Sunday, May 26, 2013

Disciples & Servants.12

"You call me master and teacher. If I, then, am willing to be your most humble servant, should not you be willing to serve one another as well? I have lived my life as an example before you. Imitate me, and do the same to others as I have done for you." 


It is truly remarkable how many people think they know What Jesus Would Do.  What car
he'd buy, what cause he'd promote, who he'd vote for.  And to prove it, they'll show you their colorful wrist band...

In fact, the Jesus Seminar, consisting of a group of "theologians" used colored beads to "vote" on biblical passages they thought were most like the true Jesus. Sadly, not only was Jesus not invited, but was reduced to a venerable but harmless "teacher" who did little but advocate for social justice ensuring all people would be treated "fairly".

Consider this statement by MacDonald:

How have we learned Christ? It ought to be a startling thought, that we may have learned him wrong. That must be far worse than not to have learned him at all: his place is occupied by a false Christ, hard to exorcise!
The point is, whether we have learned Christ as he taught himself, or as men have taught him who thought they understood, but did not understand him. Do we think we know him—with notions fleshly, after low, mean human fancies and explanations, or do we indeed know him—after the spirit, in our measure as God knows him?...Is only our brain full of things concerning him, or does he dwell himself in our hearts, a learnt, and ever being learnt lesson, the power of our life?
Whatever be your opinions on the greatest of all subjects,
  • Is it well that the impression made upon your generation with regard to Christianity , should be that of your opinions, and not of something greater than opinion?
  • Is Christianity capable of being represented by opinion, even the best?
  • If it were, how many of us are such as God would choose to represent his thoughts and intents by our opinions concerning them?
  • Who is there of his friends whom any thoughtful man would appoint to represent his thoughts to his fellows? 
 ...To hold a thing with the intellect, is not to believe it. A man's real belief is that which he lives by; and that which the man I mean lives by, is the love of God, and obedience to his law, so far as he has recognized it. ... he acts and lives in a measure like the true God. What a man believes, is the thing he does. This man would shrink with loathing from actions such as he thinks, or has been taught, God justified in doing; but like God, he loves and helps and saves.
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 wary 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?
Tell me something that you have done, are doing, or are trying to do because Jesus told you. If you do nothing that he says, it is no wonder that you cannot trust in him, and are therefore driven to seek refuge in the atonement, as if something he had done, and not he himself in his doing were the atonement.
That is not as you understand it? What does it matter how you understand, or what you understand, so long as you are not of one mind with the Truth, so long as you and God are not at one, do not atone together? How should you understand? Knowing that you do not heed his word, why should I heed your explanation of it?
You do not his will, and so you cannot understand him; you do not know him, that is why you cannot trust in him. You think your common sense enough to let you know what he means? Your common sense ought to be enough to know itself unequal to the task. It is the heart of the child that alone can understand the Father. Would you have me think you guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost—that you understand Jesus Christ and yet will not obey him? That were too dreadful. I believe you do not understand him. No man can do yet what he tells him aright—but are you trying?
Obedience is not perfection,
but trying. 
(from The Truth In Jesus, Unspoken Sermons II, by George MacDonald) 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Disciples & Servants.11

"When the Messiah returns in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, he will sit upon the throne of his heavenly glory. Before him will be gathered all nations; and he will separate them, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. The sheep he will set on his right hand, and the goats on his left.

Then the King of Heaven will say to those on his right: "Come, blessed by my Father; enter into the inheritance of the kingdom, prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you offered me food. I was thirsty, and you brought me cold water to drink. I was without home, and you invited me in. I was without clothes, and you
clothed me. I was ill, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me."
Then the righteous will answer in amazement: "Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you to drink? When did we shelter or clothe you? Did we ever care for you when you were ill, or visit you in prison?"
The King will reply: "Truly, inasmuch as you have done such things for the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done the same for me."
To the ones on his left, the King will say: "Depart from me! For I was hungry, and you gave me no food. I was thirsty, and you offered me nothing to drink. I was without home, and you turned me away. I was naked, and you gave me no clothes. I was sick, yet you didn't care for me. I was in prison, but you didn't visit me."
These will protest: "Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or homeless, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and fail to comfort you?"
The King will answer: "Truly I say to you, inasmuch as you have failed to do these things for the least of my brothers and sisters, you have failed to do them for me."
Those on the left will be sent away into eternal darkness, but the righteous will be ushered into the kingdom of life."

Years ago, while visiting the county fair, I was persuaded to get into the goat raising business.  We bought a herd of three does, a ram and six "kids".  Presumably we could make money by breeding and selling high quality milk producing does to foreign countries with little grazing land for cows.  It seemed like a reasonable proposition for a home based business for our "kids"...the reality it was a disaster.  My most painful memory is discovering the goats had destroyed the new peach tree we'd planted for mother's day!  We had four acres of vegetation they could choose from but, no, they HAD TO EAT THE PEACH TREE!!!!!

We've never raised sheep but I do know this about them: it is in their nature to produce something that benefits others.  The wool they provide is born out of the life in them.

A pundit recently opined that America is quickly being reduced from a nation united to a variety of tribal units.  The two basic tribes are represented by the "Tea Party" and the "Occupiers".  Both groups are adamantly certain their view of America is the "right" one and so they show up in mass demonstrations to "voice" their opinions.  Except for the costumes, each group's make up of individuals is reflective of the other.  Much like sheep and goats.  The difference has to be in their nature.  The most telling difference, to me, is in the evidence left at the sites of their demonstrations: occupiers typically leave a mess, tea partiers typically leave the place better than they find it.

One thing struck me in this teaching of Jesus: he will judge and separate the nations.  There is, of course, a time when individuals will have their lives evaluated with resultant excoriation or validation.  But He reveals here a time when the nations will be judged. Those nations whose basic nature leads them to produce life-giving benefits to others will be on the right side of God's work of righteousness in history.  Those nations whose nature produces destruction are on the wrong side.

Beware fundamental transformation...

We have no king but Jesus!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Disciples & Servants.10

"Refrain from calling men your spiritual father; for you have only one Father who dwells in heaven. Neither allow anyone to call you learned teacher; for there is only one true teacher, Christ. The person who would be greatest among you must first become your servant; and all who humble themselves shall be exalted."


Thursday morning, as I was about to leave the house for work, I heard anguished groans from my wife. She had, at that moment, discovered that our fish tank was a cloudy red color and all the fish were dead! A mystery that only time, experienced aquarian-ists, or Google searches will unveil.

Later on, after a relatively successful and satisfying day that included meeting and praying with a follower of Jesus, I was headed home to spend time with friends and family for dinner. Without warning a car pulled into my lane giving
Brokenness comes in many shapes
fractions of a second to swerve away. I clipped the other car which sent my car up into the air on two wheels and the thought that I was going to roll. I came down on four wheels but momentum was taking me through the median and across oncoming traffic. Jangled equilibrium prevented me from doing anything but brace myself for impact, but none came. Avoiding another collision, I looked at the looming ditch ahead and wondered if I'd flip over the edge. But the ground gently sloped downward, and I came to stop at the bottom. By God's grace no one was hurt except for the scratched forehead I got hitting the rear view mirror in the initial collision.

It is truly amazing how, even though the incident itself only takes seconds, the thoughts you have in the moment are distinct. They may not be expressed in words immediately but in later reflection create a timeline. My first instinct at impact was "NO, I just want to go home." "I'm going to roll", "road sign", "brace yourself", "no brakes", "ditch", "wow," "blood."

The lessons for better fish tank maintenance can be learned on our own. The lessons for being a less distracted, safer driver as well. But the deeper meaning of events in our lives takes a greater power than which we are capable. For as long as I've walked with the Lord I am amazed that there is still more to learn about trusting Him. My first instinct at impact ("NO, I just want...") as natural as it is, reveals that it is not yet reflexive to say "Thank you, Father, your will be done." Do I want that reflexive trust to be my very nature? Absolutely, or at least I think I do...but even the truth of that in my inward parts He will continue to work on and develop. There have been many times when I stand in the howling wind and say, "I'm pretty sure I've learned this one!!! Can't we move onto something else?"

And He says, in the midst of the wind, "Trust me with all your heart and don't lean on your own all your ways acknowledge Me and I will direct your paths. And where your heart isn't all in, I'll help you with that too! If you trust that my paths lead to a good place--oneness with Me--you'll continue to let Me lead you through valley, mountain top, swamp, thicket, sunny beaches or snow squalls."

Lead on, then, Teacher...but can I have minute to catch my breath?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Disciples & Servants.9

"Do not imitate the falsely pious, inventing laws and ordinances. They venerate their rules, and fail to fully observe even one of them. They heap burdens on the necks of their followers, without attempting to live by the same rules.

They go to great lengths to be seen, dressing in extravagant clothing, and behaving with great ceremony. They love to sit at the head tables, or on the front row, and to be called esteemed, or learned teacher. 

Refuse to be called esteemed or master; for you have only one master, and you are all his brothers and sisters."


Essentially there are two ways to achieve good ends: Trust In God -OR- Trust in man.

The movie The Butterfly Effect, dramatically illustrates the difficulty, no, the impossibility of willing righteousness.  Realizing the harm his actions have caused people close to him, the protagonist discovers he has the ability to go back in time to change his behaviors or try to persuade others to change theirs. It matters little how good his intentions, his many attempts to fix problems he has created only lead to more destruction, reasonably happy movie ending aside.

The reality, however, is that we are not capable of knowing how every nuance of thought and action sets in motion chains of events that quickly go beyond human capability of controlling.

But that never seems to deter public officials from trying.

The Affordable Health Care Law, aka Obamacare, for example, with its 20,000 pages of regulations, attempts to anticipate every possible probability of health related incident.  To illustrate, there are two insurance billing codes for duck attacks!  One code for being bitten by a duck and one for being struck by a duck!  My wife and granddaughter were chased by a momma goose one day while riding horseback near her nest...haven't found the code for that one yet!

What we are capable of knowing is that faith in God assures good outcomes!  This knowledge comes only through obedience beginning with the smallest steps...not unlike stepping out onto the ice.  Facts only about frozen-ness don't enliven faith nearly as much as when hope turns to certainty and the feelings of solidity and weight bearing become experience.  Most often we are unaware that that experience and the feelings we enjoy in the moment are, in fact, making us more solid as a human being as it strengthens our faith in God!

"It--faith in action--is the one spiritual act which brings the man into contact with the original creative power, able to help him in every endeavor after righteousness, and ensure his progress to perfection." --George MacDonald

But it is much easier to regulate behavior than faith!  And so good intentions quickly become "burdens heaped" on those who foolishly put their trust in man's ability to give security and protection from the difficulties of life!  Foolish because they fail to see the falseness of the fixes: the purveyors of pretentious policies won't even abide their own!