's very nearly overwhelming!

The clamor for a New World Order, interestingly, is also on the rise!  The revolutionairies of the 60's have quietly bid their time working with union, academic, political, religious and corporate leaders to build a world-wide structure to bring about their utopian vision!

Jesus gave us His ultimate vision: a New World Ordered by Rightousness!

"At the end of time, the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens, causing the nations of the earth to tremble. All will see the Messiah, the Son of Man, appearing with power and great glory; and they will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the living God, returning on the clouds of heaven. And he will send his angels with the great sound of a trumpet; and they will gather together his chosen ones as from the four winds, from the farthest ends of the heavens and earth, and reward everyone according to his works."--Jesus

Be strong and courageous.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  

"Do not let your heart be overwhelmed by the pursuit of earthly pleasure, or the anxieties of life. Let not my returning find you unprepared; for like the springing of a trap, will it suddenly come upon the earth.
Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when he comes, finds ready and anticipating his arrival, even if he should come in the middle of the night, or at dawning of the day. Truly I say, that he will adorn himself in his banquet clothes, and invite such servants to sit down with him at the table of feasting, rising himself to serve them as honoured guests!
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.  I make all things new."--Jesus

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Blessings.10

"How even more blessed are you, who having not seen me believe, and keep your faith in me. Blessed are your eyes, for they truly see, and your ears, for they truly hear. Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world." --Jesus


"When in the winter they had had their supper and sat about the fire, or when in the summer they lay on the border of the rock-margined stream that ran through their little meadow close by the door of their cottage, issuing from the far-up whiteness often folded in clouds, Curdie's mother would often lead the conversation to one peculiar personage said and believed to have been much involved in recent events.

That personage was the great-great-grandmother of the princess, of whom the princess had often talked, but whom neither Curdie nor his mother had ever seen. Curdie could indeed remember, although already it looked more like a dream than he could account for if it had really taken place, how the princess had once led him up many stairs to what she called a beautiful room in the top of the tower, where she went through all the - what should he call it? - the behaviour of presenting him to her grandmother, talking now to her and now to him, while all the time he saw nothing but a bare garret, a heap of musty straw, a sunbeam, and a withered apple. Lady, he would have declared before the king himself, young or old, there was none, except the princess herself, who was certainly vexed that he could not see what she at least believed she saw.

As for his mother, she had once seen, long before Curdie was born, a certain mysterious light of the same description as one Irene spoke of, calling it her grandmother's moon; and Curdie himself had seen this same light, shining from above the castle, just as the king and princess were taking their leave. Since that time neither had seen or heard anything that could be supposed connected with her. Strangely enough, however, nobody had seen her go away. if she was such an old lady, she could hardly be supposed to have set out alone and on foot when all the house was asleep. Still, away she must have gone, for, of course, if she was so powerful, she would always be about the princess to take care of her.

But as Curdie grew older, he doubted more and more whether Irene had not been talking of some dream she had taken for reality: he had heard it said that children could not always distinguish betwixt dreams and actual events. At the same time there was his mother's testimony: what was he to do with that? His mother, through whom he had learned everything, could hardly be imagined by her own dutiful son to have mistaken a dream for a fact of the waking world.

So he rather shrank from thinking about it, and the less he thought about it, the less he was inclined to believe it when he did think about it, and therefore, of course, the less inclined to talk about it to his father and mother; for although his father was one of those men who for one word they say think twenty thoughts, Curdie was well assured that he would rather doubt his own eyes than his wife's testimony.

There were no others to whom he could have talked about it. The miners were a mingled company - some good, some not so good, some rather bad - none of them so bad or so good as they might have been; Curdie liked most of them, and was a favourite with all; but they knew very little about the upper world, and what might or might not take place there. They knew silver from copper ore; they understood the underground ways of things, and they could look very wise with their lanterns in their hands searching after this or that sign of ore, or for some mark to guide their way in the hollows of the earth; but as to great-great-grandmothers, they would have mocked Curdie all the rest of his life for the absurdity of not being absolutely certain that the solemn belief of his father and mother was nothing but ridiculous nonsense. Why, to them the very word 'great-great-grandmother' would have been a week's laughter! I am not sure that they were able quite to believe there were such persons as great-great-grandmothers; they had never seen one.

They were not companions to give the best of help toward progress, and as Curdie grew, he grew at this time faster in body than in mind - with the usual consequence, that he was getting rather stupid - one of the chief signs of which was that he believed less and less in things he had never seen. At the same time I do not think he was ever so stupid as to imagine that this was a sign of superior faculty and strength of mind. Still, he was becoming more and more a miner, and less and less a man of the upper world where the wind blew. On his way to and from the mine he took less and less notice of bees and butterflies, moths and dragonflies, the flowers and the brooks and the clouds. He was gradually changing into a commonplace man.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. One of the latter sort comes at length to know at once whether a thing is true the moment it comes before him; one of the former class grows more and more afraid of being taken in, so afraid of it that he takes himself in altogether, and comes at length to believe in nothing but his dinner: to be sure of a thing with him is to have it between his teeth."

--George MacDonald, excerpt from The Princess & Curdie

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Blessings.9

"Blessed are you, who pursue righteousness (or persecuted for righteousness). You will become the citizens of the kingdom of God. Blessed are you when you suffer blame and are spoken evil of for doing my will. Rejoice! Leap for joy! Great is your reward in heaven. In a similar manner they persecuted the prophets before your time." --Jesus

My mom used to offer $5 bucks to my boys to read a book.
 She didn't care what book, she just wanted them to read. Today I'm sure my boys could not remember what they spent the money on; but they are grateful for the motivation from Grandma to learn to love reading!

Would God have us love righteousness?
Yes, of course, and to entice men to love His way of thinking, doing and being He offers "Great Reward!"

What is the reward? The envelope please...

The Reward of Righteousness is: Righteousness!! How about that?! Just as the reward of learning to read is reading and the one who has learned to love reading never feels cheated, so too the one who has learned to love righteousness knows the hope of living in a place--forever--where righteousness is the rule not the exception.

But learning to be and being righteous has its pitfalls. The Lord of Life, who teaches those who hunger & thirst for His righteousness, knows that without "willed effort" after it, humanity is capable of beastly things. Those who make any attempt at being righteous--defined simply as believing God in such a way that when the time for action comes a man or woman (with childlike heart) will obey God; it is the highest act, the deepest, loftiest righteousness of which a person is capable--will be distinguished in behavior from the neighbor who has no such faith or compulsion.

It is the the duty, the fair play, goodwill and love born of righteousness toward a neighbor that, at times misunderstood and unappreciated, make the learning more difficult. "It is the part of the enemy of righteousness to increase the difficulties in the way of becoming righteous, and to diminish those in the way of seeming righteous." But will not the same Lord who requires of us the same righteousness that exists in Him, not give all the encouragement He can by "word of love, deed of power and promise of good?
What reward then for becoming more and more righteous?
"...the doer of right grows better and humbler, and comes nearer to God's heart as nearer to His likeness; grows more capable of God's own blessedness, and of inheriting the kingdoms of heaven and earth. To be made greater than one's fellows is the offered reward of hell, and involves no greatness; to be made greater than one's self, is the divine reward, and involves a real greatness.
 --adapted from George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons III, Righteousness

Monday, March 19, 2012

On a Fruitful Life.4

"Once a man planted a fig tree within the walls of his vineyard. For three years he waited for it to bear fruit, but none came. At last he called the chief gardener: "Three years I have walked here, each year expecting to find fruit from this fig tree; and still it is barren. Why should it take up space on my grounds any longer? Cut it down."
To this the gardener replied: "Give the tree one more season. I will fertilize its roots and give it special attention. Perhaps then, it will bear fruit. If not, you do right in cutting it down." -- Jesus

There is an intense debate going on in our society today on the "fairness" of wealth distribution.  The conversation has shifted dramatically in favor of Government confiscation of private property.  Is it fair to be reminded that government doesn't own anything, create anything, produce anything?  Is it fair to persuade people that only individuals own, create, innovate and improve property?  Is it fair to point out that without a "firm reliance on Divine Providence" and commitment to faith, hope and charity we are left with a fearful choice between tyranny and anarchy?  Is it fair to demonstrate through the teachings of Jesus himself, that God expects individuals to be productive and fruitful, for that was his very intention when he gave man "dominion over the earth?"

Once again we must bring the conversation back to the understanding of the Founders -- men immersed in the teachings of Scripture, history and principle.  Relying on men like John Locke they understood the intention of the British crown to confiscate the property of the colonies through redistributive taxation and set about creating a governing document that would limit, for generations of Americans, the ability of government to confiscate private property thus freeing the American people to become the most innovative, industrious and generous people on earth.
"John Locke pointed out that the human family originally received the planet earth as a common gift and that mankind was given the capacity and responsibility to improve it. Said he:  "God, who hath given the world to men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life and convenience." Then Locke pointed out that man received the commandment from his Creator to "subdue" the earth and "have dominion" over it. But because dominion means control, and control requires exclusiveness, private rights in property became an inescapable necessity or an inherent aspect of subduing the earth and bringing it under dominion.    It is obvious that if there were no such thing as "ownership" in property, which means legally protected exclusiveness [bold italics added], there would be no subduing or extensive development of the resources of the earth. Without private "rights" in developed or improved property, it would be perfectly lawful for a lazy, covetous neighbor to move in as soon as the improvements were completed and take possession of the fruits of his industrious neighbor. And even the covetous neighbor would not be secure, because someone stronger than he could take it away from him." (Cleon Skousen, The Five Thousand Year Leap)

Skousen continues: "Note that if property rights did not exist, four things would occur which would completely frustrate the Creator's command to multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it and bring it under dominion:  
  1. One experience like the above (covetous men confiscating property) would tend to completely destroy the incentive of an industrious person to develop and improve any more property.
  2.  The industrious individual would also be deprived of the fruits of his labor.
  3.  Marauding bands would even be tempted to go about the country confiscating by force and violence the good things which others had frugally and painstakingly provided.
  4. Mankind would be impelled to remain on a bare subsistence level of hand-to-mouth survival because the accumulation of anything would invite attack. 
Another interesting point made by Locke is the fact that all property is an extension of a person's life, energy, and ingenuity. Therefore, to destroy or confiscate such property is, in reality, an attack on the essence of life itself.    The person who has worked to cultivate a farm, obtained food by hunting, carved a beautiful statue, or secured a wage by his labor, has projected his very being -- the very essence of his life -- into that labor. This is why Locke maintained that a threat to that property is a threat to the essence of life itself. Here is his reasoning:    "Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common [as the gift from God] to all men, yet every man has a "property" in his own "person." This, nobody has any right to but himself. The "labor" of his body and the "work" of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labor with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property"....(ibid pg 167)

"...One of the worst sins of government, according to the Founders, was the exercise of its coercive taxing powers to take property from one group  and give it to another. In our own day, when the government has imposed a multi-hundred-billion-dollar budget on the American people with about one half being "transfer payments" from the tax-paying public to the wards of the government, the following words of James Madison may sound strange:    "Government is instituted to protect property of every sort.... This being the end of government, that alone is not a just government, ... nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest."" (Ibid, pg 175)

We may disagree with the founders on property rights, it is our responsibility to debate and choose for ourselves what kind of America we want to leave for posterity.  But let us at least be clear on what they intended, what it has produced to this point and what we are leaving behind if we choose another course of governance.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

On a Fruitful Life.3

"Do you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from among thistles? A healthy tree cannot produce unhealthy fruit; nor does a rotten tree produce healthy fruit. Likewise, every good tree produces good fruit, and every rotten tree produces rotten fruit. The unhealthy tree is cut down and used as wood for the fire. Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. " -- Jesus

I ran into a friend at Walmart; a friend who's husband has been battling a stage four cancer that has turned their world upside down.  Chronicling her struggles on facebook I've followed their journey from the shock of discovery, to the anguish of uncertainty, the anger of unfairness, the stress in diagnosis and prescription for healing, the pain in process of cure, the dawning of hope in their hearts.  And in our conversation I noted a growing confidence in the Goodness of God!  Like so many fellow travelers who've had to endure intense suffering only to discover a greater outcome than they could have possibly imagined in oneness with each other and their Creator, they are quick to testify to His faithfulness!  It is this testimony that verifies the truth of  this insight into the work of Jesus in every human being's life:

"The Lord never came to deliver men from the consequences of their sins while yet those sins remained: that would be to cast out of window the medicine of cure while yet the man lay sick; to go dead against the very laws of being. Yet men, loving their sins, and feeling nothing of their dread hatefulness, have, consistently with their low condition, constantly taken this word concerning the Lord to mean that he came to save them from the punishment of their sins. This idea-the miserable fancy rather-has terribly corrupted the preaching of the gospel. The message of the good news has not been truly delivered.

It is the indwelling badness, ready to produce bad actions, that we need to be delivered from. Against this badness if a man will not strive, he is left to commit evil and reap the consequences. To be saved from these consequences, would be no deliverance; it would be an immediate, ever deepening damnation.

It is the evil in our being-no essential part of it, thank God! -the miserable fact that the very child of God does not care for his father and will not obey him, causing us to desire wrongly, act wrongly, or, where we try not to act wrongly, yet making it impossible for us not to feel wrongly-this is what he came to deliver us from;-not the things we have done, but the possibility of doing such things any more.

With the departure of this possibility, and with the hope of confession hereafter to those we have wronged, will depart also the power over us of the evil things we have done, and so we shall be saved from them also. The bad that lives in us, our evil judgments, our unjust desires, our hate and pride and envy and greed and self-satisfaction-these are the souls of our sins, our live sins, more terrible than the bodies of our sins, namely the deeds we do, inasmuch as they not only produce these loathsome things, but make us loathsome as they.

Our wrong deeds are our dead works; our evil thoughts are our live sins. These, the essential opposites of faith and love, the sins that dwell and work in us, are the sins from which Jesus came to deliver us. When we turn against them and refuse to obey them, they rise in fierce insistence, but the same moment begin to die. We are then on the Lord's side, as he has always been on ours, and he begins to deliver us from them.

The mission of Jesus was from the same source and with the same object as the punishment of our sins. He came to work along with our punishment. He came to side with it, and set us free from our sins.

No man is safe from hell until he is free from his sins; but a man to whom his sins, that is the evil things in him, are a burden, while he may indeed sometimes feel as if he were in hell, will soon have forgotten that ever he had any other hell to think of than that of his sinful condition. For to him his sins are hell; he would go to the other hell to be free of them; free of them, hell itself would be endurable to him.

For hell is God's and not the devil's. Hell is on the side of God and man, to free the child of God from the corruption of death. Not one soul will ever be redeemed from hell but by being saved from his sins, from the evil in him. If hell be needful to save him, hell will blaze, and the worm will writhe and bite, until he takes refuge in the will of the Father. 'Salvation from hell, is salvation as conceived by such to whom hell and not evil is the terror. But if even for dread of hell a poor soul seek the Father, he will be heard of him in his terror, and, taught of him to seek the immeasurably greater gift, will in the greater receive the less.

The message of Jesus and his messengers is of forgiveness, not of vengeance; of deliverance, not of evil to come. Not for anything he has committed do they threaten a man with the outer darkness. Not for any or all of his sins that are past shall a man be condemned; not for the worst of them needs he dread remaining unforgiven. The sin he dwells in, the sin he will not come out of, is the sole ruin of a man. His present, his live sins-those pervading his thoughts and ruling his conduct; the sins he keeps doing, and will not give up; the sins he is called to abandon, and clings to; the same sins which are the cause of his misery, though he may not know it-these are they for which he is even now condemned.

It is true the memory of the wrongs we have done is, or willed to do become very bitter; but not for those is condemnation; and if that in our character which made them possible were abolished, remorse would lose its worst bitterness in the hope of future amends. 'This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.'"  

But I would not be supposed, from what I have said, to imagine the Lord without sympathy for the sorrows and pains which reveal what sin is, and by means of which he would make men sick of sin. With everything human he sympathizes. Evil is not human; it is the defect and opposite of the human; but the suffering that follows it is human, belonging of necessity to the human that has sinned: while it is by cause of sin, suffering is for the sinner, that he may be delivered from his sin.

Jesus is in himself aware of every human pain. He feels it also. In him too it is pain. With the energy of tenderest love he wills his brothers and sisters free, that he may fill them to overflowing with that essential thing, joy. For that they were indeed created. But the moment they exist, truth becomes the first thing, not happiness; and he must make them true.

Were it possible, however, for pain to continue after evil was gone, he would never rest while one ache was yet in the world. Perfect in sympathy, he feels in himself, I say, the tortured presence of every nerve that lacks its repose. The man may recognize the evil in him only as pain; he may know little and care nothing about his sins; yet is the Lord sorry for his pain. He cries aloud, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' He does not say, 'Come unto me, all ye that feel the burden of your sins;' he opens his arms to all weary enough to come to him in the poorest hope of rest.

Right gladly would he free them from their misery-but he knows only one way: he will teach them to be like himself, meek and lowly, bearing with gladness the yoke of his father's will. This is the one, the only right, the only possible way of freeing them from their sins, the cause of their unrest. With them the weariness comes first; with him the sins: there is but one cure for both-the will of the Father.

That which is his joy will be their deliverance!

(The Hope of the Gospel, Salvation From Sins, George MacDonald.)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

On a Fruitful Life.2

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt has lost its power to purify, flavour and preserve, how can it be made salt again? It is worthless, except to be discarded and trampled under foot." -- Jesus

For those who have vigorously tried to get references to God removed from our public emblems, pledges and currency, your passion has paid off.  Except that while we were distracted with the frontal assaults a more insidious strategy was occurring with greater effectiveness in turning our nation's eyes away from its Source of strength and honor.  "Let's give them stuff" has been a brilliant gameplan for diverting people away from their true Protector, Provider, Director and Disciplinarian.

Jesus Christ admonished the religious and political leaders of his day when he said, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign."  We are an evil and adulterous generation who seeks after security in the institutions of men.  Having become so blinded in our craving for stuff we accept the insanity of hopelessly incompetent (perhaps nefarious) men & women driving our country off a cliff into the sand heap of nation's before us who failed to heed the warning signs of ruin and decay!

What is the answer?  Vote out the old, vote in the new?  Though that is the time-tested democratic way provided for in the U.S. Constitution, the problem is that we will continue to put old wine (corrupted motives)  into new wineskins (hope for change).  Our momentary confidence in a victorious voting cycle will burst out once again in disappointment, or worse, the continuing dissolution of this great union.

The True Answer is REPENTANCE.  Although the concept has all but been lost in tossing out references to God, it is still not difficult to grasp: it is a turning away from wrong-doing.  Not difficult to understand, but very difficult to do when we've become insulated from the need for God in our everyday affairs and more dependent on what government can provide.  Repentance recognizes that the way we are traveling is heading toward an inglorious end and compels our will to turn around and find the right way!

If we truly Trust In God (as our currency still reminds us) then let us put that faith to the test by turning away from all that is immoral and ignorant for only a moral and educated people can rule themselves!

It is immoral to love things and use people.
It is ignorant to think we will not reap what we sow.

It is immoral to envy and covet other's possessions.
It is ignorant to think prosperity comes from coercive government taking property from one person and giving it to another.

It is immoral to have sexual relations with someone who is not your spouse.
It is ignorant to think that bad behavior results in good consequences.

It is immoral for any government to institute policies that tear down the foundation of family.
It is ignorant to not know that the core unit which determines the strength of any society is the family.

It is immoral to lie.
It is ignorant to live a lie.

It is immoral to not reward productive work.
It is ignorant to think people are motivated by anything but great reward for great effort.

It is immoral to not punish unrepentant bad behavior (justice).
It is ignorant to dismiss words of wisdom.

It is immoral to not forgive repentant good behavior (merciful).
It is ignorant to not understand that neither justice nor mercy exist without the other.

It is immoral to be slothful, irresponsible, and refuse to work for your own needs.
It is ignorant to believe your life will improve at the hand of "well-intentioned benefactors" doling out free stuff.

It is immoral to not be personally responsible for your own behavior.
It is ignorant to believe you cannot improve yourself.

It is immoral to turn our hearts and hands away from the truly needy.
It is ignorant to think someone else will help, or the government will fix it.

It is immoral to worship the idols of success and status.
It is ignorant to think we won't become like the things we worship.

It is immoral to not actively hold your leaders accountable.
It is ignorant to believe they are not tempted to use whatever means--moral or immoral--to stay in power.

When we turn and begin to quarrel with the immoral and ignorant in our own house, the God in whom we trust will be ready to send all the resources necessary to restore us!  After all, he who did not spare his own son, how will he not freely give us all things for life and godliness that we might continue on the road of our "manifest destiny": to be salt and light to the entire human race!
 ·  ·  · Share · Delete

Friday, March 16, 2012

On a Fruitful Life.1

"The fruit of people's lives will reveal the life they have chosen to live." -- Jesus

"So what is your most important accomplishment," the interviewer asked as he frowned at my admittedly unimpressive resume.

I told one of my sons about it and how awkward it feels to try to defend the significance of one's life.  Then I told him about the night I asked my girlfriend (his future mom) to marry me.  I explained to her that although I did not know for sure what I wanted to do for a career I did know for sure that I wanted to follow God's will wherever that might lead.  Little did she know that we would have eight sons, live far away from friends and family for many years, not have her horses...she probably would have stopped me at the eight kids part!  The point, of course, is that our promise to each other is the primary thing that has shaped our lives.

Similarly, the promise I made to Jesus to follow him is the primary thing that has shaped me as an individual.  And although I cannot see how or whether my life has been significant, I know Him who does!  "Does God know what we will become", asks the Scottish preacher George MacDonald and answered his own question this way: "As surely as He knows the great oak he has planted in the heart of the acorn!"

For thirty-five years of marriage (grand accomplishment that!) we've raised eight sons, who are responsible, good, hard-working men and fathers of our seven grandchildren.  I've served my employers faithfully advancing their goals, products and services to the best of my ability. As a pastor performed many weddings and, to the best of my knowledge, few of them have divorced; helped parents raise their kids, comforted the bereaved and counseled the broken and battered, loved the unlovable, and generally tried to help make life a little better for those with whom I've come in contact.  As a bus driver tried to show love & respect to each child no matter their circumstances.  I'm content with the limited view of things I have and trust Him that where I've faltered or fallen he'll keep picking me back up to try again!

In his Unspoken Sermon, The New Name, MacDonald muses on the meaning of Jesus' promise to those who overcome: "...I will give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."— Revelation 2:17.
"I say, in brief, the giving of the white stone with the new name is the communication of what God thinks about the man to the man. It is the divine judgment, the solemn holy doom of the righteous man, the “Come, thou blessed,” spoken to the individual....The true name is one which expresses the character, the nature, the being, the meaning of the person who bears it. It is the man's own symbol,—his soul's picture, in a word,—the sign which belongs to him and to no one else. Who can give a man this, his own name? God alone. For no one but God sees what the man is, or even, seeing what he is, could express in a name-word the sum and harmony of what he sees.

To whom is this name given? To him that overcometh. When is it given? When he has is only when the man has become his name that God gives him the stone with the name upon it, for then first can he understand what his name signifies. It is the blossom, the perfection, the completion, that determines the name; and God foresees that from the first, because he made it so; but the tree of the soul, before its blossom comes, cannot understand what blossom it is to bear, and could not know what the word meant, which, in representing its own unarrived completeness, named itself. Such a name cannot be given until the man is the name.
 God's name for a man must then be the expression in a mystical word—a word of that language which all who have overcome understand—of his own idea of the man, that being whom he had in his thought when he began to make the child, and whom he kept in his thought through the long process of creation that went to realize the idea. To tell the name is to seal the success—to say, “In thee also I am well pleased.”

The great hope we who follow Jesus hold in our hearts is that there is coming a day when we will finally have all our questions about our identity, purpose and significance answered, by the only One who judges truly!

I can hardly wait!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Patience, Mercy and Forgiveness.8

"Learn to practice forgiveness and your lives will be 

filled with mercy and grace." --Jesus

friend stopped by the other day while I was in my basement. Our conversation bounced around as his eyes focused on items of man's junk is another man's conversation starter, I suppose. He noted the pile of unfinished rocking chairs in the corner. "Projects." I confessed, not a little embarrassed. "Projects I've carried around for thirty-five years of marriage." Projects that I've promised I will finish...

Projects that in reality are little more than clutter.

Clutter is, in reality, a painful reminder that I am unfinished.

The awful reality is that not one of those projects will ever get finished until I take initiative, lift them off the pile and set to work on them.

Much clutter accumulates in our hearts.

  • Stained relationships. 
  • Oily thoughts. 
  • Chips for our shoulders 
  • Envious glimpses. 
  • Smoldering resentment. 
  • Dusty affections. 
  • Rusted Indifference. 
  • Puddles of Pride and Prejudice 
  • Stinking Self-will. 
  • Generational hostilities. 
  • Grundgy grudges. 
Carried around for years and years.

Where to start? The One who patiently knocks at the door waits to be invited in to begin the conversation! Nothing will ever get finished until we take the initative to open up to him and set our hearts to the work of putting His words into practice!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Patience, Mercy and Forgiveness.7

"When you stand in the place of worship, do so with a heart overflowing with forgiveness, even as your Father in heaven forgives you. And should you bring an offering into the place of worship, only then remembering an unresolved disagreement, leave your gift at the altar. Go first and be reconciled, and then return to make an offering of your gift." 

Upon entering the bus, third grader Lilly immediately asks me the definition of "advent." "I should know what it means," she explains, "but I fell asleep during the sermon yesterday when the pastor was teaching. I probably should have stayed awake, but I was real tired."

Before I have a chance to respond, Lilly is off busily chirping at her friends. I begin to think of the many "Lilly's" who've fallen asleep during my profound, powerful, patiently prepared, poignant, penetrating preaching.

Now that I am no longer patiently preparing those powerful, poignant, penetrating sermons on a regular basis I have a chance to ponder what really goes on during a typical "worship" service...or at least what the Lord of Life would have go on.

"When you stand in the place of worship..."

While standing in the worship service we attended yesterday I thought of this statement. Worship services tend to be pretty passive experiences (no wonder the Lillies of the world fall asleep) and, according to personality profile expert Dr. Mels Carbonelle, tend to attract passive people.

Without getting too caught up in the minutae of word parsing, "Standing" is a much better position toward movement than sitting. For what better place can we find in heaven or on earth then worshiping God to restore relationships through love & forgiveness?

However, if while seeking God's presence, love and mercy we shut out our neighbor from our part in their blessing, how can we truly know our own selves forgiven? Is it not a kindness that our Father says he cannot forgive us when we will not forgive others? How would we interpret it if, though impossible, we should hear Him say "I forgive you" in our unforgiving-ness to a brother? Would we not think "I may go on hating, He does not mind it! He knows I've been provoked and am justified in my anger."

Take comfort, friends, that even though He does take into account what wrong and provocation there is, he will not allow us to simmer in resentment, to make excuse for our hatred, but works to deliver us from the hell of our hate and make us the loving children he means us to be.

Experiencing the love that would banish that demon from our heart and the paradise of God's presence is definitely worth staying awake for, don't you agree?

(adapted from MacDonald's Unspoken Sermon It Shall Not Be Forgiven)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Patience, Mercy and Forgiveness.6

"Do you remember the saying: an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth? I tell you the opposite. If somebody strikes you on the right cheek, offer him your left; or if someone sues you and takes your coat, offer the shirt off your back as well. If someone compels you to walk one mile, be willing to walk two. Give freely to those who ask of you, and never turn a deaf ear to those in need." 

"We must not merely do as He did; we must see things as He saw them, regard them as He regarded them; we must take the will of God as the very life of our being; we must neither try to get our own way, nor trouble ourselves as to what may be thought or said of us."       --George MacDonald

  • Do you think that "Second Mile" will forever more be synonymous with Jerry Sandusky-the Penn State coaching icon/convicted pedophile? 
  • Do you think it is worse to commit foul acts or to commit foul acts and then hide behind moral platitudes & grand programs so that you won't be suspected of doing them? 
  • Do you think it is the follower of Jesus' responsibility to define-through loving obedient action-what Jesus' words mean? 
  • Do you think that it is the first mile or the second, the first cheek or the second, the coat or the shirt that distinguishes the follower of Jesus from all other sojourners? 
  • Do you think the world will be a better place when everyone practices Jesus' words? 
Do you think it is time to stop thinking and find one thing this day we can do to put His words into practice?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Patience, Mercy, Forgiveness.5

"Make peace, even with you enemies. Constant striving will lead only to greater trouble: lawsuits, courtrooms, even prison, with no way of undoing the penalty except by completing your sentence."


"...a man had better make up his mind to be righteous, to be fair, to do what he can to pay what he owes, in any and all the relations of life—all the matters, in a word, wherein one man may demand of another, or complain that he has not received fair play. Arrange your matters with those who have anything against you, while you are yet together and things have not gone too far to be arranged; you will have to do it, and that under less easy circumstances than now. Putting off is of no use. You must. The thing has to be done; there are means of compelling you."

In all the conflicts of life they come to this: they are about relations with another human being.

Whether its teaching your own children to get along with their siblings or negotiating conflicts on the bus, classroom, workplace, playing field, or courtroom, life is a perpetual challenge to not only keep peace but to grow in unity, devotion and love for one another. I remember a young man on my bus, for example, attention starved that he appeared to be, couldn't grasp that his bullying was destructive to himself and other students. The message we sent to him got incrementally stronger: assigned seat, assigned seat directly behind the driver, suspension from riding, total loss of riding privileges.

Most of us avoid conflict, nay, dread conflict. Mark Twain observed: "The average man's a coward." We say we forgive, but no more, to the hostilities of even our closest friends in their worst moments. Our forgiveness usually extends no further than walking a large circular path around their space until the dust settles at a later time, rather than seizing the opportunity to inch our way closer to another's heart.
To the honest man,
To the man who would gladly be honest,
      Jesus' word is right, gracious, necessarily vital.
To the untrue,
      it is a terrible threat;
To him who is of the truth,
     it is sweet as most loving promise.
He who is of God's mind in things, rejoices to hear the word of the changeless Truth; the voice of the Right fills the heavens and the earth, and makes his soul glad; it is his salvation.
If God were not unyielding in His justice, there would be no anchor for the soul of the feeblest lover of right: 'thou art true, O Lord: one day I also shall be true!'
'Thou shalt render the right, cost you what it may,'
to those whose life is a falsehood it is a dread sound in their ears; but to those who love righteousness more than life, what but the last farthing would they not pay?
It is a joy profound as peace to know that God is determined upon such payment, is determined to have his children clean, clear, pure as very snow; is determined that not only shall they with his help make up for whatever wrong they have done, but at length be incapable, by eternal choice of good, under any temptation, of doing the thing that is not divine, the thing God would not do."
(quotes from George MacDonald, The Last Farthing, Unspoken Sermons II)