Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This Generation.7

"Come unto me, 
all who are tired, 
and sick of life, 
and I will give you wonderful rest! 

Receive my words,
and let me teach you, 
for I am gentle and kind. 
You will find rest for your souls. 

That which I ask of you, 
is for your benefit, 
and that which I demand of you, 
is light." 
-- Jesus

Do you believe Jesus because of His promises, 
Or do you believe the promises because of Jesus?

It is a vital distinction.
"What should I think of my child, if I found that he limited his faith in me and
hope from me to the few promises he had heard me utter! The faith that limits itself to the promises of God, seems to me to partake of the paltry character of such a faith in my child—good enough for a Pagan, but for a Christian a miserable and wretched faith. Those who rest in such a faith would feel yet more comfortable if they had God's bond instead of his word, which they regard not as the outcome of his character, but as a pledge of his honour. They try to believe in the truth of his word, but the truth of his Being, they understand not. In his oath they persuade themselves that they put confidence: in himself they do not believe, for they know him not.  
It is a dull-hearted, unchildlike people that will be always putting God in mind of his promises. Those promises are good to reveal what God is; if they think them good as binding God, let them have it so for the hardness of their hearts. They prefer the Word to the Spirit: it is theirs." --George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons I, The Higher Faith
 But what if, in our own childhood experiences, the promise maker was not a promise keeper?  What if we learn early in life that people say what they think we want to hear, or what they may intend to keep but can't or won't?  Gradually your childlike heart turns a little darker and you adult!

As a school bus driver, it was painful to watch this grievous transformation: the merriment and curiosity of the childlike kindergartners to the wounded, dark-eyed, heart-hardened high-schooler.

Promises, then, are only as good as the one making them.  Broken promises produce broken people, while promises kept bring healing, strengthen faith and deepen our love for the PromiseKeeper!

Friday, October 18, 2013

This Generation.6

When it is evening, you say: "It will be fair weather, for the sky is red."
In the morning you say: "It will be foul weather today, for the sky is threatening."
With accuracy you forecast a change in the weather. How is it, that you have failed to discern the signs of the times? 

You've probably heard the one about the two pastors having a heated debate over the correct "eschatology" of the end times, when a third declares "I'm a pan-millienialist!"  The other two stop in mid-sentence to ask, "What is a pan-millienialist?"  "Everything will "pan" out in the end!", he chortles.


An Historical Analogy

Let's say, for illustration's sake, that the majority party in Washington DC represents the evil monopolizing of political & police power to control the lives of millions of people.  In historical allegory, they would be the Roman Empire of Jesus' time, a brutal occupying power that used a country's own traditions and governing structures to impose their will, punish dissidents and confiscate treasure from the conquered.  

The Republicans represent the political minority that must bide their time for a chance to regain controlling influence of public affairs.  But they, however, are divided in their response represented by the "Establisment" and the "Tea Party" wings whose leaders grow more hostile to each other with each passing day, certain that their view of things is the proper tack to take in dealing with a formidable foe.  In a sense, this is the place the Pharisees and Sadducees held in the tense relationship between the nation of Israel and their foreign occupiers.  

(And for illustration's sake, the current administration represents the puppet government of "King" Herod who loved the title, lifestyle and notoriety of presumed power bequeathed by Rome and used it to bully his own people into submission...)

Undercurrents of rebellion filled the streets of Jerusalem led by various groups most notably the "Zealots" out of which Bar Abbas was born.  The Pharisee and Sadducee sects tried deliberately to keep a semblance of order in the midst of this turmoil and did not cotton much that would threaten the fragile "peace" the Romans offered.

Into this political house of cards Jesus was born.  Preaching strength through obedient love of the Father's Will and active love to one's neighbor AND enemies while demonstrating amazing command of nature, disease and language, He appealed to the hearts of individuals in ways over which the Pharisees and Sadducees could only languish. As the self-proclaimed Light of the World, he was not only a Beacon of Hope illuminating the way in dark times, he was (and is) a spotlight to expose the dark places in the heart; especially in those with a special calling to be light themselves but falter in times of trouble allowing their faith to flicker and their behavior to bruise.

Not unlike elected officials at every level of our own government, business and religious leaders as well, who read the "signs of the times" not as an opportunity to hold the line on principle, allowing adversity to strengthen faith and character, but as a chance through expediency to "get theirs" while they can!  And like every generation before us, we allow our debates to be reduced to doctrines, or ideologies, or which "leader" can promise the most "stuff", or worse yet, whether we should even get involved at all
! Rather than discerning what God is up to --as Abraham Lincoln entreated--and positioning ourselves on His side, we pine and wring our hands in despondency!  

Jesus warned: adversity tends to make us fearful and fickle, great adversity more so -- driving love out of our hearts.  As His followers, what ought our response be? It is our duty to be resolved to stand firm in faith as we recognize the warning signs of impending difficulty; willingly, like Jesus, to lay down our lives for our friends in resolute pledge to life, liberty and the preservation of principle.

While the Pharisees and Sadducees were looking for credentials, Jesus was demonstrating God's Perfecting Will. The same Will that is at work today: making us as individuals fit for his kingdom of love, light, and righteousness – who by eternal choice of good are overcomers.

If you don't like what our country, this world is becoming, read the signs…and respond wisely!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

This Generation.5

"Oh generation, who live your lives based on lies: how can you, being without truth, say anything worth hearing? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

A favorite Veggie Tales story is Larry-Boy! and the Fib From Outer Space. An alien life-form invades the sleepy town of Bumblyberg in the form of a creature that looks like a bouncing ball with a face. It convinces Junior Asparagus to hide the truth of his dad’s shattered collector’s plate in an innocent “fib”. Before long the little “fib” has grown into a gigantic monster -with arms and legs- that threatens the lives of the entire community smashing through the town square with reckless impunity.

This children’s story serves, of course, as an allegory, because as adults we know that “fibs” don’t really grow into gigantic monsters that ruthlessly destroy people’s lives. Nor that there are super-heroes whom we can call with high-powered spotlights shining into the sky to save us from our folly. Nor that we should have defense mechanisms in place to warn at the approach of alien invasions…

A popular political joke goes something like this: How do you know if a politician is lying? When his lips are moving.

Followers of Jesus have debated -for centuries- the proper place we ought to have in public discourse. Jesus, of course, was not interested in political power structures and clearly dismissed attempts by the masses to make him king. Yet, a King he is, the King of Hearts, and never did he avoid the call to righteousness in individuals...kings and peasants alike. Nor did he avoid calling out the superficial and self-righteous for their hypocrisy.

A simple preacher from an obscure part of the Roman Empire in a time far far away, Jesus made statements that shook, not only that empire, but the power structures of every earthly kingdom since then. What if, as Jesus pointed out and we can only dream now, public officials actually told the truth, made principled decisions, refused to obfuscate facts for their own political ambition, lived by that truth and, God have mercy, actually said things worth hearing? More importantly, what if we actually had the wisdom to discern the warning signals when an alien invasion of Fibs are bouncing around the public square and the courage to say 

we will not live our lives based on lies!

Follower of Jesus: If not us, then who? If not now, then when?