..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Making It Through the Fire

Heaven will be where no heretic
will bellow, no schismatic cause
dissension, where all will be of
one heart, where peace will abound."
- St Augustine

When we think of heaven we always seem
to make statements like Augustine's. Wow,
we are really expecting a lot
aren't we?  The human heart longs
for this sublime state in the Kingdom
to come.  And no doubt, Scripture
tells us that the kingdom of
heaven will be ruled happily by
God in peace and righteousness and
that His Kingdom will have no end!

But somehow I was having a hard
time wrapping my head around
how we can all live together
happily and in peace eternally
when now barely one Christian can
seem to live in peace with any other
given Christian, never mind all the
redeemed that ever were and ever will
be. And God, too!

I could feel God watching me think
about this and I kind of heard
inside, "It will all be burned away."
Yikes, "What will all be burned away?"

"Everything that is not of My Spirit."

Wow, I suddenly had the clear impression
of what would make it to the next world
and what wouldn't.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul talks about this
whole subject, but notice that he talks
about it in the context of division in
the Body of Christ.

1 And I, brethren, could not speak to
you as to spiritual people but as to
carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I
fed you with milk and not with solid
food; for until now you were not able
to receive it, and even now you are
still not able; 3 for you are still
carnal. For where there are envy,
strife, and divisions among you,
are you not carnal and behaving like
mere men? 4 For when one says,
“I am of Paul,” and another,
“I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?

9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you
are God’s field, you are God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God which
was given to me, as a wise master
builder I have laid the foundation,
and another builds on it. But let each
one take heed how he builds on it.

11 For no other foundation can anyone
lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with
gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

13 each one’s work will become clear; for the
Day will declare it, because it will be revealed
by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work,
of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which
he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss;
but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

In God's kingdom everything is built in accordance
with Christ and for the unity of His Body. When
an enemy is truly defeated it is not just the temporary
loss from a single battle that brings victory but the
undoing of the enemy to work any further mayhem.

His weapons are destroyed, his war stores decimated,
his war items dismantled. Here in First Corinthians,
 Paul says a great fire is coming to each of us
and everything that is not of God will burn up.
We who are Christ's,  will make it through the
fire, in varying states of  loss, but alive to God.

 Dear Ones, prepare to look and
be different. God doesnt throw us away when
moth and bug have eaten us nearly to death.
But in order to get rid of the moth and bug the
fire will burn out everything that pertains to it
so that it does not REINFEST! 

Our Enemy will be destroyed, but so will
all his work within us, and his ability to
do more damage. Sadly, we have become
so identified with the enemy's work within
us that it seems to actually be part of us.
But it is not. It will be separated out.
The true part of you that is born of
God is incorruptible. But the rest is
going to need an EXTRME makeover.

So, most likely, most of us will need some
heavenly restoration from the Master Carpenter
when we come through that Final Fire.
Just like a man in the war may lose
two legs and and arm but still be alive.

I do not mean our physical bodies of
course, nor do I mean that our spiritual
bodies, of double course. But that which
remains will need to grow fully into
what it was really meant to be. You will
grow into what you were really meant
to be. Some of us will be really starting from
little more than scratch. What I do mean is
 that if there is much of us that has  identified with
an old regime, prepare to violently part
ways with it.

In our old lives, and sadly even as Christians,
negative or even sinful attitudes and thought
patterns actually defined who we were. Although
God has made provision for it to be otherwise
I am not sure that many of us have availed
ourselves of that provision. And so we will
suffer, more profoundly, the effects of the fire.

I can hear you saying, "But Paul is really
talking about things we do for God, our
works. The fire wont touch me, it will
just judge my works." Well, the verse doesn't
really say that that the fire wont touch you,
it only says it won't destroy you. Bad works
come from a bad place inside that
also needs to be dealt with.

Speaking of fire,  James said
"the tongue also is a fire, a world of evil
among the body, it corrupts the whole
person and sets the whole course of
his life on fire, and is itself set on fire
by hell" (James 3:6).This is where he
asks if a a tree can produce both
good and bad fruit or a brook both
salt and fresh water.  It gets kind of
hard to separate the source from what
the source produces.  Only God can
do that.

Ah, but let's look at something else just
for a moment, the words of John
the Baptist as he describes the person
and work of  Jesus (Matthew 3):
"And now also the axe is laid unto the root
of the trees: therefore every tree which
bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down,
and cast into the fire.

11I indeed baptize you with water unto
repentance. but he that cometh after me
is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not
worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with
the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

12Whose fan is in his hand, and he will
throughly purge his floor, and gather his
wheat into the garner; but he will burn up
the chaff with unquenchable fire.

John the Baptist promises us that Jesus
will baptize us with the Holy Ghost and
with fire. Now I have heard thousands,
of sermons on this  and largely the fire
part  is either ignored or romanticized.
Its made to sound like you are going
to have a rolicking spiritual experience
(Lord, send the fire!) and then I will
 just go home and feel good and be
the same partially converted person I was.
Not so, my friends.

Jesus knew that this would happen, for right
after this, his disciples say that they are ready
for such a baptism of fire and basically Jesus said,
"Oh, its indeed coming" but insinuates they
have no clue as to what it will be like and
that particular passage only  seems to pertain
to their earthly troubles and death!  (Mark 10: 38-45)
Its very human to think that all the change
will happen mystically out there somewhere
or in the heart of my poor neighbor who
isn't as spiritual as I am. Not so, my friends.
Not so. Much will happen in the twinkling
of an eye. But maybe not what or how you
and I think for its exactly what and how you
and I think that is the problem .

And  sometimes a twinkling of an eye
can last a long times when its extremely
hot! Study to show yourself approved of God.
We have been taught many misconceptions
that effect how we live our daily lives.
In all of us are elements of the schismatic
and the heretic that Augustine knows have
no part in the world to come. We aren't
going to look like we do now. Just get
used to it. But we can start the process
of damage control. So you better buckle your
seatbelts and get down to seeking God
here and now for That Day is surely
coming and no-one escapes intact.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Now since our eternal state is as certainly ours, as our
present state; since we are as certainly to live for ever,
as we now live at all; it is plain, that we cannot judge
of the value of any particular time, as to us, but by
comparing it to that eternal duration, for which we are created.

... William Law (1686-1761), A Serious Call
to a Devout and Holy Life [1728], London:
Methuen, 1899, p. 226

photo taken from Castlerigg, Lake District UK

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.

... Edwin Hubbel Chapin (1814-1880)

photo taken at Lake Windermere,
Cumbria, UK

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Characteristics of the Kingdom

When Christians join together to accomplish
certain things, one may expect the organizations
they form to reflect the characteristics of the
Kingdom, but that will only happen as a
consequence of the way people live and relate
to each other in Christ. It will not necessarily
follow from structures, policies, or documents.

-- Graeme Irvine, former president, World Vision

photo taken in Glencoe, Scotland

Sunday, July 18, 2010

T. Austin Sparks on Listening to the Lord

He who is able to hear, let him listen to and heed what the Holy Spirit says... (Revelation 3:22).

The man or woman who has no inner ear,
no inner silence, no inner place for
hearing the Lord is never going to be
of much use in the service of the Lord,
and mark you, it must be the Lord, and
we must be very careful that we do not
give even good men and good writers the
place that the Lord ought to have.

There is a time when we must sweep
our books aside, when we must shut
ourselves up from the voices of
men, when we must get quiet with the
Lord and listen, and more, we must
seek to cultivate, by the grace of
God, the ear that is always open to
the Lord even when all the other
sounds are around us.

It is difficult, yet not impossible,
that in the raging of the street and
the rush of business life the Lord
should say something; but He will
only speak to those who recognise the
value of listening to the Lord and who
are giving Him His place of silence
to speak when possible. The ear to
hear the Lord when all other sounds
and voices are around us is prepared
and trained in these times of detachment
which the Lord demands, and against which the
devil is eternally active to capture the ear again.

Now, that is elementary (we are not seeking to
be profound), but tremendously important. You
and I know, never mind how spiritually mature
we are - the one object of the devil is to capture
our ear from God, to make it impossible for us
to have the silent hour and the silent ear for God.

The pressing in, and all the things which happen
just when you have decided to have a little quiet
time; then it is you have to fight for the ear - you
know it is true. Do you see, there is something
bound up with that; the undoing of the work of
the devil, the registration of God's mind upon this
universe, everything which is meant by priestly
ministry, which is bringing God in, is bound up
with this: God having the ear.

T. Austin-Sparks,
"The Service and Servant of the Lord

photo taken at Monsal Dale, Derbyshire, UK

Friday, July 16, 2010

Blessed are they who observe his decrees, who seek him with all their heart.

With all my heart I seek you;
let me not stray from your commands.

My soul is consumed with longing
for your ordinances at all times.

The way of truth I have chosen;
I have set your ordinances before me.

Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your justice give me life.

I gasp with open mouth
in my yearning for your commands.

(Ps 119:2, 10, 20, 30, 40, 131;)

photo taken on Cammo Walk, North Edinburgh, Scotland

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Galilean Rising Up

I am just having a sense that God is getting ready
to rise up. God is known in both His strength
and His gentleness, known as both Lion and Lamb.
There are the strong risings of God which shake
the earth, and the still whispers of God that
split atoms. As C.S. Lewis wrote of
Aslan, "He is not a tame Lion"....

As I sit here feeling this impression I think fondly
of the large, powerful dogs that have graced my
life: Zoe, Fran, Patches. One of the things I grew
to love about all of them was the way they held
their tremendous strength. They were all known
for taking stuffed toys in their mouth, and in that terrier
way, shake their heads wildly from side to side
with big dog "grins" on their faces as the stuffing
would fly out in all directions. Right now I
can feel God looking at me with that same
kind of grin. :) I don't find that disconcerting
at all. I could do with a good shake in His
 mouth right now. Let all the stuff that is not
secured down fall out!

And now I come upon this quote from H.G. Wells,

He was too great for his disciples. And in view
of what he plainly said, is it any wonder that all who
were rich and prosperous felt a horror of strange
 things, a swimming of their world at his teaching?

Perhaps the priests and the rich men understood him
better than his followers. He was dragging out all
the little private reservations they had made from
 social service into the light of a universal religious
life. He was like some terrible moral huntsman
digging mankind out of the snug burrows in which
they had lived hitherto.

In the white blaze of this kingdom of his there
was to be no property, no privilege, no pride and
precedence; no motive indeed and no reward but
love. Is it any wonder that men were dazzled and
blinded and cried out against him?

Even his disciples cried out when he would not
spare them  the light. Is it any wonder that the
priests realized that between this man and
themselves there was no choice but that he or
priestcraft should perish?

Is it any wonder that the Roman soldiers,
confronted and amazed by something soaring over
their comprehension and threatening all their
discipline, should take refuge in wild laughter, and
crown him with thorns and robe him in purple and
make a mock Caesar of him? For to take him
seriously was to enter upon a strange and alarming
life, to abandon habits, to control instincts and
impulses, to essay an incredible happiness...

Is it any wonder that to this day this Galilean is
too much for our small hearts?

If there ever was a time for God to rise up and
be bigger than us it is now. If ever we needed
Him to dig us out of our "private reservations" and
our "snug burrows" it is now. If ever we need to
embark upon a strange and alarming life,
abandon our habits, control our instincts and
impulses, and give essay to incredible happiness,
now is the time.

Let the Galilean rise up and be too much for us.

quote taken from H. G. Wells (1866-1946),
The Outline of History, v. II
1920], The Review of Reviews Co., 1922, p. 598-599

The Pearl of Great Price: Have You Tasted God's Kingdom?

I have felt led to engage upon a time of
spiritual inventory in my own life and
to implore those around me to do likewise,
but even as I begin to do this, I feel
an equally large caution within to not
undertake this as a checklist of things
that I should be doing more or less of,
depending on if they are vice or virtue.
All that feels so repugnant and I was
wondering why. I think I know why.

I am reading Gerhard Lohfink's  "Jesus
and Community"
and it striking such
deep chords within that I can't put it
down. I'm going to be writing a few articles
quoting some of what he says because it
is so rich and timely, and using it as
a challenge to the way we think about
how and why we serve God and engage
in spiritual disciplines.

He makes the most amazing point: that
the "reign of God which is now coming
to the world, which is actually in its
midst, is so appealing and fascinating
that it is not at all difficult to change
one's life and to live from now on
enthralled by what has been found
(J & C, pg 60).

Somehow, it is that point that I feel
that we so desperately miss when we
view and review our Christian life.
Jesus does not call us to live just
a disciplined life according to a
set of high standards. He calls us
to live a humanly impossible life
in the company of His kingdom people
ON EARTH. It is a life of complete
abandonment to God not in a
restrictive sense, but in a
discovery of what freedom in
God's life and kingdom is really
all about. Jesus tells us this
in the parable of the buried
treasure and the parable
of the pearl:

"The kingdom of heaven is like a
buried treasure which a man found
in a field. He hid it again, and
REJOICING at his find, went and
sold all that he had and bought
the field"
. Or again, "the kingdom
of heaven is like a merchant's
search for fine pearls. When he
found one really valuable pearl,
he went back and put up for sale
all that he had and bought it."

Lohfink notes that nothing in
these parables seems grim or
heroic. "The men do give up
everything and act in a radical
manner, but they do so without
bitterness or heroism, They behave
like men who have made a great
discovery and have had extraordinary
luck in doing so. The attraction

of what they have found overwhelms
them and permeates everything they do
(J&C,pg 60)

In other words, they are happier
than the "American Pickers" when they
find a junkyard of rusted vintage
signs and old motorcycles. It would
be like me going to an estate sale
and finding the whole house full
of every wonderful vintage item
I had ever hoped to find all
in the same place all marked "Free
if you take everything". My heart
would be racing and my joy would
be great! I'd be all over that!

Let me hammer the punchline now, "Do
you feel that kind of happiness
about your spiritual life?" I dare
to say that you might not. And
this is one of the great differences
between the early followers of Jesus and
us. We do not have that same fire
in our bones. We do not
recognize how full of ecstasy (even
with untold persecution) living
in the kingdom of God is because
we have not tasted it properly.

Somehow, the kingdom of God
has gotten equated with a bunch
of rules and regimens and not
about the discovery of God's
"unspeakable gift" in the kingdom
of Christ. Ah, but I see you asking,
"if I have never really tasted that
kingdom, how can I know that
kind of desire for it?"

Well, now we will see what you
are made of! That revelation must
come from God!  I ask you to prayerfully read
the gospels and ask God to reveal
His kingdom to you: a kingdom
built on love so selfless that human
hands cannot simulate it, a kingdom
of such brotherly and sisterly
affection that living and dying for one another
is an honor! Read the gospels in
the light of seeing what impelled
the early disciples to do what they
did joyfully and whole-heartedly

Brothers and sisters,
have you ever felt His Kingdom burning in
your heart? If you have than there is
enough fuel there for you to walk in
a heavenly life right here on earth.
A life that throws religious caution to the wind,
and makes total abandonment of every
lesser thing easy.

There is a pearl of great price, and 
field with a great treasure hid right
there where you are sitting. You ignore it at
your own sad loss and peril. There is
some chance that, even as a Christian,
you have never really experienced even
a glimpse of what Jesus
wants to hold out to us as His family.

You may have heard what you think is the
message; you may have heard
and not understood. You will
know how deeply you have heard
the message by how much joy
wells up in your heart when you think
of it, and how much you are willing
to let go of to keep it! Start your
spiritual inventory there!

What God's kingdom is really about
makes that choice a no-brainer and
a full-hearter! I need to get back
to this place in my heart and sit
with it.  I think Jesus calls it "First Love."
Its affect is amazing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

See that you buy the field where the Pearl is; sell all,
and make a purchase of salvation. Think it not easy:
for it is a steep ascent to eternal glory: many are lying
dead by the way, slain with security.”

--Samuel Rutherford

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and
rivers, the mountain and the sea, are
excellent schoolmasters, and teach some
of us more than we can ever learn from books

--John Lubbock

photo taken at Wast Water, Cumbria, UK

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly,
assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all
patiently, defends courageously, and continues
a friend unchangeably.
~William Penn

photo taken in the Lake District, UK

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Long did I toil, and knew no earthly rest,
Far did I rove, and found no certain home;
At last I sought them in His sheltering breast,
Who opens His arms and bids the weary come:
With Him I found a home, a rest divine,
And I since then am His, and He is mine.

photo taken in the Lake District, England

Saturday, July 03, 2010

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went,
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and ah! bright wings.

... Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889
photo of Lake Windermere, Ambleside, UK

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Prayer of St. Brendan

Help me to journey beyond the familiar into the unknown.

Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.

Christ of the mysteries, I trust You
to be stronger than each storm within me.
I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times, even now, are in Your hand.

Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,
and somehow, make my obedience count
for You.

--Prayer of St. Brendan

photo taken in Cambridge, UK

Thursday, July 01, 2010

For God, who commanded the light
to shine out of darkness, has shined
 in our hearts, to give the light of
the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Jesus Christ.

--2 Corinthians 4:6

photo taken at Lake Windermere, Ambleside, UK