Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Faith That Moves Moutains.5

"If you believe all things to be possible, and leave no room for doubt, what you ask or command will be done. This is why I tell you: whatever it is that you desire, when you pray, believe that you will receive it, and you will."--Jesus

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. 

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on that plan".. 
All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.... 

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little. 

The second test average was a D! No one was happy. 
When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. 

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. 

All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed."  (Author Unknown)

Jesus' words above have been misused or misunderstood by just about anyone who has struggled with issues of faith.  We ask God for a lot of things and often are left scratching our heads as to why we didn't get what we asked for.  The one thing we must learn in our faith-walk is that God is never interested in an intellectual or "theoretical" understanding of His ways.  We must experience and learn what He means from the very core of our being.  That kind of experience only comes through putting His words into practice, much like the kind of "learning" the economics class learned about the outcome of their "theory" of socialism. Often the most rewarding lessons are the most painful.

"It is to the man who is trying to live, to the man who is obedient to the word of the Master, that the word of the Master unfolds itself. When we understand the outside of things, we think we have them: the Lord puts his things in subdefined, suggestive shapes, yielding no satisfactory meaning to the mere intellect, but unfolding themselves to the conscience and heart, to the man himself, in the process of life-effort. According as the new creation, that of reality, advances in him, the man becomes able to understand the words, the symbols, the parables of the Lord. For life, that is, action, is alone the human condition into which the light of the Living can penetrate; life alone can assimilate life, can change food into growth." George MacDonald, A Higher Faith

Ultimately God wants us to believe in Him, not believe in our desires.  To believe that no one, no government institution, group or individual believes and cares for me like Him.  That He is simply and utterly devoted to me regardless of the circumstances.  That the hardest thing for God is to give me what is best, and the hardest thing for me is to accept what is best when what I want is what I want.  What if I desired to not desire anything that I would be ashamed of before God and His universe? 

Learning through practice to ask for the things that have the greatest blessing for me and others is a lifelong journey.  But well worth the effort!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Faith That Moves Mountains.4

"These signs will follow those who believe: In my name they will cast out devils. They will speak with new tongues. Serpents, or deadly things, will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick and the sick will be made whole. Possessing faith the size of a mustard seed, they shall say to the mountains: 'Be removed and cast into the sea.'"


Walking through a Walmart one day I saw a man with a "withered hand" (actually it was his whole arm, but I digress). I went through this thought process:

"What if I had the courage, like Jesus, to boldly approach this guy and ask if he wants his arm made well. What if after conquering my own fear and unbelief and getting excited about the possibility of a real miracle occurring right in the middle of Walmart, just like a modern day Jesus, what if he responded: 'Actually I was just looking for the butter.' Not sure what I would have said after that...probably best just to not trouble the man. Yeah, best not to trouble him..."

The point of that little scenario is that I am confessing that I've struggled with the whole 'laying hands on the sick and the sick will be made well' thing. If I believed I could do that, does that mean that the person needing wellness would recieve it? Whose faith is being tested? The one who believes God can use them to bless others in wonder-filled ways or the one who has lost hope in ever changing their miserable circumstances?

Just watched the movie "John Q" again, depicting a desperate father, trying to get a new heart transplant for his dying son, taking on the evil medical/insurance complex and emerging the hero for both his wife & son as well as the financially disadvantaged. 

 Heroes come in a variety of shapes and sizes and the One who spoke from "Himalayas that we can only view from our sand heaps" sought to inspire in those who "will follow" the possibility of being like Him and His Father. Like God, we love and help and save. And with the powers of the Godhead at our disposal the possibilities of loving, helping and saving are infinite!

Dressing up in a superhero costume doesn't make one a superhero; but it does remind us that reality often intrudes on fantasy! For the follower of Jesus, however, we live daily with the possibility of the supernatural intruding on the strife-filled, weary natural leaving a life, a family, a community, a nation, a world a better place to live!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Faith That Moves Mountains.3

"If two agree by faith, my Father in heaven will grant their request. For wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am present with them." --Jesus

Super-Gathering time is here, SuperBowl Sunday!  Super Dooper!  But, sorry to be the wet blanket here, starting next week without the NFL--the number one name in Sunday afternoon gatherings--what will people do?

Actually we gather together alot, and in the name of many different things don't we? I was nearly called to a gathering for a funeral in the name of a relative of mine (fortunately he survived the heart attack). We attend:

-business gatherings in the name of our company or -holiday gatherings in the name of our family. -political gatherings in the name of a party or idealogy;-religious gatherings in the name of a deity or theology-school gatherings, -sports gatherings, -club gatherings, -party gatherings, -birth & death gatherings.  Life is one non stop activity of gathering, don't you agree?

Most of the time we don't think about it, but what are the benefits of gathering in a name? Here are a few. 
"In the Name of:"
  • Claims our attention. 
  • Forges our focus.
  • Stirs our passions.
  • Shapes our values. 
  • Inspires our creativity. 
  • Earns our loyalty. 
  • Unites our hearts. 
  • Garners our strength. 
  • Utilizes our labor. 
  • Authenticates our accomplishments! 
(Affects our dress code, too!)

What is the most important difference in gathering in the Name of Jesus?

Unlike any other name, He alone has the essential claim on our obedience! It is through obedience to him that we climb the pinnacle of our humanity! Bob Dylan wrote a song, years ago, titled: "Got To Serve Somebody." He recognized that we all bow down to some name and consequently the character and quality of the name we serve shapes the character and quality of our own lives.

George MacDonald puts it this way:

"There is but one plan of salvation, and that is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, to take him for what he is—our master, and his words as if he meant them, which assuredly he did. To do his words is to enter into vital relation with him, to obey him is the only way to be one with him. The relation between him and us is an absolute one; it can nohow begin to live but in obedience: it is obedience....Tell me something that you have done, are doing, or are trying to do because he told you.

What have you done this day because it was the will of Christ?

  • Have you dismissed, once dismissed, an anxious thought for the morrow?

  • Have you ministered to any needy soul or body, and kept your right hand from knowing what your left hand did?

  • Have you begun to leave all and follow him?

  • Did you set yourself to judge righteous judgment?

  • Are you being mindful of covetousness?

  • Have you forgiven your enemy?

  • Are you seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness before all other things?

  • Are you hungering and thirsting after righteousness?

  • Have you given to some one that asked of you?
An even more important difference is the promise of His presence in His gatherings!
"Well do I know it is faith that saves us—but not faith in any work of God—it is faith in God himself. If I did not believe God as good as the tenderest human heart, the fairest, the purest, the most unselfish human heart could imagine him, yea, an infinitude better, higher than we as the heavens are higher than the earth—believe it, not as a proposition, or even as a thing I was convinced of, but with the responsive condition and being of my whole nature; if I did not feel every fibre of heart and brain and body safe with him because he is the Father who made me that I am—I would not be saved, for this faith is salvation; it is God and the man one. God and man together, the vital energy flowing unchecked from the creator into his creature—that is the salvation of the creature. But the poorest faith in the living God, the God revealed in Christ Jesus, if it be vital, true, that is obedient, is the beginning of the way to know him, and to know him is eternal life."

George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons II, The Truth in Jesus

While you're waiting for the NFL to start up again next fall, in the meantime why not find two or three others who'll gather with you in the name of Jesus and begin to explore what faith in Him can mean for you from this day forward? 

 Crazy outfits not required!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Faith That Moves Mountains.2

"Many will come in the last days, from every corner of the earth, and enter into the kingdom of heaven. But the self-righteous and pious, who thought they would be first, and yet lived their lives without faith, will not enter in."--Jesus

My favorite "pearly gate" joke:

St. Peter: "Name?"

Man 1: "Earl"

St. Peter: "Why are you here today? looks like you're a little ahead of schedule Earl!"

Man 1: "Well, Mr. Peter, I had stopped home for lunch to show my wife my new company car. I was just leaving when a refrigerator fell through my car and killed me."

St. Peter: "Unfortunate but understandable. Welcome in."

St. Peter: "Next! Name?"

Man 2: "Tom. I really hate to admit this St. Peter, but I am insanely jealous of my wife and always suspected she was cheating on me. So when I heard a car start up in the driveway down below our apartment I took the first thing handy, our fridge, and threw it out the window to stop the cheater! Blew out my heart though..."

St. Peter: "We'll have to work on that temper, Tom. But welcome in."

St. Peter: "Name?"

Man 3: "Brad. Uh, I was in the refrigerator..."

St. Peter: "Really?!? Ohhhh..."

Having officiated a few funerals in my time I'm pretty sure most people don't give a lot of thought to "entering the kingdom of heaven" until confronted with the painful reality of leaving the kingdoms of this world. I sat with a lady who, having made the difficult decision to stop dialysis, was slipping away. It struck me how after making peace with leaving family and friends there was still the little things that fill the world--habits, pleasures, comforts--like asking for a drink of soda, from around which one must unwrap one's hands.
However, the "kingdom of heaven" is a party not just anyone can crash, in fact, some will be excluded. But who and why? The One expert on the subject, the Man who claimed to come from heaven, who before his accusers and executioners proclaimed His Divine Kingship, spelled it out, "those who think they will be first: the self-righteous and sanctimonious." Looking those words up in a dictionary probably won't get you much closer to understanding what He meant. But understanding what Jesus meant, about anything, is the business of life...and has afterlife implications.

Jesus showed tender mercy to those who struggled with the difficulties of life. He showed indignation to those who piled on those difficulties!

In every culture throughout history the "kingdoms of this world" entice men with the allure of wealth and power. The closer they get to the top of the mountain of fame and fortune the more "entitled" they believe they have become. Is it any wonder that they believe others feel the same; are motivated to receive "entitlements" from their "generosity"? Is it any wonder that in the exchange between the ruling class and the ruled every "free" morsel of redistributed charity eagerly received as a "right" is an affirmation of that faith? Is it any wonder that people become more dependent on those who perpetuate the belief that a few are smarter, stronger, better in every way and are "entitled" to pile on difficulties through regulation, rules, intimidation and falsehood? Faith in this system is a powerful thing...

Faith in Jesus and obedience to His words is a difficult thing

  • To be great in his kingdom one must serve. 
  • To be alive in his kingdom one must die to oneself. 
  • To hold the treasures of His kingdom, one must let go of the treasures of this one. 
  • To be loved in His Kingdom, one must love--like Him--in this!

There is only one kind of righteousness that will gain entrance into his kingdom, the righteousness that comes by obedient faith to Him! Only those kind will populate His paradise!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Faith That Moves Mountains.1

"According to your faith you will receive." --Jesus 

My wife and I had a rather animated discussion about tomato plants one day. We were attempting to follow the "square foot garden" method of growing vegetables. The author suggests some things that are outside our experience (by the way, my gardening expertise would fit into the little finger of my wife's) and she was, what is the right word here, hmmmm, "hostile" (that works) to a particular idea. My response: "we're all in on this method and some things I can read in the book but I need to see the meaning of it in my experience. The only way to do that is try it!"

Jesus' challenge to everyone who would know what faith is is to go "all in" with him.

George MacDonald sheds light on the kind of faith Jesus is looking for and developing in his followers:

"To the man who gives himself to the living Lord, every belief will necessarily come right; the Lord himself will see that his followers believe the right things concerning him. If a man cannot trust him for this, what claim can he make to faith in him?
'What is faith in him?' I answer,
  • The leaving of your way,
  • your objects,
  • your self, and
  • the taking of His and Him;
  • the leaving of your trust
    • in men,
    • in money,
    • in opinion,
    • in character,
    • in some definition of atonement,
and doing as He tells you!
Is not faith the highest act of which the human mind is capable? But faith in what? Faith in what He is, in what He says—a faith which can have no existence except in obedience—a faith which is obedience. I can find no words strong enough to serve for the weight of this necessity—this obedience."

"Obedience is not perfection, but trying. You count him a hard master, and will not stir. Do you suppose he ever gave a commandment knowing it was of no use for it could not be done? He tells us a thing knowing that we must do it, or be lost; that not his Father himself could save us but by getting us at length to do everything he commands, for not otherwise can we know life, can we learn the holy secret of divine being.
He knows that you can try, and that in your trying and failing he will be able to help you, until at length you shall do the will of God even as he does it himself. He takes the will in the imperfect deed, and makes the deed at last perfect.
Correctest notions without obedience are worthless. The doing of the will of God is the way to oneness with God, which alone is salvation. 
--George MacDonald, The Truth In Jesus

Still trying...still learning...still growing!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Treasures In Heaven.10

"What merit is there in attaining all that the world can offer, if in so doing you forfeit your soul? What can be given in exchange for your soul, or your place in the kingdom of heaven?"

"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, The Princess & Curdie

The cartoon image depicts the infamous exchange between twin brothers, Jacob & Esau. You may be familar with the story. The narrative describes Jacob coming out of the womb clinging to Esau's heel making Esau the older twin by mere seconds! Twins are funny like that, ours, like most I'm told, are incredibly competitive...

Legally, however, Esau is accorded the birthright (progeniture: the ownership of his father's estate); affectionately, he is father Isaac's favorite. Esau, hunter, sportsman, man's man. The kind you can grow a posterity on. Jacob, sneaky, deceitful, soft momma's boy. The kind of son for whom you have to watch your back. 

On a fateful day returning famished from a futile hunting campaign, Esau callously trades away his "birthright" for a bowl of Jacob's stew! It was a quick & clever negotiating trick on Jacob's part; the hard part came in devising a scenario to dupe his aging father into believing he was the notorious Esau so that he could finalize the deal and receive the estate. When Esau finally realized the consequence of his "exchange"--the enormous wealth of a prosperous father for a bowl of stew--he was not a happy hunter!

There are many lessons to be drawn from the human narrative. But the one we consistently fail to learn is this: choices have consequences! We can choose the behavior but we can't choose the consequence. Hoping for good consequence --short term and long term--is an act of faith. Alas, there is no rewind button...

God, our Creator-Father has given every human being a birthright: the opportunity to grow from the children of his image under the tutelage of a world system comprised of:
  • other sojourners (both good and bad), 
  • grand beauty & divine knowledge, 
  • deceitful spirits as well as ministering angels. 
By the choices we make we either grow -by degree- more toward Sons & Daughters who choose, by faith in His Son, to be what God is in nature: 
  • strong, 
  • tender, 
  • gracious, 
  • righteous, 
  • loving 
  • and kind 
or trade it for a bowl of something we can be "certain" about...the thing between our teeth!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Treasures In Heaven.9

"Once the investment of a rich man yielded a great profit. Considering his increased riches, the man said to himself,
"What shall I do with my profits?" 

And he came to this decision: "I will pull down my old houses, and build ones that are greater. I have amassed
immense treasure, and will rejoice in my wealth. I will be content for many years to come, and will spend my time eating, drinking, and being merry."
But God said to him: "Reckless man! Do you not know that this same night your soul will be demanded of you! When you are gone, whose will all these things be?"
Such is the fate of those who store up treasure for themselves, and are not rich in the possessions of God."


My favorite episodes of American Pickers are when Frank & Mike go cold calling and stumble across any guy with mind
boggling mountains of hoarded "treasures" who just can't find it in himself to part with some or other rusted relic. Contrary to popular sentiment not everyone has their price...not everyone is rational...

Wisdom, we are told, cries in the streets shouting to any who will listen:
"America, your possessions possess you!" 

God asks: "When My fires burn, My winds blow, My rains flood, My earth quakes; when all you have prized and identified with is reduced to rubble will you then begin to realize true freedom?"

Will we finally admit that Things:
  • fill our hearts, 
  • block up the windows of our soul, 
  • barricade our doors 
so that the very God our forefathers trusted in can not enter? Instead of a soul free, empty for His filling, swept and adorned with the rudiments of grace, we are crowded with "the meanest idols among which we creep upon our knees wasting on them tender gazes that ought to belong only to our fellows and our Lord!"

If it be Things that slay us, Things that be our final undoing, does it matter whether it is Things we have or Things we don't have? 

The rich, not trusting in God, the source of all riches, can ill endure the thought of exchanging their volatile currency for a patent of Heaven's nobility. 

The poor, forgetting who is Lord of the harvests of the earth, filled with fear for the next day's supply, draw little from the well of faith. 

The rich do not trust in God as having given; 
the poor do not trust in God as ready to give!

We are all alike when, in time of trouble, WE DO NOT TRUST HIM! Distrust is atheism, and the barrier to all growth!

"It is hard on God, when His children will not let him give; when they carry themselves so that he must withhold His hand, lest he harm them. To take no care that they acknowledge whence their help comes, would be to leave them worshippers of idols, trusters in that which is not.

Lord Jesus, we do not understand thee, because we do not trust thy Father—whole-hearted to us, as never yet was mother to her first-born! Full of care, as if he had none, we think this and that escapes his notice, for this and that he does not think!
While we who are evil would die to give our children bread to eat, we are not certain the only Good will give us anything of what we desire! The things of thy world so crowd our hearts, that there is no room in them for the things of thy heart, which would raise ours above all fear, and make us merry children in our Father's house!
Surely many a whisper of the watching Spirit we let slip through brooding over a need not yet come to us! To-morrow makes to-day's whole head sick, its whole heart faint. When we should be still, sleeping or dreaming, we are fretting about an hour that lies a half sun's-journey away! 
Not so doest thou, Lord! thou doest the work of thy Father! Wert thou such as we, then should we have good cause to be troubled! But thou knowest it is difficult, things pressing upon every sense, to believe that the informing power of them is in the unseen; that out of it they come; that, where we can discern no hand directing, a will, nearer than any hand, is moving them from within, causing them to fulfil his word!
Help us to obey, to resist, to trust." 
(adapted from George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons II, The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Treasures In Heaven.8

"Learn to give and it will be given back to you abundantly, more than you can imagine, multiplied and overflowing. By the same measure that you distribute your generosity, your reward will be measured in return."

Are we as generous as we want to be? No? Then we ought to keep on learning to give. Who will teach us? Maybe a better question is: "Do we want to be generous?" The Teacher can help with that too! A follower is not above his Master, but after being fully trained will be like him!

What generosity lives in the heart of Jesus? Astonishing generosity! Generosity that makes a statement. Generosity that melts hearts, breaks through emotional defenses, excoriates the miserly, exposes the falsely pious. 
  • Genuine, 
  • beautiful, 
  • compelling, 
  • powerful, 
  • poignant, 
  • personal, 
  • selfless, 
  • sacrificial, 
  • child-like...

My friend, Larry, his wife and kids opened their hearts and home to provide a place of healing for a teenager whose life

story is a journey of abuse, neglect and rejection. And fleas. After carefully fumigating for the dreaded pests in all her belongings, the nasty vermin still found a way in to infest their home. The battle to beat the bugs, however, proved easier than the challenge to win her trust!

When the hurting say: "Can I have your shirt, I'm cold."

Jesus says: "Give them your coat!"

When the neglected say: " Sit a while with me, I"m lonely."
Jesus says: "Sit two whiles!"

When the wounded & hurtful strike you down,
Jesus says: "Stand up and let them do it again."

When the fearful & insecure say: "I'll love you if..."
Jesus says: "Lay down your life for them."

When the world says: "Hedge your bets,"
Jesus says: "Let the beauty of the good things you do shine in a way that brings glory to your glorious Father!"

Astonishing generosity.

Extravagant Generosity.

I've got much to learn. Keep teaching me, Lord of Life, Light & Love!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Treasures In Heaven.7

"Some do good acts only when they are certain of an audience. For these, there is no reward. When you give, do not behave like the hypocrites, who ring bells in the temple and parade in the streets. These have their own reward. Do not even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give quietly and in secret; and your heavenly Father who sees such acts of kindness will reward you openly." 

Validation: official sanction, confirmation, substantiation, or approval.

Like it, love it, gotta have it.

The audience you play for largely determines the outcome of your actions. A violent, senseless beating of a young woman in McDonalds because she casts a glance in the wrong direction gets on YouTube; sadly there is an audience that approves of that and calls it good.

Common decency should recoil at the very notion of beastly behavior. Yet a distant cousin, Jesus points out, is the person who does what is commonly considered "good" only to increase their poll numbers among potential patrons. For the lover of good and God it too should be repulsive.

"The Lord cared neither for isolated truth nor for orphaned deed. It was truth in the inward parts, it was the good heart, the mother of good deeds, he cherished. It was the live, active, knowing, breathing good He came to further. He
cared for no speculation in morals or religion. It was good men He cared about, not notions of good things, or even good actions, save as the outcome of life, save as the bodies in which the primary live actions of love and will in the soul took shape and came forth.
Could he by one word have set at rest all the questionings of philosophy as to the supreme good and the absolute truth, I venture to say that He would not have spoke it. But He would die to make men good and true. His whole heart would respond to the cry of sad publican or despairing pharisee, 'How am I to be good?
--George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, The Way.

God's reward for goodness is His validation. His validation is in making us good. His is the only audience worth our attention. 
 "Father purify my heart 
that I care little 
for any judgment but yours..."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Treasures In Heaven.6

"Do not hoard treasures on earth where moths and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where neither moths nor rust corrupt, nor thieves break in to steal. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

"What is with the treasure must fare as the treasure; the heart which haunts the treasure-house where the moth and rust corrupt, will be exposed to the same ravages as the treasure, will itself be rusted and moth-eaten. Many a man, many a woman, prosperous and impressive to see, is going about with a rusty moth-eaten heart..." GMD

A recent commentary on American society illustrates Jesus' haunting words. America is an idea, a series of principles that must be lived out by each successive generation. Ideas like:
  • all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
  • that a moral and educated people are capable of ruling themselves, 
  • that rule of law and right of property are fundamental to liberty and pave the way to prosperity, 
  • that God alone gives these rights to people and are not subject to the whim of a ruling class. 
These ideas have inspired several generations of Americans to build history's most prosperous, generous and good-seeking society.

But these ideas are under attack from other ideas: progressivism, globalism, eudaemonism, communism, socialism, statism, Sharia law, Mohammedism. 

Sadly, a significant shift has occurred largely due to our prosperity: rather than defend the principles and ideas upon which America sustains itself, we have been reduced to defending our stuff! 

The news is filled with impassioned warring factions battling over stuff like abortion rights, collective bargaining rights, gay rights, transgender rights, women's rights, Mother Earth's rights, baby seal rights, healthcare rights, Social Security rights, food stamp entitlement rights, income equality rights.

Because we don't treasure the things treasured in heaven, such as: 
  • kindness, 
  • patience, 
  • goodness, 
  • gentleness, 
  • love, 
  • righteousness, 
  • self-control, 
  • sincerity, 
  • truth,
  • justice,
  • mercy,
  • humility,
  • service,
  • obedience,
  • beauty, 
  • fidelity, 
  • life, 
  • wisdom, 
  • grace, 
  • honor, 
  • simplicity, 
  • purity, 
  • peace-making, 
  • repentance, 
we are reduced to becoming just like the corruptible things we DO treasure

And just like the Stuff we are becoming corrupted and decayed in attitudes & aspirations; angry, covetous, greedy, murderous, liars. 


Moth-eaten cavernous hearts that can never be satisfied.

God save us...

The Treasures In Heaven.5

"How nearly impossible it is for those who love money to
enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man
to enter into the kingdom. And yet, what is impossible for man is made possible by God’s mercy."

I like watching "Shark Tank" to see how wealthy people think. Not that they think correctly mind you, but as far as the way the frenzied and notoriously ambitious strive to climb the top of a sandhill for which they cannot remain long, is, from an eternal perspective, educational.

Annual Incomes of some famous people:

  • Barack Obama.............$1,728,000
  • Beyonce Knowles.......$87,000,000
  • Oprah Winfrey........ $315,000,000
  • Tom Hanks...............$45,000,000
  • Will Smith.................$29,000,000
  • Angelina Jolie............$23,500,000
  • Vladimir Putin................$175,000
  • JK Rowling................$10,000,000
  • 50 cent.....................$20,000,000
(borrowed from

Now let's s
uppose Will Smith, troubled by the emptiness and futility of the things he's chased, decides to explore a less transitory lifestyle and focus rather on the eternal. Imagine this conversation between him and the Eternal One:

Will: "Jesus, you are a good person from what I've heard. Surely you must have information about what I must do to have a life that has meaning and purpose beyond the few short years I have on this planet?"

Jesus: "Why do you call me Good? What is there about goodness that is attractive to you? There is only One who is Good. If you think I'm good, you really should know Him. But if you would enter into life, keep the commandments."

Will: 'Which ones?'

Jesus: 'Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'

Will: 'My momma raised me right. All these things I've tried to be careful not to violate; in fact I've thought because I'm a pretty decent guy that must be why God has blessed me with so much. But I have a nagging feeling there is more; what do I lack?'

Jesus: 'I know you have given some energy to the keeping of those things you can; and the commandments have had their desired effect: causing you to hunger for a righteousness greater than yourself. If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'

Will: 'Whoa; isn't that asking a lot? I have a lot of stuff..."

Jesus: "I know you are not a "sellout", at least, hopefully, not one who would have sold me out for 30 pieces of silver! But the real question is would you sell all to have my company? Is having a "patent on peerage" with the Son of Man worth anything to you? What are you willing to exchange for your soul? What would you spend to see the real condition of your being? If you could see the way your possessions, in fact, possess you, would you recoil in horror? If the way is narrow, difficult and hard to enter into life--not easy as you have come to be accustomed to walking through doors swung wide by a fickle and adoring world--would you willingly take up that cross? 

Hard to let earth go, and take heaven instead; hard to exchange eternal life by letting dead things drop; hard to turn your back on Mammon, and follow Me; hard to lose your rich friends, and be of the Master's household. 
Here is the victory: to be delivered from the bondage of mammon by the lovely will of the Lord in you, one with My own. By the putting forth of the divine energy available through God's Spirit, you can escape the corruption that is in the world through lust—that is, the desire or pleasure of having."

Will: "But Lord, honestly, it is a struggle; what about the others, Tom or Beyonce or Oprah? Why can't I follow you with my money and use it to further your cause?"

Jesus: "Look around you, Will. They aren't clamoring to come into My kingdom. Until they are ready they are not such as I want to accompany me in accomplishing my Father's will. Those who are obedient children are my mothers, brothers, sisters and friends. The time has come for you, you must choose, that you should know what manner of spirit you are of, and meet the confusions of soul, the sad searchings of heart that must follow. A time comes to every man when he must obey, or make such refusal—and know it. Money is the power of this world—power for defeat and failure to him who holds it—a weakness to be overcome before a man can be strong; yet many decent people fancy it a power of the world to come! It is indeed a little power, as food and drink, as bodily strength, as the winds and the waves are powers; but it is no mighty thing for the redemption of men; in fact, to the redemption of those who have it, it is the saddest obstruction. To make you capable of eternal life, the first thing is to make a poor man of you! I know you would doubtless gladly devote your wealth to My service and go with Me, as a rich man, to spend it for Me. But part with it to free you for My service, that like Me, you will be completely trusting in our Father to provide, that is what it must come to!"

"I see in your eyes you are already turning away. Let me say in parting, you have begun early to climb the eternal stair. You have kept the commandments, and by every keeping have climbed. But because you are well to do—a phrase of unconscious irony—you have felt well to be—quite, but for that lack of eternal life! Your possessions give you a standing in the world—a position of consequence—of value in your own eyes. You know yourself looked up to; you like to be looked up to; you look up to yourself because of your means, forgetting that means are but tools, and poor tools too. To part with your wealth will be to sink to the level of your inferiors! Why should you not keep it? why not use it in the service of the Master? What wisdom, you ask, could there be in throwing away such a grand advantage? You would devote it, but won't cast it from you! You would devote it, but won't devote yourself! You will not make yourself naked as a little child and let your Father take you! You cannot yet see the wisdom in My words. You cannot yet see how your precious money can be a hindrance to entering into life! You cannot yet see how you, a rich man, would be of more value without your money; that the casting of it away would make you one of God's truly great ones; that the battle of God could be better fought without its impediment; that My work refuses as an obstruction the aid of wealth. I have repudiated money that I might do the will of My Father; and the disciple must be as his master. If you do as I tell you, you will soon come to understand. 

Obedience is the opener of eyes."

(adapted from George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons II, The Way)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Treasures In Heaven.4

"The poor, when they give, contribute more than the wealthy, who give from their abundance. The poor contribute from their need, and with great love often give what they cannot spare."

Million dollar athletes; multi-million dollar CEO's, billion dollar campaign funds, multi-billion dollar bailouts, trillion dollar debts. Mind boggling numbers measured by the rich & famous. Money IS this world's reality.

But there is a different measure. The One who holds it looks away from tax breaks, charitable foundations, and wealthy patrons who can "network" us with the "right people." His eyes, we are told, roam throughout the earth looking for those "whose heart is completely His..." 

For the Lord wants sons & daughters not who merely love him but love like Him. When our Father in heaven gives it is always with great love! He never does anything because there will be some advantage to him, but because it is His nature!

Let us, therefore, resist the siren call of the seemingly noble who use the "poor" to validate their agendas, when the higher reality says that those who trust in God for their very sustenance are free to give from a wellspring of love; these are the truly rich!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Treasures In Heaven.3

"There is no generosity in giving to those who can easily repay. Even misers lend money when they are certain of being repaid in full. Give to those who appear before you in need, to the destitute with no hope of repaying your gift. Practice forgiveness, even if such persons take advantage of your kind acts." 
Years ago, a ministerial I was associated with had a protocol to deal with the Neediness of the Needy.  If it was for food we sent them to the church that housed the food pantry, if the request was for rooming, we sent them to a local motel and paid the tab. Same for clothing, rides, etc.  It was an efficient way to deal with the "chronically" needy who often "abused" the system without wanting to really get any help. And, honestly, it was a lot easier than actually having to be personally responsible for people who did not seem capable of or cared enough to be personally responsible for themselves...
Social media exploded recently over the story of a Minnesota dentist who hunted and killed an African lion affectionately known as "Cecil."  The uproar and subsequent destruction of this man's livelihood dwarfed the exposure of taxpayer funded Planned Parenthood's nefarious & grotesque practice of selling aborted baby parts.  

Why would our culture be more concerned about a lion, thousands of miles away, than real people being slaughtered, butchered and bought right in our backyard?  Matt Walsh, cultural commentator, offers these thoughts:
"People, on the other hand, are real. They are here. They impose themselves on our lives. They burden us. They surround us. To care about people is hard. It requires us to live, act, think, and speak differently. We have to accommodate people. We have to tolerate people. We have to do things for people, especially the most vulnerable and helpless people. It’s no coincidence that progressivism advocates abortion to deal with children, and euthanasia to handle the old and the infirm. If it is going to pretend to love human beings at all, it must first get rid of the most burdensome types. 
It can be hard to love people. And if you say you love people, life is going to constantly demand that you prove it. If you say you love people, you certainly can’t kill your own child, and you can’t support the killing of children, and even if you don’t have kids, you have to be patient and kind with other people’s kids, and other people generally. This is very different from loving lions. You can love lions passively, in the abstract; people must be loved actively, in reality.      
 This is the progressive modus operandi. Progressivism loves everything that can be loved lazily or indulgently, and nothing that must be loved sacrificially and earnestly. It loves nothing that
requires any action on its part.
Put more simply, it loves nothing.
But it will keep pretending anyway."
-Matt Walsh,

Personal generosity is a difficult thing.  But practicing it is more than about helping another person, it is about fighting for our collective humanity, dignity and worth!  The cross of Christ shows it is something worth fighting for!

"Little children, 
let us not love in word or talk 
but in deed and in truth."  
-John, the Beloved Disciple, 1 John 3:18

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Treasures In Heaven.2

"Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen, enjoying a life of extravagance. In the same town there lived a homeless man named Lazarus, who sat near the gate that led to the rich man's house. He did not ask for anything but the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. Stray dogs were his only friends, and they licked his wounds.

Finally, one day Lazarus died and was carried by angels into the arms of Abraham. Not long afterwards, the rich man also died, and was buried.

From the agonies of hell he lifted his eyes full of torment, and seeing Abraham a great way off, he cried: “Father
Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send the beggar Lazarus to comfort me! Have him dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue, for I suffer here in these flames!”

But Abraham replied: “My son, remember that in your lifetime you enjoyed your good things, while Lazarus knew only suffering and misery. Now, he is comforted, and you are the one tormented. Besides, between us is fixed a great gulf of separation, so that those who would come to you from here cannot, neither can you cross over to us from where you suffer.”

Hearing these words, the rich man cried out: “I pray, then, that you send Lazarus to my Father’s house. I have five brothers, and he must warn them, so they do not end up in this hell.”

To this Abraham answered: “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them.”

"But surely," the rich man protested, "if one were to appear to them from the dead, they would repent."

Abraham replied: "If they do not repent because of the words of Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded, even if one should appear to them from the dead." 

The one principle of hell is: 
'I am my own. 
I am my own king
and my own subject.' 

From this principle flows much evil: 
  • I am the center from which go out my thoughts 
  • I am the object and end of my thoughts
  • Back upon me as the alpha and omega of life, my thoughts return
  • My own glory is, and ought to be, my chief care 
  • My ambition, to gather the adoration of men to the one center, myself
  • My pleasure is my pleasure 
  • My kingdom is as many people as I can bring to acknowledge my greatness over them
  • My judgment is the faultless rule of things 
  • My right is: what I desire
  • The more I am all in all to myself, the greater I am
  • The less I acknowledge debt or obligation to another the more I close my eyes to the fact that I did not make myself
  • The more self-sufficing I feel or imagine myself-the greater I am. 
  • I will be free with the freedom that consists in doing whatever I am inclined to do, from whatever urge may come the inclination 
  • To do my own will so long as I feel anything to be my will, is to be free, is to live. 

Jesus comes (He is a Living Savior, after all) to show us all the way things are! What joy to those poor in spirit who recognize at some point in this life their true condition and neediness to God! Sorrow and agony to those who, using the pomp and show of this world, attempt to insulate themselves from their true condition. But make no mistake truth will come out--in this world or the next!

The path across the gulf is repentance. 
 "The only vengeance worth having on sin is to make the sinner himself its executioner. Sorrow and confession and self-abasing love will make up for the evil in us; suffering alone will not. Evil is eternally evil. But I may be saved from it by learning to loathe it, to hate it, to shrink from it with an eternal avoidance."

Repent and keep on repenting. The path to our true condition and the place of comfort & rest!

(adapted from MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons III, Kingship & Justice)