A Savage Grace

Daily Post: Savage

savage

No one seems to believe me.  He showed up like the tender new bloom on a very old plant.  He wasn’t handsome like some others, so we ignored him completely.  It’s not like he was royalty, or held some olympian quality, that somehow we would be drawn to him, or attracted to him.  In fact it seems his destiny was to be betrayed and hated.  His whole life would be associated with pain, and grief; and because of this, most people just turned away, not even willing to show their face in his direction.  The majority despised him, rather than value him.

Yet, here’s the thing.  He took on himself every pain, grief, hurt, or curse we ever have, or ever will face.  In doing this, the people saw him as cursed by God.  When the spear pierced his side, it was for our sins, all of us.  When the full crushing weight of judgment came upon him it was for our iniquities.  The full punishment, which brutally tore the flesh from his bones, was given so that we might be healed.

The world turned away then, and has not turned back since.  And God put the consequences of all this turning away, on him.  What was his response?

Cruelly and sadistically beaten he didn’t open his mouth once.  It was like watching a small sheep being led to the butcher’s slaughter house.  He was taken outside the city walls and treated like a murderer or thief.  As a result many judged him harshly, assuming him to be cut off from everyone and everything. When he finally died, he was supposed to be thrown onto the burning heat of Gehenna with the two other criminals who died that day.  Instead, a rich man saw fit to put him in a private tomb, because in his estimation the supposed criminal was neither violent nor deceitful.

The ancient prophet said that God was pleased to crush him this way, to cause this grief.  God was pleased?  Yes, because it was the man’s own choice to suffer in this way.  The man chose to die as a substitute, and in this way, (according to the prophet), establish his offspring, prolong his days, and realize prosperity from God’s own hand.  Illogical, or counter-intuitive as it sounds, unpredictable as it may have been, the results are stated clearly.

Through this savage grace the man will see the promises fulfilled, and he will be satisfied.  God knew it ahead of time, because of this one, God’s Servant, many will be justified and redeemed because this Servant took their sin on himself .

How does this story end?

Because he died, because he gave himself in this way, because he “bore the sin of many and interceded for the transgressors,” God’s savage grace is complete.

This is a true story, written some 400 years before the events took place.  Isaiah was used by God in an amazing way.  The overwhelming truth of the matter is how God inspired Isaiah to write with such accuracy about the purpose of Jesus Christ coming to earth in the first place.  Such a rich and ferocious look into the love of God, demonstrated in His Son,  is found in Isaiah 53.

Do yourself a favor and read it all, the whole thing, for yourself.  It won’t take you but a few minutes.  Even with a cursory reading, quick and without studying any particular verse, you should be able to see yourself in the story.

You … are why He came.  And it is a savage grace.

 

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Exposé of Truth

Exposed

expose

Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore were cast as Marines involved in a dramatic courtroom thriller in 1992 called “A Few Good Men.”  One scene stands out, used over the last 25 years in various ways as an example of what happens when someone tries to expose the truth.  Col. Jessup (Nicholson) screams (in this picture above) at Lt. Kaffee (Cruise) from the witness stand, “You can’t handle the truth!!!”

Which as you’ve guessed by now, is sad but true for many people today.  The truth is that Trump had to learn the hard way just how difficult a job it is to be President.  The truth is that Hillary was so in her head, out of touch with real people with real jobs, that she thought she had the election in the bag.  She’s still in denial about why she lost out on her life dream.  She can’t handle the truth.

The sad fact exposed in the news everyday,  is that more and more people around the globe are being sucked into the destructive patterns of Satan’s deceit.  World religions gain in popularity while Christianity continues to decline and face persecution around the globe, in ways we can’t even imagine in this country.  The rise of ecumenicalism is the demise of evangelical influence in the tiny towns of the plains, the villages in the mountains, and city to city, from coast to coast.  It’s Sunday, and folks will be gathering for worship.  But what will they hear from the pulpit?

Many will hear 10 minute homilies, written to address some social ill.  Many will hear a 45 minute diatribe with material that repeats every 15 minutes.  Many will hear what may sound like the truth, but really is a deceptively cunning twist and perversion of what God’s word really says.  And in those few congregations where there is still a pastor who believes in the inerrancy of God’s Word, folks will hear the truth.  They will hear exactly what God wants them to hear.  But the question remains, “Can they handle it?”

Better still, what will they do with it?

The truth of God’s word is not just some comfortable blanket you wrap yourself in when you’re feeling cold and isolated by the world.  It is not just a fan you turn on to blow when the heat of the world’s hate becomes too much to handle.  The truth of God’s word is a SWORD.  More often than not when we read it, and listen to it, and understand it’s talking to me personally, we are so struck by what we read, the word’s of the movie seem true… you can’t handle the truth!

By now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I have a favorite verse, and I use it often.  It is most fitting to use again as a superior example of what I’m writing today.  There is a singular statement that defines Jesus as God, in a way that no other religious deity or leader has ever stated.  It comes from God’s Word, written by the apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit.  This makes it truth.

John 14:6
Jesus said to him (Thomas),
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Millions in this world today deny this truth.  Millions in this world are vehemently crying out about the exclusiveness of this verse, in a world who’s current buzzword is inclusiveness.  That’s the heart of the ecumenical movement.  They say, “Oh, we’ll all get to heaven; we just take different routes, enter through different doors.”  However, this simply doesn’t match what God’s word says.  They can’t handle the truth.  There is only one door, only one gate, … and only one WAY.

This is my “Exposé of Truth” – John 14:6.

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50 Shades of Truth

via Nuance

nuance

The now famous quote of Alan Greenspan is the perfect example of nuance in spoken communications.  “I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”  For those not familiar with Alan Greenspan, he is an economist who from 1987 to 2006 was chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve of the United States. Now he works in the private sector giving advice, making speeches, and consulting through Greenspan Associates LLC.

The subtle differences in inferences, implications, insinuations, intimations, and indications also speak of the nuances of our English language.  When someone says, “Just say what you mean,” it is a request for honest, truthful verbal expression of state of mind or intention.  But “meaning what you say” is about that person matching their subsequent behavior or action in ways that are consistent with what was said.  Nuance.

Robert K. Merton is credited with naming and popularizing the “law of unintended consequences.”  He says we act, determined to accomplish certain purposes, but there are often results that we did not anticipate that happen as well – unintended consequences. Nuance in our speech often has this same net effect or result. When we look for biblical models, we don’t have to look very far.

In the eighth chapter of John, after Jesus forgives an adulterous woman, John records a lengthly conversation about truth and freedom.  In the crowd that had gathered, there were those who believed in Him.  So Jesus said to these believing Jews, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples.  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Which was immediately perceived as a poke at their Roman servitude. So the crowd responds, “We are descendants of Abraham, and we have never been enslaved to anyone.  How can you say, ‘You will become free.’” Clearly these men needed another history lesson of the Hebrew people.

Here comes the nuance of the conversation: Jesus was speaking of spiritual truth, and they were hearing in literal worldview terminology.  The consequence: while the word “believe” in verse 30 might imply “faith,” the nature and context of the dialogue insists “believe” is better translated “intellectual understanding” not saving faith.  This becomes crystal clear in the ensuing conversation.

Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.  A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever.Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.  I know you are descendants of Abraham, but you are trying to kill Me because My word is not welcome among you. I speak what I have seen in the presence of the Father; therefore, you do what you have heard from your father.

They replied, “Our father is Abraham!

Jesus told them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did. But now you are trying to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do this!  You’re doing what your father does.

They replied, “We have one Father – God.

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, because I came from God and I am here. For I didn’t come on My own, but He sent Me. Why don’t you understand what I say? Because you cannot listen to My word. You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Who among you can convict Me of sin? If I tell the truth, why don’t you believe Me? The one who is from God listens to God’s words. This is why you don’t listen, because you are not from God.

At the end of this conversation, John says they picked up stones to throw at Him.
[John 8:30-59]

How does this apply today?  The subtle shift in spiritual thinking today is found when liberal theologians, pastors, and bible teachers compromise the Word of God by twisting the words to imply or insinuate something God would never say.  The Bible speaks literally regarding truth, it doesn’t have 50 shades of truth.  It is a guidebook and an answer book for those who seek truth.  Those who seek to rationalize their behavior, actions or words, will always find a way like these Pharisees, to argue with God Himself about what truth is.  Most of the time, those who do this are thinking with worldly minds instead of transformed spiritual minds.  That’s why the apostle Paul gave these instructions:

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

The truth is the truth.  There is no nuance with truth.

Criticize?

via Criticize

It’s always easy to criticize.  Think about it.  When I use myself as the measuring standard, there will always be other people, in my opinion, who fall way short.  The result of this basic human tendency is criticism.  The issue then becomes, “who gets to set the standard by which all human action or attitude should be measured?”  Spiritually-minded people are at least open to the idea that they, themselves, are not the center of the universe.  However, I know a lot of “spiritually-minded” people who are also very critical of others, which causes me a great deal of consternation.  I don’t really understand their judgmental attitudes, if they consider Jesus’ words as the standard for living.

Matthew 7:1
Do not judge so that you will not be judged.

The world at large, and our nation in particular, has become attuned to the conflict stemming from unsolicited criticism.  The layers of vehemence originating in tweets, posts, emails, and the media, are so enormous it’s no wonder our folks are divided.  I’m trying hard to tune it all out.  But if you watch any television at all, if you’re on FaceBook, Twitter, or the plethora of social media streams out there, it is virtually impossible not to be caught up in the undertow of nonsense.  We’ve created a monster, it’s name is: Criticism.

Everyone and their dog seems to think it’s ok just to shove those words right down our throats, using every foul-mouthed verb in the book, and condemn us if we don’t agree with their ideologies.  Nobody is exempt.  If the revered position of President of the United States, can be the target of unfounded criticism from the uninformed masses, who can be exempt?  It’s not really much different than in Jerusalem of the 1st century.

The group responsible for the spiritual leadership in Israel were called priests. The head guy was called the high priest.  The majority of this group held the position that Jesus Christ was a false teacher, a heretic, dangerous, and should be killed.  While Donald Trump is certainly not Jesus Christ, today he faces this same attitude (and danger) from people who have bought into the lies of the media, and the Democratic Party.  Without doubt, those so highly critical often believe their own twisted logic so much, that they will do virtually anything in their power, to get their own way.  Criticism is just the beginning.

When the lust for power becomes so strong that it moves from influencing our thoughts, to motivating our actions, somebodies death is almost a certainty.  The Bible speaks clearly on this matter.

James 1:15
Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Those with the strongest voices of outrageous criticism today find no value in the Word of God.  This is clear from their voices, actions, and goals.  This reality makes the words of James even more tragic.  Because in this sense, while they lust for power, these lust motives give birth to actions of sin (falling short of God’s standard), resulting in their own spiritual death because they have rejected God, His Son, and His Word.

 

Am I being too critical here?  You can decide for yourself.  That’s what this blog is all about. I seek to stimulate thinking, and urge you to seek God’s direction while sorting through the mess we have become in this country.

You may know me…

via Recognize

… But you have no idea who I am.

I came across this image a couple of years ago, and it was one of those light-bulb moments.  Epiphany is such a life changing experience most of the time. It was evident and crystal clear that I was surrounded by people who could recognize the me they saw every day.  Yet, these same people had no recognition at all that their perspective was shallow, inept, and clueless of who I am.  The stark light of revelation was so bright I was blinded momentarily by this truth.

I was described and recognized by those attributes often listed in obituaries: dad, brother, son, husband, father, pastor, teacher, friend.  All these characteristics were indeed definitions of the parts of me which people recognized through observation,  and each through their own filtered relationship to me.  95% of the people in my life 2 years ago were looking at the top 10% of the iceberg, representing me.  Their perspectives were skewed by their relationship to me, which resulted in their inability to recognize the other 90% of me.

The 5% of people who recognized me were those who took the time to dialogue in meaningful ways, or spend time with me in activities which allowed them to view me through more than just one filtered lens.  There were a couple of people who knew me pretty much all the way to the core of my existence; the deepest parts of me.  And there were others who made extreme judgments about me.  Because who they thought I was at those deep levels, were determined by preconceived assumptions of their choosing, not because they wanted to know the me I really am.

The result was a Titanic-like collision.  Parts of me below the surface were indescribably fractured by the impact.  While above the surface, life all around me was suddenly filled with the debris of broken relationships.  It was as if almost nobody I knew recognized me.  There were parts of me they either refused to accept, blindly ignored, or had no interest in knowing. Don’t feel sorry for me, there are millions today going through exactly the same thing, and you may be one of them.  I survived. You can too.

you-dont-know-me

Now, imagine we’re not talking about me anymore.  Imagine this graphic represents the Creator of the universe.  Many people “say” they believe in God.  Folks often confess to know Jesus Christ.  However, let me suggest you see this message as if it comes from God.  Through this image He is saying: those things you seem to think allow you to “recognize” God are just the tip of the iceberg.  It’s my humble opinion, that there are things we have no idea about, when it comes to God.  Much of God’s nature, character, and will, are hidden in the layers of the deep, beyond our visible capabilities. We must search for this truth with all our hearts.  We will be rewarded if we do.  If we want to know God, we can, but it takes a lot of work.

Jeremiah 29:13
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

I believe going forward from right now, God will go to exorbitant extremes to get His people, people of faith, to know Him deeper, recognize His handiwork, and trust in His grace more than ever before.  Our world is headed on a direct collision course with the Creator of the universe.  Those who recognize this, will be prepared.  Those who don’t… well, think: Titanic… on a galactic scale.

 

Soak, Scrub, Rinse, Repeat

via Clean

Some stains are just seem impossible to clean. There are experts everywhere who seem to think they know the best way to attack this problem.  For example, one such solution for removing wine stains on clothing goes like this…

(1) act immediately: blot don’t rub; (2) strap the cloth down over a large bowl and secure it with a rubber band; (3) get salty: pour club soda or ice water on the stain and cover it with salt for 5 minutes; (4) heat it up: pour boiling water over the stain, then rinse.  If the stain is still present (5) soak in water and white vinegar then launder as normal.

Sounds like sage advice to me.  Wine stains can be a real problem.

wine-spill

There are stains that go way deeper than wine however, and our lives are filled with them.  That’s because life is messy most of the time.  Spills, tears, hurts and pains caused by our own actions, or the actions of others, often leave us feeling dirty, disheveled, and depressed.  Where does someone find relief and restoration to that “clean” state of being?

John the Apostle wrote the Gospel of John regarding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; letters to the churches in the Roman province of Asia; and the book of Revelation.  In the first letter, he wrote to the churches: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” [1 John 1:5-7]

People who live in the stain saturated darkness of the world need the cleansing power of Jesus.  I may never be able to convince them of this, in fact it isn’t even my job to try.  My task and calling is simply to offer this truth to them for acceptance.  The convincing responsibility is solely the job of the Holy Spirit of God.  For those of you who have experienced this cleansing power, one other thing you know is, it is never a once and done deal.  Because life is messy.  Because I may be clean today, but by this time tomorrow, I will have spilled something, sat in something, or had something splash onto me (spiritually) that causes me to need this cleansing again.

The daily process of a true child of the King consists of: soak, scrub, rinse, repeat.

Soak:  Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Scrub:  1 John 1
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Rinse: Psalm 51:7
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Repeat: Acts 3:19
Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.

If you’re feeling a little “disheveled” today… this may offer some relief and restoration.

 

Successful

via Filter

Is America successful?  We’re still here, so I guess that’s something.  Successful dialogue would be actually talking to one another, requiring both people to speak and listen. Speaking honestly (successfully) would be each person addressing the actual topic rather than casting aspersions, castigating positions, and labeling one another because we don’t agree.

dialogue

Successful legislation would be passing laws that benefit Americans while not padding the pockets of the elite career politicians.  Successful business is usually associated with annual rising profits while minimizing costs.  Successful sermons are quantified by more members of congregations who give more money to support the work of that successful pastor.  Everyone has their own view or filter defining what constitutes successful.

We’ve quit listening to hear each other, most people I know today listen to “respond,” or listen to “guide” the dialogue to their worldview. Rather than thinking we’re successful by denigrating another person’s views, why not begin to think we are only successful when we can honestly say, “I understand what you are saying, and why you are saying it.” In so many conversations I observed in 2015-2016, I seldom felt people actually heard what the other side was saying, or why it was being said, leaving them clueless as to what was really going on in our country. Neither side was successful in their communication processes.

Yet our country was successful in the “peaceful” transition of power. We will be successful again, when we stop fighting and start listening.  We will be successful when we stop fearing the truth, crucifying people for their views, and lashing out like a child throwing a tantrum, when our side doesn’t “win.”  We can be successful, we just really aren’t yet.

Hard to believe.

mlk-quote

It’s hard to believe this man’s wisdom is so ignored today. Studying this man’s influence during my last course in college, I was inspired by his total devotion to truth, and his message of love.  Dr. King motivated me to pursue ministry with a renewed commitment to both of the ideas: unarmed truth, and unconditional love.

In today’s politicized, very divided USA, I wonder where the next voice of reason will appear.  There are those who think Dr. King is responsible for our current destructive racial climate, assigning blame for the ethnic challenges today squarely on his shoulders.  Anyone who has ever studied his work, listened to him speak, or thought for one second about his message, knows this is not true.  We are so far removed from King’s agenda that I’m sure it would sicken him, as it does me, to think of where we’re headed.

I say this because I truly believe unless something changes, the raging maniacal views of the east and west coast’s liberal minds will fan the flames of anarchy, plunging the whole nation into chaos.  Someone with enough influence to grab their attention needs to step forward; anyone who can just get them to pause and take a breath already, but who will that be?  If a beloved actress, can be so deluded, so consumed with the idea that only she and her out of touch friends are the only sane people left in our county, who will calm her down? They don’t listen to people like me.  They don’t listen to the facts, or the truth, and they have only a Hollywood distorted view of love.  No wonder it’s hard to get their attention.

Why the diatribe?  Why today?

A commitment to “unarmed truth” defines a determination to check facts, know what’s true, speak that truth, but not bludgeon someone comatose with it. The truth is President-elect Trump, is our next President.  I don’t have to gloat about it, I don’t have to demean those around me that voted Democrat.  I don’t have to arm myself for battle every time his name comes up.  I believe and defend the 1st Amendment right of every person to speak their mind.  I just wish the other side would do the same.  This is where the next idea comes into play.

“Unconditional love” is something completely foreign to the liberal’s mindset which determines for themselves its definition. Dr. King would challenge them on this point because this idea is foreign to mankind in general.  Dr. King would point out that while mankind is “capable” of this kind of transformative love, it is a choice too few are willing to make.  He would suggest that the only way possible for a man or woman filled with hate, anger, or murderous intentions,  is to yield their life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  In finding themselves cleansed from these emotions/intentions, by the power of Jesus’ love, then and only then will they be able to love others “unconditionally.”

This highlights the essence of the issue.  Most of Hollywood, the Democratic party leaders, and those who follow their policies, are diametrically opposed to the truth that Jesus should determine my politics, much less my life choices.  This total denial of an “unconditional love” paradigm is the force behind such vehement outcries in public forums.  Clearly our nation is divided.  Where is the voice of reason?  Who will stand and bring us back together?  Can it even be accomplished?  Or are we destined to repeat the ugliest and deadliest period of our nation’s history, as friend turns against friend, brother against brother, parents against children, and kill each other … just to be right?

Dr. King’s words are true.  However, it may take the promised return of Jesus Christ to see them fulfilled.