Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Revelation.9

"In me you will know the truth, 
and the truth will set you free; 
and if the Son of God sets you free, 
you will be free indeed. 

I tell you this that you 
might have faith to believe, 
and be transformed." 

A co-worker was relating an incident in a grocery store: She was trying to make eye contact with two young children and
get them to smile.  Suddenly, the mother, a woman who seemed to be middle eastern, noticed what she was doing and hurriedly pushed her children away.  In telling me the story she concluded that it was obvious this woman had been treated poorly by Americans!  As surprised as she was at the woman's response to her attempts at friendliness, I was shocked at her conclusion. When I suggested that maybe her culture raised the woman to be fearful, my friend scoffed at the notion.  

My question then is what is the truth? Are Americans more or less like my co-worker who took it upon herself to bring a little cheer into the lives of children? Or are Americans more or less likely to bully foreigners in our midst?  Answering these is important because it gets to the heart of what Jesus is saying: what a man believes is true impacts the actions he takes.  The actions he takes reflects whether he is free to do right things or is enslaved to brutish behavior.

"What is Truth?" That haunting question posed by Pontius Pilate, the representative of the world's most powerful military/political system to Jesus hours before his brutal death, is at the heart of the life and death struggle facing humanity today.

As it has throughout the history of mankind, political expediency and correctness crushes its competition.  

But out of the corruption and decay of this sordid world order, Jesus -the Truth- triumphantly arose.

In Me

In Jesus we have the Living Example of the benefits of truth: transformational freedom and resurrection power!

In Jesus we can live free from the deceptive, polarizing, demonizing and organizing forces squeezing the world into its mold.

In Jesus we know that love and forgiveness are the ultimate
weapons to conquer the stubborn, fearful human heart!

In Jesus we have the confidence that obedience to his word results in a deeper understanding of the truth of things.

In Jesus we can, with courage and compassion, face difficulties whether personal or public.

In Jesus we live to help set people free by fearlessly speaking the Truth in love knowing that, in spite of cultural influences masking brutal evil, people are capable of recognizing and responding to truth. And love.

Speak Truth. Be Free.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Revelation. 8

"My peace I give to you, 
a peace far surpassing that 
which the natural world 
is able to impart."  

The 2017 French presidential elections, in the midst of violent social & political turmoil, have ignited a global debate: is living with the dread of senseless terrorist attacks the "new normal" for civilization?

In our own sleepy rural community, the county sheriff, alarmed at the increase in homicides, suicides, drug use, break ins, assaults and gang activity, is warning people to keep their houses and belongings locked up.

In the historical struggle between barbarism and civilization, doesn't it feel like the barbarians are winning? And when the apologists for the barbarians don coat & tie, lab coats, press passes, government credentials and professorships the deck looks​ pretty stacked against the good guys.

Is the church the primary vehicle for the advancement of civilization? Or is its work limited to advancing only "the gospel"? Is the revelation of Jesus' Life, Death and Resurrection the keys to the advancement of civilization here on earth? Or is it the relic of ancient myth no longer useful, but counterproductive to the advancement of world peace?

Is the growing influence of Islam a counterfeit Christianity? Is it on the side of barbarism or civilization? Does it pose the primary hope for humanity or represent a long, grievous history of oppression and tyranny?

Turning Cheeks or Turning Tables?
American society has become a confused rabble of competing philosophies. In marginalizing the influence of Christianity on American culture  --by building a fictional wall of separation-- there is no longer a filter by which we can accurately judge between competing philosophies.  An important influence of Christianity on our culture was that we knew that ideas were "elite" and were compelled by reason to embrace good ideas and reject bad ones.  Another important aspect of Christian influence is that people, in our system, have been considered "equal" in the eyes of God and therefore equal before the law.  

Today, however, it is exactly the opposite: people are "elite", i.e., the credentialed, experts, government officials, celebrities, and academia are superior to the average among us and must be treated with the proper deference. We allow them to dictate what is fashionable and acceptable by cowing to the false notion that we are not capable of reasonable decisions for ourselves.

Ideas on the other hand are "equal" and no one idea is superior to the other.  To reject an idea, philosophy, attitude, behavior or opinion is to be racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, or hateful.  To tolerate the ignoble, dishonorable, unworthy, base, shameful, contemptible, despicable, dastardly, vile, degenerate, shabby, sordid, and mean, while repudiating the noble, righteous, virtuous, good, honorable, upright, decent, worthy, moral, ethical and reputable, is the mark of a society in decline and the breeding ground of barbarism.

The scope of Christianity is wide.  Consider that Jesus
demonstrated in word and action the broad width of dealing with the struggles of everyday living.  As individuals we are called upon as His followers to "turn the other cheek" to the abuse of the ignorant. Lashing out by repaying "eye for eye" to the attacks of abusers hinders the work of God's spirit in bringing conviction of sin in the heart of the unrepentant. Overcoming evil with good is one of the primary means of turning a foe into a follower of Jesus! We are all the same in this vital respect: Becoming a follower of Jesus is the reason we are all brought into this world!

But there are times, as well, when we ought to "turn over the tables" on intolerable attitudes and actions of those who ought to know better and are creating an atmosphere of hostility to the truth!  When the mob came to bring a woman, "caught in adultery", to Jesus to measure his response to their malignant superiority, Jesus, of course, stood with the woman and against the mob. 

The same Spirit that helps us endure the abusers gives us the wisdom and strength to stand against the mob!  Being led by the Spirit is the path to peace. The natural world's peace is predicated on complying with their dictates.  The Peace promised by our Prince of Peace is predicated on obedience to His Spirit!

In a world increasingly hostile to the message of our Master, making that choice is getting increasingly more difficult. Think of each difficult decision to choose obedience as practice and perfecting of the Kingdom character in us!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Revelation.7

"All authority is given to me,
both in heaven and on earth.

I am able to give you
eternal life, the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and power over all domination of the evil one.

No longer be troubled or afraid. "


A popular radio pundit made sport of this headline pointing to the generation of Americans who, raised during the Great Depression, went on to fight and win World War II, as evidence of real, not perceived stress. But soon after an interesting conversation occurred when a caller countered that no other generation of Americans have been raised with such a "dystopian" view of the world they are inheriting. Rather than trained to "trust in God" they have been conditioned to fear everything!

True that!

Eternal Life

The gospels record an incident in the ministry of Jesus when a young, wealthy man, perhaps feeling his own level of stress, sought out Jesus to ask a probing question: 'what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?'

Image result for young man and Jesus

Jesus' response to the young man illustrates what He means by giving

  • eternal life, 
  • the keys to the Kingdom of heaven and 
  • power over all domination of the evil one.

MacDonald offers rich insight into the encounter:

"It is unnecessary to inquire precisely what he meant by eternal life. Whatever shape the thing took to him, that shape represented a something he needed and had not got— a something which, it was clear to him, could be gained only in some path of good.

But he thought to gain a thing by a doing, when the very thing desired was a being: he would have that as a possession which must possess him.

We have to do with Him to Whom no one can look without the need of being good waking up in his heart; to think about Him is to begin to be good. To do a good thing is to do a good thing, to know God is to be good.

It is not to make us do all things right He cares, but to make us hunger and thirst after a righteousness, [which once possessing us], we shall never need to think of what is or is not good, but shall refuse the evil and choose the good by a motion of the will which is at once necessity and choice."

A generation of American youth, raised to believe that their good-hearted fund-raising efforts in elementary school to save the baby seals or stop the destruction of the rain forest have only led to more demands on their faith and future, are left with the same emptiness of soul.

Perhaps they will, like the wealthy young man, come to realize that our good efforts to 'change the world', rather than soul embittering slogans, are just the first steps on the stairway to soul changing eternal life!

And like the young man, understand that the real crises with which we have to do are not man-made global climate change nor terrorist attacks, but that moment when the Lord of Eternal Life hands us a key to the kingdom.

The Keys To The Kingdom of Heaven

Image result for keys to the kingdomA friend was recently lamenting how after many years she still struggles with impatience toward lazy co-workers. Jesus said "the poor [and perhaps the lazy] will always be with you..." Could they, in fact, be the "keys" to unlocking in us attitudes and behaviors that are unbecoming, un-Christlike, and unworthy of the Kingdom? Can their be any growth toward Christ-like, Kingdom desirable character without a revealing of the things in us that aren't desirable, that disqualify?
The young man was given a key: "if you would be perfect, go and sell all you have, and come follow Me."
MacDonald observes: "Jesus gave him the very next lesson in the divine education for which he was ready. It was possible for him to respond, to give birth, by obedience, to the redeemed and redeeming will, and so be free. It was time the demand should be made upon him. Do you say, 'But he would not respond, he would not obey!'? Then it was time, I answer, that he should refuse, that he should know what manner of spirit he was of, and meet the confusions of soul, the sad searchings of heart that must follow. A time comes to every man when he must obey, or make such refusal— and know it."
At some point, even the "Millennials" must come to understand that rather than being part of a 'collective' which requires their loyalty to fight for the grievances of the group, God will require of each individual Obedience to a Perfect Will that alone satisfies our deepest longings for justice, mercy and goodness. 

Power Over All Domination of Evil

MacDonald: "Jesus had given him a glimpse of the essence of his own life, had pointed the youth to the heart of all--for him to think of afterwards: he was not ready for it yet. He wanted eternal life: to love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, is to know God, and to know him is eternal life; that is the end of the whole saving matter; it is no human beginning, it is the grand end and eternal beginning of all things; but the youth was not capable of it. 
Having kept the commandments, the youth needed and was ready for a further lesson: the Lord would not leave him where he was; he had come to seek and to save. He saw him in sore need of perfection--the thing the commonplace Christian thinks he can best do without--the thing the elect hungers after with an eternal hunger. 
Perfection, the perfection of the Father, is eternal life. 'If thou wouldest be perfect,' said the Lord. What an honor for the youth to be by him supposed desirous of perfection! And what an enormous demand does he, upon the supposition, make of him! To gain the perfection he desired, the one thing lacking was, that he should sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and follow the Lord! 
Could this be all that lay between him and entering into life? God only knows what the victory of such an obedience might at once have wrought in him! Much, much more would be necessary before perfection was reached, but certainly the next step, to sell and follow, would have been the step into life: had he taken it, in the very act would have been born in him that whose essence and vitality is eternal life, needing but process to develop it into the glorious consciousness of oneness with The Life.

There was nothing like this in the law: was it not hard?--Hard to let earth go, and take heaven instead? for eternal life, to let dead things drop? to turn his back on Mammon, and follow Jesus? lose his rich friends, and be of the Master's household? Let him say it was hard who does not know the Lord, who has never thirsted after righteousness, never longed for the life eternal!The youth had got on so far, was so pleasing in the eyes of the Master, that he would show him the highest favor he could; he would take him to be with him--to walk with him, and rest with him, and go from him only to do for him what he did for his Father in heaven--to plead with men, be a mediator between God and men. He would set him free at once, a child of the kingdom, an heir of the life eternal. 
By the gravity of his riches the world held him, and would not let him rise.
He counted his wealth his strength, and it was his weakness. Moneyless in God's upper air he would have had power indeed. Money is the power of this world--power for defeat and failure to him who holds it--a weakness to be overcome ere a man can be strong; yet many decent people fancy it a power of the world to come! It is indeed a little power, as food and drink, as bodily strength, as the winds and the waves are powers; but it is no mighty thing for the redemption of men; yea, to the redemption of those who have it, it is the saddest obstruction. To make this youth capable of eternal life, clearly--and the more clearly that he went away sorrowful--the first thing was to make a poor man of him!" 
adapted from, The Way, Unspoken Sermons II, George MacDonald. Emphasis added.

May today's youth, the wealthiest in the world's history, use the empty feeling in their souls, as motivation to come kneeling at the feet of the Master seeking the real source of goodness that exposes the causes, slogans and jingles holding them captive to a false sense of fulfillment.

May they find true peace...and get their hair back! 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Revelation.6

"I and my Father are one. 
In his name I have come to you 
that you might have life, 
and that you might have it 
more abundantly." 


In reading Hugh Ross's book, Improbable Planet, How Earth Became Humanity's Home, I'm struck with how many times the word "abundant" is used to describe the formation of the one planet in the entire universe designed to sustain Life.

"...research now shows that Earth is far from ordinary in multiple respects, and certainly in its abundance of elements and diversity of minerals. These rich ore deposits enabled
humans to develop beyond Stone Age civilization. Plate tectonics and bacteria helped provide the soil on which our large population depends for food. The presence of land plants and animals as early as conditions would permit provided humanity with a huge treasure chest of elements, of fossil fuels, and of fossil building materials, such as limestone, marble, and gypsum."
Jesus, as Creator of the universe, endowed this planet with an abundance of resources, and yet even in this richness hinted that there is something more we need to obtain to have an "abundant" Life. 

Why is it when we hear the word "abundant" we tend to focus on what we don't have rather than what we do?  If we are awash in abundance why do so many struggle with meeting their daily need for the essentials?

Ross shares his insights:

"The perfect world we have not been able to attain— and yet still long for— gives a clue to the purpose of our existence. As we strive for peace, wars multiply. As we strive for unity, polarization intensifies. As we strive for liberty, bondage increases. As we strive for wealth, poverty spreads. As we strive for equality, intolerance grows.
Of all the proposed explanations for these realities, the one that aligns most closely and completely with the available data emerges from the pages of the Bible. We are fallen and alienated from our Creator..." --Ross, Hugh. Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity's Home (Kindle Locations 3760-3765). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. Emphasis added.

MacDonald expands on the idea of God's perfect, eternal plan:
"...I imagine that God has never been contented to be alone even with the Son of his love, the prime and perfect idea of humanity, but that he has from the first willed and labored to give existence to other creatures who should be blessed with his blessedness— creatures whom he is now and always has been developing into likeness with that Son— a likeness for long to be distant and small, but a likeness to be forever growing: perhaps never one of them yet, though unspeakably blessed, has had even an approximate idea of the blessedness in store for him.

Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because he would give the best, and man will not take it. What Jesus did, was what the Father is always doing; the suffering he endured was that of the Father from the foundation of the world, reaching its climax in the person of his Son. God provides the sacrifice; the sacrifice is himself. He is always, and has ever been, sacrificing himself to and for his creatures. It lies in the very essence of his creation of them.

...not even the lovingest heart that ever beat can even reflect the length and breadth and depth and height of that love of God which shows itself in his Son— one, and of one mind, with himself. The whole history is a divine agony to give divine life to creatures." -George MacDonald, Life, Unspoken Sermons II. Emphasis added.

So, follower of Jesus, when we think of abundance let it reminds us of our mission: to use the richness of His resources in sharing God's divine desire for Oneness with each one of us! In a world capable of sustaining billions of people we have much work to do! 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Revelation.5

"I have not come to you on my own behalf, but have been sent by the one who is truth. Nor have I come down from heaven to do my own will but the will of the Father who has sent me. I was born and came into this world for one purpose: to be a living witness to the truth.
Those who love the truth will follow me."

The Truth Jesus Gave Living Witness:

Jesus Christ Is the Eternal Son of God,
    My Elder Brother, My Lord and Master

Jesus has an Absolute Right to my obedience
    In whatever way I may come to know
    What it is He wants me to do.

To Obey Jesus is to climb to the height of 
    my human potential. To not obey Him
    would be to deny Him.

Jesus died that I might die like Him:
     Die to any ruling power in me but the
     Perfect Will of God.  To live ready to be 
     nailed to a cross, if God will it.

Jesus is my Savior from myself.  
     From all that comes from loving myself,
     From all that God does not love,
     From all that God would not have me love,
     From all that is not worth loving.

Jesus died that the Justice and Mercy of God
     might have its way with me:
     Making me Just as God is Just
     Making me Merciful as God is merciful
     Making me Perfect as He is Perfect.

God will give me what 
     punishment I need
     -to set me right
     -Or keep me from going wrong.

Jesus died to deliver me from all

  • Meanness
  • Pretense
  • Falseness
  • Unfairness
  • Poverty of spirit
  • Cowardice
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Self-worship
  • False Trust in possession
Jesus died to make merry as a child,
     The child of our Father in Heaven.
     Loving nothing but what is lovely,
     Desiring nothing I would be ashamed to let
          the universe of God see me desire.

God is just like Jesus,
     Only greater.
     For Jesus said so.

God is absolutely, grandly beautiful,
     even as we might, in our loftier moments,
     count beauty.
     Beautiful beyond what our soul can 
          even imagine.

God is beautiful with a beauty that creates 
     beauty, not merely shows itself beautiful.

God has always done, is always doing
     His very best for every man;
     No man is miserable because God is
          forgetting him.

He is not a God to crouch before,
     but our Father, to Whom the Child-heart
     cries: 'Do with me, Father, what You will!"

There is nothing good for me or anyone 
     but God,
          and more and more of God.
     That alone through knowing Christ
          can we draw near to Him.

No man is ever condemned for any sin but one:
     That he will not leave his sins
          and come out of them
     And be the child of Him who is his Father.

Justice and Mercy are simply
     one and the same thing:
     Without Justice there can be no Mercy
     Without Mercy to the full there can be 
          no Justice.

This is the Mercy of God:
     He will hold his children in the 
     Consuming Fire of His distance
     Until they pay the last penny of repentance
     And drop the purse of selfishness
     With all its worthless contents,
     And rush home to the Father and the Son
     And the many brothers and sisters;
     Rush inside the life-giving fire
     Whose outer circles burn.

No Hell will be lacking
     which would help the just 
     Mercy of God redeem His children.

To the one who obeys
    and opens the door of his heart
    to receive the Eternal Gift,
    God gives the Spirit of His Son,
    The Spirit of Himself to be in him,
     and lead him to the understanding
          of all Truth.

The True Disciple shall always know
     what he ought to do,
     though not necessarily 
     what another ought to do.

The Spirit of the Father and Son
     enlightens by teaching Righteousness.

No teacher should strive to make men
     think as he thinks,
     But lead them to the Living Truth,
     To the Master Himself,
     Of Whom alone can they learn anything,
     Who will make them in themselves know
     What is True by the very seeing of it.

The Inspiration of the Almighty alone
     gives understanding.

To be a Disciple of Jesus Christ
     Is the Goal of our existence,
     The reason we are born.

To persuade men to be
     Disciples of Jesus Christ
     Is the Goal of Teaching!

adapted from Justice, Unspoken Sermons III, George MacDonald.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Revelation.4

"He who speaks only his own ideas, does so to gain honor for himself. But he who works for the glory and honor of the one who has sent him is true, and there is nothing false or vainglorious in him."
"No opinion, I repeat, is Christianity." 
-George MacDonald

1199_hf-dep.jpg (800×795)My wife and I were deputized after joining a county Sheriff's Posse.  How exciting to be fitted with a uniform and badge! It was, however, mostly ceremonial: parades, fairground parking patrol, fund raisers. No search & rescue or chasing bank robbers on horseback... And, rather unceremoniously, we were un-deputized after being told we failed to get the proper identification.  Another posse member was removed after it was learned he improperly used his badge to intimidate a local convenience store attendant! Choosing whom you want to represent your office can be difficult business!

Our friend George MacDonald wasn't shy about what he thought it took to represent the highest office revealed to man:

" 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
"depute" to represent his thoughts to his fellows?...

I reply, that none can understand, still less represent, the opinions of another, but such as are of the same mind with him— certainly none who mistake his whole scope and intent so far as in supposing opinion to be the object of any writer in the Bible. 

Is Christianity a system of articles of belief, let them be correct as language can give them? 

MacDonald, George.  Unspoken Sermons II, The Truth In Jesus 

Is there any other way of knowing if a person is "of the same mind with God" than what their actions reveal about their faith?

Recently, pollster George Barna conducted an extensive research campaign called the "Worldview Measurement Project".  The objective was to determine if people who consider themselves Christians actually live out their beliefs. 

According to Barna: “It’s very important to know how many people have a biblical worldview because peoples’ behavior is driven by their beliefs – we do what we believe. In other words, our worldview determines the choices we make and the resulting actions we take,...Everyone has a worldview. The critical question is which one people have embraced. If we want to transform our culture then we will need to change the choices people make that produce that culture. And in order to change those choices we must identify the beliefs that led to those choices. developing this instrument we discovered that someone may claim to believe something, but if their behavior does not reflect those beliefs, it is doubtful that they really believe what they claimed to believe,” Barna noted. “Jesus taught His disciples that the right beliefs are good, but the real measure of where you stand is what He labeled the fruit of a person’s life, referring to the product of applying one’s convictions. As a result, we created this measurement process with the intention of blending both core beliefs and core behaviors to estimate the biblical consistency of peoples’ worldview. Because that process involves both beliefs and behavior, with the intention of being an imitator of Christ, we chose to call such people Integrated Disciples. They are effectively blending their beliefs and behavior into a Christ-like lifestyle.”

So what did Barna discover?  Is there a significant gap between those who claim to be followers of Jesus, and those who, like Him, work to bring glory to the One they represent?  The results, sadly, speak for themselves:

"The survey of the general public revealed that 10% of American adults currently have a biblical worldview. That pales in comparison to the 46% of adults who claim to have such a worldview. How big, numerically, is that difference? With the adult population presently at an estimated 244 million, the 10% of the general public with a biblical worldview represents about 24 million who are Integrated Disciples, compared to roughly 112 million who would classify themselves as such – a gap of 88 million people!" (excerpts from Emphasis added.)

Still think that arguing your opinions about doctrinal issues will change the world?