Sunday, December 26, 2010


I'm still reading Tolstoys "The Kingdom of God is Within You," and finding that I really identify with his political views as much as with his take on the Christian life. I've had people say to me, "You mean you think Tolstoy was a Christian?" Ha...a lot of people maybe think that because he was excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church he wasn't a follower of Christ. I heard someone say that he invented his own religion. In a nutshell...his "religion" consisted of rejecting institutional creeds and following the teaching of Christ. The five commands of Christ which we see in His sermon on the mount (Matthew chapter 5) are:


There is much talk about legalism vs. "hyper-grace" these days. Legalism is the idea that we can be righteous by simply following the letter of the law (as concerns say...the ten commandments.) "Hyper-grace" (perhaps I made up that term....) is the concept that since we are not able to save ourselves by our works...there is nothing we can is all grace. This is the concept that Paul was speaking to when he said, (Romans 6:1)  What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

If it was all about the Bar Code style of Christianity...then the legalists and the gracies might have a reason to slug it out to find out who's out and who's in.... But since it is not about getting a ticket to heaven but rather becoming a person who can breath the air of heaven; who will thrive in that atmosphere; who has become fit for service; Jesus is telling us that we have got to go deeper than the letter of the law. Not only should we not kill...we must also give up our murderous hatred. Not only should we not commit adultry...we must abandon lust. We shouldn't have to swear an oath to be believed...we must simply always tell the truth. We must not resist evil men with violence, but rather be mistreated than mistreat. Not only should we love our friends...but our enemies too. It's all about the kind of person we are becoming not about whether we could prove our innocence in a court of law.

On the other side. For those who claim that they can do as they wish because they are relying on may ask...what are they becoming. Are we really relying on Christ if we are not even attempting to live His life?

I found an interesting footnote in my Bible to Habakkuk 1:4 "There is a curious passage in the Talmud (the body of Jewish civil and religious law) which says that Moses gave six hundred injunctions to the Israelites. As these commands might prove too numerous to commit to memory, David brought them down to eleven in Psalm 15. Isaiah reduced these eleven to six in Isaiah 33:15. Micah (6:8) further reduced them to three; and Isaiah (56:1) once more brought them down to two. These two Amos (5:4) reduced to one. However, lest it might be supposed from this that God could be found only in the fulfillment of the law, Habakkuk (2:4 KJV)said, 'The just shall live by his faith.'"

Tolstoy couldn't stand the brand of Christianity that he saw. The religious dogma; the smoke and icons and holy artifacts and other nonsense of the Orthodox church. Armies marching to war (in direct opposition to Christ's teaching on non-resistance) carrying the images of the saints (idolatry); He had no choice to get himself kicked out. And I have been wondering this week (reading another book from that period of Russian history) what would have happened in Russia if the Russian church had paid more attention to Tolstoy and listened to his views on the teaching of Christ,rather than excommunicating him; whether Russia could have had a peaceful transition rather than a bloody revolution led by violent athiestic forces.

He wanted the children to be taught to actually follow Christ's teaching, not just learn a faulty catechism by rote. But the institutional church, is an earthly institution after all, and the function of an institution is self-preservation and expansion. Keep things simple for the simple masses and keep them believing that the elite ecclesiastic hiearchy knows best.

"We may think God wants actions of a certain kind, but God wants people of a certain sort"-C.S. Lewis

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Eternal Kind of Life

Eternal Kind of Life

I had always thought that having eternal life meant unending life. Never really thinking that the word eternal is descriptive of not of time, but of timelessness. In order to be eternal it would have to have no beginning as well as no end.

It was while reading “The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard that I was first introduced to the concept that “Eternal life” refers to a KIND of life. (p.53)

In today’s terminology, I think it might be expressed “sustainable life”…the kind of life that could safely be allowed to continue “forever”.

When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God…(Genesis 3) God had told them that they would die as a consequence….and they did, but in the mean while, God had to remove them from the idyllic Eden (Gen 3:22) “lest he put forth his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” My Bible has a footnote there which says, “This sentence is left unfinished, as if to hasten to avert the tragedy suggested of men living on forever in their now fallen state.”

Now leaving Genesis and going to Jesus’ beautiful prayer for us which is in John 17, (Please read the whole lovely chapter...preferably in the Amplified Bible...haha) we see Jesus giving the definition of eternal life which Dallas Willard had indicated in his book. In v.3 (He is talking to His Father) Jesus says, “And this is eternal life: [it means] to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and [likewise] to know Him, Jesus [as the] Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), whom You have sent.”

I feel like I could go in a few different directions from this point but I hate to have too long of a post….and I want to slow down and write thoughtfully…so for this time I will just leave it at this. “Eternal life” is not about “making it” to heaven….it it about becoming, through the work of Christ and the ongoing workings of the Holy Spirit, the kind of person whom Father God can safely allow to continue in a sustainable (perfect) ongoing life. (To be continued)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Three signals

When I read my Bible, I love to follow the cross references, read all the notes. Both the printed footnotes…and the notes I have left myself.

As it happened I was reading in John today and came again, to the story of Lazarus. I thought I had blogged on the idea of the three signals some time ago, so I checked and found this one from 3 ½ years ago.

I was a little surprised that I had mentioned the idea of the three signals but then only wrote about the first one. (sidetracked with other ideas…haha…to no-one’s surprise)

So I want to note in this post the other two signals as I see them. This is of interest to me because, Jesus always said things like, “My hour has not yet come,” and “I can do only what I see my Father doing…” He always seemed to know what His Father was doing and what His own next step must be. Since Jesus tells us that we are to do His works in the same way as He has done Father’s works….then the process of guidance must be worth investigating to try to see how Jesus received guidance. So…to recap….

The first signal I noticed, which seemed to indicate to Jesus that “His hour” was at hand was the signal of Lazarus. (John 11:4) When Jesus received the news of Lazarus’ illness He said, “This sickness is not to end in death; but (on the contrary) it is to honor God and to promote His glory.” Then He hesitated going to him for a couple of days….on purpose…. Somehow, this gave me the impression that Jesus was receiving a signal…direct guidance…. I will not get sidetracked again although the whole story gets my mind stirring with thoughts which I’ve already mentioned in my other post on John 11. It is enough to note that after the miracle of Lazarus, both Jesus and Lazarus had been catapulted to rock star status, so much so that “From that day on they took counsel and plotted together how they might put Him to death.” 11:53

The second signal (as I see it) is given in Chapter 12. Jesus is attending a dinner at the same home; that of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. The story of Lazarus’ resurrection had really blazed abroad…and so many people had showed up to see both of them, that the elite began to think of ways of killing Lazarus too. At the dinner, Mary shocks the guests by entered the room and pouring $20,000 worth of ointment on Jesus feet. (I’m figuring that roughly…because the Bible states that it was worth a years wages for an ordinary working man… 52 weeks x 40 hours x $10 per hour… If he was talking about a plumber…then the ointment was worth A LOT more…haha… Anyhow…it doesn’t matter what the value….or what anyone else (Judas) thought of the "waste." Jesus seemed to receive it as a signal…a sign…a preparation for His death and burial. And we are told that the very next day was Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem which was the first link in the chain of events leading to Golgotha.

The third signal was puzzling to me at first. But so often, when I find something puzzling…there is a beautiful nugget to be found….and I thought it puzzling when in 12:21-24, we are told that some Greeks had come to worship at the feast and had asked to see Jesus. When Philip and Andrew went to tell Jesus about them, He didn’t set up a meeting for later that evening or for any time for that matter…His response was, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified and exalted…” And He goes on with a beautiful sermon, punctuated by a voice from heaven (which was heard by the bystanders) intended, it seems, to prepare Himself and them for His imminent death. He closes the sermon with the statement, “Whatever I speak, I am saying (exactly) what My Father has told Me to say and in accordance with His instruction.” (So we know that what He has told them… we really need to read again …with comprehension.) But…If only we could realize that kind of guidance…of “walking in the Spirit.”

So...why that signal? How was the request of those Greek fellows to see Jesus a signal to Him?

There are two statements that, I believe give us insight into why that might be a signal. Both refer to the expansion and growth of the kingdom of God. In v.24 He states, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit.”

And then in verse 32 He says, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

Jesus had previously instructed the disciples to preach only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…but now, I think the coming of the Greeks was a signal that the timing was right for the message of Christ to begin it’s outward spread to the whole world. That the time for the final act had come…for the first domino to fall… And those attending the feast from near and far....would become incidental witnesses to the death and resurrection of Christ and would begin to bring His message to the rest of the world....

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Fruitfulness is born of Relationship...
Power can only produce works….

Matthew 7:22 Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in your Name and done many mighty works in Your name? 23 And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands.]

Isaiah 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Relationship...of the vine and branches variety…is the only way to be fruitful…

Mighty works (even those done in Jesus’ name) can be a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal…in the absence of relationship …

Monday, July 12, 2010


"I feel loved." I've been noticing lately that people DO actually say that...and I have been wondering what they mean when they say it. A young Hollywood star says it. A woman coming out of a loveless marriage and then marrying again. HA... mostly people who are embarking on their second or third marriage it seems. But not always...

I think it is easier for a younger person (or at least one who feels young) to "feel" loved because, the physical attractiveness of youth seems a strong enough to pass for love. Lately, the term "HOT" has replaced "beautiful" or "lovely" as a compliment. I think that is an indication of what is of value and what makes for love-worthiness. But as the old saying goes, "when you're hot, you're hot, and when you're not, you're not." As we age, we shouldn't have to depend upon being "hot" to be love-worthy. I don't pine for that kind of love...but I do pine for genuine love. I don't want to be convinced that I am loved, I simply want to BE loved. I find it difficult to express, even to myself what it is, exactly, that I crave. I don't want to be convinced by deeds or words that I am loved. I want to actually BE loved and have words or deeds flow out of that. I think that if we actually DO love, then a convincing performance won't be necessary.

So today I was reading in Ephesians and I came across the definition of love that expressed for me EXACTLY what I desire...and therefore...according to the Golden Rule...exactly how I need to BE. OK, I know that sounds like a performance...and I said performance shouldn't be necessary....but it is...of course...haha. It should just become less neccessary as time goes on and habit becomes nature...becomes genuine...

Anyhow, this is what I read. It is from the Amplified Bible and so now you know one more reason why I just love that translation. It's the [amplified] part that is helpful in expressing exactly what love should look like when we get it right.

[esteeming and delighting in one another]
Ephesians 5:2 (AMP)

I don't see how this can be possible as a one way stream in the long term...even though it might have to begin as one. I think it will have to become a "one another" thing or it won't be possible and we'll just have to settle for an inferior outcome. Maybe the thing that is helpful for me here is to have it so perfectly expressed what the target is... anothering...

PS....I love this poem by Walt I'm just adding it on. It speaks to me of how I wish....and imagined things might have been at this stage of life....

Not from successful love alone,
Nor wealth, nor honor'd middle age, nor victories of politics or war;
But as life wanes, and all the turbulent passions calm,
As gorgeous, vapory, silent hues cover the evening sky,

As softness, fulness, rest, suffuse the frame, like freshier, balmier air,
As the days take on a mellower light, and the apple at last hangs really finish'd and indolent-ripe on the tree,
Then for the teeming quietest, happiest days of all!
The brooding and blissful halcyon days!

Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, 1891

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Good News?

The language of the evangelism I’ve always known hasn’t always sat well with me…but as I’ve been repeatedly told. “I like the way I’m doing it wrong better than the way you’re not doing it at all.” Anyhow, I think I am finding a way to express the Gospel in such a way that I can be at peace with the message…and I think that’s important, because if you’re not convinced it is hard to be convincing. The way we always expressed it seemed more like a threat than “good news” and I think that what we have to share really is good news….to all men. So I say, why bully people, with a threat that is an insult to our loving Father’s nature and intentions? I don’t see Jesus doing that.

I happened to be in a church service this week and the speaker was giving a “gospel” message, in the course of which he said, “You can become a child of God. You simply have to pray this prayer….etc….and you’ll know that if you die…you’ll go to heaven” It struck me that what bothers me is this very rudimentary start point of the message.

I thought of verses that I had recently noticed in chapter two of the book of Ephesians. The first two verses speaks of “sons of disobedience…(the careless, the rebellions, and the unbelieving, who go against the purposes of God)” (AMP)

I noted in the margin….Sons nevertheless….

Verse three speaks of, “children of God’s wrath, and heirs of His indignation.”

Again I noted in the margin…..children and heirs nevertheless…

We often sing songs about “We’re all God’s children …” etc. and since it’s only a song, we don’t get into trouble, but should we genuinely believe that ALL are God children…we would be told…NO…only those who choose to accept Him are His children. (this is spite of the fact that God clearly states in John 15:16 “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,”) So I think we should be able to accept that we are ALL God’s children. If not His….then whose? He created us….He calls us His children….and so I think the message…the good news is…. “You ARE a child of God.” As far as I know…the devil nor anyone else ever created any people, so we are all children of Our Father. (John 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.)

So I guess I might say (when mounting my soap box)…something like… “God has sent me to tell you that YOU ARE His beloved child and you are living a life beneath what He has provided for you. He wants you to come home…He wants you to receive your inheritance. He wants you to align yourself on His side and against the lie that you have believed, which has kept you in bondage.”

The prayer we should pray is “Thy kingdom come…Thy will be done…by me…in me…through me…and in the whole world. Let me have a role in bringing it to pass.” By means of this prayer…which Jesus taught us to pray….we are saying, “I’m aligning my will with the will of God….My Father….and acknowledging my real identity as His child.”

I like how Neil Anderson says, “What you do, doesn’t define who you are… who you are determines what you do….” I might not have quoted that just right…but the point is that it is important to know that you are a Child of God, because this important knowledge will bear fruit in your life. You will begin to act and live out of your identity as a child of God. You will be enabled to grow out of your carelessness and rebellion and live out the truth of Acts 17:28 “For in him we live, and move, and have our being;..”

Dallas Willard speaks about a “bar-code religion.” He says, people have been told that they just need the right bar-code…you pray a prayer…you get your bar-code and then you just forget about it. Your place in Heaven is reserved and that’s really all that matters. But Father wants His Children to grow up to be like Him…. It’s not just Hell avoidance….that’s just a threat….it’s not the good news…it’s bullying…it’s soap sales.

The good news is, “Father loves you and He wants you to come home. You are His child and although you may be in rebellion… He is the kind of a Father who will never let you go. He created you and He loves you. You are His workmanship and ‘He who began a good work…will be faithful to complete it.’ Come easy and live a blessed life…or be prepared for a long hard road at the end of which…you will find Him waiting.”

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Man looketh on the outward appearance

Charter was reading to me while I was there this week, the story of Isaac and Rebecca. I thought it might be a teachable moment on the concept of what to look for in a prospective wife. Never too early...haha.... Anyhow, When he came to the part about the servant praying, "If I ask for water and she gives it to me and offers to water my camels too....let that be the girl..." I questioned Charter, "Do you think that was a good way for the servant to choose a girl?" Of course, I was thinking that by his method he was learning whether the girl was kind, hard working, generous....etc. Blank I said, why do you think he asked for *THAT* sign and not just (for example) "Let it be the first girl in a blue dress.?" Without hesitation Charter stated, "She might be ugly." Well I guess that pretty well sums up the notion I was out to correct. Maybe I was a bit premature......or maybe a bit too late...but I hope not...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Upon This Rock

Is Peter the rock on which Christ's church is built?

Once again....while reading a very well-known Christian author, I read a reference to Jesus allegedly telling Peter that he (Peter) was the rock upon which Jesus was going to build His Church. Of course the reference is Mathew 16:17 where Jesus says, "...thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

If we are just reading one word at a time....or one verse at a time...instead of the whole passage in context, it is understandable how we might imagine that this is what Jesus was saying. Just because the name Peter comes from the Greek word petros... which means stone, we assume that interpretation. But what I see in reading the red words in my Bible is that Jesus often used a literary device which I refer to as "THE TURN" (admittedly, I just made that term up myself)

Just for one example, I refer to Luke 21:16-18

Luke 21:16  And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
17  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.
18  But there shall not an hair of your head perish.

OK the turn here is that in v. 16 He states plainly that some will be put to death...and in v. 18 he assured them that not a hair of their head would perish.

So the turn is that in verse 16&17 He is referring to what is going to come to pass in the natural realm...and in verse 18 He has TURNED and is referring to the heavenly realm. That's just one example...there are more....but I digress....

So back to Luke. If we take our reading back a couple of verses....Jesus is asking Peter who people say that He is...and who Peter thinks that He is.... Peter gets the correct answer when he says, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

THIS IS THE ROCK upon which Jesus is building his Church! Sure there is a little play on words with respect to Peter's means stone....But it is the BEDROCK TRUTH of what Peter has just stated which is the Gibralter on which Christ is going to build his church.

Just look at how much harm has been done by the notion of the apostolic succession of the Popes etc...the church built on Peter...and all it's various offshoots. Yet all through history Christ has been simultaneously building His church...with living bricks...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Abraham and Isaac

I marvel as I read the story of Abraham and Isaac at the dispassionate way in which the book of Genesis relates the story. It would be amazing if the passage had been written by say, Fyodor Dostoyevky in the style of a psychological novel with all the internal wrestlings of both Abraham and Isaac revealed.

Imagine the scene of old Abraham at the age of approximately 125 years taking a rope and binding 25 year old Isaac and suggesting he take his place on the pile of prepared firewood that Isaac had carried to the place on his own shoulders. What thoughts must be going through Isaac’s mind? He is certainly strong enough to resist his ancient father, but he submits to being bound and placed on the alter.

What emotions must Abraham be experiencing as he reaches for the knife? How does he continue to trust God, who has given him this son in whom is bound up such an amazing promise. What if God had not spoken in that hideous moment as he raised the knife.

I wonder if Abraham expected that Isaac would be raised from death? He had God’s assurance that Isaac was the child of promise, and yet he had been told to lay him on the altar.

What amazing confidence Abraham had in his ability to hear God’s voice….and in God’s ability to keep His promises despite any circumstances. And yet, we sometimes believe that God’s plan has been thwarted somehow, and His purposes has been derailed.

But it has not….