Sunday, April 29, 2012


"Those that are healthy do not need a doctor; 
but those that are ill are in need of one." 
-- Jesus

A Tribute to my friend Pat.

William Patrick Grisdale passed away during his 60th trip around the sun. I first met Pat and his wife Diane through some mutual friends. They needed a handyman, I needed new friends! Pat's outer body was frail due to an unfortunate accident while serving in the Navy out of high school. Much of his time was spent reminiscing those days; and much of his time was spent drowning his sorrows and pain in the only reliable source of pain-killing he knew...alcohol.

The fix-it projects they found for me provided many hours to spend in their company. As a former pastor I am often tempted to believe that I am here to “fix” people. That mindset creates barriers and obstacles to drinking deeply from the well of sincere love & friendship. 

God fixed me of that mindset through my time spent with Pat & Diane by teaching me to love the things that are lovely in the man and not love the things that I proscribed for his “salvation”. For if love was dependent on his compliance to my wonder-filled "counsel" then it is held captive by disappointment at his failure to heed my advice!

It was said of Jesus that "a bruised reed he would not break off, nor a dying ember extinguish." I have in my mind's eye a picture of Jesus the man tenderly helping the weakest take trembling steps to strengthen their resolve to walk and in their trying filling them with new found strength to keep on walking! 

Pat struggled with not merely physical pain, but the frustration of living an unproductive life; of being less than a man to provide for his wife, fix his own house, take long drives, to conquer the beasts within and without. But he made progress...and progress gives hope for change. 

Change comes because we have a Father who is perfect! Perfect in His devotion to us, perfect in his ability to complete us...he only asks that we repent of trust in any other will then His Perfecting Will and make whatever efforts we can to hold his hand and try.

I rejoiced in Pat's trying...God rejoices in His completing!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

On a Fruitful Life.5

A farmer went into the field to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell by the roadside; and the birds swarmed down and ate them. Some of the seeds fell among stony places, where there was not enough earth. Here, they sprouted quickly in the shallow soil; but lacking roots, were scorched by the sun and soon withered. Some seeds fell among bramble bushes; and were choked by the thorns.

But certain of these seeds did find good earth, and these made up for the seeds that were lost, and yielded a good crop; returning a harvest that was thirty, sixty, and even one hundred times the seed that was planted.
When you hear the word of the kingdom, and fail to understand the teaching, the enemy comes and steals away the seed that is planted in the heart. This is similar to the seed that fell by the roadside.

The seed that was scattered on stony ground represents those who hear the word of God, and eagerly accept it, but have no roots of inner conviction. Their experience might last for a time; but when trouble or persecution arises resulting from their decision to follow the truth, they become discouraged and drift away.

The seed that was sown among the thorn bushes represents those that hear these words, but are soon overwhelmed by the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches. The teaching is choked, and their lives become barren. 

The seed that fell on good earth represents those that hear these words and understand the message they contain. Their lives will yield accordingly, an abundant harvest: thirty, sixty, and one hundred times the good that is planted within.--Jesus

Composting is a wonderful science! I never realized it until this year, always thinking it was merely taking leftover vegetables and such you didn't want to flush down the sink nor leave in the garbage and, instead, dropping them onto a discreet spot somewhere in the yard. Seemed way too troublesome, especially in the winter when it was too cold to go outside and try to find the spot! But I've learned...fancy amazing the process is of taking a wide variety of vegetable plants (even plants that have started the process in the bowels of horses!), combining them together and letting nature-through bacteria & bugs generating intense heat--transform the pile of dead decomposing matter into a rich and nourishing soil compound from which life can grow!

Jesus' teaching on the soil types is commonly understood to represent the condition of the heart to which most of us would agree that unless the heart is in good condition, i.e., humble, broken, and receptive, not much can be accomplished when His word is sown. But I was thinking, the parable can't possibly mean that a person's heart condition is permanent. Like the decomposing of dead things from which God can bring new life, so can't He, from the dead works of sin, decomposing under the heat of suffering and conviction of the Spirit, break them down to form new soil from which His word of Life may bring forth new growth?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A New Year An Old Tip

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

illustration from a Pandora radio ad...

1 Weird Tip

I was sitting amongst a group of people waiting to get into the visitor's room at a state correctional facility. A chatty man next to me -looking for anyone who would listen- began telling me his story. He said he was just there taking his girlfriend to visit her son, but he couldn't go into see him because as a former felon he wasn't allowed in. 

Of course I had to ask what he'd done to wind up as a former felon. He described in detail his craft: writing bad checks for jewelry, hotel rooms, cars; purchasing the bad check "kits" he used in his deception and the outrageous amount of money he'd stolen--nearly $200,000 dollars! He was explaining how he'd made it through ten years of parole and didn't pay back a dime. 

I asked him if he was still writing bad checks. "Of course not," he chortled, "I'm too old for that." So I asked him if he stopped because he got caught or because he really thought it was wrong. Honestly, I don't think he felt robbing banks was all that noxious, "I never cheated any person," he assured me...

Its a new year. By now we've probably packed away last year's Christmas decorations and perhaps, without much fanfare, are already packing in our "new" New Year's resolutions, too. We kind of take it for granted that somewhere deep inside of us there is a desire to get better. As human beings we are capable of more than mere existence; we are blessed with a "homing" device that draws us to the higher, deeper, better. In a word: the Divine!

So let me invite you to go a little "deeper" this year. Let me give you "1 Weird Old Tip": learn the meaning of "repentance" and practice that instead of "resolutions." The idea of making resolutions gives hope for change; but too often we focus on the surface issues, like I need to lose fifteen pounds. But the real issue may be discontent or unresolved anger. Or I need to stop smoking when the real issue is who or what is mastering me? Or I just need to be a happier person when the real issue is who am I trying to please?

Question: Why do our attempts at resolving our chronic problems usually meet with defeat or frustration? 
Answer: By not knowing or understanding the root problems that produce bad behavior we never make real progress.

We just celebrated anew the birth of the Savior of the world, Jesus. He came to save us from our sins--the very root problems that produce the very real discomfort, corruption, & destruction we deal with in ourselves and others daily. 

His message is still the same: 
"Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near." 

Our repentance--a clearing away of the bad that abides in us--opens the door that the King may dwell in our hearts. At the very least, begin to quarrel with the bad and do the good thing that is right at the door of your conscience, that you may fearlessly claim the help of Him who loved you into being and longs to make you free!
Here's to real resolution! 
Here's to repentance! 
Here's to freedom!
Happy New Year!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A reSolution For Neediness

Watching a news show this morning and was intrigued, as I often am, by our (modern Americans) fixation with getting better results at getting better. There are now "apps" available for smartphones that will help you stop speeding, count your calories, lock down contacts in your phone whom you might call when you are drunk and say something stupid (or worse), and an app to shut down a computer to keep addicts from overdosing on websurfing!

App developers must have great fun, not unlike toy designers, I think, and their work is admirable in trying to use technology to make the world a better place. Sadly, however, it usually comes down to this: we attempt at the beginning of each new year to address the essential problem--our own neediness. But our feeble efforts come up short and so we redirect, at the very least, to making others better and consoling ourselves that we are helping "save the world." I wonder if the fierce passion that whale savers, wolf savers, baby seal savers, polar bear savers, global environmental disaster savers, save us from our Twinkies savers, et al, have for their causes is in direct proportion to the frustration of not being able to "manage the scale of their own being"? Can you see yourself in this description of the difficulty of ruling our own lives:

  • "If I find my position, my consciousness, that of one from home, nay, that of one in some sort of prison;
  • if I find that I can neither rule the world in which I live nor my own thoughts or desires;
  • that I cannot quiet my passions,
  • order my likings,
  • determine my ends,
  • will my growth,
  • forget when I would, or recall what I forget;
  • that I cannot love where I would, or hate where I would;
  • that I am no king over myself;
  • that I cannot supply my own needs,
  • do not even always know which of my seeming needs are to be supplied, and which treated as impostors;
  • if, in a word, my own being is everyway too much for me; if I can neither understand it, be satisfied with it, nor better it—may it not well give me pause—the pause that ends in prayer?
When my own scale seems too large for my management; when I reflect that I cannot account for my existence, have had no poorest hand in it, neither, should I not like it, can do anything towards causing it to cease; when I think that I can do nothing to make up to those I love, any more than to those I hate, for evils I have done them and sorrows I have caused them; that in my worst moments I disbelieve in my best, in my best loathe my worst; that there is in me no wholeness, no unity; that life is not a good to me, for I scorn myself...

When I think all or any such things, can it be strange if I think also that surely there ought to be somewhere a Being to account for me, one to account for Himself, and make the round of my existence just; One whose very being accounts and is necessary to account for mine; Whose presence in my being is imperative, not merely to supplement it, but to make to myself my existence a good?...
To know God present, to have the consciousness of God where he is the essential life, must be absolutely necessary to that life!
He that is made in the image of God must know him or be desolate: the child must have the Father!"
 Passion is better than indifference as fear is nobler than sensuality. My prayer for all my friends is that you will direct your passion and efforts to knowing Life Essential, Life Eternal...knowing God our Maker. He sent His son with this directive: lead them to Me. Listen to His words. Put them into practice. Become, even as Jesus was, is, and always will be an obedient child of God by opening your heart to Him and doing the things He tells you to do. 
"The very patent of our royalty is that not for a moment can we live our true life without the Eternal Life present in us and with our spirits. is dead if he does not know the Power which brought him into existence."
Adapted from THE WORD OF JESUS ON PRAYER, Unspoken Sermons II, George MacDonald

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The New Doctrine.7

"If you keep silent your praise, 
the very stones at your feet will cry out." -Jesus

Is it enough that God thinks about you?  

To be something to God--is that not praise enough?  

To be a thing God cares for and would have complete for Himself--because it is worth caring for--is not that life enough?

-George MacDonald

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The New Doctrine

"Perhaps you have read that when King David and his soldiers were hungry, they entered the temple and ate from the holy bread normally reserved for the priests. This was an act clearly forbidden by the religious laws. And yet, if you were an observer of the Hebrew laws, you would know that on the Sabbath days the priests that work in the temple desecrate the Sabbath by their labor, yet are counted blameless.
Are there not more important things than the laws of the temple? Understand then, the meaning of the scripture, "I prefer mercy to sacrifice.” By so doing, you will cease from your condemnation of the guiltless. The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day."

My wife and I had one of those moments of intense and heated total mis-comprehension of each other's meaning! It is in moments like that when my faith is built up: I believe in grace, we didn't kill each other!

Later after tempers had cooled, sitting by the warmth of the fireplace, a truth began to dawn on me and I said to her, "Isn't it funny how we think we understand something when really we only understand the outside of it. It may take an entire lifetime to get the meaning of a thing, perhaps into eternity."

Here's an issue we struggled with tonight: trust. I used this example: because of her work schedule (and other factors) the "lion's share" of the daily care of our horses falls on me. I do most of the hay hauling, fence building, feeding, watering, and maintenance. Yesterday was her day off from work and during those days she checks on the well-being of the animals. In a moment she was able to determine a malady resulting from uneven watering (wintertime is hard on water maintenance!) The way she communicates things she is gifted in makes me feel, at times, like a nincompoop. She doesn't realize that, of course, and doesn't intend to ridicule me; I know she is grateful for the things I do, she just wants the best for the horses.

I realized then that I do the same thing to her in the things I am gifted in. But more than that, in areas I don't think she is as gifted, say, in spiritual things, I don't necessarily trust her in certain situations. That more than anything is what we pick up on from each other in barely discernible vibrations of language. A new layer of meaning to trust was added to my understanding from a difficult and painful experience! She needs to trust that I really am doing the best I can (and probably capable of) and I need to trust the same for her.

Jesus said that forever He would be our Teacher. He teaches us the meaning of things. We really have a very small portion of the things He said on earth. And yet we have more than enough to learn the meaning of over the course of a lifetime, perhaps even into eternity about the things that are vital to our humanity. Listen to these words from MacDonald about the One from whom we learn:

"I ask you to think how much God must know of which we know nothing. Think what an abyss of truth was our Lord, out of whose divine darkness, through that revealing countenance, that uplifting voice, those hands whose tenderness has made us great, broke all holy radiations of human significance. Think of his understanding, imagination, heart, in which lay the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Must he not have known, felt, imagined, rejoiced in things that would not be told in human words, could not be understood by human hearts? Was he not always bringing forth out of the light inaccessible? Was not his very human form a veil hung over the face of the truth that, even in part by dimming the effulgence of the glory, it might reveal? What could be conveyed must be thus conveyed: an infinite More must lie behind. And even of those things that might be partially revealed to men, could he talk to his Father and talk to his disciples in altogether the same forms, in altogether the same words? Would what he said to God on the mountain-tops, in the dim twilight or the gray dawn, never be such that his disciples could have understood it no more than the people, when the voice of God spoke to him from heaven, could distinguish that voice from the inarticulate thunderings of the element?"--Unspoken Sermons I, The Temptation in the Wilderness

Jesus has invited us to understand the meaning of things that are hidden only in Him. See in each day His work of teaching you the richness of His words! Richness of words that enrich all of life!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The New Doctrine.11

"I have come into this world that the blind might see, and they that boast of their vision might become aware of the blindness that has befallen them."

In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey touches on how important "vision" is. Habit 2 is based on imagination--the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice.

"There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint. If you don't make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default. It's about connecting again with your own uniqueness and then defining the personal, moral, and ethical guidelines within which you can most happily express and fulfill yourself. Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen."
(for more see:

Could this be the concept Jesus had in mind when he challenged his hearers to "see"? More importantly, and vital to the human condition: to see as God sees. As MacDonald puts it: " He lived upon a higher spiritual platform than [we] understand, acted from a height of the virtues [we would earnestly claim for ourselves], loftier than [our] eyes can scale. His Himalays are not visible from [our] sand-heaps.

"God is not a God that hides, but a God that reveals. His

whole work in relation to the creatures he has made-and where else can lie his work-is revelation-the giving them truth, the showing of himself to them, that they may know him, and come nearer and nearer to him, and so he have his children more and more of companions to him. That we are in the dark about anything is never because he hides it, but because we are not yet such that he is able to reveal that thing to us."

So the real question is: do we really want to see things, especially the things inside of us, the way God (and others) see them? 
 Ask yourself these questions:
  • am I truly prepared to encounter exposure as the general unveiling of things must bring? 
  • am I willing for the truth whatever it be? 
  • have I a conscience so void of offence, have I a heart so pure and clean, that I fear no fullest exposure of what is in me to the gaze of men and angels? (As to God, he knows it all now!) 
  • do I so love the truth and the right, that I welcome, or at least submit willingly to the idea of an exposure of what in me is yet unknown to myself-an exposure that may redound to the glory of the truth by making me ashamed and humble? 
  • what if I thought others incorrectly judged me for such & such a thing, and were looking forward to God's judgment to set them right, only to find that, even if it let others off the hook for their contempt or condemnation, it made me true and right by revealing what in me was false? 
  • am I willing to be made glad that I was wrong when I thought others were wrong? 
If you can with such submission face the revelation of things hid, then you are of the truth, and need not be afraid; for, whatever comes, it will and can only make you more true and humble and pure."

Adapted from George MacDonald, The Final UnMasking

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Blessings.1

Blessed are you who hear the word of God and follow it where it leads. Doing so, you will be like the servant who, when the master comes, is found doing right.

I was thinking today about the miracles of Jesus' healings. What I think often gets lost in the stories is the actual person who received a healing. You've more than likely seen reenactments of Jesus' life and ministry on movies and tv. Two of my favorites are the Matthew story starring Bruce Marchiano, and The Passion of the Christ with James Caveziel playing Jesus. In the Matthew video, the thing that stands out is the actor's portrayal of a Jesus with real joy and zest for life. When he bent over to touch a wounded soul there was always a twinkle in his eye as if he were saying, "Wait till you see what me & my Father have in store for you!"

But my favorite is when Caveziel's Jesus takes a moment in the mayhem of the Garden to restore the temple guard's ear after being swiped off by Peter's clumsy sword blow. The guard just stays on his knees long after they've taken Jesus away; captured by an eternal presence that has shaken him to the core of his being!

Humankind is in nature easily distracted, fickle, hard to persuade and harder still to heal due in large part to self-will and pride. But with great patience and tender hands he kept on his mission, for to Him "obedient love in the heart of the poorest he healed or persuaded, was his kingdom come."

Not all who were healed by Jesus gave themselves back to Him in obedient love and allegiance. Remember the ten lepers and only one returned to thank Him?

May we be the kind who respond to His word in obedient love, going where He leads, doing what is right!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

He Is Risen...and it matters!

Scene from The Passion of the Christ
Years ago I was watching a tv reenactment of Jesus on the cross. The crowd was, as in the biblical account, taunting, accusing, jeering, ignorantly cursing the dying savior. Unlike the biblical account, however, a change came over "Jesus'" face from quiet suffering to profound disgust. He pulled his bloodied hands and feet away from the cross, stepped down and pushed his way through the stone silent crowd!

I remember being quite shocked at the scene, but coming away with a much deeper appreciation of what He did not only by staying on the cross in the midst of the physical as well as mental & emotional pain, but by continuing to care, continuing to believe in His father that this really mattered when it apparently didn't matter to anyone else!

I do wonder, though, if there was a brief moment of frustration, doubt, and fear that may have gripped Him as no human being had ever been gripped, for, as MacDonald points out, "the more delicate the nature, the more alive to all that is lovely and true, lawful and right, the more it feels the antagonism of pain, the inroad of death upon life, the more dreadful the breach of the harmony of things whose sound is torture. He felt more than man could feel because He had a larger feeling."

"My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?" may have been that moment. When the vision of the Perfect Will slipped from his consciousness, tortured beyond feeling and blinded by the fog of uncertainty. The moment when the thought occurred, inspired by the Accuser, who, seizing the moment for one last chance to tempt the Son of God to turn from His Father, that maybe all this really didn't matter. It certainly didn't appear to matter to the people casting their hatred at him; did it really matter to his Father? And if it didn't matter to the Father, what in the world was he doing on this cursed cross?

I don't think he thought that the Father forgot him; I really don't think the Father turned away from him, because of his bearing our sin, for is it not more like God to draw closer to us in our weakest moments, even if we cannot see or feel Him? But, like Job, there comes a time when we who have committed ourselves to God for His purposes and try our best to do what He asks us, just wonder if any of it really matters. The moment when we lose sight of the Perfect Will. 

I had one of those moments the other day as I was looking through some old ministry files. Father, I really don't understand why you asked me to do these things, I really don't see any results, I really don't see that it mattered...

Perfect Will. We must come to believe that with every molecule in our being far beyond our limited understanding, beyond any feelings of abandonment, hurt, disappointment, pain. 

Perfect Obedience. We must give ourselves to live for him far beyond our limited abilities. Giving a cup of water to a child because Jesus wants us to...matters.

The cross matters...because we matter!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Blessings.2

"Blessed are you, who put your whole trust in God. Yours is the kingdom of heaven." -- Jesus

Most bibles label this section of Jesus' teachings "The Beatitudes".  It was his first recorded public sermon to a large crowd.  Preaching the "good news" to the poor, his self-proclaimed mission, begs the question: what was in his words and message that was "good news?"  What in it would make the poor glad?  What did it have to do with a "kingdom?"  What relevance centuries later?

All good news from heaven is of Truth.
      Truth essential to our humanity.
      Involving duty.  Responsibility.  To God.  To Others.
...and the help from heaven to perform that duty.

"There can be no good news for us men, except of uplifting love, and no one can be lifted up who will not rise. If God himself sought to raise his little ones without their consenting effort, they would drop from his foiled endeavour.
       He will carry us in his arms till we are able to walk;
       He will carry us in his arms when we are weary with walking;
       He will not carry us if we will not walk."

The good news of Jesus was just the news of the thoughts and ways of the Father in the midst of his family. He told them that the way men thought for themselves and their children was not the way God thought for himself and his children; that the kingdom of heaven was founded, and must at length show itself founded on very different principles from those of the kingdoms and families of the world, meaning by "the world" that part of the Father's family which will not be ordered by him, will not even try to obey him.

For example:
-The world's man, its great, its successful, its honorable man, is he who may have and do what he pleases, whose strength lies in money and the praise of men.

-The greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the man who is humblest and serves his fellows the most.

It is not the proud,
it is not the greedy for distinction,
it is not those who gather and hoard,
not those who lay down the law to their neighbours,
not those that condescend,
nor those that shrug the shoulder and shoot out the lip,
that have any share in the kingdom of the Father.

That kingdom has no relation with or resemblance to the kingdoms of this world, deals with no one thing that distinguishes their rulers, except to repudiate it. The Son of God will favour no smallest ambition, even in the heart of His closest companions.The kingdom of God, the refuge of the oppressed, the home of the children, will not open its gates to the most miserable who would rise above his equal in misery, who looks down on any one more miserable than himself.

The kingdom of God is the home of perfect brotherhood.
These qualities mark the freemen of the kingdom:
  • The poor,-not the men who are poor in friends, poor in influence, poor in acquirements, poor in money
  • - but those who are poor in spirit, who feel themselves poor creatures;
  • -who know nothing to be pleased with themselves for,
  • -desire nothing to make them think well of themselves
  • the beggars in spirit, 
  • the humble men of heart,
  • the unambitious (but not the unaspiring),
  • the unselfish;
  • those who never despise men,
  • and never seek their praises;
  • the lowly, who see nothing to admire in themselves,
  • therefore cannot seek to be admired of others;
  • the men who give themselves away
  • men who are aware of their own essential poverty;
  • who know that they need much to make their life worth living,
  • to make their existence a good thing,
  • to make them fit to live;
these humble ones are the poor whom the Lord calls blessed.

God is his life and his lord, that his father should be content with him must be all his care.
His brother's wellbeing is essential to his bliss and He would lift every brother to the embrace of the Father.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for they are of the same spirit as God,
        and of nature the kingdom of heaven is theirs."

adapted from George MacDonald,  The Heirs of Heaven & Earth

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Blessings.3

"Blessed are you, who are acquainted with sorrow, for you will be appointed great comfort and courage."--Jesus

Laura Just talked to my daughter-in-law, Laura.  She is a remarkable young woman and we are a blessed family to have her!  Not only has she obtained her bachelor degree while raising her children she's taken on the added responsibility of caring for her sister's son, Carter.  She walks a tight rope between running the family affairs while Steve is deployed, maintaining good relations with her sister (hoping & helping her to grow into a serious & responsible parent for her other child), providing security, stability and identity for Carter, doing girl stuff with Vanessa and boys stuff with the boys while trying to maintain her own sanity!  Oh, and making sure Gus (the roomate dog) gets outside to pee...Oh, and did I mention she's a huge Detroit Lions and Piston's fan--a burden nearly unbearable in itself!

Today she received a blow.  Carter's biological father called.  He has never seen nor had not an atom of influence nor given a penny of support for Carter.  Now suddenly decides he wants custody of Carter.  Could it be that after five years, when the bill for child support finally found its way to his door he had a change of heart?  Were it a neighbor whose struggles with responsibility were well known, we might applaud his move to maturity and wish him well, little our lives will be directly impacted by his success or failure.  But a man for whom others have been burdened by his failings, have picked up the pieces of his brokenness, feel less enamored with his pronouncement of sudden enlightenment!  I'm not saying we shouldn't give everyone a chance to prove they are moving toward true manhood, but its a discussion for another time.

Jesus, the Man of Sorrows intimately acquainted with humanity's grief, always spoke to truth essential to making sense of the senseless and sorrowful.  Other translations use the word "mourn" in place of "sorrow" which makes us think of those attending a funeral expressing the pain of their loss & grief.  Sorrow is the heart's response to discomforts, disease, destruction, duplicity, unfairness, foul play, helplessness, the evils of life.

"Mourning is a canker-bitten blossom on the rose-tree of love. Is there any mourning worthy the name that has not love for its root? Men mourn because they love. Love is the life out of which are fashioned all the natural feelings, every emotion of man. Love modelled by faith, is hope; love shaped by wrong, is anger-true anger, though pure of sin; love invaded by loss, is grief.
The gladsome child runs farther afield; the wounded child turns to go home. The weeper sits down close to the gate; the Lord of Life draws nigh to him from within. God loves not sorrow, yet rejoices to see a man sorrowful, for in his sorrow man leaves his heavenward door on the latch, and God can enter to help him."-MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel

The promise to them that sorrow is that their sorrow will end with comfort.  Comfort is the doorway into God's great heart where we find grace to help in time of need, wisdom for response, strength in the inner man to stand shoulders squared ready for whatever comes pulling us back from the brink of bitterness, the edge of despair, the chasm of chaos!

Take comfort all ye that sorrow!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Blessings.4

"Blessed are you, who with humility recognize your need of God. The whole earth will be yours."--Jesus

The Father offers two rewards for faith in Him: heaven & earth.  Those who aspire for these rewards live lives characterized by peace, contentment, freedom and obedience.

The world (that part of the Father's family who will not obey Him) offers two rewards for faith in its system: Power & Status.  Those who strive for them live lives characterized--more or less--by ambition, insecurity, greed, lust, compromise, infatuation, pretense, ruthlessness, bickering, envy, suspicion, faithlessness, deception, pride, self-will.  In a word, a love for the darkness that hides the truth of worthless works.

The poor recognize this single truth: the one thing everyone needs is God and more and more of God!  They are rewarded with possession of His Presence!

The meek recognize the truth of God in everything: they see the truth of God in the flower, the truth of God in the rain, the truth of God in the face of a child.  They are rewarded with a possession that posesses them: awe and wonder of the glory and grandeur of His creation!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Persevering Prayer

"Have you heard of J.O. Frasier? He left England many years ago to bring the message of Christ's love to the Lisus, an unreached tribal group who lived in the high mountain ranges of western China. The entry to the ranges was at their midpoint, a valley containing a small outpost village. Frasier remained there until he found a Lisu who tutored him in the dialect. After weeks of study, he discovered this Lisu was from the northern range and the dialect he was learning would best prepare him for working in that area.

Frasier realized he would probably be the only missionary to this tribe for years to come. He prayed, "Lord, which way should I go? North, or South?" His Master said, "Both. Pray for the Southern Lisus from sunup to noon and evangelize the Northern Lisus from noon to sundown."

This became the pattern of his life. For years and years, he used half of each day to intercede for Lisus in the south and used half of each day to evangelize the Lisus around him. The work grew slowly. A few hundred Christians were the harvest of a decade of ministry.

After many years, he left the field for the first time to rest and get supplies in the outpost village. Now very familiar with the tribal tongue, he heard a Lisu speaking with a different dialect in the marketplace. He had met his first Southern Lisu! Lovingly Frasier invited the man to come and stay with him in his rented quarters. As he heard the message of Jesus, the Lisu was quick to respond and accept Him as his Lord and Savior.

For several weeks, Frasier tutored the illiterate man, helping him to memorize passages of scripture. He told him story after story from the Bible, always praying that the Spirit would sharpen his ability to remember what he was hearing.

As the men parted, Frasier urged him to tell all the Southern Lisus about Jesus. He then returned to the site of his own ministry, praying as usual for half of each day for those to the south. Years passed...and then a delegation of Southern Lisus arrived at this village. They reported the news that thousands of Southern Lisus had followed Christ and were in desperate need of someone to come and teach them more!

As tears of joy welled up in his eyes, the missionary realized his time invested in prayer from sunup to noon had caused a harvest hundreds of times greater than all his labors from noon to sundown. It was though God was saying, "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, shall the Lisus be reached."

-from The Shepherds Guidebook, by Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr.,

J.O. Frasier
I googled J.O. Fraiser to get more information on this man. There are various accounts of his story, none quite as compact as this. For example, most accounts mention that Frasier was quite often in despair over the lack of progress in his work. Another important aspect of his story not related in this account is that his mother back in England formed a prayer group for him that Frasier credits for much of the eventual success among the Lisus!

This people group was the Chinese version of the Harijans in India's caste system--peasant poor, plagued by alcoholism & demon worship. But the Lisu conversion & commitment to Christ was so widespread and powerful that the Chinese communist government tried to eradicate them in the the 1930's & 40's. Today they continue to be one of the most potent evangelical forces in Chinese culture!

In an account related by friend Matthew ponder the power of perseverance:

"When they arrived at the foot of the mountain, a huge crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, "Lord, have mercy on my son, because he has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn't heal him."

Jesus replied, "You stubborn, faithless people! How long must I be with you until you believe? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me."

Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well.

Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, "Why couldn't we cast out that demon?"

"You didn't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible."

But this kind of demon won't leave unless you have prayed and fasted." Matthew 17:14-21

What is the connection between faith and prayer; between prayer and healing? Who was Jesus annoyed at: the father, the crowd, the disciples? Why was he dismayed, angry, indignant in this situation?

All that Jesus holds dear is His Father: His love, His Heart, His thoughts, His will, His business. Jesus' passion was to teach all of humanity how wonderful is His Father. Faith in his father was the result among people he constantly worked to achieve.

The attitude that most consistently offended him was unbelief, and in this case, insufficient faith.

If we are to be "about the Father's business" it is crucial to understand the connection between prayer and accomplishing his work. Most of us, especially in today's world, are easily distracted, impatient, unfocused, often indifferent to the difficulties folks around us are struggling with. Someone may ask us to pray for a certain situation and we gladly agree to "say a prayer" for them. Then, like our facebook wall page, quickly move on to the next distraction.

As followers of Jesus we may be the critical link between a friend's suffering and God's healing balm. If at the first sign of resistance, antagonism, or ineffectiveness we falter, fake or fall down we fail to communicate the truth of God: that He is perfectly devoted to each of us; perfectly capable of healing; perfectly commited to helping & saving everyone who comes to Him looking for relief from the difficulties, struggles, or insanity of this life!

Here are two of my favorite quotes on persevering prayer:

"I don't think that time has much to do with whether God hears you or not; but I do believe that time has something to do with whether or not your faith is built up as you pray and ask." -- Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators.

"He [God] must have sons and daughters-- children of his soul, of his spirit, of his love--not merely in the sense that he loves them, or even that they love him, but in the sense that they love like him, love as he loves. For this he does not adopt them; he dies to give them himself, thereby to raise his own to his heart; he gives them a birth from above; they are born again out of himself and into himself--for he is the one and the all. His children are not his real, true sons and daughters until they think like him, feel with him, judge as he judges, are at home with him, and without fear before him because he and they mean the same thing, love the same things, seek the same ends. For this are we created; it is the one end of our being, and includes all other ends whatever." -- George MacDonald

The goal of fasting & prayer, then, is to demonstrate our desire to love like our Father by laying down our lives for others; spending ourselves to "make more lovely" and to lift them from the gulf into which they've fallen.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Blessings.5

"Blessed are you, who are pure in heart. You will see God." 
-- Jesus

This article from the Detroit Free Press website caught my eye:

Child pornography prosecutors: 

Victims are getting younger, acts are more vile

"Federal prosecutors in Detroit say they have witnessed the disturbing trend with the kids getting younger -- toddlers and infants as young as 6 months old -- turning up in photos and videos....Child porn lovers live in your neighborhood.
They aren't just creepy loners.
Crouched on a bench in the federal courthouse in Detroit almost every week, seemingly normal people -- doctors, coaches, authors, engineers, teens -- are charged with possessing and making child porn, a $3-billion-a-year industry that the federal government has labeled the new silent child abuse.
Outed by their Internet activities, the accused stand before a judge, heads usually hung low, while their families sit in the back of the courtroom aghast at the accusations. And there typically is no criminal history to point to.
"There's this notion that it's the creepy neighbor who lives in the basement of his parent's house and downloads this stuff," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mulcahy, chief of the general crimes unit for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit.
Far from it, he said."
Seeing isn't always believing. If we, struggling with our own evil, can't even perceive the wicked among us, how will we ever see God?

So stands--in stark contrast--the wonderful promise from Jesus. A certain class of people will see God, which, by the way, is the deepest desire in a man! To see God, according to MacDonald, is "to stand on the highest point of created being."
"Not until we see God --no partial and passing embodiment of him, but the abiding presence-- do we stand
image from
upon our own mountain-top, the height of the existence God has given us, and up to which he is leading us. That there we should stand, is the end of our creation. This truth is at the heart of everything, ... we must so know him, and it can never be until we are pure in heart."

One of the complaints about The Shack that offended not a few people was that the author portrayed God the Father as a large black woman! This debate illustrates the problem we have in "seeing God". Consider MacDonald's response (written, of course, nearly 100 years before The Shack):

"If he [God] pleased to take a shape, and that shape were presented to us, and we saw that shape, we should not therefore be seeing God. Even if we knew it was a shape of God-call it even God himself our eyes rested upon; if we had been told the fact and believed the report; yet, if we did not see the God-ness, were not capable of recognizing him, so as without the report to know the vision him, we should not be seeing God, we should only be seeing the tabernacle in which for the moment he dwelt. In other words, not seeing what in the form made it a form fit for him to take, we should not be seeing a presence which could only be God."

Even those who saw the Lord Jesus, "the exact imprint of God's nature", did not see God. They only saw Jesus--and then but the outside of Him. The eyes that could see God were not born in them yet; the thought-eyes, the truth-eyes, the love-eyes that alone can see Him.

None but the pure in heart see God.

Only the growing-pure hope to see Him.

"If you care to see God, be pure. If you will not be pure, you will grow more and more impure; and instead of seeing God, will at length find yourself face to face with a vast emptiness, yet filled full of one inhabitant, that devouring monster, your own false self. If for this neither do you care, I tell you there is a Power that will not have it so; a Love that will make you care by the consequences of not caring.

You who seek purity, and would have your fellow-men also seek it, spend not your labor on the stony ground of intellect, endeavoring to explain what purity is; give imagination the one pure man; call up conscience to witness against personal deeds; urge upon yourself and others the grand resolve to be pure.

With the first endeavor of a soul toward her, Purity will begin to draw nigh, calling for admittance; and never will a man have to pause in the divine toil, asking what next is required of him;
the demands of the indwelling Purity 
will ever be in front of his slow-laboring obedience."

(Adapted from MacDonald's Hope of the Gospel, God's Family, emphasis added)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Blessings.6

"Blessed are you, who hunger and thirst after righteousness. You will be satisfied and filled."--Jesus

Take time to consider, meditate, ponder, contemplate, & wonder at these thoughts on righteousness:

  • The Lord will not demand of us more righteousness than he does.  For Him to say 'Be ye therefore perfect as your father in heaven is perfect;' and not help us by word of love, deed of power, and promise of good, would be to show him far less of a brother and a saviour. 
  • 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. 
  • Jesus desires no righteousness for the pride of being righteous, any more than for advantage to be gained by it; therefore, while requiring such purity as the man, beforehand, is unable to imagine, he gives him all the encouragement he can. 
  • He will not enhance his victory by difficulties-of them there are enough-but by completeness. 
  • He will not demand the loftiest motives in the yet far from loftiest soul: to those the soul must grow. 
  • He will hearten the child with promises, and fulfill them to the contentment of the man.
  • Men cannot be righteous without love; to love a righteous man is the best, the only way to learn righteousness: the Lord gives us himself to love, and promises his closest friendship to them that overcome.  (MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel)
 A few years ago a denominational official came to analyze the condition of our church and make recommendations, presumably, to help us make progress and grow the work.  He recommended we close the church.  I was disappointed at the assessment on a variety of levels.  During a pre-interview between him & I, I had taken him by my house to illustrate my perspective on the work we'd labored at for several years and the parallels between my house and the church.  We'd bought our house at an auction where many locals gathered but only two bidders made an attempt to commit the resources to repair this terribly neglected property.  We won (I think).  There was much to tear down before we could even begin to build up.  My point to the denominational official was: it may not look like much now, but you should have seen where we started!

Jesus didn't come to swap out conditions of right standing before God like trading baseball cards.  Rather He came to help fan the flames from the tiniest ember in the deepest longing of our souls for true righteousness. To provide whatever resources we need to grow more true, right, good, in a word: filled up with love for Him!  To tear down old works and worthless deeds; to work alongside the consequences of those olds works and worthless deeds to build something remarkable, a house worth living in!   Its not the "works of Christ" we are told to trust, but the Working Christ who ever always is devoted to filling us up with the deepest longing of our souls!

 We may not look like much yet, but you should have seen where He started!