Life

I couldn’t believe it! It was really him—the teacher everyone’s been talking about. I wasn’t sure if he really was the Messiah, but from what I’d heard, he had wisdom far beyond even the Pharisees.

I approached him quickly before he set out again. Kneeling, I asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to live life to the fullest?”

“Why do you call me good?” he responded.

What?! Isn’t he good though? I thought being good is what having a full life is all about.

“No one is good except God alone.” he clarified, perceiving I was a bit perplexed. This only further stumped me though. Sensing my confusion, he continued, “If you want to live a fulfilling life, keep the commandments.” Yes, the commandments—then I’m on the right track!

“Teacher, I’ve observed the commandments all my life. Is there something I’m missing?” I replied, trying to sound humble but also acknowledge that I was meeting the standards of righteousness.

Then he looked at me with the most loving gaze I’d ever seen. My heart was as light as a feather and for a moment, nothing else in the world mattered—I was at complete peace. I felt what was coming next was going to be wisdom far beyond my reckoning. I knew that whatever he had to say, it would be the beginnings of the life I’d always sought.

“If you want to be perfect—sell everything you have, give the money to the poor, and come and follow me. Then, you’ll have treasure in the kingdom.” he stated.

What?! Did he just raise the bar on me?! That’s not fair! I’ve observed the Law, I’ve been good, I’ve given money to the poor already! Why should I have to give up everything?

I felt a deep sadness creeping in. I didn’t understand. Everything I’d worked to achieve—am I to just give it all away? How am I to survive?

As I walked away with my head hung low, I heard the teacher make a statement to his followers, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom!”

This seemed to be a kick when I was already down. My heart felt like it had been shattered into a million tiny pieces. All that I’d done to build a good life was totally disregarded.

“Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!” the teacher continued, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God!”

This time, I couldn’t help but to look back. I saw the disciples all with stunned looks on their faces like the teacher had just grown a second head. Then….I looked back to him. Our eyes locked, and he was beaming with the most radiant, loving smile I had ever seen. My heart melted all over again, and I felt the tears welling up inside of me though I couldn’t consciously explain why.

“Then who can be saved?!” one of the disciples asked astonished—the question I was still fumbling to form in my mind.

The teacher’s loving gaze turned back to me, then he answered, “For man—it is impossible, but not for God. With God, all things are possible!”

For a few moments, that statement caused me to pause, knowing there was some deeper meaning just below the surface. Suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks, piercing me to my very core. Of course! I’d been going about it all wrong! I’d been trying to earn the good life through my own works. I was trying to buy my way into this kingdom he was presenting. But…but…it’s impossible by my works to enter the kingdom—it’s by him! He’s the One! He’s the Messiah—God’s promise to us for entry into life! It’s all beautifully upside-down. All my possessions are worthless in his kingdom!

Beginning to have some inkling now of how to truly live, the teacher, still looking in my direction, nodded with a grace-filled smile as though he knew my very thoughts. As I departed, the conversation continued between the teacher and the disciples, who still seemed somewhat perplexed. Yet, for me, I felt everlasting life was truly beginning!

The Resurrection – What’s the Big Deal?

Empty TombFrom time to time across my life, the Lord has granted me the grace of some “new” understanding of Him, of me, of “stuff” relating the two… of Him and the world… just… “something”… on Easter morning. This effect is always the most profound when He guides me along some “path of preparation” (rather reminiscent of John the Baptist’s “prepare ye the way of the Lord… Make straight paths…”) during Lent.

I put the word “new” in quotations opening this post, because what I learn is often not “new” at all… It is something, some word or phrase, that we ALL know… that we’ve ALWAYS known… maybe all our lives. And yet, the learning opens before me with unimagined depth and breadth, such that it seems I had never heard or seen it before.

This Easter, this Resurrection Sunday just past, has been one of those times and, to be perfectly frank, I’m still “recovering” from it.

I awoke, gently… quietly… and the Lord spoke just one single word. “Resurrection”

That’s all He said. But…

I could not even move from my bed before He just “unfolded” that word before me… took me inside of it… let me watch in an entirely new way what HE means/meant by it… that it felt as if I lay there for two hours, though it may have been seconds, minutes, or half the day. Time just stood suspended.

Jesus, sitting up naked, clearing Himself of His winding sheet in Joseph of Arimathea’s borrowed tomb? Yes. That was there. But… but… there was just so much MORE! I had never thought about the actual technical “meaning” behind the word “re-surrection”. It means… “breathing again”. It became this “coming-again-to-life” of not only Jesus, but all of mankind, and all of the fallen world, and all of the Cosmos, all of Creation.

The Re-surrection was, is, the “Fresh Start of Life”, buried with Jesus in His death, raised again in Newness of Life…

Not just Him, not just “us”, but ALL!

Is that a big enough deal?

How about this, then?

Two things, ONLY two things, denote the Christian… the one translated from domain of darkness to kingdom of light, Kingdom of God… to trust and acknowledge that The Father sent Jesus, the Son… and raised Him from the dead.

Why is that “all we need to know”? Because within THAT, all else is contained and subsumed.

How many times have I heard the protest, “Being a Christian is too hard. I go to Church and I don’t know enough. Everybody in Sunday School knows all this ‘stuff’ and I feel like an ignorant fool! And the Bible is too complicated, all these rules, verses, books, stories. I just don’t get it. I’m not SMART ENOUGH to be a Christian or go to church!”

Oh, the pain in my heart at such words!

What did the APOSTLES require of a “new church” just “getting with the program” in the First Century?

Three Things: (1) No fornication. (2) No eating the meat of strangled animals. (3) No eating meat sacrificed to idols.

I mean, they had a big MEETING about it and everything! And that’s what they settled on. Now, how “complicated” is all that for a Church Covenant?

There wasn’t any Bible at the time to impress one another with, or make gentiles memorize.

Paul repeats time and time again, he preaches(preached) only Jesus, and Him crucified!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Christian life should never get so complicated, Gentle Readers.

Believe in the Father, His love, His provision. Believing in the Son sent from the Father, born true man, living as true man yet truly God son of God. Believing in the Passion, the Cross, and… AND… the RESURRECTION!

Life, pulled from the maw of death… destroying death and darkness once and for all in the glory and power of Life and Light!

Love God, love neighbor, love self. Love as Jesus loves…

Complicated? Hardly!

But this word, Gentle Reader… the Power of this Word… Resurrection!

When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in Jesus of the Cross, and Jesus of the Gospels, and Jesus of the Manger. When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in God the Father who raised Him. We believe in God and the Old Testament, and the Covenant God made with man, to care for him as his God, and receive him as His people. When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in God who walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, and who fashioned man in His own image, and who fashioned Adam and Eve as created He them.

Many many peoples have worshiped gods who bring death from life. Many peoples have worshiped gods who demand sacrifice in payment for their blessing and good will. Many peoples have worshiped gods who generate fear to constrain and rule men.

Our God is none of that. Our God brings Life at the destruction of death. Our God sacrificed Himself, to feed and bring blessing to men. Our God generates Love that conquers fear, and has removed punishment having taken that upon Himself.

This is not complicated. We need not make it so. This is simple relationship. And we can decide… each of us individually… whether or not we CHOOSE to TRUST in such relationship. And… we can invite others to do so, generally in words of nearly one syllable.

God is so urgently, so intently, so intimately present… right here, right now… seeking relationship of touch and immediacy with His children…

One friend I had used to put it this way:

  1. Do you believe that Jesus truly lived, and was sent by Our Father, God?
  2. Do you believe that Jesus truly died, hung on the Cross?
  3. Do you believe that Jesus truly rose again, resurrected by the Father?
  4. Has he ever died since?
  5. Then He must be alive right now!!!

Let us all be Resurrected, freed of deadness, numbness, decay, atrophy. Let us all be made alive! Wonderfully alive! Totally Alive! As only HE knows and makes Life!

It’s just not that complicated, is it? Be joyful in the grace of New Life!

The “Body of Christ”

Leonardo's BodyImagine… standing in the Pulpit, facing your congregation, and saying…

“YOU… are… the body of Christ.”

<< pause >>

“You… ARE… the body of Christ.”

<< pause >>

“You… are… THE BODY of CHRIST!”

<< pause >>

“Now… how’s that going for you? And Him?”


I was vehemently struck with this awareness this morning during Church.

God created All. Man fell. God established (re-established) a caretaking intimate relationship with man again throughout the Old Testament (or tried to, despite our best efforts). Man refused to draw close to God through embracing the Law and letting God mold his heart. God then became Man in Jesus, and embraced all the Law, absorbed into Himself all “cosmic disorder”, and personally fed all of that into the maw of disorder’s most horrendous product… Death. The Father then raised Him from the dead, destroying Death in the process, and Jesus returned to heaven in His Union with The Father. In that reunion, the way was paved for His Essence, His Spirit, His (literally) “Breath” to come among us, into us, and take possession of our abode, our temple, our lives… when we allow.

How incredible is all that?

What’s more, Jesus has “translated” us from the worldly kingdom of darkness, to His Kingdom, the Kingdom of Light.

So, when we yield to Him, when we say “Yes, Lord!” adopting Him as fully Lord of our lives, He not only “signs the Title Deed” of the house, but He Himself takes residence, assigns a Kingdom Address to the dwelling, and calls us “HIS Body”.

Is this true of the Church Universal? Yes.

Is this true of the Church? Yes.

Is this true of the Local Church? Yes.

Is this true where “two or three are gathered”? Yes.

AND

This is true, as attested time and time again throughout Acts and the Epistles, of the INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN.

So… let me ask again… “How’s that going for you? And Him?”


We could spend weeks on exactly how this all plays out, and I encourage those here who preach or teach to do so. But for here, for now, I just want to suggest a couple ideas.

If we are the “body appointed” for the use of Jesus Christ in our own lives, our own universe, is there any reason to think Jesus would do anything radically different in THIS body, than He did in the one borne by Mary? Or than He instructed through the Disciple/Companion/Friends in the Gospels? I think not.

So… with the utmost simplicity, what is Jesus trying to do here, now, today through your body (or mine, for that matter)?

Well, what did Jesus do with THAT body, the first time around? Simply put…  here’s the key passage:

 

7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip *said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. 12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. 15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” [John 14]

In short, then, Jesus did the Father’s will, spoke the Father’s words, and did the Father’s works.

Too simple? Hard to get a grasp on? OK, then how about His instructions to the Disciple/Companion/Friends?

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28]

AND

12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. [John 15]

Still too broad? Not specific enough as to “mechanics”? As to the “how, precisely, do we DO that?” Well, that brings us back around to the Sermon on the Mount for a set of instructions on how to do this, in detail.  Matthew 5:48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (And “perfect” here as in “finished” or “nothing broken, nothing missing”.)


Your denomination doesn’t matter, nor does your race, age, sex, occupation or education. If, and only if, you dare to accept Jesus Christ, at face value, as “Lord of your life”… then He has need of you, your arms, legs, lips, relationships, family and environment… through which to continue to build His Kingdom. The massive up-side of all this is… the grace given, the grace received, and the grace flowing through “His body” (you, me, him, her, them)… carries with it Life, Love, Truth, Joy, Beauty, and every other good thing of which He is author.

So… “How’s all that going for you? And Him?”

Metamorphosis, Part 1

The New Promise

caterpillar

I generally read a couple of devotionals each morning, and turn to my Bible – the Living Word – to study quoted verses in context. I was captivated after reading Chapter Three in the Second Letter to the Corinthians because I’ve read this letter many times; yet upon this reading this particular chapter came alive to me.

So many new thoughts entered my heart as the words jumped out from the page that it’s going to take two posts to share them with you. I hope you’ll indulge me, because there are some amazing ideas awaiting you tomorrow!

“The ministry that brought death was inscribed on stone. Yet, it came with such glory that the people of Israel couldn’t look at Moses’ face. His face was shining with glory, even though that glory was already fading. Won’t the ministry that brings the Spirit have even more glory?

“If the old ministry, which brings condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry which makes us right with God? In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. If that former ministry faded away despite its glory, how much more does the new ministry which remains forever?

“Since we have confidence in the new promise, we speak very boldly. We are not like Moses. He kept covering his face with a veil so the people of Israel, who were fearful of it, did not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away.” (2 Corinthians 3:7-13, emphasis mine)

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©butterflysite.com

We are born in God’s image: loving, trusting, showing His light. As we grow and are exposed to circumstances, this light dims and, in some cases, is shut down altogether. We live our lives without fully realizing the gift we have in Christ. We live by fear and the Old Law, not yet allowing the fullness of the Spirit to work in us. We have not “made straight the way of the Lord.” God’s light is shining on us, but not in us.

 

John the Baptist was the last Old Covenant prophet who transitioned us from the Old to the New Covenant. We have not glided with the transition fully into the New Covenant.

During Old Covenant times, when the only people who had the Spirit were the prophets, God gave Laws for people to follow so they were aware of sin, they knew the boundaries, they learned not to harm each other and they understood how to take care of each other so no one was ever in need. But as a few became educated and studied the Law, they added to it and massaged it and twisted it here and there so eventually the application of the Law became abusive, and came to benefit the educated and wealthy.

When Jesus came, he addressed the abuses of the Old Law when he spoke to the leaders of religious law. He wanted them to get back to the original intent of the law, which was supposed to bring people together in community. Upon his arrival the Old Law was fulfilled; there was no more need for a law that punishes or condemns. Jesus came to take all our wrongdoing upon himself, destroy them for all time, and bring us back, through God’s love and grace, into a right relationship with our Father.

Tomorrow: Part 2 – Shedding the Old

Love’s Lost Light.

My first feeble attempt at poetry :P.

 

Seeing now what’s always been,

another sight too blind for sin.

How it goes we’ve always seen,

repeat it does in hand-built scheme.

 

Insisting now the bottom found,

of love that never has had bound.

Yet words found state works are right,

still hasten on that darker night.

 

Joy is now as pain will sing,

lonely solace, tortured king.

Outside the inner wall was built,

strong enough to hold the guilt.

 

Safe is not where questions dwell,

reversed, did judge, the Hades’ hell.

For in was out and out was in,

though still insisting hatred’s sin.

 

Words of spirit read by soul,

spoken loud from blinded hole.

Spirit sees what soul will hide,

deceptive curse of selfish pride.

 

Perceive the tale whose meaning hid,

of those who plot of others rid.

While bids are lain for hope to end,

lines in sand will proud defend.

 

And words hold true when all approve,

but tortured king has made the move.

Love’s pure light was found and lost,

repeat again forsaken’s cost.

Questions, Answers and Context

I read John’s post entitled Bow and Confess earlier today with great interest and since he ended it with a series of questions, I thought it might helpful if I answer them. (If you haven’t yet read the original post, I suggest you do so now for best results) Before I do, I’d like to make it clear that John’s view is entirely his own and he is certainly entitled to it. Similarly, my view s are entirely mine, and neither of us is speaking for anyone other than ourselves, and I know that John would join me in saying that you, our readers and contributors are free to agree, disagree and freely express your own thoughts.

With that said, here are John’s questions and my answers to them. They are posed immediately after John stated this conclusion:

Here it seems Paul is giving clarification as to how anyone is ever able or confess Jesus is Lord—it is only by the Holy Spirit! It seems God’s plan is that at some point, every single person will willingly, honorably bow and confess Jesus is Lord, to the glory of Father, by the Holy Spirit!

Q: Do we really dare to hope in such a loving God?

A: The short answer would have to be “NO”.  A more complete response would be to point out the fact that this conclusion is based upon a passage that was taken out of its context; that passage is Phil. 2:10-11. When we look at the entire passage, we see something quite different; here it is:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Phil. 5:5-11

When these verses are seen in context, a different picture emerges, a picture that involves Paul’s instruction to the Church in Philippi comprised of those who are followers of Jesus Christ. Paul is telling them that their attitude should be like that of the Lord Himself, who set aside the glories of Heaven to take on the form of a servant and serve His Father’s will, even to death, to redeem humanity from its sin. As a result He has been raised to the highest place, and given all authority, and every knee will bow before Him, for the day is coming when all doubt as to who He is will be gone. It’s interesting to remember that demons, as they were being driven out by Jesus knew exactly who He was, and were terrified of Him, for they were in open and deliberate rebellion against Him. Oh yes, they will all bow down on the last day, and nobody will need to force them, but many on that day will have a serious problem on their hands.

Q: Is God’s plan really to save everyone?

A: God’s desire is to save everyone, as John 3:16 so clearly tells us, and God is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to do so in sending His Son to die. Yet He created us with the free will to choose whether or not to follow Him; if we do, He welcomes us with open arms, if we don’t, we have made the choice, and since God is loving and exercises restraint, He respects our choice to reject Him, even though it grieves Him greatly.

 

Q: Is he really that powerful?

A: God is all powerful, but His most amazing attribute is His restraint; He does not force us to love Him.

 

Q: Would God allow someone the indwelling of the Holy Spirit just to bow and confess, then rip it away so they are lost for all eternity?

A: Certainly not! Sadly there is a logical problem in this question, for it is based upon the quotation of 1 Corinthians 12:3:

Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

Can you see the problem? It begins with the word “therefore”. When you see the word “therefore” the author is drawing a conclusion, thus the quotation is necessarily taken out of context. In this case, the verse falls within the larger context of 1 Corinthians 11-13 that deals with spiritual gifts, the immediate context looks like this:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

1 Cor. 12:1-3

Again, Paul is addressing Christians who are already followers of Christ, reminding them of their former status as Gentiles in a larger discussion of spiritual gifts that are given to Christians when they begin to follow Jesus, not to pagans who refuse to follow Him. We know from Acts 2:38 within its larger context of Acts 2:14 ff. that we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we believe the message of salvation acknowledge our faith in Christ and enter into relationship with Him.

If there is a connection between the Philippians 2 passage and the 1 Corinthians 12 passage, it is this: On the great Day of the Lord, every knee will indeed bow voluntarily, and every tongue will voluntarily have to admit that Jesus Christ is Lord! Those who have already done so in faith will be filled with joy and jubilation, and those who refused will be having a very bad day.

Bow and Confess, in my view, proves us with a wonderful opportunity to explore, to toss out ideas, to ask and to answer, and I want to thank John for posting it, for sharing a point of view and giving us a chance to examine the Scriptures together and come to the realization that our God is simply awesome in His love, and to see and recognize that His love is so great, that He allows us the freedom even to reject His grace.

Simple Christianity: Being our Most Authentic Selves

“This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.”

Isaiah 59:6-7

“Fasting is not genuine without reforming one’s way of life.” Note on Isaiah 58: 6-12, from the NAB Bible revised edition

I have found power in fasting. Giving up sustenance to hear God clearer. Helping me to become a better version of myself- in Christ. This Lent, the Lord has whispered to me about silence. So on the Holy Spirit’s nudging I have given up music. This has proved to be an extremely difficult, but needed abstinence for me.

You don’t have to be a Christian to fast and hear God. For those of you that are on your journey, I highly recommend it. But fasting is not a diet nor is it a New Year’s Resolution. No, fasting is so much more than that…

Recently, I have had the occasion to read a broad range of spiritual books. They all have contributed to my life’s journey, tossing me little pebbles along the way. But what I have found is that although many of the books I have read are fascinating, they are also complicated and verbose, and for those of you that know me I am complicated enough as it is…

I am finding that books that require me to carry a dictionary around are just not my thing. I am also noticing my lack of motivation in reading some recent books that I’ve acquired. So many over-philosophical thoughts on Jesus, rote prayer and too much concentration on the bad, and not the good. Many of the first halves of these books start out promising but half way through they fail me. I’ve held onto them because I am a firm believer in finishing what you start, but in the silence that God has provided me, I am seeing that is not the case.

When things are quiet, you can hear. “Not this way, not that way,” says the still small voice. Or louder yet, “Wrong way!” When we are open, when we have our minds set on things above, when we use these forty days to focus on ourselves and the God we serve, it is amazing what we can hear, in silence.

And God tells us what kinds of things He wants from us, if we are listening. We are not here to simply go through the motions- that is religion, not relationship.

We must find the thing that God is calling us to do this Lenten season. What is He calling us to give up? This answer should be simple and transformative, it does not need a theological dissertation. 

Through genuine fasting, we come to understand the meaning of sacrifice and of blessing. Yes tradition is beautiful and needed, but it means nothing if we are not committed to hearing God’s call…

This Lent, be committed to the simplicity of sacrifice, whatever that may be individually for each of you. Share it with a friend so that they can keep you accountable to the promise you have made to God. And as you repent and reform from the inside out this Lenten season, you will see God’s hand bolder and greater in your life than ever before!

Blessings-

Join Mary on her Lenten Journey at There’s Something About Mary