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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

And the sign says...

“Did I not say to you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 
                                    John 11

There are two kinds of people in the world.  Binary thinkers, for whom there are only and ever two choices and whatever the rest of you like to think of yourselves as.  i have my own word for you but you’d probably consider it derogatory.  But then you’d be wrong.  Which, coincidentally, is my word for you: Wrong.

Jesus seems to think there are only two kinds of people too.  Those who don’t believe and those who.…  want to.

“It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews surrounded him and began to say to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly!” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe!”
                                    John 10

When those who don’t believe ask for a sign, Jesus farts in their general direction.  “An evil and adulterous generation desires a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah!”  Forget you, he seems to say.  I’m going to die and rise from the dead and that’s all you get.  Figure it out from there.  A verbal sandal shaking is what he gives them instead. 

But belief is hard.  “And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” So the Lord said, “If you have faith like a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”  (Luke 17)  Wow.  How much faith must a mustard seed have!  i can’t even tell my cat to get his feet off the counter and expect him to do it without threat of violence, and he has legs and ears and knows the sound of my voice!  Here’s this little seed telling trees where to go.  Kinda makes ya think.  What we who have mouths and are surrounded by trees would be able to do if we just believed?  “But Jesus said to him, “If you are able! All things are possible for the one who believes!” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9)

And here’s the amazing thing, Jesus does!  For Jesus, no length is too far to go for those who want to believe in him!  He wants us to believe!  He’s even willing to let us grieve for four whole days believing nothing more than that our brother is dead and that Jesus didn’t seem to care.  Martha and Mary are both experiencing the same grief.  They both have the same words for Jesus when he finally shows up almost a week probably after they called for him to come quickly and four days after the funeral.  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  They both have faith.  They both believe Jesus can do almost anything.  Martha even says so, “Even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will grant you.”  Martha has good theology, she knows doctrine, ““I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  And Mary knows her place before Jesus.  Three times we see her in scripture and every time she is in the same place, at his feet.  No one can question her devotion.  Like Ruth, she has offered herself utterly, unashamedly to him.  i think we would say they believe.

Yet listen to what Jesus prays…

“Father, I give thanks to you that you hear me. And I know that you always hear me, but for the sake of the crowd standing around I said it, so that they may believe that you sent me.”  Jesus did all this for them!  To strengthen their faith!  To help their unbelief!  The man who would not prove he was God, gave them a sign!

And that’s the key to all signs and wonders, not do they point to the power of the user.  Prophets have great power, but it was always power for a purpose.  Not that God wants us all to be happy and healthy and have everything we want.  He does but He’s a Father and He knows when, where and how much to give.  Signs and wonders are always, ALWAYS the Testimony of the Holy Spirit about who Jesus is!  And Jesus’ testimony is always, ALWAYS about who the Father is!  That’s it.  Because that’s what Jesus is concerned with: not do you know of him?  But do you KNOW him!  And Jesus will go to any length, any height, any depth for you to know and believe!  And that alone should tell you something about who he is. 

But it might not.  For a sign may only have one purpose, but it has two outcomes.  Sign of Jonah or not, the Pharisees and the scribes did know Lazarus was raised from the dead too.  They saw and believed Jesus had real power.  They thought they knew who and what Jesus was too.

But then, they were wrong.

Monday, December 19, 2016

I AM the Christmas

"“I know that Messiah is coming” (the one called Christ); “whenever that one comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I, the one speaking to you, am he." John 4

i don't want to celebrate Christmas this year. 

i don't want trappings if the spirit is dead.  Slain.  Murdered.

i don't want to hang reminders of things done, of years past, of a long ago event in history.  This is not a feast of celebration.  This is not a joyous remembrance.  This is not ritual.  i don't want to spend money i don't have on things no one needs.  i have no use for tradition.  Symbol.  Emptiness.  Hollowness.  Glass balls with nothing inside which only show me distorted reflections.  Reams of torn paper and discarded boxes but no real gifts.  Jolly fat men who bring Lexuses to rich people.  French perfumes to cover the reek of death.

This is Passover night.  The first one.  This is darkness complete with fearful anticipation.  This is a hasty meal with belts on, sandals laced, bags packed and walking staff in hand.  This is shepherds sleeping outside.  This is a disturbed kingdom.  This is a world torn apart by war, famine, pestilence and demagogues.  i have no reason to sing carols.  i don't want to deck halls.  i have no use for religion.

i need Christ to come.  i need God With Us.  This is not Bah Humbug.  i don't want less Christmas.  i want MORE!  i don't want the holiday.

i want the Man! 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Words fail me, the Word does not

If anyone should see his brother sinning a sin not leading to death, he should ask, and he will grant life to him, to those who sin not leading to death. (There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should ask about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.  (John 5)

Whoever said, “He’s so heavenly minded he ain’t no earthly good.” probably had John the Revelator in mind.  Words fail John.  He’s a philosopher and high thinker and poet and his lofty concepts often seem strangled by the limits of language.  They don’t dance for him on the page the way they must in his mind where the meanings shine and nuances wax and wane.  Something seems lost in translation.  The written word can come at us divorced from the emotions of the writer.  Like a text from your brother, “Was that sarcasm, or is he really happy for me?  What does he mean?”

“See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”  (John 5)

What does he mean??

If John was high minded, Jesus, especially as John relates him, is nigh on inscrutable.  Is he saying this man’s sin led to his lameness?  “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9)  Neither, says Jesus, not because the man or his parents were sinless.  That’s preposterous.  Not because it isn’t true that disease and plague and pain and suffering and even Death itself didn’t enter the world because of sin, all creation knows that to be true and groans as it waits under a curse of death for the Revelation.  But he says “neither” because that’s not important to what he wants to do.  It’s the wrong emphasis.  No, no, no, he could have said.  You’re looking from the bottom up.  You’re looking at newtonian religion.  Every sin has an equal and opposite curse.  So you must be righteous to get blessing.  That viewpoint has no life in it!  It is all focused on you!  All on your many, many grievous sins.  Like Pharisees trying to actually DO the Law and only making it more and more tangled and unbearably heavy with more laws till no one can bear it and we are all crushed beneath it like the lame man or chuck it entirely like the adulteress!  It is as if Jesus is boiling it all down as he did to Martha. 

Sinner, Sinner, “you are anxious and troubled about many things! But few things are necessary, or only one thing…”

Yes, there are countless myriad sins.  Our hearts are idol factories, sin wells, the deeper you go, the deeper it goes.  It just keeps getting darker.  Crack the lid off this septic tank of your soul and the stench will overwhelm you, knock you out and drown you when you fall and your corpse will sink forever.  But when it comes right down to it, there is only one sin that really matters to Jesus.

Do you believe in him or not?

Here even the word belief fails us!  This is not just cognitive recognition of a historical person named Jesus.  It’s not even just the intellectual assent that he was the Son of God.  If it must start there, then so be it, but let it never stop there!  Let it never stop at all!  If sin is bottomless, Grace, the gift of belief and faith and trust and joy and adoption into God the Father through Christ is limitless!  The higher you look the higher it goes!  Infinity!  Do you believe in him?  Then believe him!  Do you believe him?  Then put your trust in him!  Do you put your trust in him?  Then love him!  Do you love him?  Then obey him!  Do you obey him?  Then love his!  He is the fount of living water that never fails, he is the light that never fades, he is the gift that never stops giving, Clark!  His jellies are new every morning!  As soon as you start writing about him, you gain an appreciation for John’s plight!  For Paul's run on doxologies!  For David’s psalms!  We could literally sing of His love forever! 

Sin no longer.  This path leads only to death.  Not the death of the body, every body dies, who cares about that?  Quit being so near sighted!  Fear the one who can throw body and soul into hell!  Fear the second death!  Sin no longer!  Flee the path that leads only to the second death!  Flee living for nothing!  Flee living as if you could keep the Law?  Flee trying to be perfect!  Quit fleeing from the Father who loves you and wants you in his family and in his home!  Accept the perfection laid down for you!  Accept the righteousness laid down for you!  Accept the Lamb bled out for you!  Accept the ransom paid for you!  The free gift given to you!  See, I have healed you!  See, I have died in your place to save you from certain death, not from anything so temporary as disease or an angry unforgiving mob, these things are just parables, shadows and foretastes of the Wrath of a Holy and Perfectly Just God!  See, I love you, have loved you and want to love you forever! 

Believe in me!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Say what??

And a certain man was there who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness. Jesus, when he saw this one lying there and knew that he had been sick a long time already, said to him, “Do you want to become well?” The one who was sick answered him, “Sir, I do not have anyone that, whenever the water is stirred up, could put me into the pool. But while I am coming, another goes down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!” And immediately the man became well and picked up his mat and began to walk.

After these things Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “Look, you have become well! Sin no longer, lest something worse happen to you.”  John 5

Now the scribes and the Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in adultery. And standing her in their midst, they said to him, testing him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery! Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (Now they were saying this to test him, so that they would have an occasion to bring charges against him.) But Jesus, bending down, began to write with his finger on the ground, taking no notice. And when they persisted in asking him, straightening up he said to them, “The one of you without sin, let him throw the first stone at her!” And bending down again, he wrote on the ground. Now when they heard it, being convicted by their conscience, they began to depart, one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone—and the woman who was in their midst. So Jesus, straightening up and seeing no one except the woman, said to her, “Where are those accusers of yours? Does no one condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.” So Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”  John 8

These passages used to bother me.  Not the healing and the mercy.  Those are great.  True What-Would-Jesus-Do? moments.  i fully expect the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and ushers in the Kingdom of God to heal the sick and save a sinner from a self-righteous lynch mob.  (Stone mob?  Rock mob?  hmm.)  No, it’s not the miracle or the prickly teaching, it’s that tag line he tosses in at the end.

Go and sin no more.

i don’t know about you, but i grew up in churches where this wasn’t a problematic line at all.  It made perfect sense to the adults who taught me.  It tied in neatly with the Ten Commandments.  With the blessings and curses of Gerizim and Ebal of Deuteronomy.  Pick up your mat.  Gerizim.  Sin no longer.  Ebal.  Neither do I condemn you.  Gerizim.  Go, and sin no more.  Ebal.  Keep your room clean, don’t lie, eat your vegetables, be nice to your brother and God will love you.  Gerizim.  Go play down by the lake, steal that kid’s cool pencil holder, say a bad word and God will smite thee down with great vengeance and furious anger!  Give your change to that dirty guy outside the coffee shop.  Eat vitamins.  Raise your kids to go to college and be productive citizens.  Pay your taxes and God will welcome you into his glorious rest.  Get a divorce.  Have an abortion.  Struggle with addiction or sexual immorality, whether visible or not and it will be better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for you on that day. 

It wasn’t until i was older that i realized why that thinking created nothing in me but either self-righteousness or anxiety.  If i think i’m doing well, then I AM doing well.  If i slip up, i’m just another one of those old people who say, “well, i HOPE God will let me in.  i HOPE i’ve been good enough.”  That’s not salvation.  That’s not Psalms.  That’s not Jesus not losing one of his sheep that the Father had given him.  That’s not, “do not be afraid!”  “Fear not!”  That’s not glorious or Easter or Peace on Earth on whom His favor rests.  It’s certainly not love from before the foundation of the world, before I formed you, I knew you.

It’s karma.  Law.  Works salvation.  So why the Tartarus does Jesus say it??

What do these two instances have in common other than this one line?  Look at them again.  Do you see it?  Were either of these people coming to Jesus?  Did they seek him?  Did they cry out to him?  Did they fall at his feet and beg for mercy?  No.

Jesus came to them.  He found them in their misery.  Or they were dragged to his feet in their guilt and shame.  We see nothing in either story to show they knew who he was at all.  The lame guy didn’t even know who he was AFTER he healed him! 

Jesus is the greatest expert on what sin is and isn’t.  He who knew the scriptures certainly knew Joshua 24, Psalms 14 and 53 and Isaiah 64.  And we who know him and love him know them too.  You don’t have to tell someone who loves Jesus not to sin, they don’t want to.  But they will.  We will still struggle with greed and anger and fear and sex and belonging and hope and joy.  We won’t want to but we will.  It’s why we needed a savior in the first place.  This is not what Jesus is talking about.  What is he talking about then, mr. knowitall? 

Lord willing, i’ll tell ya tomorrow. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

How then should we live?

Not much time today so just a few thoughts on Luke 12.  Because the whole chapter seems to be Jesus’ treatise on how to live our lives as Christians.  As part of the Church of God.

1. Do not deal in hypocrisy, showing for those below, saving nothing for the Truth above.  More on that in a second…
2. Do not fear bodily death, but fear eternal damnation and separation from God.
3. Do not fear what to speak, but speak truth at all times.  Trust the testimony of Jesus to which you owe all.
4. Do not prepare for this life as if it were permanent or all.  Prepare for the eternal life to come for it is all.  Now is the time to invest in the future.  Retirement is only the bottom of the first inning.  The first mile in a marathon.  The second throw in the first frame… insert favorite sport metaphor here…for even retirement should be spent preparing for real life.
5. Do not be anxious about the material.  But concentrate on the spiritual.  Give toward and work toward this kingdom come.  Cuz as we’ve been saying, temporary/permanent.  Permanent wins.
6. Stay diligent.  Stay faithful.  Delay is coming but it is ..temporary.
7. Do not be tricked or lulled into complacency because of the length of time of the delay.  Stay vigilant.  
8. Be faithful to your calling.  These last three feel repetitive because they are.  Jesus must think they are important or something.  Like he said, “wait here, i’ll be right back,” and then stepped out for two thousand years or so…
9. Expect opposition.  Not out there, yeah, that’ll come too but right inside your own family.  Absolute truth tends to be absolute.  “I am The Way.  NO Man comes to the Father EXCEPT by ME” doesn’t leave much wiggle room for counter offers or compromise.  
10. But as much as it concerns you, live in peace with all.  For you have a Judge and He has a Day.  And a day is coming even before The Day.  We all meet our Day.  Some of us will see The Day but all of us will have a Day in court before this Judge.  So yeah, best to keep your defense handy, as Pete says.

And i can’t help but think the wrap to all of this is the first thing he said.  Don’t be hypocrites.  You say you believe in God, then believe God.  You say there’s a better kingdom coming, a permanent one, a truer one?  Then shouldn’t everything we do, everything we say, everything we hope for and in, everything we earn be for this?  It’s the basis of Paul’s rebuke of Peter when he stopped eating with gentiles.  You say we’re all saved by the same grace, then why do you favor one over the other?  We say there’s a King?  Shouldn’t we live for his kingdom?  We say we will live forever?  Then why do we fear so much of what happens here?  Why do we fear death?  We say a Day is coming, our King is returning, a new heaven and new earth will dawn?  Then why do we live as if this is all there is?  Why do you wallow in self-pity and despair and cynicism as if there is no hope?

No wonder they don’t believe us.

Friday, November 25, 2016

to You

“And his disciples asked him what this parable meant. And he said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest they are in parables, so that
‘Seeing they may not see,
and hearing they may not understand.’” Luke 8

“To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God…”

Holy crap.  To you.  To.  You.  

You.  Y-O-U.

You who are reading this are hearing the same words that came from God’s lips to his disciples.  You are privy to the same knowledge as Jesus only gave to his chosen apostles!  

Let that sink in.  

The Mysteries of the Kingdom of God are freely given to you!  The gospel the angels desire to look into.  “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.  It is set high; I cannot prevail against it.”  

All four gospels follow the same basic course, Act 1: who is this?  Act 2: what has he come to do?  Act 3: now that you know the answers to acts one and two, go and proclaim.  Who is this who forgives sins?  Who is this who speaks with authority?  Who is this who even the demons obey?  Who is this who commands the winds and the waves that they should obey him?  Over and over, those who get a peek behind the veil are told, “tell no one.”  Over and over all things are given to the elect people of God as only parables.  So that they…
“‘Keep on listening and do not comprehend!
    And keep on looking and do not understand!’
Make the heart of this people insensitive,
    and make its ears unresponsive,
    and shut its eyes
so that it may not look with its eyes
    and listen with its ears
    and comprehend with its mind
    and turn back, and it may be healed for him.” (Isa 6)

Judgment.  “Therefore consider how you listen, for whoever has, to him more will be given, and whoever does not have, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away from him.”  What they thought they had was the favor of God.  They were the ones brought out of Egypt.  They were the ones who ate the bread of angels in the desert.  They were the ones given the Law.  They were the ones given the prophets and the holy Scriptures.  They had it all!  The testimony of God about himself.  Who is this?  He is, “Yahweh, Yahweh, God, who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding with loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love to the thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and he does not leave utterly unpunished, punishing the guilt of fathers on sons and on sons of sons on third and fourth generations.”  And yet, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, and the world did not recognize him. He came to his own things, and his own people did not receive him. But as many as received him—to those who believe in his name—he gave to them authority to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a husband, but of God.”

Anyone, but anyone in the last two thousand years or so who picks up this book, this Bible and can read the words that are printed in it is freely given the knowledge it contains.  The knowledge of the One True God and His Salvation in the bodily form of Jesus Christ.  Not just the prophecy, not just the parable but the meaning, the plain truth, this one, this Jesus, this is the Anointed Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

What will we do with it?  What will you do with this Jesus who is called, Christ?

Friday, November 11, 2016

the Four Loves: The Lion of Judah

Power.  Acclaim.  Influence.  Fame.  Privilege.  Freedom.


Aye, there’s the rub.  For in my mind, Pride is the unforgivable sin.  

‘Now hold on there Baba Luey!’ you say, ‘I’m pretty sure the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit!’  And i’d say you are right and this is a rabbit trail except that it illustrates our point beautifully.  

The incident you are referring to is in Matthew 12 and Jesus has just driven out a demon, “And all the crowds were amazed and began saying, “Perhaps this one is the Son of David!” But the Pharisees, when they heard it, said, “This man does not expel demons except by Beelzebul the ruler of demons!””  The Holy Spirit has just testified with a display of power and a sign and a wonder that Jesus is the Son of David and that the Son of David is more than we imagined he was.  For the work of the Spirit is the glorifying of God the Father through the testimony and glorifying of Jesus the Son, “Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19)  The Pharisees see their power and influence challenged and they spread a counter gospel.  They preach what they hear their father preaching.  In their pride and their lust for power, they blaspheme against the Holy Spirit’s testimony.  

Satan thought himself a lion and so challenged God for control of the pride of heaven.  Archangel Mike tossed him on his tookus and he fell to earth and took control of the pride of earth, killing the cubs of his predecessor.  “Woe to the earth and to the sea,
    because the devil has come down to you,
having great anger,
    because he knows that he has little time!” (Rev 12)
Satan’s pride and lust for power are absolute in him.  There can be no forgiveness because, and this is key, because you rightly testify that Jesus’ blood and finished work and unfailing love can forgive ANY sin…

EXCEPT… the sin that never asks for forgiveness even in the face of God Himself.  

And there it is.  Pride won’t come to Jesus.  Pride won’t admit any god but itself.  

But God!  “So those who heard this said, “And who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18)  Jesus can set the slaves and the prisoners free!  Yahweh humbles the proud!  Ask Nebuchadnezzar.  Ask Paul.  Jesus is Lord of…Lords!  Jesus is King of …Kings!  He is the Lion over all other lions and He is imminent!  

“The sun and the moon grow dark,
    and the stars have withheld their splendor.
And Yahweh roars from Zion;
    from Jerusalem he utters his voice,
and the heavens and the earth shake.”  (Joel 3)

The Day is coming and when it does…

“They will go after Yahweh;
        he roars like a lion.
When he roars,
    his children will come trembling
        from the sea.
They will tremble like birds from Egypt,
    and like doves from the land of Assyria;
and I will let them return to their homes—
    a declaration of Yahweh.” (Hosea 11)

“And one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! Behold, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.

And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures and in the midst of the elders a Lamb standing as though slaughtered…” (Rev 5)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

the Four Loves: the Great Eagle

Today we shoo the Vulture off the old man with our Father Abraham.  Today we look up and see God soaring high in the heavens.  Today, like Frodo and Sam, we are plucked off Mount Doom and rescued on the wings of the Great Eagle.  
“For Yahweh’s portion was his people,
    Jacob the share of his inheritance.
He found him in a desert land,
    and in a howling, desert wasteland;
he encircled him, he cared for him,
    he protected him like the apple of his eye.
As an eagle stirs up its nest,
    hovers over its young,
spreads out its wings, takes them,
    carries them on its pinions,
so Yahweh alone guided him,
    and there was no foreign god accompanying him.” (Deut 32)

There was no foreign god accompanying him.  Approval lusts for, well, approval.  Everyone is a foreign god!  We don’t know who we are until someone else tells us.  We don’t know we have worth and value until the people around us, our chosen gods tell us we’re okay.  If we have the right peer group.  If the bosses think we’re special.  If our mentor is pleased with us.  If our wife loves us.  If our husband makes us feel pretty.  If our children are our friends.  We lust after identity and we let other broken people tell us who we are and if we’re good.

"Come with me if you want to live."
Again, the problem is not what you lust for, it’s who you’re trying to get it from.  Whom you are feeding on.  God created you for relationship, but in Himself, He alone is the Bread your soul craves, He alone can tell you who you are.  When we broke faith with him we lost more than our identity.  We lost our purpose, our freedom we had in His love and care, of whose we were.  We became slaves of sin, which the Word likens to being slaves in Egypt, but God says, “‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and I brought you to me. And now if you will carefully listen to my voice and keep my covenant, you will be a treasured possession for me out of all the peoples, for all the earth is mine, but you, you will belong to me as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’”  (19)

And it’s really that simple.  How do we, Lo-Ammi, Not-my-People, vultures feeding on the same dead flesh as our own, seeking our approval and identity from other sinners  become the Children of God?  We are called.  We are saved.  The Eagle came for you…”He came to his own things, and his own people did not receive him. But as many as received him—to those who believe in his name—he gave to them authority to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a husband, but of God.” (John 1)

“So then, brothers, we are obligated not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all those who are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself confirms to our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer together with him so that we may also be glorified together with him.” (Rom 8)

i’m not saying it’s going to be easy or fun, at least not all the time.  “Bore on Eagles wings” is a euphemism.  Yes, some days it will feel amazing, effortless, solid and joyful, like flying, but not always, being born on those wings means sharing in what happens to those wings, shairng in Christ's sufferings, "Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and being perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation to all those who obey him, being designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek." (Heb 5)  It still means walking a waterless, trackless, empty desert learning to trust this God as Father, only being given what we need when He thinks we actually need it and not before, learning to become priests and a holy nation, ambassadors, a testimony of the Living God our Father, a precious treasure.  We must pray, read the Word, join in worship and fellowship, seek Him!  See Him!  Feed on HIM!  But now we do it not to BECOME, not to gain approval, but BECAUSE, we are chosen, called, named and made holy in Jesus already!  God names you first what  you are and then guides you through the process of making you that thing.  If you have heard the Eagle's voice and answered his high and lofty call, sanctification is becoming what He has already made you: In Jesus, fully accepted, fully loved, fully approved.  

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

the Four Loves: the Infant King

We serve an amazing God.  

In light of recent events, i was preparing a completely different post today.  i was going to wrestle control from the pattern i had “arbitrarily” set and rail against the idol of Power today, even though Control was next up in the queue.  But God.  

Fortunately, i read and listen before i sit at the keyboard and speak.  God has given me that much grace.  For He seems to have a different message for us than i had thought to put in His mouth.  

And in a sense, that’s all we need to know about king baby Control and how to eclipse him with the infant Prince of Peace, the God who could rest in the arms of a teen age girl.  The Creator who trusted Himself to His creation.  Read, seek and listen… First.  

The wailing tantrum of the king baby idol is: God is not good.  God is not in power.  God is not for us.  Maybe it’s more nuanced, “God is like adults, yeah he sees, but he’s so far above and so holy minded your little problems don’t really matter.  Our nation is just a blip in time, He’s got other concerns.  Higher concerns.  Big important stuff.  Give us a call if you get cancer or something and He’ll see what he can do but He’s pretty busy.  No promises.  You can deal with this petty stuff yourself, you got this.  Bless you and be at peace.”  Right.  As if there could be peace in a world where God is either absent or uninvolved, where it all depended on you, but that’s not what the gospel says he is at all.

“Consequently a sabbath rest remains for the people of God. For the one who has entered into his rest has also himself rested from his works, just as God did from his own works.
Therefore, let us make every effort to enter into that rest, in order that no one may fall in the same pattern of disobedience.” (Heb 4)  And what is this pattern of disobedience that the author of Hebrews says will keep us from entering His rest, His Sabbath, His Shalom?  “…but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united with those who heard it in faith.”  United with those who heard it in faith?  What’s that mean?  And who were they not united with?  Who heard the gospel in faith?  

Glad you asked!  “And Abram said, “Look, you have not given me a descendant, and here, a member of my household is my heir.” And behold, the word of Yahweh came to him saying, “This person will not be your heir, but your own son will be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward the heavens and count the stars if you are able to count them.” And he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed in Yahweh, and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15)

God is not temporal.  God is not fixed in a moment as we are.  All of time has already happened and is happening right in front of him.  That’s why Christ could be crucified “before the foundation of the world” and yet we didn’t see it until around A.D. thirty.  God is not just saying to Abraham, you’re going to have lots of kids…or grandkids.. or great grandkids as it were.  He is saying that but those are just the shadow of things to come, what He’s really talking about are those united with him in faith!  The true sons of Abraham (John 8)! Those who would hear the gospel of Abram’s heir, his true heir, Jesus Christ, the true infant king and believe HIM.  And to them, to us today who have heard the gospel and believed, it is credited as righteousness.  We today, as long as it is called today, can enter into his rest, his Sabbath: the finished work of God!  No matter who they crown king in D.C.  No matter what the doctors say.  No matter what if.  No matter what goes down with our jobs.  No matter what our wives or our children do.  No matter what we think we need or want or must have, God is on the throne!  Jesus is in Control.  The Messiah has come!

"For a child has been born for us;

    a son has been given to us.
And the dominion will be on his shoulder,
    and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
        Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His dominion will grow continually,
    and to peace there will be no end
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and sustain it
with justice and righteousness
    now and forever.
The zeal of Yahweh of hosts will do this."  Is 9

Believe HIM and enter his rest.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

the Four Loves- the True Ox

“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who live on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the powerless, who crush the poor, who say to their husbands, “Bring something so that we may drink!”” 

We have seen the baespel (i made that word up, so yeah, you’re seeing it right) of the Ox of Comfort.  We’ve heard her bells tinkling in our own lives.  Inviting us to what she promises will be greener pastures.  Bulling open gates which should not be opened and luring us out of fences which keep us safe with promises of freedom and ease and indulgence.  We’ve heard (see what i did there?) her lies, “God is not good.  God is harsh.  God is a hard man, a severe God, reaping where He does not sow, gathering where he does not scatter seed.  We need to find our own joy.  Our own freedom.  Our own comfort.  Fear not, he’s forgiven you, all things are open to you (yes, Satan quotes scripture)”  It wouldn’t be called temptation if it weren’t tempting.  We believe this long lashed ox.  We join her herd (that’s what i did there) and trample others in our desire, our supposed need, our LUST to get what we want, what we feel God in his wrath, indifference or weakness refused to, cared not to or could not provide.  

“Oh wretched man that i am!  Who will save me from this body of death?”  How do we fight this bull?  How do we turn this ox?

Glad you asked, here’s my guaranteed two step program to beating temptation.  

Step One: turn around.

Step Two: do you see Jesus?  If No, repeat step one because you didn’t actually do it.  If Yes, then fall down at his feet and worship him!

i’m not kidding.  That’s it.  As Rev. Tim Keller says, petition is how you see your world.  Confession is how you see yourself.  And Adoration is what informs and shapes them both!  When we adore ourselves and our idol, God is cruel, God is small, God is absent.  God’s gifts aren’t good.  Before it confesses and before it petitions, the Lord’s prayer starts wth Adoration because you need to see Him first as he is!  You need to know to whom you are speaking.  Whom you are following.  You need to see by His light!  The Bible doesn’t ask you to blindly trust, it says, “Taste and see that I AM good!”  It asks you to turn and trust because you DO know him!  Some will call it repentance for that’s what the word means, to turn.  Some will call it abiding ( thanks Eric! ) for you would have to be with Jesus, the better Adam in order to see the danger and turn anyway.  For you like Eve, on your own, would dive right into that cow and sink your teeth into a filet.  Blood still in it.  But our husband, our truer Adam, unlike our first one, which we are obviously no better than, stops us, turns us, guides us back to himself.  Which came first?  Who cares?  Rejoice that He does it!  Rejoice in him!  The true Ox.  The true Bull.  The true Servant who loves to the point of sacrificing himself for the One he loves!  The true Heifer who takes away our sins!  The true yoke mate who pulls oh so much harder than we do and bears all the weight!  See HIM!  Know HIM!  Seriously.  Know him in the biblical sense!  The baespel draws us away by making us doubt God, doubt Jesus, doubt His love and compassion and devotion to us.  Our idols tell us lies about Him first before they make their counter offers because otherwise it would be ludicrous to think this stinking, fly infested cow has something our loving Father does not.  Could give us something our loving husband would not.  Would give us something better than obedience to our Master will.  Yes, it may feel like a life of fences, goads and suffering servitude at times, maybe even the whole time…

But take a look at the towering bull who was slain and lives in the yoke with you.  Lean on him, he’s strong enough to bear the yoke and you as well.

" For in that which he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted." Heb 2

Monday, November 07, 2016

the Four Needs: Ephphatha!

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of the hands of humankind.
They have mouths, but cannot speak;
they have eyes, but cannot see;
they have ears, but cannot hear;
there is not even breath in their mouths.
Those who make them become like them,
as does everyone who trusts in them.” Ps 135

For modern, “enlightened” folk, idols sound primitive.  Yes, i’ve been in homes that had statues of buddha and the like, but only rarely have i seen actual shrines.  But as with nearly all of our visible sins, they are merely the outward expression of an inward desire.  And i probably shouldn’t even use the word ‘desire’.  Hosea  and Ezekiel paint it as a much more lurid picture.  We don’t just desire our idols, we Lust for them.  We are not passive.  We are violently active.  i’m guessing Eve didn’t take a tentative, dainty, lady-like bite with pinkies out.  She dug in like a shark and got its blood-red juice all over her face and offered it out to Adam with stained hands and a come hither gleam in her eyes.  As Paul says, “Therefore put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustful passion, evil desire, and greediness, which is idolatry…” (Col 3)  Earthly.  i like that because Ezekiel tells us we have hearts of stone.  Earth.  Stone, metal and wood.  Temporary things which are passing away.  We have become like what we desire, taking on its properties, the properties of the temporal and the dull and the blind.

But if we’re deaf as posts and blind as a bag of rocks and acting out of our basest instincts, how in God’s name are we supposed to put off idols?  We’re slaves!  We’re prisoners of our own disobedience, born as prisoners, born as slaves!  How can we be freed?  Yes indeedy!  How is that even possible?

It’s not.  You don’t.  But fear not!  “For he knows our frame.  He remembers that we are dust.” (Ps 103)

“Say to those who are hasty of heart,
“Be strong; you must not fear!
    Look! your God will come with vengeance,
with divine retribution.
    He is the one who will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf shall be opened.
Then the lame shall leap like the deer,
    and the tongue of the dumb shall sing for joy…” (Is 35)

Christ has come!  He who stood in the church of the blind, “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him, and unrolling the scroll he found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because of which he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me
to proclaim release to the captives,
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
to send out in freedom those who are oppressed,
    to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were looking intently at him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

We’ve seen and believed!  Thanks be to God!  He has done this, His grace has done this!  He has stuck his fingers in our ears and said, “Ephphatha!” and dropped the scales from our eyes and we looked and we saw the rodent of sin crawling away in fear from the holy one, into the crusty ground of our heart.  And we hollered, “Hang tight, Jesus!  i got this!”  And we grabbed our shovel of the Spirit and started digging and we’re surprised at how deep the hole goes and then we hit something hard, something unyielding, something metal.  We dig and we dig and the more we dig, the more we expose a colossus.  The idol beneath.  This week (of all weeks!) i hope and pray we’re going to see how God takes what we think we need, how he takes the Four Needs which perhaps we should relabel, the Four Lusts, the idols of Comfort and Control and Approval and Power and replaces them with Love.  This week of all weeks, i hope and pray you hear HIM say,

“No.  You hang tight.  I AM’s got this.”

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Make Slogans Great and Stronger Together Again

Used with permission of the artist, Rod Gillies
Taking a break from the Four Needs for a brief acknowledgment of the imminent Black Tuesday, a date which will live in infamy.  The day we decide if we want to be ruled by a ruthless sociopath or a megalomaniacal one.  If we want the devil we know or the one hiding behind the door on the right.  But this is not a negative post.  i'm not bashing anyone more than they bash themselves.  That would be whipping an octopus which is busily flogging itself with all eight limbs.  It just wouldn't notice.

What i would like to talk about are slogans.

Mr. Trump says he would like to Make America Great Again.  i am all for that.  i would like America to be what it was when i last thought it was great.  When i was taught civics by idealists from the forties, fifties and sixties who came from both the left and the right and still shared the same ideals.  The same belief that we could do anything as a country.  That despite our foibles and faults and faux pas we were still the greatest country on earth.  When i played with white and black and filipino and vietnamese and hispanic kids and never thought a bit about what made us different.  Before i new the N word.  Heck, i may not have even known the F word.  Because those words weren't allowed on tv.  Back when stores were closed on Sundays and holidays.  Back when i thought everyone went to church except that one or two neighbor of mine who still fought and put out a fire in our house one Sunday before we got home from church.  Back before i knew the word "corporate" as a slur.  When i thought my money was safer in a bank.  i would love for America to be all the things i thought it was when i was young and naive.  What it was before i new what naive meant.  When i believed leaders when they spoke.  When i teared up for patriotic speeches.  When i wanted to stand at attention when i saw a marine walk by.  When i believed in just wars and liberations and the defeat of actual tyrannies by citizen soldiers.  When i thought America would never ever but never flirt with electing a tyrant ourselves.

Mrs. Clinton says we are Stronger Together.  And i completely agree.  Which is why as the most despicably divisive candidate to ever be put up against the most dispicably mad one we've ever had, if she actually believed what she says, she would step aside and let someone run who could actually have a prayer of uniting this country.

Mr. Johnson, i'm sorry, sir, i have no idea what your slogan is, which is really all i need to know about you and your chances.

So if i may, i'd like to propose a new slogan:
God save America.

Friday, November 04, 2016

the Four Needs: Power

Undisturbed in the wild, i have it on pretty good authority over at National Geographic that the biggest threat to lions is other lions.  In his pride, a male lion is king…until another male comes along.  Should this new contender defeat the original, the first thing the new king does is kill the cubs of the old male.  The pride is now his.  The offspring will be too.  In my mind, and keep in yours that all of this is just my own thoughts, but i see Power as male.  Power is a maned Lion.  Even a woman who worships at the paws of Power subverts her femininity the deeper she goes.  

In his pride, Lucifer thought himself the equal of God.  Pride gave way to lust for power and he became deluded enough to vie for the throne.  Thrown down,  (not directly by God but by his servant Michael.  God has no challenger.) yet allowed to keep some semblance of authority, Satan set about killing the children of the King, the true Lion.  Being a serpent instead of a lion, he uses lies, incidentally, the same lies he himself believes.  “Has God really said…?  If you are the Son of God…?  God doesn’t love you.  God cannot be trusted.  For God knows that on the day you both eat from it, then your eyes will be opened and you both shall be like gods, knowing good and evil.”  He infected us with his own pride, for pride is subject to none.  The bait was swallowed, the fruit was eaten, the die was cast and we live with the lust for power, for godhood, roaring in our ears.  We died and became children of the Liar, sons of destruction, sons of disobedience.  We cannot bow to you, for we are gods.  We are lions.  We are kings!

A king loves comfort but he will sacrifice it for his honor, he will take to the warpath to prove his greatness.  A lion must have control but he’s perfectly happy to have servants do the work.  A god does not need your approval, he is god!  What he wants, needs (though he would never admit to so base a weakness), Deserves! is your fealty, your submission, your fear.

Your worship.  

As i found out for myself, He is not always easy to see.  For all his pride, the Lion does much of his work under cover of darkness.  Resting during the day when your eyes are upon him.  He may boast or he may prefer others boast about him.  He may need to be the center of attention or just prefer the center of attention to perform for him and by his leave.  He may lead the group; and the group may need to either be large or of high quality or he may be a hermit ruling a kingdom of one where he is unquestioned.  He may think of himself as a warrior, an apostle, a poet, a leader, a messiah, even a humble servant, almost anything, but he is above it all.  Above the petty needs and worries of the unwashed masses.  He may appear to listen intently as you pour your heart out to him but he is looking for his opportunity to pounce and pummel you with his logic, his vision, his opinion, his interests or his humorous anecdote which, let’s face it, is so much funnier than yours.   Even his needs and his problems are more important than yours, more urgent than others'.

Underneath it all is the power of shame and honor.  Love me or hate me but you must not ignore me.  And don’t you dare disrespect me!  More easily identified by what he fears: insignificance, shame, disgrace, embarrassment, losing face, being disdained, ignored, irrelevant.  When slighted, he cannot let it go.  He fantasizes imprecatory psalms.  If He prays, he prays as Samson.  If he pleads, it is something along the lines of, “O God, just don’t waste my time and talents.  Do not let me live an insignificant life!”

He can also be spotted by his reaction to these things, his governing emotion: Rage. He can forgive but only on his terms, only when it makes him more regal.  Anger seethes beneath his haughty expression, his manners, his ingratiating, his bullying, his opinions which must be presented as absolute truths, his casual advice which he expects to be followed, his service which must be praised, his deeds which must be held in awe.  Wrath, completely justified in his own eyes, for remember, he is king, he is the lion, he is a god, self-determined, self-righteous, lies in waiting for anyone who challenges his intelligence, his strength, his abilities, his talents, for any of these things may be the vessels of his pride.  His wisdom, his business savvy, his athleticism, his learning, his sexual prowess, his theology, the lion will spend his youth looking for the thing that makes him great, the thing he can do which others seem to struggle with and he will take it into his heart as proof that he is worthy of honor, worthy of esteem, worthy to be worshiped.  

““You were a perfect model of an example,
    full of wisdom and perfect of beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God,
    and every precious stone was your adornment:
carnelian, topaz and moonstone,
    turquoise, onyx and jasper,
sapphire, malachite and emerald.
    And gold was the craftsmanship of your settings
and your mountings in you;
    on the day when you were created they were prepared.
You were an anointed guardian cherub,
    and I placed you on God’s holy mountain;
you walked in the midst of stones of fire.
    You were blameless in your ways
from the day when you were created,
    until wickedness was found in you.
In the abundance of your trading,
    they filled the midst of you with violence, and you sinned;
and I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
    and I expelled you, the guardian cherub,
    from the midst of the stones of fire.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
    you ruined your wisdom because of your splendor.” (Ezek 28)