Jesus became my criminal for me to become His disciple.

We have to come to God in God’s way – not in our own’ (Francis Schaefer). Some years back, a pastor friend of mine, born in Canada – but whom I initially met in England, once said to me ‘you know Mike – we could come up with our own religion and make a ton of money, throw in a little Jesus, a little ‘positive thinking’ type mantra, a bit of ying and a bit of yang, a little ‘Eastern’ type breathing exercises where we ‘find our inner selves’, a few alternative/made up yoga type positions, throw it all in the washing machine for 30 minutes, and sell the resultant mixed up hokum, or malarkey (as it would indeed be, once it had run its spin cycle and we marketed it – for he continued, and closed) – people will buy anything as it may pertain to their understanding of the ‘eternal’’; and you know, to large measure he was/is right.

We did not, of course, start our own ‘religion’, for religion is where the problem lies.

People will buy anything except coming to God in God’s way, on God’s terms. For His way and His terms demand surrender. There’s not too many folks interested in that term, for it comes across as a term of weakness. And who wants to be seen to be weak? But what if, in our own weakness, God is somehow able to work His strength within us?

Another problem for man coming to God in God’s way and on God’s terms, is the willingness to give up the rights to one’s own life – for Jesus said that to save our life, we must lose it, give up all rights to it. Not too many folks like the sound of that idea either.

Surrender?

Give up the rights to self?

Admit I am a sinner in need of a Savior?

I mean, come on – are you serious? This is how my dad would often respond to the notion of sin being resident within Him.

But you know, coming to God in God’s way and on God’s terms is a completely rational paradigm. For God knows what is required to right the wrongs existent within our pre-redeemed context/life. How can a man yet to be redeemed, and therefore still ‘blind’ to the context of one’s natural and original birth – that of being born into this ‘thing’ called the Fall, make any reasonable and rational ‘judgment’ regarding what is required to put oneself right with God?

He can’t.

God knows the way, God knew what needed to be done, Jesus knew He had to lay aside His majesty and make Himself nothing. Would Jesus have made Himself nothing, if making Himself nothing wasn’t required, if His blood sacrifice wasn’t really needed? Of course not – but we were (and some of us remain) in big trouble; for we have made demi God’s of ourselves, removing the need for the real God to be really there (so those of us who think this way think), but if God exists, what we say about how we may approach Him is nonsensical even before it is uttered; for, it is obvious isn’t it, that we must come to our Maker on our Maker’s terms and not on our own?

The clay doesn’t tell the potter what it is willing to do – or be – and what it is not willing to do, or be. The clay must simply say, ‘have at it’, you’re the potter, the Maker, the being who sees all things – how can I possibly, with my limited sight and accompanying lack of understanding demand before God that ‘this’ or ‘that’ way is appropriate and workable in resolving the problem at hand; the gap caused by the sin between man and His God.

So my friend and I could have manufactured our own ‘feel good’ religion, sold it to suckers, got ourselves shiny white teeth and trophy wives, wrote a best-selling series of books about total hogwash with a dash of self-help/power haircut, power dressing, ‘you owe it to yourself mantra’s thrown in’ and, in short, done the devils work for Him.

The point to all this?

Make sure to whom you have come.

Make your calling and election sure.

Don’t buy the ‘religion’ if it doesn’t stack up against the revealed word of God and the teachings and example of His Son.

And now I am going to tell you something so blindingly obvious that is alas, oft overlooked; all religions, even the ones that claim Jesus to be the reason for their existence, while assuring us that He is placed firmly front and center, are not only selling you a bill of goods, they are selling you the bill of goods, for they too were once sold – and bought it, and were too lazy/too content to check the ‘religion’s’ tenets of faith and worshipped creeds etc – against the facts: that is, the ‘facts’ of how we may come to God and how we may remain in a loving relationship with Him thereafter.

Discipleship.

Surrender.

Permanent.

Willingly done out of our love for Him, for we now know that He first loved us.

Once that has been revealed to us – His existence, sacrifice and love, once we begin to ‘get it’, it becomes as I have already mentioned; blindingly obvious. We are sinners in need of a Savior, not people who are ‘basically alright in most areas of life’ who just need a little ‘magic sauce’ sprinkled about the place from time to time – in religious, nay – superstitious manner, thinking that such an approach and such a system will work.

It won’t.

It never will.

God knows how great the distance between us and Him really is – immeasurable and also unfathomable to us prior to revelation of His existence and our response of surrender in the light of such revelation, and He knows too, that to bridge the gap, only the offense of the Cross can span its width and remain ‘spanned’ for all time. Jesus became my criminal, for in my fallen state, I was one too, and the thing is, left to my own devices, that is – the sin – still at work within my members (as Paul once wrote) wants me to be and remain a criminal, to return to by pre-redeemed state, where I put myself first, where I loved myself first, and where I thought of God last – if at all.

There was a Cross, there is the offense and Jesus became my criminal.

We must come to God in God’s way and on God’s terms – or we will not be able to come at all. For Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth and the life – and no-one comes to the Father but through me’; so either He was a lunatic, or He was telling the truth, and if it was the truth, then to respond in the affirmative to the command to become His disciples is the only reasonable and rational response one can make.

It is way more irrational (one might say stupid) to buy the hocus pocus mumbo jumbo ramblings of snake oil salesman that are grifting their way into your wallet, for somewhere along the way, you got your wires crossed and think that the ‘God thing’ is really little more than a superstition, and so to ‘play safe – hedge one’s bets – cover all the bases’, as it were – we’ll adopt vaguely eastern, or western, or more or less ‘christian values’ to make sure we’re on the heavenly ticket – that is, if there is one?

Well, there is indeed a heavenly ticket, and you can’t buy it, you can’t earn it, and you can’t ‘smart alec’ your way in when you arrive at the pearly gates; the tickets comes after the revelation of God before you, that you are a indeed a sinner in need of a Savior, and that you must relentlessly and wholeheartedly surrender, in a willing and permanent manner into His way of doing things.

If you’re not up for that – being the disciple you were commanded to be by Jesus, go play Monopoly, but without Jesus’ help you’ll never get out of sins long dark night and the square marked jail on the corner of the board.

Where and how do you want to live?

peace, love

mike

The nanosecond of certain redemption.

“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (vv. 3-4). Hebrews 11:4 tells us what was involved: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” The distinction is that Abel’s act of sacrifice was by faith. The whole process is related to Romans 4 which gives the clearest possible description of such faith: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). This is God’s description of faith-the very opposite of a Kierkegaardian leap into the void, God gave for Abraham a specific, propositional promise and Abraham believed God. This belief was reckoned unto him for righteousness. In other words, Abraham’s faith involved content. (My italics there at the end of the) quote from: Genesis in Space and Time: The Flow of Biblical History Francis A. Schaeffer

People think that to believe in God one must take a ‘leap of faith’ and to a certain measure, they’re right, but then again to some other measure – they’re not. If one meets Jesus on the road to Damascus, or in the family dining room (as I did), then one can hardly call the response to such a revelation a ‘leap of faith’, or a ‘leap into the void’. I didn’t just hope, and go ‘oh well, might as well jump off of the metaphorical cliff face (dining room chair, in this case) and hope for the best – that is – hope that God catches me. I knew He was going to catch me, for He had already revealed Himself to me. So it wasn’t a ‘leap of faith’, or a ‘leap into the void’, it was a ‘leap of certainty’.

Folks counter by saying any number things in relation to my insistence that what I was presented with was a ‘leap of certainty’, but it was; for my faith too involved and continues to involve living in and being infused by divinely inspired content: a knowing, a certainty, a definitiveness regarding the situation as my regeneration ‘into Christ’ happened over 2 distinct but interwoven time periods; the first, the sum total of my life and search from the moment of my birth until the moment of my certainty, courtesy of revelation, and the second time period? The nanosecond in which I actually passed from death to life.

Now, after the passing from death to life, is where the ‘rubber hits the road’ and the faith must ‘kick in’, not the faith to continue to believe in God – that’s already been proven by definitive content and authoritative actuality, but the faith to let Him have His way with my life.

The faith to stop arguing with my higher power who – naturally – has a higher and altogether more divine a view of all things, as they pertain to all things, and as they pertain to my life.

The ‘counter’ is oft heard along lines such as ‘you’re a bit arrogant aren’t you – why should God reveal Himself to you? Who do you think you are? You’re just mad, and had nothing more than a weird ‘religious moment, but it’ll wear off’. And so on and so on.

The thing is, I am neither mad, and the moment has yet to wear off.

The nanosecond of my rebirth stands as firm as ever, and as real as it was in the moment it happened.

God doesn’t call us to ‘leap into the non-existent void’, like the momentous occasion at hand – moving from death to life, is akin to some sort of Walt Disney fairground ride; ‘roll up, roll up, take a chance, win a goldfish in a bag, or redemption – everyone goes home a winner. I won a goldfish in a bag once at a fair – what a criminal activity – and I have also been won for and by Christ.

For He became my criminal.

He became the offence that sets me free.

None of this has anything to do with ‘hope’ in the sense that modern man uses the term ‘hope’.

Biblical hope is certain. Authoritative. Definitive. Perfect.

That is the content of divine hope at work within me.

The proposition turned up in my folks’ dining room, the person behind the proposition appeared, and revealed what the ‘upshot’ would be – namely this: if I leaped, He would catch me; for I knew He was there. I am not an idiot. I don’t leap off of things just for the heck of it; ‘oh look a cliff face – let’s go…’ ‘But the tide is out’ yells someone from too far away to stop me as I leap with the lunacy of a content free ‘hope for the best’.

When folks tell you that you need to take the ‘proposition’ that Jesus may – or may not – exist, with a pinch of salt, or with a ‘leap of faith’, tell them this: that the faith in God comes after the leap, for the leap is taken in response to an authoritative revelation of a divine certainty. And then the faith is to believe that God, in His mercy will encourage and empower us to be ‘diligent’, to make our ‘calling and election sure’, and to ‘never stumble’. Let’s face it; who stumbles over certainty? Not me…

“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10-11

peace and love

mike

Big houses. Big questions.

I live pretty near the ‘Big House’, which is where some sort of American sport I don’t understand with big shoulder pads and helmets takes place. I think the Times once stated that American football, is just a bunch of TV adverts interspersed and interrupted with vignettes of actual sport, wherein everyone goes crazy when they ‘gain a yard’. If you’re in the area for the game, you’ll see most of the residents in and around the ‘Big House’ offering folks’ space on their driveway and front lawns to park their cars prior to the game. Different spaces, different prices; $10, $15 and $20 bucks. Nothing wrong with that, people gotta park, and it’s not illegal to make a ’quick buck’.

However, the churches in the area, with their giant car parks – that is compared to the houses nearby, also charge folks to use their car park for the duration. Imagine the scene – the church sign says ‘salvation, the free gift of God’s grace’. Right next to it; parking $20.

Oh the irony of the church making a ‘quick buck’, while salvation is free.

If salvation is free, shouldn’t the car parking be free?

God forgives debt.

Your debt.

My debt.

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – but it’s still gonna cost you $20 bucks to park here mate…mixed message?

Maybe? Unpalatable behavior from the church? Possibly.

But then there’s nothing new in that is there?

If I was a member of one of the congregations local to the ‘Big House’, I would ‘volunteer’ to ‘help out’ on car parking day – and let everyone come park for free; when the elders ask me how much money did we make today – my reply would be a joyful ‘nothing – I took God’s example and gave the spaces away for free’.

‘For free?’ might come the reply, ‘are you mad?’

‘No – just made in God’s image – and I just couldn’t summon up the gall to stand next to that sign and charge folks $20 at the same time ’.

I am always reminded of the killer line uttered by a great and lifelong friend of mine – who upon hearing that ‘Jesus saves’ at one of his first visits to bible study – responded with; ‘not on my income He couldn’t!’

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (Parking $20).

I am thanking God today for John Oliver, the TV host, who bought and forgave 15 million dollars of medical debt. Reading the thread underneath the article, I see that there’s already some folks saying it was/is merely a stunt. Such a cynical view is probably coming from the people who didn’t have their debt paid…I know one thing, whenever someone in my life helps me out with my debt I am truly thankful, and over the years, many friends who are believers have helped me out – following their Saviors example.

It’s a pity the church doesn’t follow Jesus’ example more often.

At a Baptist church that I used to attend, the minister was ‘pressured’ into having a rummage sale – to raise money for repairs etc. He resolutely refused to do so. His response to the continual requests was – ‘Jesus gave His life freely for me, for all of us, I am not going to have this church family sell of its unwanted crap to raise money for the continuing work of the Kingdom’. If people want to bring in their best stuff, their most valuable stuff (as they perceive it so to be), then – and only then will I consent to having a ‘sale’, and it won’t be a ‘sale’ for we’ll give it all away for free’.

That Baptist church never did have a rummage sale.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (Set of four dining room chairs – cushions stained and torn, all chairs missing at least one leg – $25).

Just imagine how much debt – medical or otherwise, the church could redeem right now, on behalf of those struggling under the burden of its presence?

Plenty is my guess.

I am not holding out too much hope that it will actually happen…

The church is supposed to be the example – to be Christ’s ambassador – why is it the case that while the church trades in this truth with mental ascent – more often than actual ascent, that it takes the world to trade in it for real?

I asked myself the same question when bob Geldof kicked off band aid in 1985 in response to the biblical famine in Africa. Sure the ‘stars’ who appeared, appeared for many reasons – not all of them completely altruistic, but why didn’t the initial idea come from, let’s say, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who upon hearing and seeing the pictures of the famine, phone up Bob and say ‘ God has given me an idea, and I need your help to pull it off’?

Then some anal retentive types, missing the point completely had the temerity to phone up and complain to the BBC, because Bob Geldof – during Band aid – ‘said a rude word’ live on TV while demanding that folks give of their money.

These are the same sort of folks, who upon seeing Jesus turn over the money lenders tables, would’ve said ‘tut, tut’ – what an exhibitionist, we’ll have to get rid of this guy…’

Thank God for the Gideons eh? Free bibles in every hotel room…

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (bible free).

What debt (monetary – or otherwise) are you willing to forgive today?

peace
mike

Ali died.

Ali died.

I remembered watching him fight when I was a kid. I watched boxing with my dad, my dad used to box. Ali was some kind of genius wasn’t he? The best boxer ever in my less than expert opinion, and maybe even the greatest sportsman of all time. He took on all comers, even the US government – when he uttered the immortal (and – unarguably correct at the time – line) ‘no Vietcong ever called me nigger’. So the government took away his right to fight and put a dent in his possible even greater achievements at the height of his majesty.

What has any of this got to do with Jesus? You may be asking –given this is a blog site for an organic home church. Well, depending on your perspective everything, nothing or maybe a juncture somewhere in between.

My dad died a year or so ago, as I already mentioned I used to sit and watch Ali fight with him, while my mother busied herself in the kitchen, not being a fan of the pugilistic art of smashing someone’s face into pulp. So boxing is some kind of madness, and remembering watching Ali with my dad brings back some of the good memories of my times with my Father, dad told me Frank Sinatra was ‘the voice’, I think he may have been proven right about that insight too.

I guess what I am rambling on about is legacy.

Ali left us all one – a majestic, bombastic and undeniable brilliance that took boxing to a pure an unadulterated art form of some grace and beauty, while standing firm to his beliefs – letting them cost him dear, and whether one holds the same beliefs as he did is irrelevant – one must admire the willingness to stand up and be counted true to what one believes in. So I believe in Jesus (my dad didn’t), and if and when the government  – or anyone – comes calling and says ‘deny yourself for this governments sake’, 1/ we have to work out how we may respond to such a request for the denial of one’s self – and whether we will end up hearing a cock crow three times…

Deny Jesus?

Not much chance of me doing that. I’ve known Him too long and know Him of whom I speak; for He is real – and no pressure from anyone anywhere is going to make me deny what and whom I believe in – ‘for I know who I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed against that day’ as Paul once wrote in 2 Timothy 1:12.

So one can take Paul’s example of commitment and see Ali’s commitment at work too – the thing above perhaps all the possible things we might be and do, is the thing we leave behind after all the being and the doing is done – and that is our ‘legacy’.

What will we leave behind?

Will we be missed?

Will  we pass on something approaching integrity?

Wisdom?

A love that is somehow still there (in the memory of our loved ones) but also somehow absent because we are not now present there physically?

I thank God for the people He has used to impart to me some thought or insight that I might not even have known was being imparted to me at the time, but with my ears open and my eyes open for long enough – these thoughts – some recent, some longstanding, begin to distill within me, for being still and knowing that He is God is a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t happen often enough with any of us – we’re too busy watching crap on facebook.

So I thank God for Ali, George Best, Marc Bolan, Bon Scott, George Harrison, John Lennon, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Elmore James, Louis Armstrong, Robert Johnson, Albert King, Albert Collins, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Elvis, Laurel and Hardy and many, many others, which if listed would make this too long to read – all made by God whether they knew God or not, and they all left a legacy, and the thing is, their own legacy impacts us all differently; I was mt dad’s eldest, so his legacy, the one he left to me, was/is slightly different to the legacy that he left to my younger brother. Ali’s legacy – to me – was one of beauty, majesty, ridiculous swagger, while he also opened up for me what ‘art’ could look like. Ali’s legacy for his own immediate family – and his absence will be felt much stronger by them than by me – but I thank God for Him and all those God has put in my path – literally, as in face to face, or through the 24/7 media driven life in which the majority of us now live. The point?

Listen to God.

He is speaking through the roar with a still, quiet voice that demands your focus, but you have to focus long enough to find the focus if you catch my drift.

Leave a legacy to those in your life that means something. That is positive – instead of negative – or just plain neutral; when my dad died I didn’t really feel much, if anything. He died, the worlds kept spinning and that was that. I took the funeral, we went down the pub, we played some Sinatra, and then we all went home I got up in the morning, he was gone but still there, you dig?

He’s still here now – he always will be. Death is not the end. i am still dealing with his legacy.

If you love Jesus it is your ‘job’ as a disciple to leave behind a positive legacy for the Kingdom that you are in the process of building right now – for your life ‘in Christ’ is always in process, always leaving a little legacy upon the last little legacy, day by day, moment by moment, which will eventually leave those whom you leave behind with a ‘final legacy’ upon which to ponder and dwell. were/will you be a blessing or something altogether different?

Does your life, at this moment in time, point others towards Jesus, or do they take what you say with as pinch of salt, because like Ali you’re all bluster, but unlike Ali, you don’t have the balls to follow through on what you tell everyone are your stated convictions, with actual bona fide resolute actions proving the convictions to be true?

Our lives give us way and – if you are wearing a mask, and presenting what you consider to be a clever argument for Jesus Christ, Jesus would say to you today, put down the argument and pick up discipleship; for your life is the legacy in process right now – don’t leave a ‘so what legacy’ – leave one that points to Jesus, in the manner in which Stephen’s last words and actions as the first Christian martyr would have impacted Paul – while he was standing their holding the stoners coat’s in pharisaical approval – and then when Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, I think it’s reasonable to assume that somewhere inside of him at the moment of his revelation, he remembered – with horror – that particular ‘Stephen incident’ legacy. And he learnt from it.

He learnt/ remembered that Stephen never denied His Savior.

And so therefore, neither did Paul.

And when Peter had been in the process of discipleship for long enough, neither did he. Sure he did at first, but he too had to replace bluster with firm conviction that stood in the face of all comers and governments.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV

Are you poured out for Jesus?

Are you fighting the good fight with humility?

Will you finish the race?

Will you keep that faith?

Are you all bluster?

Or are you substantive substance for the Kingdom?

Peace, love
Mike

Thank God for the life of Ali.

I woke up singing this

That is to say, I was already singing it when i woke up and found out I was already singing it – some of these old hymns are works of art, the lyricism in this one is off the hook (as us streetwise folk say these days). Much better than almost all ‘modern’ worship tunes where one has to work out whether one is singing to one’s Savior or one’s soppy ‘boyfriend’. Plus, this old stuff is always – and I mean always, focused on God and His character, not us and what we think are our needs, for in both the beginning and the final analysis, what we need is Him – above all else – and this particular perspective – always looking to God and His glory, is the ‘stuff’ of the old hymnals. When I found out I was awake and already singing, I had got to the line in the second verse – ‘whose robe is the light, whose canopy grace’ – it’s not a bad place to live is it? Under the canopy of grace? Better than living under the canopy of the law – which causes all sorts of problems as Paul delineates in Romans 7. If you want to know if your God can handle your sin, your current circumstances, understands your problems, is omnipotent, omniscient – immortal, invisible God only wise (another classic old hymn), then read and then sing this old hymn – for it provides accurate, authoritative and exhaustive perspective and truth. Of course, sometimes I wake up singing AC/DC’s song – Highway to Hell (another theologically correct song) – but we won’t go into that, at least, not today…

1 O worship the King all-glorious above,
O gratefully sing his power and his love:
our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.

2 O tell of his might and sing of his grace,
whose robe is the light, whose canopy grace.
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is his path on the wings of the storm.

3 Your bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

4 Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in you do we trust, nor find you to fail.
Your mercies, how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!

5 O measureless Might, unchangeable Love,
whom angels delight to worship above!
Your ransomed creation, with glory ablaze,
in true adoration shall sing to your praise! 

Psalter Hymnal, (Gray)

peace and love

mike

 

Disciples as examples of the implication(s)

Disciples –  courtesy of God’s revelation and grace, and their own willingness to draw near to God after being found by Him, begin to realize the implications of the message and the salvation they have been found by; now we begin to understand that it takes a yearning after His heart and a willingness to surrender daily, for the implications to become the reality, because the implications – the force of what this new life actually means – has gradually and experientially proven Jesus words of teaching to us and His deeds accomplished on and for our behalf (that is, His death and resurrection) to be true.

So what then does a disciple do in response to the understanding of all these implications? Salvation? New life? Freedom from bondage? Freedom to love as we have been loved? Freedom to extend grace? Freedom to forgive? Freedom to love all our neighbors – even, and perhaps especially the ones we don’t like?

Grasp the implications and realize them in his/her own walk before Jesus and all others so that the ‘old old story’ is clearly seen to be brand new and bang up to date – for in reality, there’s nothing ‘old’ about this particular story at all, for it is not simply a ‘story’, it’s the arch reality. The definitive and exhaustive truth that men are in need of a Savior, and that there is one Savior who can be found.

Today, you are the bringer/taker of the implications of the gospel into your neighborhood, your place of work, your family, to the checkout cashier and to the gas station attendant. You are now the carrier of the good news that brings life – but not if you’ve got a face like a car crash – now, I am not advocating here that you adopt one of those fake cheesy pie smiley faces that creep the you know what out of every one – for fakery never ‘won’ anybody for Jesus – but your authenticity before Him and before you fellow man might Just accomplish the realization of the implications of the gospel in the person(s) who cross your path today.

The first thing we must do as followers of Jesus, is do no harm. Then allow what we know and have experienced about Him in our own lives to shine forth before others – we are, all of us who are ‘in Jesus’ examples of the implication(s).

peace and love

mike

While my guitar gently weeps

I don’t know why nobody told you how to unfold your love
I don’t know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you
George Harrison – While my guitar gently weeps.

This song is so profound, and stops me in my tracks every time I hear it. When George died, I cried loud and hard for 30 minutes straight – I never knew how much he meant to me until he was gone. I just listened to it again today, and the above words struck a chord in me and bought two of my ‘hero’s’ together in one instant. The Beatle George and the Apostle Paul.

The essence of the gospel is learning how to ‘unfold your love’. We keep it tight, we keep it for those we love – or think we love – but even then our love is proven conditional, not unfolded into an unconditional love – a love that works for all, all of the time. Who loves like that? The following insights from Paul delineate perfectly a ‘love unfolded’ – it is now a chapter that has been ‘Hallmarked’, that is, reduced to reading at weddings mostly, where it sounds like the right thing to have read, but where most of the insights within the passage go straight over the head of those half listening. I can’t remember the last time I went to a wedding where the following verses weren’t read. The thing is, pretty soon thereafter, some of the marriages are torn asunder – because of many things, among which was/is the lack of listening – and therefore understanding of what Paul is saying – and what George too is/was saying. If we don’t love in an unfolded manner, in an unconditional manner, we will be ‘bought and sold’ by all the unhelpful mindsets, attitudes and responses that control us.

The Way of Love
13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

Thanks God for the Apostle Paul, and for the Beatle George

peace and love,
mike

Communication can be problematic…

…especially when your brain and mouth aren’t connected in any discernable measure whatsoever.

‘What think ye of sin, sister?’ And so it began, and ended, with one small sentence – so let me inform and hopefully entertain you in the informing. When I was younger, I was an active member of a Baptist church (although I have never regarded myself as ‘Baptist’, that is, I would not call myself ‘Baptist’ before I would call myself ‘believer’, or better yet ‘disciple’). Said church was involved in the collective and ecumenical effort to ‘evangelize’ the neighborhood one Christmas season – back then, we called Christmas ‘Christmas’; we now call the season concerned the ‘holiday’ season, for want of offending those who get too easily offended; they need to get out more and throw away their ‘blanky’.

I don’t get offended by the ‘term’ or observance known as Ramadan (Ramadan (/ˌræməˈdɑːn/; Arabic: رمضان‎ Ramaḍān, IPA: [rɑmɑˈdˤɑːn]; also transliterated Ramazan, Ramzan, Ramadhan, or Ramathan) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad).

Isn’t Wikipedia a gift from God?

And while we’re at it, I am not offended by the ‘term’ or observance known as Hanukkah (Hanukkah (/ˈhɑːnəkə/ HAH-nə-kə; Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה khanuká, Tiberian: khanuká, usually spelled חנוכה, pronounced [χanuˈka] in Modern Hebrew, [ˈχanukə] or [ˈχanikə] in Yiddish; a transliteration also romanized as Chanukah or Ḥanukah) is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple).

Thank God, once again for information freely available at ones fingertips.

I think the reason it’s called ‘Christmas’ – even if the season concerned was indeed hijacked by the early church – is because at the time of year, no matter how inaccurate it may be, is the time in which those of us who care to do so, remember the birth of The Savior of Mankind – Jesus Christ. Others use this particular season to spend too much money they haven’t got, eat too much food they need to lay off of, drink too much, start long term rifts in family relationships as a result, and generally exercise consumerist muscles to their full extent – and this is just the people born again of the Kingdom of God that I am talking about here…

So there I am, walking down my first street, with my ecumenical ‘partner’ in hand. For we had been assigned a certain neighborhood to ‘evangelize’; that is, we were bringing the good news of Jesus’ birth and the ‘extra special good news’ of an ecumenical neighborhood Christmas concert – that we were hoping to get the neighborhood to attend; press ganged into such pointless endeavor as we were, by our respective church elders.

So we walk down the street, the pair of us, I dressed in ramshackle manner, as usual, and my ecumenical partner dressed in more somber clothing and accompanying resolutely joyless face. He not really wanting to do this ‘thing’ anymore with me than I with him, but ‘orders were orders’, and back then, as a young believer, I duly obeyed and complied to perform such folly’. Now I would firmly point out why ‘this was not gonna happen – not with my involvement leastways’. You have to grow up in and through the ‘church lunacy’ thing – before you see what works and what doesn’t, and what is simply repeated out of habit; repeated as it is because the much needed evaluation of the validity of the endeavor has not been assessed – ever!

So we walk down the street, we knock on the first door of 500, a woman opens the door, and right there and then, the first thing out of my fellow door-knockers’ mouth is ‘what think ye of sin sister?’ I turn and stare at him, the woman at the door stares at him – and then at me, opens her mouth as if to speak, says nothing, sighs, turns around and firmly shuts the door in our faces. He was still holding the badly designed card detailing the ecumenical delights on offer. As we walked towards the next house, I stopped mid stride and said ‘I am sorry, but – I can’t do this, at least not like that. It’s the 1980’s, not the 1680’s. What possessed you to open with that line? How did you think she was going to respond? Favorably? Invite you in to help her with the printing of the first book? Help her finish her fashioning of the first wheel? Discover fire? Finger paint on the wall of the cave that housed the upstairs restroom? (I didn’t say any of this of course, I’m saying it now by way of final catharsis and questionable entertainment).

If the poor woman, is still alive, and has never surrendered her life into Jesus’ hands – this interchange one Christmas long since passed will be the reason – and who can blame her? The church doesn’t need stumbling blocks walking around knocking on doors. The church shouldn’t be knocking on doors in the first place. The church and its disciples should be getting into long term committed relationships with all of its neighbors, so that the progressive sanctification bought about by the ongoing transformation of a present and dynamic discipleship becomes obvious to the observer. Plainly obvious. Undeniable. A testimony of substance, and therefore a witness of some validity.

How we communicate in the first place, and how we live our lives out in the company of all our neighbors in the second place, is the fruit that proves transformation has taken place, or is the fruit that proves we’re as mad as a hatter.

If only the woman at the door had had the presence of mind to respond ‘brethren, how delightful it is that thou hast called upon my dwelling place this early Christmastide morn, fain would thy both enter within my humble abode and prayest with me at this hour of the Lord’s most blessed and beautiful day – and wouldst thou like to partake of a cup of tea, or maybe a ding dong?’

The communication of the reality of God’s love and presence needs to be done right. In the same way that one’s communication of one’s desire to be the President of the United States needs to be done right. And in this context – and perhaps many others – alluding to the size of one’s manhood is communication carried out with no apparent due diligence anywhere near present or active; like opening your mouth and finding yourself saying as your opening gambit ‘what think ye of sin sister?’

If I had been the one opening that door in the Christmas time of yore, I hope I would have had the presence of mind to respond ‘nuts’ as General Anthony Clement McAuliffe once succinctly said.

Excuses, authenticity, hypocrisy and everything else.

I used to wonder what ‘let your yes be yes and your no be no meant’, until it dawned on me that it was about authenticity as opposed to hypocrisy. A little less ‘charlatan’, and a little more 2 and 2 is 4. Trouble is, hypocrisy is often the natural state of affairs for the human being, even – and maybe that should be especially – those who profess a faith and love for Jesus.

Authenticity it seems is a little harder to come by. If you knew me, you’d know I am a pretty authentic guy, sure I have my flirtations with hypocrisy, but it’s funny – it’s my authenticity that has got me into trouble in what we might refer to as the ‘established/institutional’ church. You see, I’m not very good at some things, like telling the boss man pastor what he wants to hear – I simply cannot be a sycophant – I don’t know how. I can’t excuse wanton bad behavior, and I can’t stand the manipulation of a congregation for what might be considered by said boss man ‘expedient ends’.

I have also had a gutfull of big talk’ followed up by ‘little reality’ – if our yes is to be yes and our no to be no, doing what we say we are going to do is important – I have known far too many unreliable Christians.

I am at the time of writing this, 53 year sold (yikes!), during the week prior to my 40th birthday, and friend of ours – who attended our weekly small group, stood up and announced to all and sundry that ‘mike, I am going to buy you a computer for your 40th birthday, it’s about time you had one, and I would love to do this for you’. He sat down and basked in the plaudits of the small group: I am still waiting for that computer. Another occasion that springs to mind is the time a friend at church told me and my wife that ‘I am going to buy you a house in Detroit’. This too, has failed to materialize. I have started collection a list of all the excuses I have received over the years for why ‘x’ or ‘y’ cannot play in the worship team this weekend, or help put the chairs out, or simply attend – after expressly telling me that their attendance was something I could bank on. The trouble is, banks are not reliable these days, and neither is the word of too many followers of Jesus Christ.

I am blessed to be part of a small house church where the felt need to be seen to say and do the right thing, has actually been replaced by folks saying and doing the right thing – and the right thing is letting ones yes be yes and ones no be no, for by our authenticity, honesty and reliability will we be known. ‘If you want to get something done, ask a busy person’ is one of my favorite maxims. Another might be ‘it’s OK to be a fool for Jesus, but that doesn’t mean acting like a fool is mandatory’. By the fruit we produce are we known, so what sort of fruit are you producing? Empty words or reliability? Authenticity or hypocrisy? Talking about love, while producing little?

Jesus said ‘by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another’. Love and empty words are not the same thing. Love and hiding behind a veneer is not the same thing. And neither is always saying ‘yes boss’ to the boss man pastor, when what really needs to be said is ‘no’. I am pointing our here that disagreement is not the same thing as disloyalty. If we do not encourage our brothers and sisters in the faith to more closely resemble Jesus in what they say and what they do, and in what they say they are going to do – we are not going to become imitators of Jesus, we’re simply going to become that which exists already. I don’t need that which exists already – and neither do you.

Here’s a wonderful clip of ‘excuses run amok’:

His own had a 2000 year long hissy fit

I have just been watching a 24 part series about the Cold War, I have always had something of a fascination with that period of history. As I watched it, I became more and more amazed that we made it out of the 20th century. I was born not long after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, but that was just another episode in a long line of lunacy that brought us all to the precipice with the gloriously entitled MAD ‘doctrine’ – if you like, otherwise known as mutually assured destruction.

Never has a state of affairs been so aptly named. As I watched the series, the miraculous escape from the 20th century became all the more clear to me – it was miraculous, given that fact that at the heart of all the folly was the folly of the human heart. Nothing ever changes does it? This century has so far been little different and will probably be just as ‘mad’ when historians get around to pondering the upcoming lunacy – for upcoming lunacy there will be – for mankind will be involved.

Jesus said on the Cross – ‘forgive them Father for they know not what they do’. Never has a truer prayer been uttered. Mankind continues to turn its back on the sacrifice of Jesus and the saving grace of faith, for faith in what? Facebook? Breast implants? Botox? The triumph of a local sports team? Online shopping? Online gambling? Online sexual relief? This country’s propaganda? That country’s propaganda? Youtube beheadings?

The failure to forgive, to extend compassion, to turn the other check, to come to terms with the fact that there is not one among us who can cast the first stone bring us all back to MAD? Ghandi once said that ‘an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind’.

Jesus came from somewhere else. His Kingdom is not of this world. His understanding of what makes us tick and what will make is tick better is beyond compare, but mankind has never really been any good at listening to its Maker. We want to be the boss, the big kahuna, the cheese, the guy with the stripe on our arm while at the same time we go about wearing no clothes. This Easter will – for far too many folks – have about it no understanding of grace and the depth of the problem we find ourselves in if we fail to surrender to such grace. The line that Jesus once drew in the sand is for others – so we think – it isn’t for us: for as my dad always used to say ‘I am not a sinner, I am a good man’. By whose standard? Was always my question.

The next time you feel compelled in your flesh to judge and to condemn, remember the prayer Jesus prayed on the Cross – or maybe it should be called the most insightful realization to ever find its way thru a man’s lips?

Without Jesus – we won’t make it. He came to that which was His own but His own did not receive Him – and 2000 years later most of us are still engaged in the mutually assured destruction of the flesh.

thanks for reading

mike