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!