Reflections on Brennan Manning: A Teacher of God’s Love and Grace

Today 4/13/2013 news that Brennan Manning left this life on 4/12/2013. He was a man of God, a disciple who now has moved on. Yet, he was a teacher of much controversy. The top of the controversy was that he taught “contemplative prayer” with use of things like emptying thoughts and repeating words. This controversy exists and is out there, yet, I have no question that in He was a true follower of Jesus the Messiah. His teaching and from what I understand even his life was fractured and flawed. He knew fully what it was to experience God’s grace. Yet, he is really know different than any other disciple of Jesus. He tought things wrong, he did things wrong, he was flawed. Yet, he knew what it was to be loved by God. He was a teacher and preacher of God’s love. His messages focused on deepening the understanding of God and His love. This is true for me.
I heard Brennan Manning speak at Church of the Open Door in Minnesota two or maybe three times. When he spoke his words and presence displayed and shown the love of God. His words touched to the very core. I do not remember his words or his teaching at that time. I do know what he taught and spoke of on those days changed me. He gave words that brought closer awareness to the love of God. He taught in such a way that got beyond the fractured images I had of God the Father and God used to touch hurt and pain and let God’s love in. God used this man. And for that I am grateful. He served and was used by God and he touch my life and many others. There are a great many quotes out there that demonstrate the truth he taught. It is important to note in God’s economy the words of Love and truth have far greater impact than the things we speak that are flawed, dangerous, or destructive. Truth and love always have greater effect. In closing this article I am posting some Brennan Manning quotes that demonstrate the Truth and Love that he taught that impacted so many.

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”

“In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.”

“God is love. In human beings, love is a quality, a high-prized virtue; in God, love is His identity.“

“God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be.”

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, & I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

“Christianity was not some moral code; it was a love affair, & I experienced it first hand.”

“If we conceal our wounds out of fear & shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”

Musing on Remembrance

Today is a day marked of remembrance of a fateful day when two towers fell in New York city. On this day the memories of the darkness and the evil on man can inflict on another are prime. Remembrance is importance. This blog is not going to reflect on any aspects of that fateful day but rather discuss the ongoing importance of the act of remembrance. It is some God directs us to do and is important to any level of moving ahead and growing. Often we want to forget dark and painful things. Yet, there are important things to bring to attention, primarily the ways God moved.

God directed others over and over to remember. First of all to remember Him and His promises as we can often forget. We can become dull of mind and caught up in varied aspects of life and we can forget. God knows our tendency to forget. He directed Israel on several occasions to set up memorials and altars to remember what God has done. He established festivals in Israel such as Passover that focus on remembering what God has done. These things can be easily forget or even set aside off in some dusty corner of our lives and mind. We need to remember. There is restoration and healing in healthy remembrance. Any healthy remembrance is focused on what God did, is doing, and has promised to do. So take time, reflect and consider what God has done, is doing, and has promised. Look back on that fateful day eleven years ago and look at how God dealt with you then, where are you know, and where are you going. As you remember let God move in your heart and deal with whatever needs to be dealt with and surrender whatever comes to light to him. And when you do, when you remember, then praise God, for whatever has been gives chance for God to reveal Himself and each memory is an opportunity to give God praise and glory. Even in the darkest of memories and time.

Musing on the Tragic Death of Amy Winehouse

Well yesterday, 7/23/2011, the pop music artist Amy Winehouse died. Sadly, not one person is truly surprised at her death for she was living on borrowed time, long ensnared by addictions to drugs and alcohol. It was simply a matter of time. She continued to use and ultimately she died. Sadly, her one hit was the song “Rehab” which she essentially wrote and sang about her rejecting a plea for her to go to drug rehabilitation. Her is a fact, while Amy’s life and death was tragic and while many can easily sit in judgment over how sick she was and proclaim if only she would get clean, each of us are really no different. When it comes to making changes, we too often protest “No, no, no.” There are things we like, we enjoy that we really just do not want to give up. We resist calls to repentance with the reply “No, no, no.” It takes brokenness and a realization of the truth to move toward change. We all have choices to make. There are many paths to death and destruction beyond the likes of alcohol and drugs. We are selfish and walk paths even with full knowledge that it is not good. We all have trouble embracing changes and turning from the paths of death. Ultimately there is one choice each person needs to make and sadly the refrain there is too often “no, no, no.” And that choice is surrender to the Creator, to Jesus the King of Kings. All to readily the response is “They told me to submit to Jesus” and “I said no, no, no.” See, for the appeal of self-direction and choosing own life, even if well aware of the pain and emptiness with lack of true peace, is alluring. Any life that dies apart from surrender is tragic. It is the path of many, not just Amy Winehouse. It is a sad day that such a hurt and broken soul reached the death point. It is too late for Amy, it is not too late for you. Please do not cry out “No, no, no” any further. This is true even for those who have submitted to Jesus yet God is stirring you to change and let go of areas of sin in your life. Stop saying “no, no, no” and repent, for the rejection only brings more pain. Surrender, say yes, it is worthwhile!

Helpful Articles: Spurgeon Meditation-Beyond Circumstances

Friday, April 08, 2011

This Evening’s Meditation

C. H. Spurgeon

http://www.spurgeon.org/daily.htm

BEHOLD, how independent of outward circumstances the Holy Ghost can make the Christian! What a bright light may shine within us when it is all dark without! How firm, how happy, how calm, how peaceful we may be, when the world shakes to and fro, and the pillars of the earth are removed! Even death itself, with all its terrible influences, has no power to suspend the music of a Christian’s heart, but rather makes that music become more sweet, more clear, more heavenly, till the last kind act which death can do is to let the earthly strain melt into the heavenly chorus, the temporal joy into the eternal bliss! Let us have confidence, then, in the blessed Spirit’s power to comfort us. Dear reader, are you looking forward to poverty? Fear not; the divine Spirit can give you, in your want, a greater plenty than the rich have in their abundance. You know not what joys may be stored up for you in the cottage around which grace will plant the roses of content. Are you conscious of a growing failure of your bodily powers? Do you expect to suffer long nights of languishing and days of pain? O be not sad! That bed may become a throne to you. You little know how every pang that shoots through your body may be a refining fire to consume your dross—a beam of glory to light up the secret parts of your soul. Are the eyes growing dim? Jesus will be your light. Do the ears fail you? Jesus’ name will be your soul’s best music, and His person your dear delight. Socrates used to say, “Philosophers can be happy without music;” and Christians can be happier than philosophers when all outward causes of rejoicing are withdrawn. In Thee, my God, my heart shall triumph, come what may of ills without! By thy power, O blessed Spirit, my heart shall be exceeding glad, though all things should fail me here below.

On Ebbs and Flows: Musing on Seasons of Life Including Grief

Face, this life we live sometimes is very difficult, other times everything seems to work out right.  One minute we can be on top doing well, everything working out as hope. Next minute things are difficult, painful, and filled with pain and loss.  Good or bad, gain or loss, beginning or ending,  and happy or sad are all words used to describe the varied season of life.  The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” So the ebbs and flows are part of the seasons of life. 

Here is the deal, while the seasons of life exist, while there is that which hurts and that which heals, it is all a result of living in a fallen world twisted by sin.  Of course, those at face value are simply words, words that do nothing to ease the difficult season such as when face any number of losses.  Now while sin created the twists that bring on the seasons and the resultant ebbs and flows there is an important note, God is still in control and at work.  Romans 8:28 (ESV)  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  It is a verse known and quoted whenever facing the difficult life seasons such as one of loss. Sometimes even the sharing of that verse though ends up as just words and not really touching the core.  The impact of these words sometimes can be missed.  

The point and impact is God is not passive.  If we are actively in relationship with the creator, whatever we do, he actively works to bring things in accordance with His purpose. So the question becomes what is God’s purpose that he brings all things into cooperation with? Is it no undoing that which has been twisted?  At the cross the path to being in right relationship with God, to be in a loving relationship with creator has been established.  His purpose is for use then to be more and more refined and cleansed.  As such, whatever happens in our lives, the ebbs and flows, serve the intent of making us grow more toward His intent for our lives in relationship with Him. 

There will be difficult seasons. There will be loss.  There will be ebbs and flows. This is a fact.  The fact is even outlined further in Romans 8 with a list of “negative” things that will happen to people in various seasons.  The fact is bad stuff happens. One way or another, the difficult seasons are related to the twists of sin; be it original  sin, our own sin, or the sins of others around us.  But we have a promise that for those that love God, we bring things inline with His intent. When we are in right relationship God is in the process of untwisting the twist.  And before God it is a finished state, yet we are in the ongoing process of getting to that finished state.  Before the promise just mentioned is the statement in Romans 8:25 (ESV)  “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  See, the God working things out for His intent is not what is always seen or perceived. What we know are the difficult things, the painful things, the things that trigger the ebbs and flows.  Much of what God does is beyond what we can perceive as he working in the midst and what God is doing also does not just resolve around one individual, but all of creation.

And with what God has done, the hope in Jesus as Lord and Saviour,  in the God with us, there is another promise.  Romans 8:37 (ESV)  “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”   See, in all the pain, in all the things that can come against and cause pain, in all of which is twisted and horrendous. In all, we are told that no matter what the appearance there is the assured victory, that all these things just are not defeated, but obliterated.  In Christ is all hope and the victory is an overwhelming blow-out.  And again, we can look at that and simply see the words.  But if let the word take effect in heart and life it change how manage the ebbs and flows.  They still come, but when the focus is not on the pain of the moment but in the faithfulness and surety of God’s love and purpose, one can find the joy and peace amidst the ebbs and flows.  So let the words of God sink deeply, beyond words, beyond the fickleness of the emotions in the ebbs and flows, into the peace that passes all understanding with the strength coming from the Joy in the Lord.

Labor Day Musing: True rest for those labored and burdened

This past weekend was Labor Day weekend with Monday being Labor Day in the United States. This is a time set aside to rest from our toiling at being productive members of the workforce and taking a day of ease and rest. For me today the verse Matthew 11:28 (ESV) has come to mind:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

This simple statement is profound.  Jesus is giving and invitation to a difficulty many experience.  The statement contains three elements; the invitation, the invitee, and the result of accepting the invitation.  Those elements are worth more specific examination.

First, there is the invitation: Come to me. It is a simple request and formed in an imperative tone that is very direct and certain.  Jesus directs the invitee to come to him.  The word come is not a passive word. It sets a firm direction.  It takes an act of moving from one location to another. Here that direction is toward Jesus. Wherever one is, they need to change and move toward Jesus. Now it is interesting that the word in the Greek translated as me is μέ that encompasses all elements of self, I, me, and my. So in essence, Jesus is requesting and directing others to set their direction toward all of Him.  It is a request of a directed action, not a passive response. It is a movement away from whatever direction one is on, which in most cases would be that of a self-chosen direction, and a move toward Jesus.

Now the second element is the invitees. Here Jesus addresses a particular group.  The group he is addressing are those that are tired from the work they have engaged in and are weighed down with burdens they cannot bear on their own.  He is directing any that have come to the limits of their own effort and feel unable to go further to set their direction to him.  It is a call to cease the striving of self that drains energy and adds weight and to look and move toward one that can provide aid.  If one is at a place in life where there daily refrain is “I’m tired” or “I cannot take much more” Jesus invites to turn your direction to him and cease the striving. Jesus answer is quite different from that of the world.  The world points to need for constant effort and striving followed by momentary periods of relief in the varied offerings of momentary relief and pleasure.  Jesus rather, calls to actively head in a different direction. He does not direct toward the numbing actions of pleasure and distraction but an active turn in direction.

Jesus invitation comes with an exact and defined benefit.  Jesus states that the benefit of coming to him is rest.  He offers the opposite of the state of the invitees.  Those that are “tired” and “cannot take any more” can find rest by moving toward Jesus. The act of turning toward Jesus that brings the rest, rather it is what Jesus gives.  He gives the rest if you come to Him. Now, it is worth noting that the concept of rest here is far beyond what we consider rest.  It is not just a recharging of energy, but complete refreshment at deep levels.  The rest Jesus offers is more than a good nap or a good night sleep. It is even more than an extended vacation. It is a rest that brings one alive.  What Jesus has to give is beyond anything we can do for self. It is beyond our comprehension and what we experience in the short term is only but a taste of the rest that is to come, where there is no strife and no need to be tired or heavy laden.  And everyone does reach a point of being tired and burdened. Everyone needs rest. Even God himself rested. And by coming to Jesus, we are given God’s rest.

Coming to Jesus is not a onetime action.   Yes, we all need to come to Jesus to receive salvation, which is the starting point and initial gift of rest.  A ceasing of the striving of self.  We  need to continue coming to Jesus.  In this world, much is difficult and hard.  We can become labored and burdened without physical exertion.  Some of being labored and heavy laden comes in the looking out for self, in our own affairs. We get hurt, we have desires that go unmet, we struggle.  In fact, we all experience daily the impact of sin as the whole of creation has been impacted by sin.  The very act of coming to Jesus is at heart a turn from self-focus.  When you focus on being tired or burdened, it actually adds to the drain.  The more you focus on the state of self, the harder it becomes.  The very act of coming to Jesus changes focus.  Then when we actually surrender to Jesus and accept what He offers each of us, we are uplifted and refreshed.  Now the reader may state  “well tried that and there was no immediate relief.”  This can be true, for as Jesus will give us rest when we come, perceiving the rest is not always immediate but know that Jesus always keeps His word.  When you come to Jesus you will receive rest, in His time. He will give the rest if you come. This is fact. When you do not see or perceive it, trust this truth, for He who promised is faithful. When you come, He will give rest. Place you faith in this for it is assured!

Musing on the fragility and unpredictability of life

No matter how long we are in this world life is short. Life is filled with twists, turns, ups, and downs. There is good, bad, painful, difficult, ugly, joyous, beautiful, and painful as the Bible states in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 there is a time and season for everything. Recent life events have thoughts musing about the fragility and unpredictability of life on this earth. One day a person can have freedom the next a sudden acceleration can kill some people and a person can end up wrongly imprisoned as was the case of Koua Fong Lee who spent two years in prison but was recently released in light of the evidence of problems with Toyota’s and sudden acceleration. Joseph one day was serving Potipher the best he could and the next minute accused of trying to rape his wife resulting in many years in prison. The fact is difficult and extremely painful things can happen to any of us at anytime. They can range from minor irritations like viral infections to more severe forums of suffering.

It Matthew 5:45b (ESV) Jesus states: For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. The good and difficult things that happen in life, happen. The question for each believer is how we deal with both the good and bad. What does mean to be truly at peace and what can bring the perceived peace into question. It is during the difficult and tough times that test how we stand in pain when things are not going well. In the good times, when everything goes well the question is really is how much is the good taken for granted or seen as a byproduct of self? Paul stated in Philippians 4:13 (ESV) that the secret to any situation any season in life is: I can do all things through him who strengthens me. We can say it easily enough, but do we grasp what it means, or is it a nice phrase that can be put on a plaque on the wall?

So what does that phrase really come down to? Well examining the words a little closer it really comes down to the ability to be at true peace and wholeness comes not from our own effort but in surrender and dependence on the Messiah. It really points for the need to surrender. Times of plenty and times of pain are difficult times to surrender. One it is easy to place a lot of emphasis on self, the other to focus on the pain and suffering. Both can lead to a focus on self. Here it is really a true turning from self and resting in Jesus so that what God puts before us we are able to do regardless of season of life.

God only knows what will happen in each of our lives. We can face tests like Koua Fong Lee or Joseph with wrongful imprisonment. We can face choices to serve God and give up what appears to be good for self? We can be asked to give up what God has promised like Abraham. The fact is we will all face times of testing of one form or another. Some testing is short, some are longer, but when you surrender to God, he works to His good purpose. As the Bible states in Romans 8:28 (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Now each of us may never know what was the good brought in difficult times. God simply asks us to surrender and trust him regardless. It is real easy to lose focus and sight of what God is doing. Honestly there are many times in my life where focus was lost. There are times of great anger and sin that came from circumstances in my life not matching my hopes and expectations and God not bringing things about according to my will. Ultimately the process becomes about bringing my will in alignment to his and living in surrender. For it is only in surrender of self and alignment of my will to God’s where there is any peace and wholeness.

What is true freedom?

          It is the month of July and at the beginning of the month the focus was on celebrating the forming of the United States of America. The essential element that is celebrated is that of freedom or liberty. We revel in the freedoms of being a citizen of the United States of America. Often times the concept of freedom and liberty is heralded as a foundational element rooted in Christianity. Now the intent of this article is not to dig into all the philosophical foundations of the United States or event that of Liberty and Freedom. Rather, it is to grasp the difference between what is true, freedom found in God and what is the liberty that leads to bondage.
          Now if you examine any philosophical or political writings on liberty you will find reference to two types of liberty, positive and negative liberty. Positive liberty is the freedom to reach your full potential. Negative liberty is the freedom from restraint. The core of both types of liberty is the focus on the individual. It is in essence about self-determination. Being able to fully develop your self and be all that you can be and be free from anything that may restrain. However, liberty in practice recognizes that there needs to be some order, some agreed principles of restraint for there are a wide variety of wills. Thus systems of government were devised with the end result ultimately being establishing the system of government that allows for the choice of the individual coming to a societal consensus. It is the liberty of self-determination impacting society through an agreed social contract established by representation. Granted, the system of government developed in response to corruption, tyranny, and greed of what had gone before. It is a system that has benefited many, but is the core really a biblical concept?
          The liberty of self-determination and social contract are not biblical concepts at all. Perhaps some might argue that concepts of grace and being free from the condemnation of the law are the concepts tied to this concept of liberty. However, the bible does stand against the concept of self-determination. Note it was self-determination that was central to the fall and the twisting of all of creation. Eve and Adam in consuming the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil entered into the ability to self-determine what is right and wrong and move away from dependence on God. They chose to be free of being told what to do by God. Saul got in trouble for doing what he thought was right and going against what God said. Moses got in trouble for his own self-willed and self-determined response of hitting the rock when told to speak. Israel, in the time of the judges, “did what was right in their own eyes” and turned away from God’s ways. One thing that always happened when one chose the way of self over the way of God was consequences. And it is important to note that consequences always impacted more than self, our choices impact others. The Bible is filled with self-determined actions, even for the good of society, which result in consequences that lead to pain, destruction, and suffering.
           So what is the biblical view of freedom? Well everything in the Bible starts and ends with Jesus. Jesus stated “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 (ESV). According to Isaiah 61 part of Jesus mission was to proclaim liberty to the captives. So the question is, what does the Son set us free from? Before the already mentioned statement Jesus is quite clear what people are saved from. John 8:34 (ESV) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”  Jesus is identifying himself as the source of freedom from sin. However, it is not just freedom from sin but also freedom from death. Romans 8:22 (ESV) state “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

         Sin and death go hand in hand. Sin is falling short and missing the mark of what God desires. Sin is elevation of self. Sin has consequences. The biblical picture of sin is that to which we are enslaved. It usually does not start that way, but sin does end up in control. Take the nation Israel and there time in Egypt for example. Something that was a source of provision became slavery; very cruel and destructive slavery. Now what Jesus accomplished by being an innocent sacrifice is the potential for anyone to become free from sin. It is all a matter of what we turn to and surrender to. Do we strive to maintain our own life and focus on the elevation of self, or do we surrender to Jesus, who did what was required to purchase freedom from sin. What Jesus did was essentially a contract moving ownership from that of the sin of self back to being realigned with the creator of the universe.

         The transaction of Jesus sacrifice also resulted in allowing for the freedom from death. Jesus defeated death. Death and suffering are direct consequences of acting out of alignment with God’s intent. God proclaimed that disobeying Him brings death. The death meant a lack of fellowship with the creator, a separation from that for which we were created. True freedom brought by the cross brings ultimate freedom from the ultimate consequence of sin. It also gives us a chance to move beyond the consequences of our own sin and the effects and cross the bridge away from death to life. Since God is the creator and author of life, when disconnected from the creator there is death. Jesus provided for us the ability to reconnect to the author of life by taking all consequences of sin upon Him for us, bringing cleansing and freedom by establishing the bridge so that we can access life. Freedom from death means really the ability to truly experience life. The life is not about things for self, but living in harmony with how God created us and surrendering to Him.
There is one more element of what true freedom sets us free from but often misunderstood. The focus of many has become about there being a freedom from the law, yet the concept has become such for many that means we are free to do what we want, as Jesus sacrifice covers all sins. And while, that is true, Jesus himself said he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He met the conditions of the contract by which all can be clean before God and he filled up every piece of the contract with meaning. Jesus is what the law is about. So the real freedom is about being established as having freedom in Christ. This freedom is not about self-determining reality, or picking and choosing what is right. Rather, it is about being in right relationship with God. Because of Jesus we no longer have to live up to a set of negotiated instructions that quickly fade from memory. It is about living a relationship and having fellowship with God. The freedom in Christ means that because we are clean, we can have God with us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And since we have the Holy Spirit and active relationship, we do not need an instruction manual or external list, we have God himself to guide us and even show us what those instructions really mean. The freedom really is moving from an interaction that is dictated by a negotiated contract to a relationship dynamic.
         The dynamic is really defined by how the freedom enables us. First we are free to live in truth. When something operates the way it was intended to operate, that is true freedom. Who is freer? Someone wandering about trying to sort out for self what is true or someone who knows by instruction what is the right way? The bible points out in John 8:31-32 (ESV)  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The passage really points to those that are intimate with what is true, they are the ones who are truly free and liberated. We live in a world where lies are the rule of the day. We are saturated with deception, propaganda, and untruths. It is difficult to live in correspondence with truth, but living in truth is true freedom. If people try and hide or run from the truth, it impacts them. Working in the mental health field, there are all sorts of ways people embrace lies or hide from truth. The lies or hiding from painful truths results in much emotional discomfort and even disconnecting from true emotions is a significant issue. Yet, when people recognize what is true and able to identify lies and understand the truth, there is healing and freedom. The world outside life in Christ and life in truth will embrace whatever gets through the day, whatever feels best at moment. Rather than being free, it often results in further and further constriction as patterns replay over and over. When you know what is right, what is true, and what is beneficial you are able to grow and expand and live free. Even in the country of purported freedom, The United States, there are restrictions in order to facilitate everyone freedom. There is recognition that true freedom does involve boundaries, the establishing of what is the correct manner. Here is the greatest deal of the freedom in Christ. When we falter, fail, and fall short of the truth we can start over and learn. What Jesus did allows us to continue to grow and learn, to be more and more aligned with God’s truth. Walking in truth does not just impact us but those around us as well and enables the freedom to walk in love.
          The freedom in Christ also enable us that freedom to walk in love. Love is a misunderstood and distorted concept. In this day and age the concept of love is centered on how others make us feel. Love today is a self-driven quest for satisfaction. Loving relationships and procreation take the highest value in society. Yet, the self-driven love is easily fractured. Ultimately, real, deep, abiding love is not about self-satisfaction. True love is about moving beyond self and building up of others. Now the Bible indicates that the apex of love is giving of your self to the point of death. It involves no care for self at all. True love starts with being in right relationship with truth. True love involves surrendering and pouring all of self to God which in turns frees us to love others completely. It is not just giving without concern for what is returned it is even giving at expense of self. Now you want to know an amazing thing about love. Each of us reflect and give in correspondence with what has been given with us. If our experience of love is limited, our ability to love is limited. Sure, people are able to transcend past their limits at times, but in general, people are able to love others in correspondence with how they have been loved. Now the amazing thing about the Freedom that is in Christ is that there is no greater love. We are able to love others greatly, because we have been loved greatly. We can give of others at expense of self because Jesus loved us so much he died in our place. A great love at a great expense. When you know and experience that love, there are no limits. And our walking in both truth and love are a response to that deep love at great cost. Ever notice that some of the greatest and most moving stories are the ones that show love at great cost. O. Henry’s story “The Gift of the Magi” is a prime example. And it is because of the freedom found in Christ’s love that we are able to give at cost to self.
           In this day and age, love often comes at expense of truth. It is a focus on either building of connected relationships or finding ways of alleviating suffering. Now caring for others and looking out for those in great suffering are part of love, but often is focused on at expense of truth. We can do acts of service even at expense of self, but love without truth is fleeting. We can also point and talk truth but if we have not love in doing so, we become a cutting wedge. No one can truly walk in truth and love without the Freedom of Christ and being right with the Creator. For without being in that right relationship, ultimately everything becomes about satisfying self in one way or another.
           Ultimately, the heart of the matter is true freedom really only comes and surrender of self. Now it is very alluring to seek after the freedom of self-determination. We all want to feel like we have control and ability to shape our lives and meet what we desire. However, ultimately there are only two choices. One choice is that of doing what we self-determine to be right for self. It is a tempting trap, but walking in self-determination is at its very nature the spirit of lawlessness. One the other hand, walking hand in hand with God’s truth in surrender of self, seems tough, difficult and at cost. But such surrender brings great freedom and joy as one is allowed relationship with the creator and grows in living in correspondence with God’s truth and love in our own lives today. This comes down to a choice, serve self or serve the Creator.

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On Responses to Jesus Resurrection

Thoughts over the past week have centered on the varied reactions to the Resurrection of Jesus.  There were distinct reactions from those who followed Jesus and there was a distinct reaction of those who rejected to the point of overseeing his crucifixion. Now for his followers there are the women, the eleven disciples, and others.  Regardless, the reactions generally were the same with variation based on individuals.  Each account involves some initial shock and disbelief. The women asked the angel where he took the body.  The disciples did not quickly believe the reports of the women. Peter and John who met the women on the road went to check it out for themselves.  Of course we all know Thomas’s famous doubt even when face to face with our risen Lord. But the fact is the resurrection was so wondrous, so contrary to the grief that the first response was that of shock, doubt, and denial. 

After the initial shock and wonder, soon came wonder, joy, and astonishment as well as confusion.  All they knew is Jesus who was dead was alive. He ate with them. He talked with them. They were able to touch wounds even so far as to place hands in his side.  They all went through a major mood swing; loss of hope, depression, uncertainly followed by pure joy, excitement, and wonder.  Jesus who was just killed was alive. Jesus was alive, fully alive.  His body did not show signs of the tremendous abuse he went through other than the wonders.  When you understand just how incredible the resurrection was, the doubt of Thomas is a bit clearer.  How could it really be Jesus, fully alive, fully functional after all he went through, yet this was the true fact.  Jesus was alive.  It is really hard to fully grasp the depth of response.  Think of your worst possible moment, the darkest time in your life.  Now imagine after that darkest moment you find out that it is reversed in an incredible way beyond expectation or understanding.  Such a reaction is but a taste of what Jesus followers experienced.

Now there are others who had a completely different response. Essentially they are those who conspired to see Jesus crucified.  They didn’t struggle with the feelings of the disciples, rather they went to self-protection and keeping their image their reality in place.  They protected their power and position.  They had to have a plausible story, for it would be hard to deny the resurrection testimonies without a plausible story. So what did they do?  They conspired further. They bribed the guards to put their lives at risk and say the body was stolen.  It is a lie still believed by many today.  The lie and the conspiracy was all about keeping power, for what they feared is if Jesus was truly from God and the story was true, they lose all power.  Everything they worked for and made decisions over was but nothing.  They wanted their power.  So they continued to protect themselves and paid for lies to be spread.  Over time the lies would grow as the supernatural events of the day pass from memory. The dead leaving graves became just a story quickly brushed off. 

So thinking this over, the question really is how does Jesus resurrection impact you?  Are there things you seek to maintain control and cannot surrender.  Do you believe God is capable of redeeming any who would come?  Because it is the power of the resurrection that bears witness to redemption, the empty tomb speaks.  Will you listen to the truth and let it touch your life and change you from the darkness surrounding to glorious and joyful unimagined change?  This is the resurrection.  This is God’s love.  This is what is true peace on earth, Jesus died and rose again so that all may live. Jesus is the only way, there is no other path.  There is nothing anywhere that truly has the demonstrated power of resurrection.

Passion Week Musing: Resurrection Sunday

Today is the day that darkness was defeated. Today is the day everything changed. Today is the day the stone was rolled away. Today is the day the tomb was found empty. Today is the day that the temple was raised again. Jesus is alive. Jesus is risen. Today is the day where when the emotions from the dark Sabbath turn to great rejoicing. The disciples initially were confused, bewildered, and uncertain. How could this be? Jesus alive! Unheard of, could it be? Yes, it in fact was. Oh glorious day. Jesus is alive. He is returned from dead. Not bruised and broken but whole. Yes, he still has the wounds, the scars, but he showed no sign of being hampered by injuries. There is nothing that can measure up to the joy the ecstasy of learning of Jesus rising from the dead. This was the true game changer. What seemed to be cause of hopelessness and despair led to great joy! Suddenly things began to make sense. Jesus became the sacrificial lamb. He fulfilled Passover that all who chose to believe would be saved. He defeat all darkness. He defeated death. He defeated the powers of this world. Why? Because He arose! His victory is why all heaven proclaims “Worthy is the Lamb, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!” Praise God the Lord Almighty for Jesus Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Now is the true time to proclaim Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Now is the time of true peace on earth, goodwill toward men. His purpose fulfilled. True wholeness, true peace is now available to all receive. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day the way is made clear. Today is the day that the truth is made known. Today is the day that brings true life. Today is the day that a miserable sinner like me has been transformed to a member of God’s kingdom with a relationship with the creator. This all because HE AROSE! He paid the price. Now I am made clean and whole. Sin has no further charge. I am free! So I celebrate because HE IS RISEN! HIS IS RISEN INDEED! Today is the day of the beginning of the end.  God’s love fully revealed.  All restoration made possible.  God’s kingdom come.  AMEN!