Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Presence of the Presence


Revelation 1. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.” – St. John

“And maybe it's the time of year, yes and maybe it's the time of man; And I don't know who I am but life is for learning.” *

This morning, I reflected on my imagination of yesterday as I stepped out of a late afternoon shower after a long day at work. I thought, as I toweled off: what would I do if unexpected (and unprotected, clothes being fleeting at that moment, save the towel) Jesus showed up at the bathroom door just now?

The words from Mitchell’s Woodstock came to mind. I read Revelation twice a year: once, beginning in August, and later in December. I think in my subconscious I knew Revelation 1 was today, so maybe it’s the time of year, or maybe it’s just who I am, but I I know just where I stand, and life is for learning. What would I do in the presence of the risen Lord?

Clothing would be a scant covering from the One who knows all, sees all, and rules all. The Apostle John was wearing ragged prison clothing when Jesus showed up at his digs. Jesus was unfazed…

I had a similar thought today when Cathy went downstairs to get coffee, or let the dog out, or whatever she was up to at the moment: what would she do in the presence of the Presence?  I wonder weirdly.

Life is for learning but it’s for learning about the One who was, and is, and is to come. Jesus hasn’t gone anywhere and He isn’t going anywhere. He is going to reveal His presence to all the earth one of these days and we all just might think about: what are we going to do when Jesus shows up?

John did the normal and natural thing in the presence of God: he fell over dead…so to speak. He was undone physically and his body wouldn’t cooperate. We’ll do the same thing: we’ll fall over dead… or certainly comatose.

Many call this myth or fantasy for the weak. Okay, I get that. But when it happens wisdom will be proven by her actions. At the appearance of Jesus, there won’t be any time to quibble about myths, legends, fantasies and the like – it will be useless bodies either hoping for cover, or hoping for a touch from Him who was, and is, and is now here. John had to wait on Jesus, you and I will too.

Do you have a vision of Jesus today? Does your vision, if you have one, include Him who was and is and is to come? Or is it: He was just a great teacher who was martyred for His beliefs? One way or another, the bottom line is this: Jesus is coming – for those who are looking… and for those who aren’t.

Lord, my vision didn’t come to pass yesterday, or even again today but Your presence is all about and within me regardless. I look with the eyes of faith for You in all I do today and Lord, may I see You in all I do, for Who You are: who was and is, and is to come. The time of man will one day disappear. Amen.

*JONI MITCHELL, © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing, 1970

Friday, August 11, 2017

Peter in Me


John 13.8 “No,” said Peter, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.” – St. John 

Sometimes, ol’ Peter could just be a stubborn jackass. He had his mind made up, and I tend to think Jesus started the whole foot-washing episode at John and then worked all the way around to Peter. I think Jesus washed Peter’s feet last just so that stubborn ol’ Peter, more precious to Jesus than we’ll ever know, could soak up the full effect of what was happening.  

And the closer Jesus came, the higher Peter’s walls of defense, went.  

I am consumed these days with the idea of grace. Specifically, God’s grace. Peter, of all people, decided to write in his epistle, quoting Proverbs 3.34: “God opposes the proud but shows favor (grace) to the humble.” I think we completely underestimate the power of pride in our lives – and that is why diving to the bottom is so important in discovering and receiving God’s grace. Jesus dove to the bottom in washing their feet. They all had to dive to the bottom to let their Master do such a thing. Even Judas. 

I also think that God cares more about our killing our pride, than He does about our masks of pretentiousness that we put on whenever we get together as believers – like our lives are so perfect and ripple-free. And the worst part is, I read a passage like this and I’m doing the Peter, I’m thinking, no way in bleep am I gonna let you do that to me… go wash someone else’s dang feet! 

I suppose I find some comfort in the fact that somewhere along the way, someone said, Well, foot-washing today isn’t really foot-washing – it’s more like serving one another. I’m thinking, Whew! Dodged that one! But whatever it is, it doesn’t excuse me from diving to the bottom. For you, or anyone else. Grace abounds to the one who wears humility like a garment; as a way of life. 

There is no room for stubborn jackasses in the realm of humility. The greater the risk of intentional, humiliating embarrassment, the greater the gift of grace.  

We resist humility because it’s humiliating. But to the one who develops the taste for it, it’s exhilarating. Ol’ Peter finally developed the taste and tradition tells us, he was crucified upside down because he didn’t see himself as worthy of being crucified the way his Master was… Good job Pete! 

Father, today, I am humbled in embarrassment because I see Peter in me: no way am I gonna let You do that to me! But Lord, Your ways are always loving, always right, and always good. Help me to go further, as my brother Peter did when he said, and ultimately lived out: Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. You did it for him, and I know You’ll do it for me. Amen

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Where I Stand


John 8.16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. - Jesus

Jesus had His detractors – I suppose all of us do at some point. Not everybody loves everybody. But the Lord’s detractors challenged His credibility.  They said: “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” (I think it funny that they said so, given they were doing the same thing – where was their credibility??)

Credibility is a big deal in our age. It isn’t that it wasn’t in days past, but nowadays who can trust anything anyone says? Credibility is a big deal, and nobody believes much of what anybody says. So, the credibility of Jesus is so vastly important when we have all come to the point of: everyone is lying.

The truth is, everybody is not lying, but because the suspicion of lies is so strong, that credibility is even more important. So, in the age of lying, in whom do we trust? Is Jesus who He says He is? Or is the Bible all lies as well? And what do we do when everything is perceived as lies or everyone as lying? To whom do we turn for truth?

Belief is not just some switch to be flipped. Belief is a God thing. Jesus said in John 6.65: “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” We can’t even come to God without divine enablement. And without that, all that is left is lies. 

Divine enablement is not something that is withheld by God for the chosen few, it is His gift to all who will accept it. Divine enablement is as simple as a beautiful sunset, or the vast array of stars in the heavens – it is the acknowledgement of the reality of God. We seem to want to call God, God; but we won’t truly acknowledge Him as God. It’s because we believe more in the lies spread about God, than we do in the truth of who God really is, and Whom God has sent.

To some (well, to many) lies make them feel better. Many would rather accept the lies of man, because the truth of God makes them feel weird. They know something is wrong but refuse to accept truth, so they accept lies. The Pharisees lied about God and that precisely why they could not accept the One who told them He came from God. Their retort was simply: you’re lying!

Jesus replied: But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. Jesus called God His Father, as every man should. But all He got from men was the accusation that He was lying. Habitual liars can’t recognize the truth if it bopped them on the nose…

Jesus came offering the truth and the truth is lost on those whose lives are devoid of God. To the godless, there is not beautiful sunset or sunrise; there is no response to the call of the heavens that declare the handiwork of God (Psalm 19). There is only deadness fed with lies.

Father in Heaven, You have enabled me to see only because that is what You do for every human everywhere, all the time. I am not special, I have only responded to what You have presented. Lord, it boils down to only this: You, or lies. You have given me the choice, and I have chosen. Like Jesus, I choose to stand with You. Help me to help others to make the choice – we are all on our own before You! Amen

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What I See


John 1.48 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” St. John

I have used a Bible reading regimen since 2002 – it’s called, S.O.A.P. It stands for, Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. The thought process is simply: read through the Bible (Scripture) with some kind of plan and intentionality, and then journal appropriately to what I see (observe), how I can apply what I saw to my daily living, and then a prayer to God for the wherewithal to do what I saw and attempt to apply.  

This morning before I began reading I had the thought: don’t write about what you know, write about what you see. I know some stuff – everybody does. But the greater calling in life is to live by what you see, and then live, and love accordingly. The greatest calling in life, is to love, despite what you see. That is also the hardest part of life. To see people properly is to love them properly… 

Jesus was not who, or what, people wanted to see. That threw people. If Messiah is to be: all that, AND a bag of chips, why doesn’t He look like a Messiah. We need to understand that God doesn’t play by our rules. Ever. But we are more than welcome to play by His. 

So, in the story, a seeker of Jesus, a guy named Philip, calls out to his friend Nathanael and says, hey man, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael, knowing about Nazareth says, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael saw nothing good in Nazareth. 

And upon meeting Jesus, the Lord said: “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” To which Nathanael says: “How do you know me?” And Jesus replied, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Astounded, Nathanael says: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” You know, what I see is this: God sees us. 

It doesn’t matter whether we’re under the fig tree, under the weight of anxiety, or the pressure of performance and production; God sees us. And like Nathanael, we need to embrace that knowledge. And now, because I see, I know that God is an inescapable part of life for every person on the planet. And because I know that, I know that He sees me. That ought to make me think about what I see and how I respond to what I see.  

My seeing sometimes influences my doing. Sometimes seeing someone in need, and while having the ability to help, not doing anything to help, shows that I am not seeing things as I should. God looks at me to see what it will take in my life to bring about eternal life. I at least ought to see others in the same way: Lord, how can I help this person (or these people) to see You for who You are? 

And that is my prayer: 

Father in Heaven, You see me for who You’ve created me to be. Help me to see my fellow man as works-in-progress, and to come alongside the willing and the unwilling to help them to see You for who You really are: “Lord, You are God; You are the king of the world!” Amen

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Perfect Peace


Isaiah 23.3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. – St. Isaiah, the prophet 

Yesterday, in our little town, a 7-year old child was killed in a tragic traffic accident. As a community, we are in shock – how could one so young be taken so soon!? But he was.  

I think about those who witnessed the accident. I think about leaders and mentors who saw it all. I think about the law enforcement personnel and EMT’s who were first responders. I think about the counselors and pastors, who reached out to comfort and console. I think about the verse in Matthew:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.” (Matthew 2.18) 

I think about a mom, a dad, and grandparents, and aunts and uncles refusing to be comforted – someone precious to them is no more. 

Cathy and I prayed for those involved at all levels and we prayed for God’s comfort and consolation. And we prayed in frustration for what seems to be a senseless tragedy of one taken who, in our eyes, didn’t seem to deserve it.  

And then, I thought about God. And I thought: we’re all going to die at some point and the moment for all of us is fixed in some divine calendar. Some are born to live long, long lives. Others are born to last for a few minutes. And some are born for tragedy. But all of us are going to die at some point. 

Our frustration is we have no control over the when. And that is why the need for God and the great need for trusting in God: You, God, will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfastly set on You, because they trust in You… no matter what. That doesn’t erase human pain, nor does it explain the inexplicable. But it puts God in His rightful place: The One through Whom, and for Whom, all things are.  

We tend to forget that when tragedy strikes.  

Personally, I know the anguish of a child. I know this morning there is hurt and, perhaps anger beyond comprehension in those, “close to home”: the family of the child whose life was lost: a mom, a dad, siblings, relatives. But I know that the child was given a life that was only going to last so long, and then he was going to die. That is a harsh reality for all of us who seem to want to control the outcome… we never can – we never will. 

But the stark reality is also this: we can learn to trust God in all things. This isn’t the first child to die, nor will it be the last. But God is God over all circumstances and despite our suffering, He can be trusted. 

It may not soften the blow, but it does give us a place to land when we’ve been hit.  

My prayer is this tragedy will bring us together as people to remember how much we need God and how much we need each other – because the time for all of us, young and old, is limited…

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Attitude of Discipline


Hebrews 12.5-6 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 

I am an American. I live in a culture that seems to stress over health and fitness. You talk to the average American and he believes he is not in the best shape and could lose weight. Depending on who you talk to, depends on how they feel, but my experience is most of us believe we could stand more exercise, better eating, and we believe that our lives would somehow improve if we were just in better shape. 

I’m not sure we know what we’re saying when we say we wish we were in better shape, but I think I know what we mean: we wish we could find the discipline to make ourselves feel better about our pathetic physical selves so that when we watch the Bowflex® commercials, we don’t feel so guilty about Jillian Michaels’ drill sergeant-like, get-your-a**-going, attitude. Hold my beer, I’ll just change the channel 

The writer of Hebrews, quoting Proverbs 3, said: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” I thought about the taking lightly and wondered what that might mean and then I read: “…and don not lose heart… Now I know what he meant: Discipline is hard work. 

And necessary work. 

The discipline of the Lord is not dressed up in some tight-fitting workout outfit with a moderately attractive drill sergeant, dripping with sweaty sexuality, barking at us. The discipline of the Lord is love at its purest and finest; the pinnacle of divine intervention. 

To make light of the Lord’s discipline, is to belittle it, shun it, or avert our eyes from it. To lose heart, is to take God’s discipline as His invasive forcing of us to do what we don’t want to do; or His taking from us something that which we don’t want to give. The Lord’s discipline is anything but. 

It is true that God wants to train us. That doesn’t mean we’re pathetic (we are far worse than that), it does mean, however, that God will work with us if we’ll allow Him; and His work with us requires a good, willing, and cooperative attitude with Him in His work with us. Slackers need not apply. 

The Almighty thinks very highly of us and expects us to do the same with Him, and ourselves – especially when we begin to see His purpose in, for, and through us. God’s purposes for us require a commitment from us that makes Jillian look pushy and pathetic. She’s selling a product – God is giving life eternal. It takes discipline to receive God’s life – His life is infinitely different than we know. 

Father, work in me to help me to get what You are doing in me. David prayed: “…what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” We are, I am, a whole bunch more that we/I realize. Work in me whatever it takes to help me to get it. May Your will be done in my life, and may my attitude about it be happy, willing, and cooperative – amen

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Forgetting Process


Hebrews 2.1 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 

In the original texts, there were no chapters and verses assigned; the Epistles were simply written documents intended for the use and edification of the readers in various churches scattered throughout the region. Hebrews is an epistle – it was meant for Jewish Christians who may have wanted to revert back to Judaism for various reasons; persecution being one reason.  

The writer (we’re not sure who it was) told them: We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. I think that is sound advice for Christians to this day.  

The issue with paying attention is the issue of remembering and reminding. We’re to remember what was said and remind each other in the process. The writer said, we must pay the most careful attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away… That is exactly what happened to ancient Israel. 

In the prophet Hosea’s day, the nation of Israel (the northern ten tribes) had mostly forsaken the teachings and example of their forefathers and had fallen into a protracted estate of ambivalence toward God. They had vigorously adopted the rites of pagan religions, and had stopped doing what God had originally commanded them to do through Moses. They just quit… paying attention. 

I think ambivalence, apathy, and acquiescence are among the big three in ineffectiveness in our days – we just grow drained, disinterested and distracted. If ever there was a reason for paying the most careful attention, it is now because the ‘friction’ of forgetting is ever-present in our world.  

To be a child of God and a disciple of Christ means to give careful heed to what we have learned and to pay attention to what is happening in our lives as we follow Jesus. If there is something we are to do, it’s pretty clear in the instruction of the author of Hebrews: we’re to beware of how we’re living, and make sure that how we are, matches up with who we are, in Christ. 

Why go to church? Why have personal devotions? Why sing the songs of the faith? All of these things are supposed to enhance our faith, and retard the forgetting process. If we pay attention to what we have heard, then it follows that we will live what we have heard. Falling away is a very silent, invisible, odorless, painless process. It is enriched by not paying careful attention to who we are and why we are. 

Father in Heaven, help me to pay careful attention. Help me to make sure I am what I am in Jesus. Thank you for Church and Christian friends, but may they only serve to remind me to remember who I am in You. And may I remember to be about Your business today: I represent the King and the Kingdom. Amen