Monthly Archives: November 2018

“He Guards My Life Because…”

 Lukas Reiter tells of a ruthless criminal who is speaking to his daughter on the phone. He’s telling her of a very dear friend whose life he had saved many years earlier. The man he’d saved attached himself to the brutal criminal as a protector and now the protector was himself in serious harm’s way. He muses into the phone and wonders, “Why does someone so decent spend his every day around me, someone so indecent…? 
His daughter ventures the guess that he did it because he felt gratitude to his deliverer but her father isn’t having that. He wasn’t really asking for an explanation; he just wanted to hear himself spelling out his sense of the wonder of it all.
“No,” he murmured, “He didn’t see me as a savior—he saw me as the man I am, a man surrounded by darkness, with no friends who could be trusted, one who didn’t believe that loyalty or love could ever exist. He committed to me to show me that day and every day, that the world is not what I feared it to be. He’s the light in the darkness; (he’s) living proof that there is another way. That life can be good and people kind. That a man like me might one day dream of becoming a man like him. He pledged his life, offered it up as evidence that I was wrong about the world. He guards my life because he’s determined to save my soul.”
I believe in such people! People who are not Jesus but make us think of Jesus. The kind of people Jesus would have watched with those searching eyes of His, eager to see their way and listening with the pleasure growing within Him to hear their strong and gracious words keeping strugglers with life from entering into a darkness so deep that there’d be no way back up out of it.
I do believe in Sin! How could I not? For am I not a sinner! And don’t I see it dressed in fine clothes and don’t I hear it speak in persuasive tones with perfect diction as it pours out lies that corrupt and damn? Don’t we see its gloomy shadow lying across little nations killing all hope? I do believe in corrupt people who fill the very air with moral darkness until there’s no sun in the sky and leading countless poor souls to wonder if there’s a sky at all.
But I believe in good people for I have seen them and heard them speak and watched the change come over people who had until then only seen life out of soulless eyes. They assure me about God. If humans in a world like this can love like that—God can love no less! Jacob in Genesis 33, worried sick with fear that his brother Esau in bitterness and in power would treat him harshly instead sees the face of God on the face of his sinned-against brother. Not a scathing word that strips the flesh from his bones, not a hint of violence, but tears of joy to see his brother well. If we see it in Esau should be expect less of Jesus? I believe in such people and they help me to believe more assuredly in GOD.

 

 

If God Didn’t Do It Who Did?” (3)

The first piece in October cited and briefly looked at a few texts where God, in words assigned to Him personally, disturbingly claimed responsibility for events that appall us. We’re told He gave commands that are heartless (the kind we’d expect from Herod the Great or Hitler and his advisors). For the economically and socially blessed who never took God or the Holy Scriptures seriously we got, and get, what we expect, indifference or moral condemnation. For those who live in a world, a prison, of deprivation, threat, humiliation and unceasing hardship we get numerous different responses. If all they hear from preachers is that they need to repent of their sins we often get bitter resentment: “GOD needs to repent!”

Or if they believe God is mad at a world that rejected Him and refuses to honor Him they’re tempted to believe that He is vengefully drunk on punishment. He ladles it out plentifully and indiscriminately on little children and their awfully burdened parents—well, He does appear to discriminate in favor of the wealthy and the powerful, the nations with the most powerful weapons and most advanced medical technology. As well as being swollen with a sense of His honor He is arbitrary and blesses these sinners and crushes those, kills these impoverished babies via devouring parasites and provides more than enough employment and wealth for countless hedonists to spend on “more”.
And then, of course, there is the everlasting, ceaseless torture he will inflict on humans if they don’t give Him honor. This kind of thing His friends tell about Him and they wonder why people show little (free) interest in Him and much less love for Him or admiration of Him.
And if that isn’t enough to put Him in the doghouse with us we hear as the center-piece of His glory and grace that He cannot forgive sinners unless He punishes Sin out of existence by punishing the most lovely young human that ever walked on this planet! We’re told He desperately wants to forgive us but He can’t do that because there is something in Him that demands that sins must be punished to the nth degree. So He inflicts punishment (not just “suffering”—punishment) on Jesus of Nazareth and that allows Him to “forgive” us our sins. So He “forgives” by violence, without which He cannot forgive and yet calls on those who give Him honor to forgive repeatedly without violence those who come seeking forgiveness from us. At the heart of the God who is the heart of all things is the need for doing violence to the young man we admire above all others as a model of love and honor. No wonder we have a tough time with “texts of terror.” But God is not like any of that! He’s like Jesus Christ! There is nothing in Him that is not like Jesus!

The second piece reminded us that when God claims responsibility for all that is anti-human, anti-life and anti-God in the world He is not saying He is a heartless, genocidal “hit-man”. He is claiming that He alone is Creator and sustainer and governing Father of the world!

The piece reminded us that the world in which Israel lived was absolutely saturated with the worship of innumerable gods to whom credit was given for success in war, material prosperity, national security, drought, famine, pestilence, disease and disablement. The piece proposed that in making the claim that He is responsible for what takes place He is in effect denying that the gods or chance or spiritual powers or demons or humans control the world. There is but one God and it’s Yahweh (Isaiah 42:5-8) He will not credit the gods with anything—either good or evil (Isaiah 41:23; Jeremiah 10:5) He will not credit humans with autonomous power or credit them as lords because they have chariots, horses, military might and shrewdness. He is the one that raises up kings, emperors and gives authority to whoever He chooses.

But God not only shoulders the responsibility for the evil that goes on in the world. He and He alone exists as Lord and sustainer of the world and all in it and He sovereignly chooses to allow humans to invent gods, corrupt and brutalize one another and create a world of the poor and oppressed. And He takes responsibility for that sovereign choice!

He claims also that He is the giver of rain, sunshine, harvests, health and national blessing and that He is Lord of the seas, the nations and all else! (See Psalm 104 & 148 Acts 14:17; 17:24-29.) The gods control nothing! Chance rules nothing! Human strength, shrewdness and military power (Psalm 33:16-22; 147.10) rules nothing. God alone is LORD! That’s why He holds Himself responsible for things on earth. That’s why we hear Him say, “I did it!” He’s no heartless tyrant! He is imaged perfectly by Jesus Christ so you know if He says “I did it!” that we can trust Him as we seek understanding.
All that is good and wise and uplifting and promotes the blessing of human existence He actively works to bestow because it is His heart’s desire. All that is anti-human, anti-life, anti-God He chooses to allow, but He chooses to allow it (Acts 14:16; Romans 1:18, 21, 24). In both cases the decision to actively bless and to allow evil is the decision of God! It isn’t chance, the gods, demonic thugs, satanic servants who control and enslave. Whatever or whoever exists exists because God permits it to be. (I purpose to offer some developed pieces on demonology that you might think are worth pursuing though I suspect you’ll want to disagree. But that’ll be okay. God will bless us for our seeking His truth and heart.)

But why would God permit, choose to permit, the gods, the brutality, oppression and such to exist? Because He chooses humans to exist and pathetic fools we enslaved ourselves (and others with us) to the powers and as a consequence we turned on one another. He has such a love for humans (wondrous beyond imagining!) that He became one of us and has permanently taken the experience of humanness up into His divine experience. The day will come when He will bring this real-life drama to a conclusion and a reckoning will take place (Acts 17:31; Romans 14:9-10) and all who are embraced in His redeeming purpose will know GOD for who and what He is and will be utterly free to live everlastingly in warm noble glory and pure-hearted righteousness. The plundered poor will approach a judgment-seat and find they are meeting a God who is like His Holy Son, the world’s Deliverer. Happy Day! Those impenitent servants of the evil powers who will not have Him will perish and so will have suffered an eternal loss—that being, life with Him and a glorious fellowship with countless majestic and joy-filled beings!

(another piece purposed with some specific OT texts looked at)

 

 

If It Isn’t God Who Is It? (2)

If it’s the case that I will be speaking the truth or at least some truth that will point in the direction where fuller truth is to be found, it will benefit those who are blessed with patience, sensitivity and openness and I suppose, above everything else, a hunger for truth that enriches and energizes us for life and service. I read some authors whose meaning I currently can’t quite grasp but I know that they are speaking to issues that matter greatly so I’m encouraged to go the distance, to pay the price required to learn from them. Since I’m not a specialist in anything, most of what I write is well within the grasp of any eager amateur like myself. But in some areas we have to invest the time and mental energy in prayerful reflection to get the blessing of renewed vision, a greater sense of assurance, freedom in truth and a greater capacity for happy life and service for the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. I do enjoy reading material that immediately makes me “soar” but there are times when I need patient instruction (when it’s there to be had) on fundamental and massive truth so I can “soar” with assurance.

It might help if you looked at the October piece before reading this one.

It’s because we believe that God’s power and knowledge is unlimited that generates the questions about truly awful suffering. Why don’t we just accept that God is heartless and creates us to watch us writhe? We can’t do that because we have a Bible with a message that culminates with Jesus Christ. He taught, “When you see and hear Me you’re seeing and hearing God.” More on that shortly.

       Allowing GOD to say what He says and believing Him when He says it

There are too many texts in the Holy Scriptures in which God takes the responsibility for awful suffering for us to push Him out the side door so He doesn’t get bad press. Before we lay the blame elsewhere we need to acknowledge that in the Bible God says He is responsible for its existence! Do please see and read carefully passages like Amos 3:6; Isaiah 45:7; Deuteronomy 32:23-30; Ezekiel 5:5-17 and Exodus 20:5. passim Read them unafraid because the Spirit of God has seen to it that we have them to read and they are profitable to fully equip us for life and service (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
We know that a ton of explanation (even if it’s sensible and plausible) doesn’t obliterate a pound of prolonged anguish. Nevertheless someone(s) must address the issue with wisdom and assurance if there’s any to be had.

                                         Jesus: An Interpreter and Guide

Jesus claimed the God of the Old Testament is His Holy Father.
Jesus said He is the revelation of the God of the Old Testament.
Jesus read the same Old Testament we read.
Jesus knew the OT texts that greatly trouble us and still said God is the ever-loving God of the human family.

Jesus did not see God as a monster. He didn’t see Him as heartless or as someone who held a divine grudge or raged in unbridled anger at a human family., He purposed to bless us with fullness of life now, and then in a coming day of His own knowing to transform us into currently unimaginable glory as He did with the man, Jesus of Nazareth. who knew that was what His Father eternally had in mind. (See Luke 24:25-27, 44-49 and compare Paul’s 2 Timothy 1:9-10 and              1 Corinthians 15:45-49.)
What then are we to do with what Phyllis Trible (in another context) would call “texts of terror”? Once more! Whatever we make of them Jesus was well aware of them and construed them not as texts about a God who would be our worst nightmare but a sovereign Lover of His creation. If we cannot believe that then the Christian Faith faces what appear to be insurmountable difficulties. But if we can trust the Lord Jesus not only as the Savior from Sin but as the interpreter of God, His words and ways, then we are free to face any and all texts of terror and understand them as texts of assurance in the face of unspeakable evil and mesmerizing suffering. Texts of assurance? Yes!

                         God as the God of all Gods & Lord of all Lords
The loving and glorious purpose of the Father Creator never changed but the human family did and as the Holy Scriptures tell it God chose to allow humankind to go their own way and choose alienation from Him in moral derangement with the consequences that follow (Acts 14:16; Romans 1:24, 26), making themselves unworthy of “life” (1:32). This is the “wrath” of God that is being revealed against all unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). The wrath of God is God “giving them up” to their choice of alienation that expresses itself in idolatry, reprobate minds and mental blindness, pride and ingratitude, sexual perversion, uncleanness, envy, hatred, slander, war-mongering…and shut themselves out from life with God (Romans 1:18-32).
What historian Will Durant said of Egypt is true of the entire ancient world in which Israel lived and in which the Bible was written. “Far beneath and above everything in Egypt was religion. We find it in every stage and form from totemism to theology…in literature, in government, in art…We cannot understand the Egyptian—or man—until we study his gods.” Hammurapi, Babylonian king (around 1792 B.C.) claimed he got his code from Shamash, son of the supreme Anu and from Bel, “Lord of Heaven and Earth…who determines the destiny of the land, committed rule of all mankind to Marduk…”
The arrival of the gods and the worship of these human creations, the deepening corruption that leads to murder, polygamy, slavery, war and success in war and the expansion of territory and domination is credited to the gods that divided the earth among themselves and fought one another for preeminence. In all this the gods were praised and their armies were rewarded with riches, the best land or more land if they needed it due to their prospering, The gods made their favorites kings and queens and emperors. Were the Philistines successful in battle—Dagon was to be praised. Did Assyria rule the Mid-eastern world by force of arms? Depending on the era and the location it was because Ashur, Ishtar or Nergal gave the success. Did Canaan have great harvests and blessings in population and health? Baal was to be thanked. A loss in battle, a failure in harvest, a pestilence that destroyed crops occurred because the god was angry, wasn’t respected sufficiently or was beaten by a stronger god or goddess. The gods warred against each other out of envy or resentment or in retaliation for an injury inflicted. There were gods that ruled the skies or the seas or the rivers and lakes, the wind and the rain and storms. Some gods/goddesses were bringers of life and other of death, some of fertile land and others lords of wilderness. They were identified as patrons of this nation or that and took credit for the establishment and sustenance of this kingdom or that or the bringing of justice here and there. There are songs and inscriptions, shrines, temples and feasts dedicated to the gods, celebrations and sacrifices as memorials to great past victories and stories told of heroes like Gilgamesh, servants of the gods—everywhere air and earth, sky and sea, mountains and plains, palaces and “cemeteries” wildernesses and gardens, there they were the gods!

Whatever else Genesis 1 & 2 is about it carried this message to Israel as they left Egypt and headed for Canaan: The gods are not to be feared or worshipped, the sun, moon and stars, the dry land the sea and all that in them is, the earth and the human family are all the creation of the one true GOD who gave His name as Yahweh! The gods are nothing, they were created and sustained by the blind and stumbling human family that rejected their Creator Father. They were nothing and could do nothing—nothing, good or evil. In the beginning they were created out of a felt need and sense of helplessness and then anything that brought pleasure became a god (trees that gave fruit and shade, rivers that gave fish…) but shrewd seekers of power learned in a hurry that the gods were a powerful support to a throne and in some areas the king represented the god and in Egypt the Pharaoh reigned not only by divine right but by divine birth and was the embodiment of the god. You see hints of that kind of thing in the book of Daniel 6:7. Read again Romans 1:19-23.
Israel lived in a world peopled by the gods, with a world that worshiped the gods and gave thanks to the gods, taught their children in schools about the gods, utterly dependent on belief in the gods. So, when we read of God taking responsibility for things such as drought and famine or success in war or for physical disability what we’re hearing is God’s trenchant (and risky) denial that the gods created and controlled the creation, the nations and history. It wasn’t Marduk that gives Jehoiakim into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand—it was God (Daniel 1:1-2). It wasn’t Marduk that gave Nebuchadnezzar kingly authority—it was GOD (2:37) and if he didn’t believe that GOD would prove it to him (4:28-27). When God saves the 3 Jewish believers (3:1-7) who refused to worship Babylonian gods or brought Belshazzar down for insulting Him (5:3-4) it is GOD against the gods. Isaiah 36 & 37 is an education in this regard. It is the gods against GOD. A thoughtful reading of the two chapters, noting 36:18-20 and 37:11-13, 15-20, 37-38, is an education.
When again and again and again we hear God say, “It was Me!” we’re not hearing Him say He was a heavenly “hit-man” who loved His work! He is announcing Himself as the only and the one true GOD. 74 times in Ezekiel He repeats, in judgment or in blessing, that He does it “That you/they will know that I AM YAHWEH!” In Deuteronomy 32, speaking of the armies led by their gods and goddesses that devastate Israel, He says, “It wasn’t them, IT WAS ME!” In Isaiah 42:6-8 He has this to say: “I the LORD have called you in righteousness…I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Nations, to open blind eyes. To bring out prisoners, those who sit in darkness from the prison house. I am THE LORD , that is my name; and my glory I will not give to another, nor my praise to carved images.”
In calamity or prosperity, in pursuit of His purpose to redeem not only His chosen instrument, Israel, but the nations of the world GOD will not tolerate the belief that chance or the gods or powerful kings or skilled and ruthless armies rule the world. It doesn’t matter to Him (it does!) that people believe in all these other things or realities, God claims It’s Me!
GOD could obliterate sinful humanity, GOD could put an end to suffering, GOD could end the world and then there’d be no hate, cruelty, torture or greed, immorality, disease or predatory power. But He won’t! He takes full responsibility for the existence of humans that exercise free-will and skill and wisdom and creative brilliance that He has given them and gives to them that they use for evil purposes instead of wondrous discovery and the promotion of joy and peace and prosperity in righteousness on earth! Why create us in free-will in the first place when He knew what we would choose to do? Why did He ALLOW us (Acts 14:16) to do all this? Why doesn’t He obliterate us all and end it? He could but He won’t! He has a spellbinding end up ahead!

(I purpose another piece looking at several “texts of terror.” In the meantime I for one hear GOD saying, “It’s Me! I’m in control. Not chance, not evil powers, not warmongering power-brokers, not the shrewd worshipers of the new ‘gods’. Trust Me and tell others to trust Me.”)

No Resurrection, No Gospel (2 of 9) (What does the resurrection mean for us)

Watch the latest video from McGuiggan Reflections.
What does the resurrection mean for us? 1 Corinthians 15 – What if there was no resurrection? What does the resurrection mean to a Christian

To contact Jim, feel free to email him at holywoodjk@gmail.com or visit his website at: http://www.jimmcguiggan.com.

McGuiggan Reflections – Episode 110
The Preacher and His Work Series
God Maketh Himself Present

Help us caption & translate this video!

https://ift.tt/2qXvmLz
Watch on Youtube via IFTTT

DON’T DO IT!

I write mainly for readers who share with me a profound and common interest in and commitment to the God who revealed Himself in and as Jesus of Nazareth—the now resurrected and exalted Lord of All. I write for readers who believe in the Holy Spirit who makes Himself present (peculiarly) in the Church of God by His living Word in the Holy Scriptures. This living Word is living and powerful precisely because it is the Word of the living Spirit of God—it is never dead! Like its holy source, the Holy Spirit, it can be resisted, quenched and rejected because the “power” the Spirit of God brings to bear on the hearts and minds of people and in their societies is not coercive. It is God’s power to save but it is a drawing and shaping power (Acts 20:32; Romans 1:16; John 12:32 and elsewhere).

We’re aware of our flaws though we accept the fact that we don’t know or see them as our God and Savior does. Still, however flawed we are in practice or vision we can’t subscribe to the views of someone like J. Selby Spong who can take or leave the existence of God and still speak as one who is a Christian.
I can’t embrace the view of a congregation of people who are committed to Jesus as Lord but that in His name calls no one to repentance. When I hear people being invited to dialogue with Christians that assure them, “We’re not asking you to change your mind about your homosexual stance or relationships” I immediately ask, “Yes, but is God asking them to change their minds (repent)?”
Romans 1:18-32 is a long list of markers that the human family has suppressed the truth of God in unrighteousness and that God them gave them up to those various chosen evils that included foolishness and homosexuality in its various forms. Paul immediately follows that long (but not exhaustive list) with a fearful warning that to choose to reject a change of mind (repentance) is to choose to reject God and His goodness and store up for oneself a coming wrath (Romans 2:1-4). Not to call me to repentance when it’s clear that I’m consciously choosing to reject His goodness is not kindness or friendship within the Christian narrative. To tell me it’s my God-given right to do as I please is to speak peace to me where there is no peace.

Still, how could we not be in favor of friendly dialogue with sinners when we ourselves are sinners? How could I not believe that God is calling other struggling sinners back to Himself when He calls me to Him as I seek a nearer likeness to Jesus Christ? His goodness to me and to everyone who seeks His presence and peace is expressed in the gift of His drawing us to repentance (Romans 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25-26; Titus 2:11-14; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:11; 1 Peter 1:2; 2:24).

This is no plea for Christians to keep sinners like ourselves at arm’s length with a “holier than thou” attitude or speech (Isaiah 65:5). We’ve done enough of that! Should we invite sinners who choose to reject God’s goodness to eat with us or to keep company with us if they choose to or to gather with us when we assemble to glorify Him? Dear God, yes!
But to tell them their conscious choosing to live their lives contrary to the good God who offers them a “change of mind”—to tell them that it is not sin to be repented of but rather a right for them to enjoy and for which they need to apologize to no one, not even to God? That is loving them with the love of the Lord? To tell people “We aren’t asking you to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20); you need no such thing”? This is the love of God speaking through us?
To make a friend of sinners is like Jesus Christ! To make a friend of a “world” and a “world spirit” that first seduces and blinds, then shames and degrades and corrupts us and through us spreads corruption that is to make an enemy of God (James 4:4; 1 Tim 1:8-11) who loves those we smile at and say, “We’re not asking you to change.”
How seductive the Tempter is and how sweet and cozy is our feeling that we’re tolerant and friendly. But there is no kindness so merciless as that which extends the hand of friendship to a slithering parasite that’s devouring those we care about. The patient and loving Son of God turned to His critics when they slated Him for caring for the noted sinners and He said, “They’re ill and I’m their doctor.” They hung Him for many things but they hung Him for making friends of sinners and even while he choked to death He said, “Father they need forgiveness. Forgive them they don’t know what they’re doing!”
Sinners like us who are “in the know” need to tell them.
There are many young people on the edge of an abyss. Don’t tell them it’s their God-given right to jump.
And there are those who are struggling with what they’re mortally afraid of and need a doctor like the Savior and friends standing by to assist Him. Don’t tell them everything is all right!
The Satan, said Paul, can transform himself into a minister of light.

(Holy Father, help us who wish to please you by being instruments of your blessing to the human family that you so love that you sent the Lord Jesus that we might have life in and through Him. Save us that we might not be carried away by every wind of cultural and societal change for we too are opposed by invisible rulers of the darkness of this “world” and hosts of wickedness in the unseen realms. Do continue in your faithfulness to keep us from trusting our emotions when they would carry us to places and thoughts you have protected us from. Convince us that your salvation is more than forgiveness but that it includes your patient work of deliverance from ALL that is unlike the Lord Jesus and that we might be included, more and more, among he number of whom it is said, “And such were some of you but you  but you were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Do come to our aid that as your People we will trust your saving Word in the Lord Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and forever, rather than our ever-changing feelings. Do help us to be faithful as servants of your Saving Truth that liberates. Do it for us your sinful children and do it for those too with whom we live and to whom we speak for if they do not hear it from us who will tell them of full and one day final, glorious and joyful LIFE? This prayer in Jesus Christ.)

There It Lay Hidden All Along

His name was Levi! New Testament readers know him better as Matthew. A tax-collector. Rome had set up a system of “client kings”. It offered its approval and military support to this king or that one if the king would agree to raise taxes for Rome’s needs [the client king got his cut, of course]. They’d assess how much they wanted from a kingdom and the client king would give that to Rome. It didn’t matter how much more he could wring out of his people so long as he could give Rome their cut.
The Jewish people had two reasons to despise the tax-collectors—Rome and the Herodian family with whom Rome had made the agreement.
Tax-collectors weren’t poor little things who were mistreated; we get a better view of them as a class when we think of those who collaborated with the Nazis in France or Belgium or Holland. They must have been emotionally and socially tough to take such a job in the midst of their own people. Don’t you think they would have had to harden themselves to work for the hated and abusive authorities? Would they not be resentful and bitter and durable when every day they were despised, jeered at, isolated and passed by in silence? And if they had wives and children would they not have to steel themselves against the pain their loved ones would surely feel in such a society? My guess is they well have been lonely at times too but gutted it out.  You think so?
In any case that’s who was sitting at his place when Jesus walked up to him. There He stands looking in silence at him, those big earnest eyes searching Matthew while the tax-collector looks up at Him every now and then with a “Well, what do you want?” sort of look.
Then the silent looker-on says: “Leave all that and follow me!”

Obviously Matthew knew something of the one who spoke to him. It cannot have been just anyone—the local butcher, for example—that came and said that to him. The collaborator had heard about Jesus. Bless me, even Cornelius had heard (Acts 10:37-38) and even a little Greek mother from the Sidon area. Matthew knew who this was! Some critic would have seen all and as soon as Jesus said, “Leave all that and come and follow me,” he would have run off to tell his friends. “Guess who the new prophet asked to follow him!” They’d guess and the informant would say, “No, no, better than that! Guess again!” When they’d exhausted their list of pious people who loved Israel and hated the Herod family he’d say, “No, it was ‘old money-bags’ himself. Levi the tax-collector.” They’d shake their heads at the prophet’s naiveté but that would turn to wonder when the word got around that Matthew had got up and done it! There it lay hidden all along and only Jesus had the love to see it and the goodness and power to harness it!
All the hatred, all the sneering, all the isolation and intimidation couldn’t turn Levi from his tax-gathering table, it couldn’t melt his hardness or strengthen him to finally join the oppressed against the ruthless masters—the world powers. But the stories about this One and one long look at Him, one strong sweet appeal from Him and Matthew strode out of one world and into another, to a new way of life and never looking back.
When I think of such a dramatic turn around all sorts of questions swirl around in my mind—questions I have no satisfying answers for. Now and then when I think of it, it makes me half wish I had had Matthew’s experience and felt the dramatic urge. I was never a great kid but my coming to the Lord Jesus, my entering the waters of baptism and taking His name upon me as my Lord and Savior was almost a quiet and steady process—as it is with most of us I suppose. I love that too, but the drama of Matthew’s conversion (and many like him down the centuries) thrills me as it must thrill you.
Every final meeting of the Lord Jesus just before we get up from whatever we were busy with and follow Him has its drama even if it isn’t obvious. It’s more than (not less than) a personal u-turn. Worlds collide and empires clash on those occasions. People by God’s grace throw off the shackles and throw themselves into an adventure that knows no end. Once again, in each conversion, the Story of God as told in the person of Jesus Christ is re-told and re-enacted in a faith-filled baptism, in a weekly Suppering with the living Lord at the Lord’s Supper when they culminate in the rehearsal of His resurrection to new life and a new world [Romans 6:3-7].

Such conversions are an ongoing witness to the presence of God’s saving power and the present existence of a new creation.

People are called to and made for adventure when Jesus comes calling and transforming them with truth about a new world, a new creation and to a cosmic mission.
In the days of the sailing ships, sailors who had sailed with Drake would come back and tell stories of what it was like to sail with such a captain. They’d tell tales not of balmy days in safe lagoons and gentle breezes. They’d tell of storms, raging seas and battles with giant waves; they whip off their shirts and show scars they’d got as a result of battle with sea monsters and jagged rocks, they’d show calloused hands that rowed for half a day and then another half and then another until exhausted but successful in bringing their ship into contact with a friendly wind that would fill the sails. Farm boys—barefoot farm boys, eyes wide with the longing for adventure, boys who’d never seen the sea would shrug off their harnesses, leave their ploughs lying in the fields and run off to another life—to another world!
That same Jesus is walking the earth today, stopping here and there and looking long at women and men, boys and girls, then saying, “Come and follow me and I will show you what you were made for.” And then and there, even the same life setting will become new and shot through with glory and adventure and people spring up on to white horses and ride after a white-horsed rider whose name is THE WORD OF GOD (Revelation 19:13-14) to battle seven-headed beasts and Death and Hell itself (Revelation 13:1; 20:14)!

(Oh Lord of Life won’t you come to us electrify us by a new awareness of who we are? Deliver us from lesser causes and energize us for the ongoing clash with a satanic world that hates you and all you love? Open our eyes to our reason for existing; for the world’s plundered poor! Won’t you help us to rise to our feet and go the distance? Forgive us for having an abundance of your blessings and in our greed wanting more? For the world you have loved in and through and as your Son won’t you help us to gospel about Him? We don’t doubt you but we fear when we see and hear how we your people pursue “more” and “more” while countless Lazaruses lie helpless and licked by the dogs. We fear what’s happening to us when we demand more and more “freedoms” while millions lie enslaved. There is no other help but you. Where else can we go? This prayer in Jesus Christ.)