Thursday, May 31, 2012

Health and Healing for Body and Soul.6

"Likewise, I tell you, there is great joy in the presence of the Father and all of the angels, when one turns from their path of wrongdoing."

"She spoke softly, just barely forming the words with her lips. She felt self-conscious and was willing to admit it.  "Uh...hello."  Maybe He heard her, maybe He didn't.  She said it again. "Hello."  That should be enough.  "I imagine you know who I am but I'll introduce myself anyway.  It just seems the thing to do.  My name is Sally Beth Roe, and I guess one refers to you as...God.  Or maybe Jesus...I've heard that done.  Or...Lord.  I guess you go by several titles and so I hope you'll indulge me if I grope a bit.  It's been a long time since I tried to pray."

"Uh...anyway, I'd like to meet with you today and discuss my life and what possible role you might wish to play in it.  And thank you in advance for your time and attention." [After giving God some background] Sally paused.  Was there some kind of awakening happening inside her?  God could hear her, she could sense it; she just knew it.  That was strange.  It was something new.

Sally stopped to think.  How should she say it?  Just what was it she wanted from God?  "I guess..."  Uh-oh, emotion. Maybe this is why I can't get around to it.  "I guess I just wanted to ask you about your love...I need to know that You'll..."  She stopped.  Tears were forming in the corners of her eyes.

"Excuse me.  This is difficult.  There are a lot of years involved, a lot of emotion"...a deep breath..."Anyway, I was trying to say that...I would very much like you to accept me."  She stopped and let the tightness in her throat ease.  "Because...I've been told that you love me, and that you've arranged for all my wrongs, my moral trespasses, to be paid for and forgiven.  I've come to understand that Jesus died to pay my penalty, to satisfy your holy justice.  Um...I appreciate that.  Thank you for that kind of love."

"But if you will have me...if you will only accept me, I would be more than willing to hand over all that I am and all that I have, whatever it may be worth"...Words from thirty years ago came to her mind, and they captured her feelings perfectly.  "Jesus..." She couldn't stop the emotions this time. Her face flushed, her eyes filled, and she was afraid to go on.  "Jesus...I want you to come into my heart.  I want you to forgive me.  Please forgive me."

...With a new found freedom seclusion brought, the heart of stone became a heart of flesh, the deepest cries of the heart became a fountain, and she and the Lord God began to talk about things as the minutes slipped by unnoticed and the world around her became unimportant.

Above, as if another sun had arisen, the darkness opened and pure, white rays broke through the treetops, flooding Sally Beth Roe with heavenly light, shining through to her heart, her innermost spirit, obscuring her form with a blinding fire of holiness.  Slowly, without sensation, without sound, she settled forward, her face to the ground, her spirit awash with the presence of God.

All around her, like spokes of a wondrous wheel, like beams of light emanating from a sun, angelic blades lay flat on the ground, their tips turned toward her, their handles extending outward, held in the strong fists of hundreds of noble warriors who knelt in perfect, concentric circles of glory, light and worship, their heads to the ground, their wings stretching skyward like a flourishing, animated garden of flames.  They were silent, filled with a holy dread.

As in countless times past, in countless places, with marvelous, inscrutable wonder, the Lamb of God stood among them, the Word of God, and more: the final Word, the end of all discussion and challenge, the Creator and the Truth that holds all creation together--most wondrous of all and most inscrutable of all, the Savior, a title the angels would always behold and marvel about, but which only mankind could know and understand.

He had come to be the Savior of this woman.  He knew her by name, and speaking her name, He touched her.

And her sins were gone.

A rustling began in the first row of angels, then in the next, then, like a wave rushing outward, the silken wings of row upon row of warriors caught the air, raising a roar, and lifted the angels to their feet.  The warriors held their swords heavenward, a forest of fiery blades, and began to shout in tumultuous joy, their voices rumbling and shaking the whole spiritual realm.

Guilo, as brilliantly glorified as ever he was, took his place above them all, and swept his sword about in burning circles as he shouted, "Worthy is the Lamb!"

"Worthy is the Lamb!" the warriors thundered.
"Worthy is the Lamb!" Guilo shouted more loudly.
"Worthy is the Lamb!" they all answered.
"For He was slain!"
"For He was slain!"

Guilo pointed his sword at Sally Beth Roe, prostrate, her face to the ground, still communing with her new found Savior.  "And with his blood has purchased for God, the woman, Sally Beth Roe!"

Their swords waved, and their light pierced the darkness as lightning pierces the night.  "He has purchased Sally Beth Roe!"

"Worthy is the lamb Who was slain," Guilo began, and then they all sang the words together with voices that shook the earth, "to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"

Then came another roar, from voices and from wings, and another flashing of hundreds of swords.  The wings took hold, and the skies filled with warriors, swirling, shouting, cheering, worshiping, their light washing over the earth for miles around.

from Piercing the Darkness, by Frank Peretti, pages 319-322

Monday, May 28, 2012

Health and Healing For Body & Soul.5

"Who among you, having ten pieces of silver and losing one piece, would not light a candle, and carefully sweep the house, searching diligently until it is found?
When the coin is found at last, do you not call your friends and neighbours, saying: “Good news! I found the money that was lost.”
 -- Jesus

sentient  (ˈsɛntɪənt) 
— adj
1.having the power of sense perception or sensation; conscious

Just recently came across this a word: I found it!  Don't know that the word cared that I found it, nor that it was even lost...

In the parables of lost things, the Lord Jesus uses interesting devices to illustrate eternal truths.  Only the prodigal is certainly sentient, but his senses needed to be redirected to realize his lost-ness; the sheep could be remotely considered sentient, it could feel discomfort and fear, but not truly conscious of the implications of being lost.  And most certainly a coin, like a word, would NEVER KNOW IT WAS LOST!

The focus of the parables, then, is not so much on the perceptions of the lost things but on the response of the finders.

MacDonald's story, At The Back of The North Wind, paints a vivid picture of the impact of being found from the vantage of the finder.  Throughout the story Little Diamond has many adventures with North Wind that shape his character by giving him heartfelt wonder at the mystery of the unseen forces directing the affairs of people--always urging them towards goodness.  Midway in the story he is able to go to the land at the back of the North Wind.  This experience gives him a measure throughout the rest of his life on which he can discern the things that truly matter.

The child-like heart of Jesus, filled with the wonder of the unseen work of His father, measured all things by His eternal home, not his temporary dwelling.

Most of us sentient creatures have little idea how lost we truly are. Lost to the way and the influences that could make us more loving and lovable.  Listening to a conversation on the "disgusting habits" of a certain group of people, Amish neighbors of my kinfolk, I suggested that maybe that was their own pursuit of happiness and that we ought not be hasty to condemn fellow Americans in those pursuits--however disagreeable they seem to us.  I trust I didn't offer this perspective smugly superior in my own opinions, but from the hope of higher things.  After a pause and a quirky look the diatribe continued...

Thankfully the Finder-of-lost things knew from where He came, where He was going, and, undeterred by the fickleness and folly of ignorance He will continue to rejoice when the lost are found!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Health and healing for body and soul.4

"While counting his flock of one hundred sheep, a shepherd discovered one missing. Immediately, he left the ninety-nine in the safety of the fold, and went in search of the one that was lost. And when the lost sheep was found, he carried it home in his arms, his heart filled with gladness. On the way, he called out to his friends and anyone who would listen, “Rejoice with me! This, my lost sheep, has been found.”

I tell you this truth: there is more rejoicing in heaven over one who repents, than over ninety-nine who need no repentance." 
-- Jesus

Occasionally a guy has the joy of coming across another follower of Jesus who just lives close to the heart of God.  Jim Wright is one of those guys.  I've not met Jim personally; a mutual friend "posted" on her facebook wall that they'd had dinner with Jim recently and "linked" to his blog.  (Yes the Holy Spirit does do technology!)  The first entry I read instantly resonated in my heart that Jim just gets it (read for yourself: -- that faith is obedience, and obedience to Christ is the link between God's heart and man's.

Every act of obedience necessarily begins with repentance: a change of mind & will.  Repentance leading to active obedience generates great power in the joy of heaven.  Listen with your heart to the joy of heaven in this account from Jim's journal on ministering among inmates:

"I’ve been mentoring and building relationships with a group of thirty or so men in the jail, as we periodically meet to discuss the things of God. Some are believers, and some are believers in the making.  This morning, as I was pulling out of my driveway to meet with some guys in the jail, I felt the Lord say it was time to plant a church among them.This sense that it was time to plant a new church among them did not strike me as the least bit odd. I am part of a fellowship that has planted various sister churches that are thriving in other housing units in the local jail, as well as in other improbable places. So the sole issue for me was simply being receptive to the Lord’s timing, by acting only when and how He says.
This morning I set aside my plans as the men and I talked about Jesus being in us, so that Jesus becomes manifest among us, and thus Jesus becomes expressed through us.
 We talked about how this is the foundation for authentic church.
We then talked about Ephesians 4 and how each individual has particular gifts that the rest of us need, and how together we are different but integrated parts of the whole Body of Christ.
I joked with them about how I am the asshole of the Body of Christ, because He often uses me to get the crap out of people’s lives. They laughed, but also understood that they too had something unique to offer and that unless we all participate in each other’s lives by ministering one to another – as we share the life of Jesus in us with each other – we have little hope of finding health and wholeness.
We also looked at 1 Corinthians 14 and how Paul commanded that when we gather together we each are to have something to contribute, rather than expecting to always receive. Thus, church meetings are active and participatory.
Finally, we talked about how Jesus is present when two or three gather in His name, and how God often meets us and our needs through each other.
The great thing about planting churches in the jail is that the men aren’t saddled with all kinds of religious “stuff” to unlearn. They “get it” right away.
Individuals of Peace and HospitalityTowards the end of our time together, I told them it was time to start being the church in their unit. I then asked who, among them, were men of peace – the social glue, so to speak, of their housing unit.
They quickly identified several men, who seemed embarrassed – which was good because there were no ego agendas among them. I asked those guys to come forward and stand around me. Then, following Jesus’ instructions in Luke 10, I explained to all of them that I was going to bless those men of peace, because Jesus wanted to use their gift of hospitality to pull them all together each evening for fellowship.
You see, God gives some the special gift of hospitality and peace, and we see in Luke 10 that those attributes are vital for bringing forth a church in a new community.
So, following the example of Luke 10, I asked those several men of peace to identify some issue in their lives or circumstances where they needed the Lord’s blessing. When they did so, I held hands with them and prayed a blessing over them as I asked the Lord to meet those needs.
Now here’s the neat part about planting churches, which I have seen time and again. This week, the Lord is going to answer those prayers and bless those men. And when He does, they in their excitement will become catalysts for attracting others into fellowship. And from that, a new church will merge.
In fact, I expect to see that new church in operation when I return next week, and I will then join them on occasion to simply encourage Jesus in them, among them, and now through them.
Trust and ObeyI’m not so sure why we make this so complicated.
Maybe it’s because we don’t trust that Jesus knew what He was doing when He instructed His disciples in Luke 10 on how to usher the Kingdom of God into new communities.
Maybe it’s because we don’t trust that God will bless those individuals of peace in that community, and then use them to attract others into His Kingdom.
Maybe it’s because we think it’s all up to us.
But nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, my role is very limited: I am to bless those whom God has pre-positioned as catalysts of peace and hospitality, gently encourage the emerging believers, and then get out of the way so they can come forth, minister one to another, and participate together in the joy of knowing Jesus.
Once that foundation is laid, the rest just sort of naturally follows.

An update (April 6, 2012)I was unable to return to that housing unit until a month later. When I did, I was swamped by guys telling me how Jesus was doing amazing things among them as they met together. Their enthusiasm was contagious!
It’s now three months later, and that church is truly indigenous and going strong, just like I knew it would.
I estimate that in just the last three months alone, we’ve seen around 50 men receive Jesus through the indigenous churches we’ve planted in our local jail – and the spiritual maturity they are finding and reproducing among each other is astounding.
We are seeing the same results in the homeless community and in other segments of our county as we go and offer to help be the church with you and your friends, rather than invite you to come and attend church with me and my friends.
What a radical concept!
For more information on how Jesus taught His disciples – and us – to plant churches, see my blog on Participatory Church.
Another Update (May 9, 2012)That one church plant has now blossomed into at least seven additional fellowships in the jail, in addition to the others already existing there. I believe there are more, as men go to other units and facilities, so those seven are just the one’s I personally know and have met with.
What is really neat about these new fellowships is that they all arose at the initiative of the inmates themselves. Furthermore, they are populated with primarily new believers.
Life reproducing life, just like we see in the New Testament."

Can you hear the joy?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Health And Healing For Body And Soul.3

"Is it easier to say, 

'Your sins are forgiven,' or, 'Rise and be healed'?

That you might know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive all wrongs, I announce to the sick:
"Rise Up! Be of good cheer; 
your wrongs are forgiven.
Go your way! 
As you have believed, so shall you receive. 
Your faith has made you well!" 

-- Jesus

Let us agree on this simple notion: 
 Jesus cares little for our opinion.

If you think he was asking for a show of hands when posing the question; if you think he cared a wit about whether they thought one form of the command was more effective than another; if you think that getting our opinions in order is the objective of Jesus or, for that matter, any writer of the Bible...then you qualify as a modern day disciple of historic Pharisaical proportions!

Test yourself:

When considering a doctrine or command of scripture do you say, 'Do I believe or feel this thing right?' In doing so have you forgotten the true question: 'Have I left all to follow him?

"To the man who gives himself to the living Lord, every belief will necessarily come right; the Lord himself will see that his disciple believe aright concerning him. 

If a man cannot trust him for this, what claim can he make to faith in him? It is because he has little or no faith, that he is left clinging to preposterous and dishonouring ideas, the traditions of men concerning his Father, and neither his teaching nor that of his apostles.

What I insist upon is, that a man's faith shall be in the living, loving, ruling, helping Christ, devoted to us as much as ever he was, and with all the powers of the Godhead for the salvation of his brethren. 

It is not faith that he did this, that his work wrought that—it is faith in the man who did and is doing everything for us that will save him: without this he cannot work to heal spiritually, any more than he would heal physically, when he was present to the eyes of men.

Do you ask, '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 atonement itself, and doing as he tells you. I can find no words strong enough to serve for the weight of this necessity—this obedience.

It is the one terrible heresy of the church, that it has always been presenting something else than obedience as faith in Christ. 

The work of Christ is not the Working Christ, any more than the clothing of Christ is the body of Christ. If the woman who touched the hem of his garment had trusted in the garment and not in him who wore it, would she have been healed? And the reason that so many who believe about Christ rather than in him, get the comfort they do, is that, touching thus the mere hem of his garment, they cannot help believing a little in the live man inside the garment.

Get up, and do something the master tells you; so make yourself his disciple at once. Instead of asking yourself whether you believe or not, ask yourself whether you have this day done one thing because he said, 'Do it', or once abstained because he said, 'Do not do it'. It is simply absurd to say you believe, or even want to believe in him, if you do not anything he tells you.

If you can think of nothing he ever said as having had an atom of influence on your doing or not doing, you have too good ground to consider yourself no disciple of his.

Jesus' mission was not correct opinion concerning himself or the Father, his objective was and is obedient love in the heart of the poorest he healed or persuaded. That is his kingdom come."

(adapted from MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons II, The Truth In Jesus, emphasis added)

Saturday, May 12, 2012


"You should understand this: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but the lost to repentance. Shouldn't the sick in body, whom the devil has bound, be set free?"
-- Jesus

"GOD and man must combine for salvation from sin.

My father-in-law is eighty-one...of the age where mortality takes it toll.  Having fought off a serious staff infection a few months ago, he complained of chest pains on Thursday.  The local hospital, understaffed on weekends, determined he may be having heart problems (go figure)...and decided to ship him off to a larger facility.  The specialist there proscribed a catherization to check for and treat blockage scheduled Tuesday.  The requisite blood thinners were added to his IV and preparations made.  However, they discovered the blockage more severe than anticipated and without delay prepared him for bypass surgery on Wednesday.  After nine hours of successful surgery and four bypass arteries in place, the only concern was excessive bleeding from the additional thinners.  Fretful hours passed as a trio of nurses carefully added "thickeners" to aid in the clotting process.  At ten o'clock the worst was over as he progressed from good to "better" in the recovery process.  We, the watchers, went home.

I am not, of course, in Bill's head or heart, I can only surmise what he was going through in the process of being saved from certain least a putting off of what we know, but do not want to experience any time soon, is our exit from this life.  On a daily basis hundreds of thousands of humans do indeed exit and hundreds of thousands take their place.  We, however, are only capable of focusing on the few we hold close to our hearts.  But I digress...

If I were in Bill's head or heart I would have, like him, been concerned at the first symptoms that troubled me, like pain in the chest.  Depending on the severity of the pain I would call out for help.  In a world where the unfathomable is but a distant memory and the miraculous routine, the idea of trusting other humans beings to open up our heart cavity, handle our life-source with eerie familiarity, put us back together and send us on our way in a few days is remarkably unremarkable.

Although he was unconscious for most of the process, Bill was still a willing participant in the process of his "salvation."  He first admitted his need for help, accepted the diagnosis, consented to treatment and is now following the prescription for his rehabilitation.

There is a bit of misunderstanding, I believe, about repentance.  The simple definition is a change of mind.  Although there is no implied emotional response connected to the word, emotions like guilt, remorse, sorrow, and regret often precede the recognized need for a genuine change of mind.  Not unlike, I consider, physical pain preceding the recognized need for treatment of the cause.

What is to be understood, and Mark emphasizes in his gospel narrative (1:4), repentance brings about "the remission of sins."  Remission, though often translated "forgiveness" is literally a "a dismissal, or release" and is a precise word picture of the action of both God and man.  God dismisses the requisite penalty (the necessary suffering/pain produced by willful disobedience to His life-giving commands) for sin at the point when man releases the evil thing in him that is the source for the wrongness of his thoughts, actions, attitudes.

"They could not rid themselves of their sins, but they could set about sending them away; they could quarrel with them, and proceed to turn them out of the house: the Lord was on his way to do his part in their final banishment. Those who had repented to the sending away of their sins, he would baptize with a holy power to send them away indeed. The operant will to get rid of them would be baptized with a fire that should burn them up. When a man breaks with his sins, then the wind of the Lord's fan will blow them away, the fire of the Lord's heart will consume them."

MacDonald makes the case that even the Lord's own baptism at the hands of a reluctant John the Baptizer, was to set the example--not that He had sin in Him--but to dismissing sin from without and within as a way of life.

"Such, then, as were baptized by John, were initiated into the company of those whose work was to send sin out of the world, and first, by sending it out of themselves, by having done with it.
Not seldom, what comes in the name of the gospel of Jesus Christ, must seem, even to one not far from the kingdom of heaven, no good news at all. It does not draw him; it wakes in him not a single hope. He has no desire after what it offers him as redemption. The God it gives him news of, is not one to whom he would draw nearer. But when such a man comes to see that the very God must be his Life, the heart of his consciousness; when he perceives that, rousing himself to put from him what is evil, and do the duty that lies at his door, he may fearlessly claim the help of him who 'loved him into being,' then his will immediately sides with his conscience; he begins to try to be; and first thing toward being is to rid himself of what is antagonistic to all being, namely wrong. Multitudes will not even approach the appalling task, the labor and pain of being." 

At home, reflecting on the past few day's events, Bill remarked, "I can only imagine what the cost of this operation must be!"  I pray that the will to live, no matter what the cost, translates into a deeper understanding on his part of the cost to God to give each of us life eternal!

(MacDonald quotes from "The Hope of the Gospel--The Remission of Sins")