Sunday, September 29, 2013

This Generation.4

"How can I describe this generation? 

They are like children sitting in the market place, 
        calling to their friends: 
"We have played merrily on our flutes; 
but you would not dance, or sing. 
We have played a dirge; 
but you have refused to be sad."

John, the forerunner, came and lived among you in great austerity. Everyone said: 
"He must be possessed of a demon."

Now the Son of Man has come to you, enjoying life, and you say: 
"He is a drunkard and a glutton, 
and the friend of sinners!"

With such brilliance you justify your own inconsistency." 

A pastor friend once observed, "This is a great job...if it weren't for people!" I often wonder if Jesus ever felt that way.

  1. 1.
    changing frequently, esp. as regards one's loyalties, interests, or affection.
    "Web patrons are a notoriously fickle lot, bouncing from one site to another on a whim"

My pastor friend recently resigned after twenty-five years at the same church.

About a year after closing down and selling our church building in 2007, I asked my wife if there was anything she missed about "church life."  "Not that I can think of," was her heartfelt reply.  While in ministry we had endured much criticism, divisiveness, slander and pain.  No amount of bible teaching on unity, love, service, "one-anothering", or walking in the Spirit can take the place of simple obedience!

One of the most consistent areas of disobedience I find in the church is the refusal to confront an offender and thus resolve conflict.  Instead, the wounded goes to others to salve their hurt by justifying their cowardice in a crowd.

Jesus gave a simple formula for resolving conflict:
  1. If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you

    and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
  2. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
  3. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Which is the greater sin: the momentary hurt -whether intentional or inadvertent - incurred at the hand of another human or our refusal to "win our brother or sister?"  Which is more like Jesus: to lay down our hesitation for a chance to strengthen the bonds of love or to rationalize our fears at the altar of self-will?

Choose wisely.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

This Generation.3

"There will come a day when the inhabitants of Nineveh, called the City of Thieves, will stand and pass judgment on this generation, and condemn it. For they repented because of the preaching of Jonah, and now a greater than Jonah stands before you.

The Queen of Sheba will also rise to pass judgment on this generation, and condemn it; for she travelled a great distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, a greater than Solomon has come."

By the tens of thousands people across the world travel great distances to sporting events, rock concerts, religious and political pilgrimages.  The question is as relevant today as it was the day it passed the lips of the Universal Treasure Fount of Wisdom & Knowledge: what value do we give to wisdom?

Apparently not much, especially in today's America.  We'd rather wallow in shallow self delusion than attend to the self discipline required to learn wisdom.  

Some would say that judgment has begun in the USA, for we are getting the culture and government we deserve: profound debt, lack of personal responsibility, splintered families, tribal factions, erosion of liberty and Miley Cyrus.

Let me suggest that judgment starts the moment we begin the argument against self-will.  The argument begins in earnest when we take the first tottering steps to obedience.  If not repentance, like the Ninevites, why not, at the least, start on the journey to know wisdom?   Horse trainers and ship captains alike know that progress only comes through movement.

What father is not pleased with the first unsteady attempt of his little one to walk?  What father would be satisfied with anything but the manly steps of the full-grown son?  For what did the Son of God come but to teach us to become full-grown Sons and Daughters of Eternal Goodness?

Too much of modern Christianity focuses on the "work" of Jesus in saving us, rather than the working Christ who alone knows what each of us
needs to take the next step in our development to Oneness with Life Eternal.  The beginning of obedience to the commandments leads to greater hunger for the righteousness that Jesus only can make us capable.  Repentance opens the door of our heart to be rid of the things that hinder our growth.  Opens the door to the Living Savior and His attendant power to purify and perfect His Life in us!  A life of goodness & grace, moving nearer and nearer to the place where He is, next to the heart of God our Father.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

This Generation.2

"Still unbelieving, this obstinate generation clamours for a sign; but no sign will be granted other than the sign that was given to the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was in the great deep for three days and nights, so the Son of Man will be three days and nights entombed in the earth."

Instead of signs, Jesus gives stories. Sometimes the stories include signs. Stories give life to the signs. The meaning of the signs is buried in the stories and needs to be mined for its significance.

In an increasingly visual and technological world, the impact
 of stories takes on greater significance...and danger. In print media reason, logic and imagination are powerful tools in deciphering meaning. In graphic media individual reason, logic and imagination are subverted with carefully crafted imagery created by people with potent powers of persuasion. The imagery serves nearly as a sign itself and demonstrates the inherent problem: signs can distract from gleaning the Truth in the stories.

For what is Truth but the meaning of events in our life and their relation to the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life? On our Facebook prayer page we are asked to pray for people who have met with very tragic problems in their lives. Usually we are asked to pray for healing, strength, resources and such. Very rarely are we asked to pray for the Truth of the event. In our asking we very much reveal the value we place on Signs vs Truth. Rather than placing our trust in a living Savior and the perfect will of God, we rely on our theological/doctrinal positions to make sense of something that, in human terms, seems so senseless.

But what do we need for good but God? And more and more of God's goodness to rule over the storm tossed events in life. If I stake out a position in scripture like "No harm befalls the righteous," what am I to do when harm befalls the righteous? Conclude they weren't righteous? Or that the paralyzing fall leaving a family in ruins wasn't harmful? To the humble in heart crying out to the One who can make clarity out of confusion, good out of bad, and power out of weakness, the meaning becomes clearer with each painful passing moment. Love and trust in God is the only Truth we really need and the value of learning them is in direct proportion to the difficulties we endure and the tender help the Son of God provides in leading us to the heart of His Father.

To the obstinate and self-willed; the judgmental finger-pointers and arrogant know nothings let them continue to clamor for justification to not humble themselves...and become poorer for it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

This Generation.1

"Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in these days of sin and unbelief, of that person will the Son of Man be ashamed when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."


One of the best pieces of parental advice I ever received came from a fellow father who urged me to pay better attention to the things my kids were involved in.  Not long afterwards I was sitting at a wrestling practice while my son, Paul, was working on a particular "move".  Sorely tempted to reach in my coat pocket for some mental distraction from the endless repetition of the practices, I looked up in time to see Paul catch my eye to see if I'd seen his perfect execution of a move he'd worked on for a long time.  

Thanks to that bit of wisdom, I went on to become the father of a three time high school state wrestling champion!

Just kidding. Of course, it was Paul's undistracted devotion to excellence that drove him to the highest level of accomplishment in his sport!  To reach the pinnacle of the medals platform is great reward for the hours of practice needed to enjoy the honor of being the best!  As the ribbon, upon which the champion's medal hangs, is placed around the victor's neck, the audience rises in appreciation of the dedication and character it took to win this moment!

Not unlike, I'm sure, Jesus' vision for those who would put in the practice necessary to learn to live His words.  'Well done, good & faithful!' is the pinnacle of our effort to reach the highest level of Christ-like obedience. 

Consider the rich young ruler who came to Jesus looking for some deeper level of spirituality to validate his desire for eternal life.  Rather than criticize the man's own assessment of his keeping of the commandments, Jesus challenged him to a remarkable new level of commitment: rid yourself of the corrupting distractions of this dying world and take on the "patent of peerage" with Life itself!

And, unlike a distracted dad, Jesus, our Master, is also our coach, teacher, disciplinarian, cheerleader, affirmer, enabler, conditioner, validator, and example. Always leading us in the way of righteousness, i.e., doing the right thing in the right way at the right time, so that when we stand before Him, not only will we not be ashamed, we will be honored to know we were like Him.

Run the way of His commandments, cultivate faithfulness, put His words into practice. And keep looking up, you know you'll see he has His eye on you!