Monday, January 30, 2012

KISSING UP TO THE ALMIGHTY


Jesus had many fans and perhaps a handful of fanatics. Thousands were in the crowd identifying as followers, yet only a few seemed to understand what He was calling for. If you experience any fame or become a person in demand, people will kiss up to you. They will act a certain expected way in order to get what they want from you. Jesus spoke directly to this tension.





Luke 6:
 46“Why do you call me Lord but don’t do what I tell you?


He noticed the frequency with which people would speak to Him in respectful terms – Lord, Rabbi, Teacher. But what’s in a title? They called Jesus ‘Lord’ but did they mean that?

A lord has power and authority over others. They are in place to govern and rule over a domain.

Apparently, people are supposed to obey kings. This king was pronouncing rule for the Kingdom and people still lived by their own laws. Jesus came to announce the arrival of God’s Kingdom and people were not grasping it.

He seriously believed Himself to be the King. He knew that His Kingdom was not originating from this world. It was a Kingdom of opposite values and required faith to see it grow.

Friday, January 27, 2012

THE OBEDIENT SON

Jesus was obedient to the Heavenly Father. He was obedient to the extent that it included dying on a cross. I think there is something virtuous missing from our present understanding of obedience. His perfect obedience makes him ‘other’ than us. Are we afraid that a dedication to obedience will make us ‘other’ than status quo and perhaps less of our own person?

Obedience is the carrying out of a command. It is doing what you are told to do. We may picture a military man barking orders or an angry boss harassing you complete difficult work in an unrealistic time frame.

If that is the context in which obedience belongs, we must de-individualize in order to comply. The soldier learns to respond immediately to instructions from a superior officer. There is no questioning and no reasonable alternative.

Is there another picture of obedience? Was Jesus obedient to the Father like a private to a sergeant? Did Jesus bite his tongue and act timid like a teenage driver being pulled over by the police?

If we are willing to look further, there can be command and authority deeply rooted in love. To obey such authority may come out of loyalty and agreement with the one issuing an order. How often do we avoid obedience for fear of being lorded over?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

THE 'O' WORD


 “I want you to obey me.”

I dare you to say that next time you need something done.

“Obey you? What are you getting at?”

Obedience has a bad rap in the realm of friendly relationships. We wear kid gloves when we handle the ‘o’ word in adult relationships.

You were taught to obey parents, teachers, police and trusted authority figures. It was something you were supposed to do even if it didn’t make sense. Then you became an adult and shortened the list of whom you would obey.

Our grandparents’ generation included that word in their marriage vows when they pledged to love, honour and obey. Unfortunately many of them struck out on all three pitches.

Obedience is a word we have relinquished to police, animal training, and cult leaders. This word has been co-opted by tyrants and thugs—Jim Jones and Kim Jong Il, Adolf Hitler and David Koresh. It’s a manipulative word in the mouths of powerful egomaniacs.

Is it any wonder we twitch a little at Scriptures that tell us to obey?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

SHINE A LIGHT IN THE BASEMENT


When we first purchased the old bar ‘Mongo Murph’s’ to turn it into our worship house there were leftovers from former days. The basement lights were burned out and so we explored it first with a flashlight. Mostly we found decrepit furniture, empty bottles and parts of things that no longer had significance. We did not find anything of lasting value.

Upstairs we found rusty bed frames, used needles, leftover belongings from a roomer and a few perverse unmentionables.

The presence of God roams the basement and the attic of our lives. Our past decadence and worthless trinkets are not meant to stay. There is a new inhabitant bringing His value and worth into our broken down house.

Jesus says it’s your call. You choose what to fill yourself with. What you stuff inside you is not well hidden. Your secret place has not been kept in confidence. Your diary has been published in your eyes. You are not anonymous.


Mark 4:
21Jesus said to them, “Does anyone bring a lamp into a room to put it under a basket or under a bed? Isn’t it put on a lamp stand? 22There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. There is nothing kept secret that will not come to light. 23Let the person who has ears listen!”
 24He went on to say, “Pay attention to what you’re listening to! Knowledge will be measured out to you by the measure of attention you give. This is the way knowledge increases. 25Those who understand these mysteries will be given more knowledge. However, some people don’t understand these mysteries. Even what they understand will be taken away from them.”

Light reveals the secrets of the dark. Light dispels the fear of the unknown by illuminating the known. The question becomes how far are you willing to explore yourself with God’s light?

What are you listening to? If you listen to the peeps and mutters that fill dark places, you will be transfixed in the darkness. You will stumble and hunker down in fetal position. You will pull the cover over your head to drown the fearful voice. Pay attention to what you are listening to.

There is a correlation between paying attention to God and growing in knowledge. Are you paying attention and growing?

Some only have the reference of past experiences. They have no appetite to know more. Years later, they have not grown and the basement is still filled with worthless, decaying trash. They have not found the new purpose for which they were bought. It’s a sad day when someone who once walked with God tries to walk away from God. The God they once worshipped became a faded memory and there is little understanding in their present darkness.

If we look diligently for God, we will see Him. Is it time to focus?



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: KICKING AT THE DARKNESS

In 1977 I was a 16 year old fascinated by the emerging music of the Jesus Movement. These were vinyl days when faith focused artists were emerging as proclaimers of the gospel.

I attended a music festival aptly named Jesus '77 at a campground outside Hamilton, Ontario. I heard some of the early Jesus culture prophets including Larry Norman, Randy Matthews, Mike Johnson, and Moose Smith.

From the handful of albums I had acquired, I was experiencing a renewal of my childhood faith and opening of imagination to the soul carnival found in concert venues and festivals.

In the Jesus '77 merch tent, I flipped through stacks of fresh vinyl endlessly searching for the next album to take home. In those days, I would spend $7 or $8 experimenting with new music. I would judge some of my purchases based on the album jacket and what I hoped would be matched sonically on both sides of the album.

When my eyes fell on Bruce Cockburn's 'In The Falling Dark', something mysterious happened. Without knowing fully why, the monochrome photo of Bruce and the song titles invited me to imagine another way of telling God's story.



From the first time the needle resonated in the groove of that album to this day, I revisit Bruce's discography the way some people return to a favorite cottage by a murky lake.

Now, about Brian J. Walsh's book; I say 'thank you, thank you, thank you!'

The book is subtitled 'Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination'. Walsh treats the Cockburn fan to a rich exploration of themes found in Bruce's songs.

Bruce has an encyclopedia worth of recorded music (31 albums).

As I watched Walsh's dance with the theological elements found in the songs, I gained a greater understanding and appreciation for the true genius and intellect of Bruce Cockburn. He is a Psalmist, Prophet, Mystic (meaning we sometimes scratch our heads at his message) and Storyteller.

If you are a fan, you have already discovered that Bruce Cockburn's art will open doors of imagination and faith that no-one can shut.

I should also add that Brian Walsh understands the body of work better than anyone. He takes us into the sources of Bruce's inspiration and teaches us to read Bruce's worldview. Brian does this respectfully and carefully.


__________________________


"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

Saturday, January 14, 2012

ADVANTAGE OF TEMPORARY BLINDNESS


Our eyes work as a pair. The second eye adds dimension and perspective to what the other eye is seeing. If you had to, you could get along well with only one of your eyes.

Presently, I wear mono-focal contact lenses. One lens helps me see distance and the other helps me see close. My brain reads the data coming from each eye and blends it so that I unconsciously focus clearly on things up close or at a distance.

If I had to lose an eye, I could still see but not with the advantage of two eyes.

Matthew 18:
9If your eye causes you to lose your faith, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire.

Jesus is talking here about exposing yourself and filling yourself with things that cause you to lose your faith. There is an advantage to not seeing something near or far, if it leads you away from God.

This is the advantage of temporary blindness. Blind in one eye by choice—when not seeing is better than seeing.

We know that your eye does not act independent of the other eye. They work cooperatively. What is Jesus saying then?

Perhaps this parallels our own experience. We are touched by God and filled with His light. On the other hand (or the other eye) we are drawn to worship false gods and to be enticed by the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

Jesus calls us to consider imposing restrictions and limits on ourselves. Better one eye and eternal life than two eyes and Hell. You do not have to look at everything everywhere. Sometimes you need less perspective, not more-- less information, not more.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

THE MICROBREWERY OF YOUR SOUL


Your eyes may be your friends, but they are willing to play the devil, too. They open wide to covetousness, false judgment, doubt and every kind of evil. If you look at lies you just may make them your own.

There’s something brewing inside everyone. Something is changing in your inner substance to make you more pleasant or more poisonous. The presence of God in you causes all the other ingredients to be transformed. Your eyes give us a window into the microbrewery of your soul.

Jesus’ closest friend John said:

1 John 1:
5This is the message we heard from Christ and are reporting to you: God is light, and there isn’t any darkness in him.


John says God is light. Paul told Timothy that God lives in unapproachable light[i]. We do not have the right kind of eyes to see God and live. If God is to appear to us, it must be in a vision or by appearing in human form.

Theologians refer to anthropomorphism—God speaks to us and reveals Himself in human terms so we can comprehend that which is beyond our understanding. God uses human language and human descriptions to accommodate our weakness and limitation.

Man is formed in God’s image.  This means there are commonalities that allow for shared experience and bonding between God and humanity.

When we read about God’s face, His eyes, strong arms, walking in the Garden, speaking in a human language and so forth, it is because God has chosen to limit Himself to an understandable form. His true form is likened to unapproachable light.

How fitting then, that Christ would put on human flesh and come as the man Jesus. But, Jesus is more than God’s earth suit. Jesus is not a puppet form animated by the hand of God, but a union of Creator and Creation. The Messiah is 100% God and 100% human. This is a mysterious act of submission by God to His own will. The humility and love of God are expressed through the Incarnation—God putting on flesh.

God’s ‘glory’ is often associated with visible displays of light and fire. Jesus reveals the glory of God.

When we look away from God to false comforts, we are affected by what we see. Our influences fill us.

Jesus looked into the eyes of the people around him and noted what He saw.


Luke 11:
 34“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is unclouded, your whole body is full of light. But when your eye is evil, your body is full of darkness. 35So be careful that the light in you isn’t darkness. 36If your whole body is full of light and not darkness, it will be as bright as a lamp shining on you.”

On a cloudy, overcast day the brightness of the sunlight is hidden. Even though clouds are small compared to the sun, their proximity makes for a dull and dreary day. Jesus was explaining that darkness within us can dim our vision and also what others see in us.

The light that you think you have inside you may in fact be darkness. What does He mean? There are many religious beliefs and ideals that people hold on to. But, others looking into our eyes see a different picture. They see darkness in our soul. We may think we have light and see, but it is our vain imagination. Jesus met many self-deluded people who thought they had all the answers, but inwardly were filled with death and darkness.

Through Jesus sacrifice, God’s presence leaves the Holy of Holies and enters our flesh. From the idea of God being untouchable, Jesus brings us to the God who touches us.

The presence of God’s Holy Spirit fills us as a lantern is filled with fuel to bring light to the surrounding world.




[i] 1 Timothy 6:15,16

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