Thursday, April 28, 2011

Miracles Last Forever

Miracles Last- Ana weighed less than 4 pounds when she was placed in Donna's arms. She was ashen and close to death due to malnutrition and parasites. The doctors told Donna that she would die within a few hours and that Donna should let her slip away. The words were not meant to be cold or cruel, just words based on scores of past deaths.

With lots of love, attention, and baby formula from South Africa, the tiny infant survived her first months. I didn't see or hold her until she was almost two months old. Even then she looked sickly and very frail, her eyes bulged and she seemed detached. Donna and Hilary continued with her daily care and devotion. Near the end of our first rainy season, Ana went into uncontrollable convulsions. For hours they continued and our doctor friend told Donna that Ana was coming to the end of her time with us.

During the night Donna and Ana fell asleep and I found them in the rocking chair about three in the morning. Donna was sure that Ana had died in the night. She did not and that night God performed a mighty miracle. Ana survived and she began to improve, very slowly and at times three steps forward and two steps back.

As a family we decided that we wanted to have our Ana as part of our family. A long and very painful adoption process began. The people from Ana's village region had never heard of adoption, or even the word. After visits to the village and many tearful nights her father agreed to her adoption. Our hearts rejoiced as we knew Ana would not be taken back to a land devastated by drought and disease.

But, things would not go forward without trauma and tragedy. Donna was attacked and sexually assaulted and our family was under threat during a political charade. The girls were threatened and things fell apart. Ana was progressing well in her physical recovery and that was a bright spot. A month later I was forced to send Donna, Hilary and Ana back to the states. I stayed behind with Marily to finish projects and Ana's adoption.

On a bright morning in March the judge stamped the Zambian Adoption Order and Ana was an official member of our family. Weeks later Marily and I were reunited with our family. Ana continued to progress and we were amazed as we watched her. Her legs had been bent like pretzels, due to the malnutrition. She was a joy to every person who crossed her path. Her bright smile and unrestrained love was enchanting.

Due to the stress we were under we left the ministry and moved to Northern Michigan. Ana attended the country school not far from the house. She began playing basketball with me out on the gravel driveway. She learned to dribble and control the ball on the gravel. Her basketball skills seemed to grow quickly. She began playing youth basketball and I got to coach her team a couple of times. During all of this she studied hard and overcame many obstacles in her education. Her early struggles left her somewhat impaired in reading cognition. Donna and Hilary, again helped her overcome her difficulties.

Move forward with me a few years. We moved to a town close by where I was pastoring a small church. Ana began playing basketball and running track. She studied hard and practiced hard and both payed off. On the track, her once bowed legs, set several sprint and relay records. Her ability to dribble the ball and move fast was noted by every team she played against. More than one coach was overheard telling their players to stop the point guard.

Ana was admitted to the National Honor Society and was named by The Detroit Free Press, as an honorable mention All State Point Guard. She left her high school and moved on to college. This weekend she graduates from college and has a good position waiting for her. Her professors have encouraged her to continue on for her Master's Degree in Public Administration. Her dream, work with third world countries improving living standards.

Miracles Last Forever.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Sustains the Spiritual Universe

The Big Bang theory is by far the most widely accepted theory of the beginning of our universe. Science teaches that before the big event all matter in the universe was condensed down to a single dense mass of energy. At some point in time, approx. 8.4 billion years ago, the mass of energy burst from its restraint. Scientist do not know what caused the restraints to be taken off. As the explosion took place solar systems, stars and planets found their place. The universe continues to expand and move into what must be thought of as, the ends of the universe. Our earth found its place in our solar system, third planet from our sun.

As our planet found its place, it now continues to spin at about one thousand miles per hour on its axis. Which axis is at a twenty three and one half degree angle from true north and south. As the earth moves on the axis it continues to move through the solar system and around the sun at close to six - eight thousand miles per hour. High school science teaches that if any of the above facts were to suddenly change, not seasonal changes, life would be in peril. If the earth was closer to the sun radiation would be devastating. A greater distance from the sun would leave the earth a frozen wasteland.

Most of the facts need not be debated. We are certain of many things such as: The speed of light travels at 186,000 miles per second. It takes sunlight almost eight minutes to reach the earth. Our 24 hour day is because the circumference of the earth is about 24 thousand miles. These facts have not changed and the laws of the universe continue.

We can debate theories, such as the, Big Bang, if we want too. I have no problem with the theory because in my very limited mind and understanding it fits in with Intelligent Design or Creationism. I don't really care how the mass of energy came into being. The how doesn't matter. The power behind the energy and the power that initiated the explosion and expansion must be divine. I say that because there is no rational explanation, or agreed upon scientific theory. What is in existence, and is not explainable by rational thought or scientific theory is miraculous in nature. I know that is quite a statement and some day I may find myself to be wrong. But, until that day, I believe what I believe.

Science explains the how and why of the earth's ability to support life and what might happen if the balances and speeds were to change. I believe that the spiritual balances in the universe are sustained by the God of the Old and New Testament. And central to that sustaining is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The apex of the cross is the axis of spiritual living. All of the calenders in the world either use or at least acknowledge the crucifixion as a pivot point in time keeping. The resurrection and empty tomb are in fact the evidences that all true spiritual life comes from the power that raised Jesus from the dead. His resurrection was not, and is not, a myth. His appearance and post resurrection life events were witnessed by multitudes.

Just as all life might cease to exist if the rotations and distances the earth employees were to be altered, the spiritual life of man would cease if it were not for God, of the Old and New testament and Jesus Christ, the axis of the spiritual world and the Holy Spirit, the quickening power that raised Christ and gives new life to us.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Change on my Blog

Beginning in May I am going to be changing the schedule of blog postings. I will work on one posting a week and make it more concise and substantial. The post will continue to address a couple of questions that friends have suggested. The subjects consist of: Covenants in the Bible, Trusting Counsel and scripture, Universalism, and Conflict in the Church.

I am making this change so I can complete two writing projects that I have ignored for a while. I am going to complete the re-write on my piece, "A Mother's Heart Moved the Hand of God", and a fiction piece, "Liars Lepers and Losers, oops, People Like Us".

I am asking for some of you to pray for me as often as possible. My natural tendency is to procrastinate, an excuse for not dealing with the reality of either success or failure. Once the works are complete I want to make them available to the public, that in itself needs prayer.

The first work is non-fiction about the ravages of disease and poverty in Zambia and the miracle of an adoption in a land where the word was never heard. The story is touching and heart breaking, also it is about political correctness and compromise.

The second work in a fiction piece that centers around people Jesus met in seemingly insignificant circumstances. On the Day of Pentecost there were 120 followers of Jesus waiting on God. We know who 15-20 of these people were. But who do you think the rest of the followers were? I picked characters that had contact with Jesus, mostly minor, and built characters that were transformed by Jesus Christ.

A note: I would love to hear from any readers outside of the U.S.A. I am overjoyed that some of you far outside the US read my blog. Please send me a note using my e-mail noted above. I would love to know how the blog has had an influence.

Blessings to all.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jesus- A Body Without our Limitations

John records the resurrection of Jesus in somewhat different details, remembering one of the main focuses of his writing was to bring to light the error of the gnostic teaching. John gives vivid accounts of Jesus touching people and being touched by people. I mentioned the washing and anointing of his feet as a powerful visual point.

After the resurrection John gives us some details that continue to emphasize his theme of Jesus being the incarnate Christ. At the tomb Jesus appears to Mary, at her moment of recognition she atempts to cling to Jesus and does not want to let him go. She reports to the disciples that Jesus is alive, much to their unbelief. In a manner that is unable to be explained, Jesus appears in the midst of the group. The record of John is that the doors were closed and locked because the disciples were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Obviously, the disciples rejoiced and then believed, all but Thomas, who was missing. Days later Jesus appears in like manner and invites Thomas to touch his scars and believe.

The other occasion that needs discussion takes place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. A few of the disciples fish all night and have nothing to show for their efforts. Jesus was on the shore and instructs the fishermen to cast the nets on the other side of the boat. A great catch fills the net and John recognizes Jesus as the one on the shore. On the beach the men find bread, and fish cooking on an open fire. Jesus breaks bread and fish and the men eat.

Now, some things are beyond explanation. Beyond explanation because our knowledge is limited to what we know of this world and the dimensions that we are bound in. Jesus was in possession of a body that is unlike any other. The post resurrection body was now beyond corruption, decay, any and all influences that might render it weak or susceptible. Yet, he was able to move in and out of our physical reality at will. So, in fact his body did not answer to the physical rules of this world. And again, his body still was in a physical form. He could be touched and held on to, he broke bread and fish and ate breakfast.

It is important at this point, to not discount what we do not understand or can explain. I do not understand microwave technology yet I depend on the microwave. I have no understanding of modern digital electronic technology that our world depends on. I depend on my computer and many other devices, even though I do not understand them.

On the last post I made an error in naming Phillip instead of James as the half-brother of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

God- Comes as Flesh

The follower of Jesus, who came to be known as the, Apostle John, wrote five books that are in the Bible. His writing of the gospel and two of his letters, epistles, speak clearly and explicitly to refute and expose gnosticism. Gnostic thought, in a nutshell was; the material world was not created by God and is evil, the spiritual world is of God. Therefore, Jesus did not come as a physical person, only as a spiritual emanation that was allowed to be seen. They believed that all physical activity of Jesus, as recorded in the gospel accounts, was incorrectly witnessed, or was just the imagery of physical activity. In other words, they did not really see what they really saw.

John goes to great detail in his inclusion of the physical Jesus displaying flesh and blood action, and inter-action, in the society that surrounded him. But, prior to an overview of such detail, we should look at John's description of Jesus himself.

His gospel account and first letter begin by his confession that, the Logos of God, the Word, took on human form. The second person in the Trinity experienced incarnation, became flesh. John tells us that he, among many, saw, listened to, and touched Jesus. And, in turn, witnessed Jesus touch countless people.

John is the most intimate word illustrator of the life of Jesus. His account of Jesus' feet being washed and anointed combines beauty and truth. The act in itself was one of humility and beauty. The truth displayed was profound in that, you can not wash and anoint a spiritual emanation, only real feet attached to a very real Jesus.

A survey of his gospel will show the many instances of his use of physical touch. The miracles John records as well as other activities, point to a very real man and very real God. His eyewitness account of the crucifixion is the only one that details the piercing of the side of Jesus, shortly after his death. The Roman soldiers intended to break his legs, to quicken death, yet found him already dead. To insure that he was dead, a lance was thrust into his side, piercing the pericardium. Blood and water flowed from the wound, giving evidence that Jesus was indeed dead.

John's first letter begins as his gospel account, giving eyewitness testimony to the physical life of Jesus Christ. He tells his readers that he, looked at, listened to, and touched, Jesus Christ, the Anointed Christ, Second Person of the Trinity, Creator of heaven and earth.

Some thoughts will follow concerning John and his account of Jesus after the resurrection.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paradox of the Cross

These days, leading to Good Friday and Easter, the old hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross", is a favorite among congregations. And, I often wonder if we really think about the words of the hymns we sing. I believe that the cross is a paradox. I mean, there is a truth that is either veiled, or easily passed over. We lift our voices and sing, "I will cherish the old rugged cross", "I will cling to the old rugged cross." Do we really mean, cling to the old rugged cross? What about, cherish, do we really, cherish?

There are few objects that I cherish. My girls gave me a carved stone elephant from Zimbabwe, as a birthday present. I cherish that because of my girls. It is something I hold close and it is very personal. A family heirloom, a fine piece of jewelry,these are items people might cherish. To cherish is to hold close, to gaze upon, understand it value and worth, not necessarily monetary worth. To cherish the cross is to get close and personal. Experiencing the value of the cross means you have come close. Close enough to become appalled at the site, the site of blood, discarded clothing and lives.

I used to find it repulsive thinking about clinging to the cross. What person today would want to place their hands, or worse, their arms and chest, against a post used to execute human beings. The upright of the executioners tool was used over and over until it rotted. The blood of countless bodies would have run down the post and become one with the fibers of the wood. To even think of clinging to such a horrific object should be repulsive. Now, add that our faith, our belief in Christ, centers on the cross. Some would think we are rather barbaric.

If you will come close to the cross with me, if you will be open and vulnerable, you will be able to sing the hymn with honesty and an experiential truth. In order to do that we must accept the horror and humiliation of the execution. Denial will cut short the transformation. Jesus Christ, the Begotten of the Father, the Second Person in the Trinity, the Word and character of God in the flesh, was executed at a time and place recorded in history. His death was real and it was his sacrifice for the sin of mankind. Again, look past the scene and believe that his death was for you.

As you are close to the cross, you must listen to the words of Jesus. He speaks words of forgiveness for his executioners. He speaks words of comfort to his mother and a dear friend. A man, hanging by his side hears words of comfort and life as his earthly life slips away. Listen, as he speaks with parched dry lips for a drink. In his final minutes he cries to his father during his darkest hour, life spent, body broken, blood out poured, he utters his final words and dies.

Standing close, the scene of the execution and the words spoken begin to transform sensitive and contrite hearts. The truth of his sacrifice becomes your truth, the truth of redemption's cost becomes your truth. Your spirit begins to understand that what took place was  for you. Soon, the scene of death and horror seems to fade and peace moves in your heart. With the peace comes new vision, a new eyesight that now looks at the cross and rejoices in the beauty.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lunacy or Lordship-Maniac or Messiah

To believe in Jesus as the Christ of God is to believe in his lunacy or lordship, that he is a maniac or the messiah. Jesus made no claim to be anything but, One with the Father, the Christ of God. His words can leave little doubt, "I and the Father are One."

Before looking into more detail about Jesus' self-identity with the Father, what did the people closest to him believe and voice? Let's back up a moment. What about a historical voice first. The Jewish historian, Josephus, places Jesus as a real man, with a recorded birth and life. Now, tradition and history paint a pretty clear picture of Jesus and His followers.

For close to three years a group of men and women followed Jesus from Nazareth. Some of the men who followed him later on became apostles. After a while some of his followers(disciples), left him. Those who stayed witnessed many events that could only be described as miracles. A very accurate account of the miracles, and other events, were recorded. One such record is from a doctor and historian, known as Luke. Three other men also recorded the events that surrounded the life of Jesus. As each man wrote through his own lenses and experience we have a very rich compilation of his life.

Now, after following Jesus on a daily basis, listening to him, watching him, even when there was no big crowd, his strengths and weaknesses would be evident. Because of this close and convincing life-evidence their belief and trust in him was strong and enduring.

At one time Jesus asked Peter what the crowds thought of him and who he was. Peter told Jesus what the crowds said. Jesus, then asked him, "Who do you say that I am?" To this Peter replied, "You are the Christ of God", to which Jesus again replied, "The truth you speak is not from man or the earth".  It should seem evident that these men and women who followed Jesus, even to his death, were absolutely convinced that he was sent from God, the Jewish Messiah. Oh, they disagreed on the implications and goals of his Messiah ship. Their ego and understanding would give them problems until their character transformation took place on Pentecost.

We have the witness of men and women who confessed Jesus as the Christ. Tradition and some historical writings tell of their conviction and trust. The Apostle Peter was crucified by the Romans upside down. Phillip, the half-brother of Jesus, was beaten to death with a club and cast down from a wall. All of the original Apostles, except John, were executed for their faith. Such a fate they could have escaped by renouncing their trust in Jesus Christ. The Apostle John escaped the cauldron, to be banished to the island of Patmos. These, and countless more, faced death because Jesus Christ was, Real God.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Search is On

Do all spiritual roads lead to God? In trying to understand the different religious thought in the world is an impossible task for me. Trying to explain what I think I understand might be like a third or fourth year med student trying to explain the complex makeup of DNA, or an astronomy student explaining the make up of a black hole. The only thing I will attempt is to touch on some basic ideas and teachings of differing faiths and compare them to Judeo-Christian thought. Remembering that the need for faith is based on the experiential recorded in history.

Many of the religious teachings today goes back before Christ. One of the strands that is apparent in the faith blanket is the distinction between the spiritual world and the material world. Much of that thought begins in the Persian Empire and Babylon in particular. The gnostic belief system is very complex with divisions in teaching. The main idea behind the Gnostic's was, material is evil and the spirit is good and is divine. That is a rather simplistic sentence. The gnostic thought the material world was not created by god, but by a lesser being and is corrupt and evil. God created the world of spiritual beings, hence they are good.

Many sources today equate early Christianity with Gnosticism. Such an error is why the Apostle John very explicitly about the physically earthbound life of Jesus during his ministry. The gnostic would have people believe that Jesus was a spiritual emanation from God and not a human being. The implication in this teaching is so far reaching as to negate the very possibility of personal salvation. The teachings on redemption, atonement, in fact the entire Old Testament sacrificial system point to the requirement for the perfect blood sacrifice. Such sacrifice is only to be found in the person of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle john wanted it to be very clear that Jesus was a man that had substance, a body that could be touched, that required rest and nourishment, that, displayed a whole human being. Such teaching from an eyewitness was given to shed the light of truth on the growing acceptance of the Gnostic's.

On of the more remarkable facts in looking at the different faith teachings is their overall acceptance of Jesus Christ. Now, only the Christian faith embraces the Christ of the New Testament and His place in the Triune Godhead. Many teachings in the Eastern Mystical group have given Jesus Christ the title of, Cosmic Christ. In fact the name, Cosmic Christ, is interchanged with, Buddha Nature, with little explanation. It is believed that His emanation moves through the cosmos and enlightens true followers. This idea again is in sharp contrast to New Testament teaching and the witness of millions who have experienced the reality of Jesus Christ.

I know that all of this seems very simplistic, it is. As Jesus seems to be a central figure in almost all faith teachings and systems, He must me examined and understood. Is he the character portrayed in the New Testament, and as foretold in the Old Testament? Now, we are in the midst of a diversity tornado, even concerning Jesus. Mystics talk about Jesus being a cosmic emanation. Hindus and Buddhists have beliefs and teaching about Jesus. Far East teachings place Jesus on the level with their great teachers, such as Confucius. Muslims accept Jesus as on of the great prophets.

It is not my intention to label religious teachings as true or false. There is plenty of incorrect dogma in the Christian Church as well. It is my contention that ALL religious thought and teaching must be examined in the light of who the historical and revealed life of Jesus Christ, the Word and character of the Eternal One.

The following pieces will try to point out truth that will either illuminate Christ as the truth or the biggest hoax and liar pulling the wool over the eyes of mankind.