An Empty Ballpoint Pen

Poor little humans! They only have one tiny life and for so many it’s one long crucifixion until they die of exhaustion, unmissed and unmourned. Dear God they haven’t time to become great sinners because they’re too busy covering their heads while someone is beating them senseless and to death; they’re too busy trying to figure out how they’re going to feed their children and they’re so exhausted that their hearts can’t carry the crushing emotional burden! There’s so much pain, disappointment and unanswered prayers; so much undeserved suffering.

All right, so they’re all sinners but what chance was there that they could be otherwise? Here’s an actual case. His name’s John, he’s eighteen, eighteen! And he’s no vicious hoodlum and his mother is no “Beast of Buchenwald”. Yes, yes, they’ve done wrong things in their lives—did God expect them to be sinless? Born into a world like this and He fully expects them to get out of it without sinning? He knows better though there are many who are friends of His who don’t seem to know what He knows perfectly well!

Here’s one of them: John Risso’s mother. Multiply her by a billion!

“On January 25th, 1973 in Memorial Hospital, John Risso, red-haired, laughing, tall, eighteen, tractor-driving, cow-scratching, flirtatious, shy, died after two and a half years of leukemia. After six weeks of a raging temperature, experimental drugs, bleeding, and an abscess in his rectum that became gangrenous, he died soft and gentle, finally, after six hours of violent death throes. His face was so thin, his hair only a memory, a soft red fuzz, arms blue and green from shots and intravenous feeding, he looked like an old picture of a saint after his tortures were over…
Why would a kind God do what was done to John, or do such a thing to me? I’m poor, have only secondhand furniture and clothing. The things of value were my husband and sons…How can I live with the agony he suffered?
Part of the time he was in a comma, and  when conscious he kept saying, ‘Mama, help me, Mama, help me.’ I couldn’t and it’s killing me. I whispered in his ear, ‘John, I love you so much.’ All of a sudden his arm came up stiffly and fell across my back, and very quietly he said, from some vast depth, ‘Me too.’ “

There are no currently satisfying answers to the agony of the world because it isn’t “answers” or “explanations” these people want—they want it to stop! And yet, despite the silly advice from silly OT professors who tell us to keep our mouths shut on the subject, the sufferers keep on asking “why?”
I don’t know very much but I read a lot and listen a lot and watch a lot. I’ve never been a scholar and it’s too late for me even if I had the ability to become one but I know I’m tired of scholarship with all its wisdom—a wisdom that can show a mass of opposing ways to understand the same texts and prove to me that I haven’t got a clue about what the Bible is really saying. But I know Jesus knew them back to front and inside out. Scriptures that those who take the high moral ground these days sneer at, texts that the wise ones in their wisdom can prove shouldn’t be there—Jesus knew them all. He read the same OT we have (the one with all those offensive texts in them) but the Holy Scriptures never offended Him. He said, “Look closely at them with a trusting and obedient heart and you’ll see Me in them! They’re all about Me!” There must be a “Jesus way” of reading the Holy Bible that’s holier than the way the morally upright ones read it; a way wiser than how the wise ones read it. (John 5:38-39; Luke 11:52)–“Woe to you scholars you take away the key of knowledge…” I’ll rest on that!
I’m tired too of the banal moralizing that I listen to week after week after week from various sources. Preachers armed with a database of a hundred favorite verses and their favorite topics that they present in something of different suit and yet, more often than not, with the same tired illustrations, platitudes, words of correction, suggestions and clips from the Andy Griffith show. I’d rather have the scandal that I don’t know how to respond to.
Colin Morris, a prominent British churchman some years back told us that during the night a couple of hundred yards from his door people found a little man lying on the pavement–-dead. An Asian. His sole possessions were the pair of shorts he wore, a pair of worn sandals and his shirt with an empty ballpoint pen in the pocket. The autopsy found a ball of grass in his otherwise empty stomach.
Arrrrrgh!
Dear Mrs. Risso, poor little Asian man we’ve nothing to tell you other than that there is a God and that He is like Jesus Christ and that He WILL do what is right and He WILL right all the wrongs. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is His assurance that that’s true (Acts 17:31).

(Holy Father, you remain to me in so many ways the “unknown God” Paul spoke about. But I can’t deny that Jesus has persuaded me that what I think I know or what I know I don’t know changes nothing about who you are essentially. I and multiplied millions like me are trusting Him and so we are trusting you. If you can actually experience pain that rises out of your sadness at the agony of the world’s great wrong and the consequences of it you are a strange God indeed. Many truths help me live at peace with my ignorance but that you showed us yourself in Jesus of Nazareth, the resurrected One and that He is image of where you purpose. to take us is a life-sustainer. By Him I’m greatly helped to believe that here is a glorious, happy and righteous ending to all this. Thank you in the name of the Living Lord Jesus.)

Singing Songs in a Strange Land

Isaiah 35 speaks to a sinful nation in captivity in Babylon’s flat land, a nation longing for home among its hills and mountains in Judea. Their heartache and the fact that they have shamed God just by being in captivity (Ezekiel 36:20, passim) has left them songless. Marduk must have been too strong for Yahweh. How could they sing about their God and home while their grinning captors mock them”—sing us a song about Zion.” (Psalm 137)? No wonder many of them hung their unused harps on the willow branches. Babylon made their songs sound fake, wishful thinking—how can you sing (Psalm 46), “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble” when you’re being hauled off away from all you love?

Many things can leave you songless. Singing, “Thank you Lord for loving me and thank you Lord for blessing me…” might make you want to get sick! Agony entered your home a long time ago and never left and despite anguished prayers nothing changes so let us all sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus; all our…griefs to bear…”
Sigh.
And then one Sunday morning you slip into your familiar seat and you see strangers in the same row looking your way with pleasant smiles and friendly nods. You make the effort, rise and greet them, speak your name and ask theirs.

“I’m Daniel,” one says. Then, “Shadrach,” “Meshach,” “Abed-Nego.”And with one voice they say, “We’re so pleased to meet you. A great multitude of us heard of your trouble and we were sent to say hello to let you know you were not forgotten. We’re not quite sure why we were chosen to come but…“

And you interrupt to say, “Oh, but I know why you would have been chosen you. You each went through so much trouble.”

“Ah, yes,” Shadrach says, “but that is all past and we are blessed.” Then Abed-Nego,” And believe us, our trouble was no more stressful than yours has been and is.”

You return to your place and somehow feel more able to sing. You rise to sing with everyone else. The song-leader announces the hymn: “Father Hear The Prayer We Offer’   and, look, it’s Him. The hands He holds the book with are… It’s, The One. He nods in your direction and together everyone gallantly sings songs of Zion “in a foreign land” (Psalm 137:4)

Father, hear the prayer we offer:
Nor for ease that prayer shall be,
But for strength, that we may ever
Live our lives courageously.

Not forever by still waters
Would we idly, quiet stay;
But would smite the living fountains
From the rocks along our way.

Be our strength in hours of weakness,
In our wanderings be our Guide;
Through endeavor, failure, danger,
Father, be Thou at our side.

Let our path be bright or dreary,
Storm or sunshine be our share;
May our souls in hope unweary
Make Thy work our ceaseless prayer.

 

 

This Would Tempt Me To Feminism

This was written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1895. It could generate in me a bias in favor of fierce feminism. None of these words are mine. She wrote them in anger and out of great pain. The truth she expresses makes me feel angry too and not a little sad. Here is what she says. Please read all she says!
“From the inauguration of the movement for woman’s emancipation the Bible has been used to hold her in the divinely ordained sphere, prescribed in the Old and New Testaments. The canon and civil law; church and state; priests and legislators; all political parties and religious denominations have alike taught that woman was made after man, of man, and for man; an inferior being, subject to man. Creeds, codes, Scriptures and statutes, are all based on this idea. The fashions, forms, ceremonies and customs of society, church ordinances and discipline all grow out of this idea. Of the Old English common law, responsible for woman’s civil and political status, Lord Brougham said, ‘It is a disgrace to the civilization and Christianity of the Nineteenth Century.’ Of the canon law, which is responsible for woman’s status in the church, Charles Kingsley said, ‘This will never be a good world for women until the last remnant of the canon law is swept from the face of the earth.’
The Bible teaches that woman brought sin and death into the world, that she precipitated the fall of the race, that she was arraigned before the judgment seat of Heaven, tried, condemned and sentenced. Marriage for her was to be a condition of bondage o, maternity a period of suffering and anguish, and in silence and subjection she was to play the role of a dependent on man’s bounty for all her material wants, and for all the information she might desire on the vital questions of the hour, she was commanded to ask her husband at home.
That is the Bible position of woman briefly summed up. Those who have the divine insight to translate, transpose and transfigure this mournful object of pity into an exalted, dignified personage worthy our worship as the mother of the race are to be congratulated as having a share of the occult mystic power of the eastern Mahatmas. The plain English to the ordinary mind admits of no such liberal interpretation. The unvarnished texts speak for themselves. The canon law, church ordinances and Scriptures are homogeneous and all reflect the same spirit and sentiments. These familiar texts are quoted by clergymen in their pulpits, by statesmen in the halls of legislation, by lawyers in the courts and are echoed by the press of all civilized nations and accepted by woman herself as ‘The Word of God.’ So perverted is the religious element in her nature that with faith and works she is the chief support of the church and clergy; the very powers that make her emancipation impossible. When in the early part of the Nineteenth Century women began to protest against their civil and political degradation they were referred to the Bible for an answer. When they protested against their unequal position in the church they were referred to the Bible for an answer.
This led to a general and critical study of the Scriptures. Some, having made a fetish of these books and believing them to be the veritable “Word of God,” with liberal translations, interpretations, allegories and symbols, glossed over the most objectionable features of the various books and clung to them as divinely inspired. Others, seeing the family resemblance between the Mosaic code, the canon law and the Old English common law, came to the conclusion that all alike emanated from the same source; wholly human in their origin and inspired by the natural love of domination in the historians. Others bewildered with their doubts and fears came to no conclusion. While their clergymen told them on the one hand that they owed all the blessings and freedom they enjoyed to the Bible on the other they said it clearly marked out their circumscribed sphere of action that the demands for political and civil rights were irreligious, dangerous to the stability of the home, the state and the church. Clerical appeals were circulated from time to time conjuring members of their churches to take no part in the anti-slavery or woman suffrage movements as they were infidel in their tendencies, undermining the very foundations of society. No wonder the majority of women stood still, and with bowed heads accepted the situation.” ECS
I don’t agree with all ECS said. I think the Holy Scriptures can be read correctly and sincerely in a way that opposes all the abuses and injustices heaped on women down the years. I really do! I don’t pretend to know all there is to know; I don’t profess that my motives in thought and action are altogether pure—have they ever been except in early childhood innocence? But I cannot admit to wishing to rob women of all the freedom that God wants them to enjoy. I accept my fallibility and I pray to God (I do!) to free me from all dogmatism that would make its home in me and to enable me to rejoice in new and life-enriching truth.
But I was reminded again several evenings ago (Fox News) of how our vested interests shape our viewpoints. I heard a politician who is running for even higher office making a case supporting abortion based on economics. If abortions increased the economy would be strengthened, more women would join the work force and that would be of tremendous benefit to the American nation. Isn’t that an interesting view? Many years ago I listened to a prominent man running for a very high office argue against abortion on the grounds that if abortions continued to increase the USA would soon not have enough troops to effectively engage in war. Isn’t that an interesting way to view such a divisive matter?
Fear, greed, lust for power, pursuit of self-satisfaction, anguish, burning resentment, atheistic or religious convictions and on and on affect how we interpret what confronts us. ECS like millions before and after her spoke out of deep anguish as well as a hunger for what is right. Injustice in any form should be taken seriously but there are some forms of injustice that generate agony of body and mind in the abused even as they create an even more corrupt culture and social system.

There are some things I feel sure about and they take their rise out of my certainty about Jesus—the Jesus I’ve come to know from the Holy Scriptures. (Yes, I’m acquainted with literary theories and the debate about the possibility of historical “knowledge”. I just don’t have the time or interest to bother with such debates.)

I’m sure about Jesus! I’m sure about His reading and understanding the Old Covenant Scriptures and I’m sure of His calling on them—all of them—Moses, the Prophets & the Psalms (Writings) and then pointing to Himself and saying, “They all come together to speak of Me.” He didn’t see the Old Covenant Scriptures as Elizabeth did. He thought if they were read correctly and with a caring heart that they opposed injustice and cruelty in all its forms. He didn’t think we needed Mahatma Mysticism to interpret them as a blessing to the human family. I recall Him saying that if we loved the God He knew intimately and loved others and wanted for them all that we would honorably want for ourselves that that would be to respond fully to the OT because “all the Law & the Prophets hang on those two commandments.” For me it’s a choice between Elizabeth, Fiorenza, Rueter and others and the Lord Jesus.
The Jesus who was well acquainted with Genesis taught Paul the foundational truths of the gospel of/about Himself and His Bride/Wife, the Church. What if we saw clearly Paul’s teaching about the female/male relationship in God’s purpose in the Lord Jesus and discovered that there was a glory and splendor in the mystery of it, even now, that defies the spirit of the world and its god? The abuse in the world was not ordained by God! That’s our creation though God allows us to carry it out.
What if the suffering of women down the ages exposes the awful need of human salvation from Sin? What if their suffering (like Christ’s) has been speaking to us only we weren’t hearing? What if even now across the world, in their millions, the women that suffer the torment of injustice and physical agony are showing us what we are not seeing? What if the torment of little boys and men side by side with little girls and women is telling us of a cosmic catastrophe that He who was born of a woman came to confirm that God takes note of what was going on and to assure us that there’s a new world coming?
If we deny there is glory in the sufferings of Jesus of Nazareth (Galatians 6:14)  because we rightly see it as appalling, maybe we do the same with the suffering of innocent and defenseless women. The humiliation and the agony that Schüssler Fiorenza, Stanton and other feminists rage against should be raged against; but maybe if all we do is rage we rob the innocent, voiceless sufferers of a glory they need to hear about. Point to the young man crucified there and say, “There can be no glory in that brutality and injustice!” But in His sharing the world’s pain the young man Jesus was saying, “Now ‘the world’ and its prince are exposed for what he and it are!” (John 12:31). What if it is the case that the injustice and oppression of countless vulnerable, voiceless women speaks the same message and exposes a world spirit  that is really the grip of satanic power? That won’t obliterate the suffering but will it not brand it as satanic? While we work in God to denounce and share and work to eliminate agony as Jesus of Nazareth did, can we not tell these ceaselessly abused the gospel of Christ and tell them that Jesus and they have a lot in common?
Maybe we’re putting the blame on the Bible when the Bible is not to blame. What is it that makes fierce feminists fierce feminists if it isn’t the suffering of the voiceless and the abused? We should oppose all injustice without apology and without rest but should we turn the innocent victims into nothing but victims?
There’s something very wrong about calling innocent suffering “meaningless”! 

(O, Holy Father…sigh. Open our eyes to what we are not seeing and energize us to do something in your name to expose and eliminate what we can of the great wrongs of the world. And since we can’t change the circumstances of all the sufferers we’re speaking about, would you help us to change their view of you and know that in the light of Jesus a new world is coming so that vibrant and assured hope in Him will change the world for them, even before He comes and in their name rights all wrongs!)

 

A Desperate Appeal

O SOMEWHERE, somewhere, God unknown,
Exist and be!
I am dying; I am all alone;
I must have Thee!
God! God! my sense, my soul, my all
Dies in the cry:
Sawest thou the faint star flame and fall?
Ah! It was I.
The above was written by a very troubled soul many years ago.
Paul says Christians war against principalities and powers, rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual hosts of wickedness in invisible realms and are in dire need of help from God (Ephesians 6). He himself in that section confesses a desperate need for prayers on his behalf, armored or not.
And what of those who are without God’s full protection? Those who: “Don’t know what they’re doing”? What can we do for them?

 

Listening For The Wind

Many of us, I would guess, go through spiritually depressed periods that feel like near-death experiences. On advice, we read the rich biblical texts that have helped so many others, yet our hearts remain as cheerless and lifeless as a cold fireplace. We try all the spiritual tonics, speak to all the wise people, who do all the spiritual aerobics, read all the books on the spiritual disciplines, and try the “seven steps” offered by the well-known authors—all to no avail. Our depression deepens, and despair begins to knock on the doors of our hearts.
All those cures are supposed to work! They appear to have worked for other people and churches, why not us? That they haven’t worked for us is a matter of real concern if we are serious about having a relationship with God that pleases rather than grieves him, a relationship that involves our giving as well as receiving. But our prayers and promises—our vows, sworn in blood-red earnestness that we’d be better, speak better, do better, and think better—have all come to nothing. The vows were sincere—at least we thought they were—and they were made in agony. But when the passion cools, we feel that “the summer is gone and we are not saved.” Despair or near despair sets in. And why wouldn’t it? We share the poet’s distress:

Weary of passions unsubdued,
Weary of vows in vain renewed,
Of forms without the power,
Of prayers, and hopes, complaints, and groans,
My fainting soul in silence owns
I can hold out no more.

The words of the sufferer become ours, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” Psalm 22:1
And in our hearts, they aren’t words snarled in bitterness—they’re weary and disappointed rather than angry, because with our track record we can blame no one but ourselves. Still… still… we were hoping that God in His mercy would take sides with us against ourselves and deliver us for His own name’s sake and the promises He made.
“Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.” 22:4-5

Wonderful stories. Salvation stories. True stories. But all the more distressing because they are true. Others called and were saved. We call and, instead of rescue, we continue to see ourselves as worms, and our “enemies” mock us even though we throw ourselves on God for deliverance. 22:6

So we lie down, exhausted, having despaired of ourselves and feeling that God must have despaired of us also. And as we lie in our silent graves with no earthly help that will make any difference, paralyzed by a crushing hopelessness, we hear the whisper of the wind; and the word of God comes to us again through a nation that was dead in sin and beyond all human help.
As a nation they had tried everything to stave off the death they richly deserved. They paid tribute until they were broke, made treaties with foreign powers, and sent ambassadors north, south, east, and west. They fortified cities and studied the ways of war. They even tried religion — they built altars and prayed. But there was no salvation in any of their efforts. They were all just new ways of speeding the death process, and they ended up in a national grave. Ezekiel 37:1-14

“Turn to me and be saved… for I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:22

Their bones were more than dry; they were “very dry.” And there weren’t only a few of them—the valley, like one giant coffin, was choked with them. The prophet spoke, and bone came together with bone; but there was no life—only a huge ravine full of skeletons. Sinews and flesh wound themselves around the bones, but there was no life—only a mighty gorge filled with corpses, an eerie, silent valley of corpses! Well, not absolutely silent. There was the wind. The man was told to speak the word of God to the wind, and the wind became the Spirit of God entering those lifeless figures—just as on the day of creation—and they were filled with life and stood on their feet, a mighty army. A nation alive from the dead!
And hearing their story, we’re persuaded to trust again—or at least not to not trust again. At this very moment, we may feel a sense of fatigue and despair, but it’s not the end of the story. God—and may it please Him to be soon—will give us reason to rejoice as life courses through us, delivering us from one enemy after another. One day we’ll assemble to worship and feel compelled to turn to fellow-worshipers and speak of our deliverance. In the strength and joy of the Spirit of God, we’ll dismiss depression’s view of sadder days and say with the psalmist:

He has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
Psalm 22:24

And we, as our forefathers did, will enthrone God as the Holy One on the praise of our hearts. From him will come the theme of our praise in the great assembly, Psalm 22:25 and our story will be told as one of deliverance to children not born, and people will trust because we were delivered. Psalm 22:30-31

And what is true of individuals can be true of whole congregations, and what is true of congregations can be true of cities and nations! What is true for others can be true for you. What is true for you can be true for me. Weep if you must, and tell Him your heart’s breaking—but trust, wait, and listen for the wind!

[With permission I took this from my book Where the Spirit of the Lord is. Simon & Schuster has it.]

 

Innocent Suffering & Little Blackie

Some time back my friend Joey Tilton wrote me about True Grit. The Jeff Bridges re-make. He was thrilled by it. I dismissed Jeff’s version without even looking at it. John Wayne had ruined it for anyone else, I said, but I later looked at—for a while—and then closed it down. Later still (as I recall) Joey came back—“well?”—but I still wasn’t having it. He argued me into it and I watched the entire thing. Most of it wasn’t up to the Wayne version, I told myself, but the Ride to Death scene toward the close did it for me! (You must see it for yourself when you have the right moment.)

The heroine is snake-bitten, she will die if she doesn’t get to a doctor but the doctor is a long way away and there’s only one horse—the heroine’s Little Blackie.

The hulking marshal grabs the girl and jumps on the little horse and rides him for hours through the darkness, whipping him at times to spur him to run with a burden too heavy for him to carry far but he must keep running because there’s far to go and someone’s dying.
It’s his courageous innocence that is heart-tugging.
He’s not trying to impress anyone; he’s not trying to make a name for himself; he has no profound theology or mind-jerking philosophy. He doesn’t even understand what’s at stake. All he knows is that he is being asked to run and run hard and fast and he’s doing it. He doesn’t have questions much less answers about why he is being thrashed. He is just doing what he’s told to do, doing what needs to be done and doing it in the circumstances he was born into. And so he gallantly carries the great weight of it until he can carry it no more. He’s covered in sweat, flecked with foam, choking for air, his heart pounding and he’s dying.
The big strong marshal can’t do it without this innocent little horse and he can’t do it without asking the sweating, panting, choking, hurting little animal to run and run until his life ends. The dying girl’s heart is breaking at what is being asked of and done to her innocent friend for whom she would be glad to die. The horse doesn’t know he’s running for her or  that for her he’ll finally give his life. He only knows he’s supposed to run and without questions or answers he runs to death to gain a life—there’s gallant self-sacrifice written all over the scene.
Yes, I think it’s his un-protesting innocence that appeals especially to me.
When humanity was “snake-bitten” and on its way to death, innocent animals became sacrifices for sin—as the OT Scriptures tell us. When the human family pulled the creation down around itself and the vulnerable and voiceless got the worst of it we also dragged the non-human creation down with us and in their innocence they suffered on our behalf. Maybe it’s that that makes the gallant little horse so hypnotic a sight.
(How shallow is our dismissal of animal sacrifice in the Holy Scriptures. We just don’t get the message, do we? In order to exalt the glory of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus we even distort OT sacrifices into (mere) fleshly ceremony (and misuse the book of Hebrews while we’re at it). “Yes but the animals didn’t know they were being offered.” True, maybe they can’t reason, but can they suffer?  The little girl taken by the hand of the Nazi death-camp guard and helped to climb the steps into the gas-chamber didn’t know she was being sacrificed.) We don’t need to be callous in order to glorify the Lord Jesus. Suffering innocence (human and non-human) is laid out before us everywhere in the OT sacrificial process and we just don’t “get it” even from Luke 24;25-26, 44-46; Acts 3:18, passim) until (maybe) we see a scene from a movie made by pagan Hollywood.)
Still, in addition to their death, when I experienced for myself their life and how animals can befriend humans, bring comfort to them, respond to them, seek out their company, look for warmth and companionship and gratefully receive kindness I don’t feel the need to reduce everything to an overtly religious perspective. I’m content with biblical support and social experience to believe that they mean much to Him who made them and that they’re one of His gifts to us as well as our teachers.

God speaks to us in everything, if only we have the eyes to see and ears to hear; is that not true?

 

All That’s For The Heart’s Lifting

He’s “King of Kings and Lord of Lords!” He’s the “Ruler of the princes/kings of the Earth!” He sits “Far above all rule and dominion, above all the powers, above every name that is named in this world and any other world, present or future!” He “is the Lord of the dead and of the living and the Lord of Sin, Death and Life itself!” In Him, “all things without limit ‘hold together’!” He’s “the Prince who brings peace and hope and assurance that on a coming day of His choosing all wrongs will be righted and both victims and their impenitent, exulting abusers will receive what unlimited wisdom and love with bring to pass!” When He was here, visible to the human eye, touchable by human hands and hearable by the human ear He revealed His Holy Father by going around healing and blessing and delivering and assuring and fiercely opposing and exposing injustice and greed and corrupt teaching!

He did all this in living! He rebuked disease in every form and ordered demonic power to leave; He confronted Death at funeral processions and in tiny bedrooms and with a word transformed sobs and heartache into laughter and praise that God had made Himself present there and He brought fellowship and self-respect to people who were shunned and isolated by their powerful and fearful neighbors. All this He did in living and He did no less in His dying—He did more in His dying because as he said Himself, “My Father loves Me because I lay down my life that I might take it again!” (John 10:17-18)
Like His Holy Father who sends the rain on the thankless, the evil, the rabid atheist, the godless abusers, the religious leaders who are whited-sepulchers and lukewarm believers Jesus gave and offered purpose and power, life and understanding to humans of every class. And He did it not only because they needed it—He did it to proclaim that this is what GOD wanted for them. In watching Him people were seeing without understanding that God was reigning in their presence, in their bodies and minds, in their homes and in their families, in their daughters and sons.

And it’s true—much of it was miraculous and could only be manifested by someone such as He was. But it was bigger than miraculous—the miracles were also messages within a grander message. In Him we’re not just seeing astonishing temporary transformations—in Him and what He did God was saying, “See Me! See what I’m offering you! See what kind of God I am! Don’t just see the miracles—don’t just see the bread that could be a meal for a family becoming a meal that fed thousands. See ME expressing My heart by healing and feeding and liberating! Try not to worry about why all weren’t healed and fed and liberated! Try not to wrestle with why I didn’t make Myself miraculously present at all times and everywhere—rejoice that I showed Myself anywhere at any time. Know that I Am! Know that in Jesus Christ you have seen Me and so, trust Me. Know through Him, the resurrected and glorified Lord Jesus, that I can be trusted and that a day will come, in the “fullness of time” when you in wide-eyed speechless joy will see that what I have done in a series of startling acts in Him was a revelation of the nature and unchanging character of my Kingship and reign. In Him you will learn that I am the same yesterday, today and forever.
“In Him did you ever see Me cruel or heartless? In Him did you ever see Me smile or shrug at injustice or greed? In Him did you ever hear me speak in profound anger to anyone but the powerful who dominated and humiliated the vulnerable they were supposed to protect and upbuild?
“I never ordained the torment of the human family. I find no pleasure in the awful pain of the human family; nor could I! But I created the human family with capacity to reject Me and my overarching purpose knowing that it would reject me and that agony would enter human experience. So I take responsibility for allowing cruelty and corrupt power to be part of the human condition because I choose to allow what I allow. But I joined you in and as Jesus of Nazareth to make it clear your hurt matters to Me and that it does not last forever and that it comes to a conclusion in an unending climax of inexpressible glory and justice for all, with unrepentant tyrants dealt with and everlasting LIFE for all embraced in my redemptive work. In the meantime in the light of His death see your own! In the light of His mission see your own purpose for being! In the light of His vision of Me, make it your own! See the rain and the sunshine the way He saw them—My gifts to all. Don’t doubt Me because right now not everyone everywhere experiences My gifts; be happy that anyone, anywhere, experiences them. I purpose all that enriches and is for the heart’s lifting. See the past miracles as tokens of My reigning presence in a world that’s lost its way by walking away from Me. Know through Him that My way of reigning is not by violence or corruption or sheer punitive means. Imagine how this world could have been and could be if the human family—if you, the Church—acted and thought and taught as He did and believed as He did.
In and as Him, within the limits of just one human life, I have experienced the hurt and the pleasure, the ugliness and the beauty, the glory and the gloom of life as a human. I have taken all that on Me as a human and by this I wanted you to know that I take your pain and loneliness seriously and in raising Him from the dead to an unending climax of all that is wondrous and right and joyously thrilling I show you who I am and what I’m about.
“You wouldn’t like me nor could you worship Me freely in love and joy if I were nothing but almighty power. You could never trust Me and gladly commit yourself and all your beloved ones to Me if I were heartless wisdom and self-centered in My limitlessness. You could never share with anyone a Story about Me if I loved only some of you that I have created and if I had purposed to bring only a select handful to life eternal. Believe Me, believe in Me and believe in Me through Him.

“And believe this, My work in Him has not ceased because you can no longer see Him (though you will see Him in a coming day). In light of Him I continue to express My kingly reign in its nature and purpose in the midst of My enemies (Psalm 110).

“A day of My choosing will come when My Lordship will be known to all but in the meantime remember this, you can see My reign in anyone, anywhere that you see human life respected, where leaders, men and women, nations and governments, reign in solidarity and unity, where a just and righteous order is sought and worked for, where orphans and widows, the vulnerable, powerless and voiceless are noted, where their pain is felt, where their needs are supplied or at least where the wise attempt is made to supply them; there, where human beings are given the opportunity to be what I intend them to be, THERE I am revealing My kingdom power! “Imagine these in One perfect One and this is My Beloved.” I am the Lord of all that is for the heart’s lifting!” (Much of this last paragraph is from Mortimer Arias.)

(Holy One, in your Beloved, the Lord Jesus, you have not only saved us for you and one another, you have saved yourself for us for in Him we see you in truth. Though there were and are times when due to our pain, our confusion, the gloomy teaching we’ve heard about you we might have serious doubts about you and your purpose toward us, the human family, in Him you have blessed us with a clear vision of who you are. Make it even clearer we ask through your Holy Scriptures and your work among us in daily living that we might admire you more, be empowered more with a grander view of you by the nearness of you. We’re coming to trust you more as we begin to see you more and more in Him through whom we offer this prayer. The Lord Jesus Christ.)