Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Purposed Death

A seed falls, earth embraces death.
Time passes, earth awakens,
Seed lives, breaks free of earthly mass
Sun, rain, time, generations pass.
Branch, leaf, reach sunward,
Root goes deep, strength to keep.

The axe falls, death comes,
The knife shapes, post becomes.
Sinners hang, blood flows,
God comes, Word grows.
Tide turns, world spurns.

Sinless Word suspended,
Heavens gaze is ended.
Great I AM is blind,
His Logos unable to find.

Purity runs down,
Puddles on the ground.
Scar of axe, knife,
Bring end of strife.

Post with open pore,
Absorbs sin so sore.
Post, thought dead, now lives,
Upward, Sonward, life to give.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lifted Up

Feet near the earth, crowned brow to the skies,
God's arms outstretched, mankind's savior dies.
On the death post, beam,
His precious life blood, does gleam.
Three iron spikes hold in place,
spotless Lamb, now dirty, sacrificial face.
Voice whispering, cracking, groaning,
outpoured life, sinners atoning.
Parched throat, dry lips, mercy please,
Cheap wine on hyssop, Creator they tease.
Deep into heaven does He gaze,
Searching, praying Father, nothing but haze.
Redemption provided, His only cry,
Wounded, bruised head, He bows, He dies.
Cold, hard men, granite like face death,
Watch, remark, Christ of God gasps last breath.
Now, their hearts hard as stone,
Strangely moved, their sin atoned.
For, they have watched countless die,
Limp, lifeless bodies, suspended high.
Men, now close to post, beam,
Ugly truth transformed to beauties gleam.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Comfort Can Kill

All of us like to be comfortable. There is nothing like sinking in to a comfortable chair after a long day. I have to keep my feet up a certain number of hours each day, not that I always do. Some days it is easy to sit with my feet on the footstool. How many of us love to snuggle under the comforter, up to our neck, with the window ushering in the cool night air? Comfort is all around us, even the chair I'm sitting in right now is comfortable. What about our cars? We can drive in perfectly controlled temperatures, in our seat that remembers our weight and position,Ouch. We can talk on the phone and keep our hands on the steering wheel, all while a little box tells us where to turn. Talk about ease and comfort.

What about being comfortable as a follower of Jesus Christ? Is there any room in the discipleship journey for comfort? I guess I would say, yes and no. Yes, there is comfort in Jesus. He gives the purest and most complete peace and comfort available. When our life is hid with Christ in God no power or evil can take that away. Oh, we may misplace it, that is our doing, not His. The peace that fills the heart of the follower of Christ is a peace that the world does not understand. Yes, there is peace and comfort in knowing Christ. Hebrews tells us there is a rest for the Children of God.

No, there is no comfort in being a follower of Jesus. No comfort in that I can sit back and tell people and myself that my work is done. There is no retirement in following Christ. The Discipleship Union does not have a thirty and out option. We are placed upon the earth to do the work of God, with the Power of God, until we meet God. Our circumstances have little to do with serving and living for God. I know a man who suffered a serious stroke who still served God in every way possible.

So, what are we, you, waiting for? I have talked about the need for Transformational Love and the spiritual blocks to that love. Blocks such as fear, prejudice, pride, money, envy, social pressures, all can keep us from loving in a powerful way, the way Jesus loved. Ask God to forgive the sins of the spirit, ask Him to fill your heart with His all consuming transforming love. Begin to live in the answer to prayer. Look at people through different eyes. look at people the way God does. Don't see people that you like and people that you do not like. Look at people as living souls who face life just like you do, except they do not have the Christ in their life like you do.

What would it take for you to really come out of your own security and comfort zone? Would you visit with a dying patient in a care home? How about becoming friends with a homeless man, the old man who walks down the street collecting bottles and cans so he can buy a pack of smokes. The unlovable are all around us. Some of them are so beaten down they will never look you in the eyes. You will need to address them, put your arm around them, shake their hand. Speak to them like a person with dignity and respect.

Go for it. Try it, you might be the person to change a life.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Count the Cost and then Forget It

There is a cost involved in being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus told us that we must count the cost of following Him. He knew that once we took His namesake many things would change. Many people have dealt with tremendous stress and persecution following Christ. I have known children who have been considered as dead by parents because their child wanted to live as a Christian. Young people face persecution from peers because they are, "Jesus Freaks". Some words from Jesus seem stern in regards to following Him. He told His followers that if they began to plow a field and stopped in the middle they weren't fit for discipleship. He told them that they should let the dead bury their dead and they should turn and follow Him. Pretty tough words coming from a gentle man. He knew what it would take to follow Him, in actions, not just words.

Once you and I count the cost, and make the commitment, to follow after, and model the life of Jesus Christ, we must forget about the cost. In the life of God-centered living this is not a contradiction. In fact it is the perfectly normal response. When the life of God through Jesus Christ is being lived out through me the cost doesn't really come into question. How much am I willing spend in energy, tears, prayer, caring, time, money to impact the world around me for the Kingdom of God. If it is really God's life in me, there is no maximum cost. One of my favorite hymns, by General Albert Orsborn, states, "My life must be Christ's broken bread, my love His outpoured wine. A cup ore filled, a table spread, beneath His name and sign. That other souls, refreshed and fed may share His life through mine."

History records a few followers of Christ who were shining examples of Transformational Loving, not counting the cost. Two deserve mention simply because we recognize their names so easily, Saint Francis and Mother Theresa. It is easy to recognize that they did not count the cost of displaying Transformational Love. Their entire lives are remembered as, Out Poured Wine and Broken Bread.

Today, when followers of Christ love in a way that is transformational, they do not consider the color of skin, the length of time a person in need has been without a bath, how the single pregnant girl found herself in need. Social status and pride nauseate God, especially from people who claim to be followers of His Son. Those who follow the Master recognize themselves in every person in need. In the quietness of their heart they confess their own need and unworthiness. Charles Sheldon's book, In His Steps, is a classic in respect to those who begin to take following Christ in transformational ways. Men and women begin asking hard questions in regards to their business dealings, social standing and prejudices. The very popular, WWJD, is taken directly from Sheldon's work.

Transformational Love can change the world. But it must begin with me.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Only Source of Love that Transforms

It takes courage to take spiritual inventory. Looking in the mirror that reflects an accurate picture of how you are living in light of God's truth can be tough. God wants you to know how you are doing. Remember that He will never reject you or cast you aside. His truth is meant to help and encourage us.

After we have been brave enough to admit and confront the spiritual hindrances that keep us from displaying transformational love, we must look to the source of that love. As the issues that impede us are spiritual they must be dealt with in the spiritual realm. Confession and repentance are not welcome nor are they common practices in the life of many churches today. But, they are serious matters that must be dealt with in the manner God sets forth. The writer of Chronicles states it pretty plainly, "If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." So then, it is plain that God wants to heal His people and His land, transforming society.

In this time of Covid many people are afraid. They are afraid for their life and the lives of their loved ones. Their fear can certainly lead to insecurity. We fear the unknown and what might be lurking behind the proverbial corner. The questions arise. Does God really care? Does God know what is going on? Our souls must be able to resound with, yes He knows, yes He cares.

Added to this time of illness and questioning is the madness and violence overtaking the country. Violence has led to the killing of innocent people and those who took an oath to protect us. Lies have turned to truth and foundational truth has been spit upon.

One might ask if we are reaping what we have sown. We have certainly allowed the moral fabric that held us together to be weakened and shredded. Allowing 60 million infants to be sacrificed on the altar of liberal politics and thought has certainly had an impact upon the Almighty and how favorable He looks upon us.

Repenting and seeking forgiveness is the soul cleansing priority of each follower of Christ. As we draw close to Him, He will always draw close to us. When Moses came down from the mountain after meeting with God he was transformed and glowing. People know when a follower of Christ is spending time with his God, it is evident, it shows in their actions, words, and essence. Communion with God magnetizes the one communing, drawing people, as the Holy Spirit has been leading the one in need.

Open yourself to the transforming movement of God, draw close to Him in prayer, confession, praise and begging Him to use you as a source of transforming love. Do not fret about how God will do it, or what might happen, He will empower you to shine and He will bring people across your path that are hungry and thirsty for the real experience with God through Jesus Christ. An old chorus comes to mind, the author escapes me. "Swing wide the door of your heart to the King of Kings, bid Him enter for wonderful peace He brings. He will shelter you under His outstretched wings. Swing wide the door of your heart to the King of Kings."

Jesus told us that we would be the light of the world, a city set on a hill. It will not be our dogma, doctrine, creeds, hymns, nor our knowledge of God that will transform people. It always has been and will continue to be, followers of Christ who have a personal experience with Transforming Love.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Transforming Love

Jesus told us that the world would know we are His followers by the way we treated each other and our neighbors. His message was different than any other before him. He knew that people would have to see the difference in the lives of those who said they followed him. Talk is cheap and the religious people of his day did a lot of talking about being righteous. Their talk did not fool anybody. The common people knew the religious leaders were corrupt and made themselves rich off the backs of the common. Their hypocrisy made them impotent in any type of modeling the message of God, excepting the separation issue. In the O.T God seemed distant and judgemental. Generations could pass without a fresh voice and message from, The Great I Am. The religious leaders were distant and out of touch.

Jesus demonstrated the character of His Father. The way He interacted with society was transformational. He willingly placed his hand on the leper, becoming unclean himself. He knew the life of the leper was more important than misunderstood and misused commandments. The demonstration of divine love divided the onlookers. Jesus seemed to do that. Another occasion of note was when Jesus defended the woman caught in adultery. The question was not her guilt. The point was the self righteous attitude and actions of the men who were ready to stone her. His words cut to the heart of the men with stones in their hands. Beginning with the most aged and experienced, they dropped their weapons. I wondered at times if some of the men wanted her dead because she knew them. Alone with the woman Jesus, didn't let her get off free. In a conversation between sinner and savior, He told her to go her way and, sin no more.

Love that transforms the recipient is in desperate need today. There are millions more people in the world today who need to be touched by love than even in the days of Jesus. Now, most of us, myself and readers, really believe we love people the way Christ desired. Many of do indeed love in that degree. I want to tell you what I think we need to know and experience to really display transformational love.

Understand and admit what hinders us. There may be many barriers that hinder us from loving in a transformational way. I will name just a few and expand upon them later. Fear can be a powerful barrier to loving people in a way that transforms. Fear cripples the soul and spirit. It can be like a force that freezes the willingness to do. Prejudice is another force that hinders. Prejudice that comes from ignorance is much easier to overcome than prejudice that is taught and then practiced. Active prejudice must be dealt with strong teaching and a receptive heart. Another hindrance is social standing. Some people simply think they are better than other members of the world. Oh, they won't tell you that they are above or better, but anybody can tell. A Christian caught in this trap of selfrighteousness and pride can be the most difficult follower to empower with transformational love. Hypocrisy seldom views itself in a clear mirror.

The next post will continue to explain my view on spiritual hinderences to loving in a transforming way. I will conclude with thoughts on how we can overcome barriers and that non of us are totally innocent.