Sunday, December 30, 2012

On Being Born a Second Time.1

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

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

Two criteria for entering the Kingdom of God:

Water or natural birth.  
The first birth gives existence.

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

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

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

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

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

It is the absence in the man 

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

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

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

but there is a closer contact still, 

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

For the highest creation of God in man is his will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It may cost God a suffering man can never know, 

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

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

With his mind and heart he cries:

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

adapted from various MacDonald sermons, especially Life

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Great Commission.18

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

Pain & Trouble

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Great Commission.17

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


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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Great Commission.16

When you are confronted 
by the world's hatred, 

remember how it hated me
 before your time. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember the cross and keep moving!