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.

 

 

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

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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.)

Storing Sand & Letting Gold Go Free

Paul was raging his way northward to find followers of Jesus Christ when he met Jesus Christ Himself on the road. The Lord had a brief but far-ranging talk with the now blind man and led him by the hand to the baptistery where Paul took on him the name of the Lord Jesus. He lived in a new world from that moment on and with the eyes of his heart wide open he found it astonishing, thrilling, demanding, painful and pleasing, confusing and assuring and the name of Jesus was never away from his lips.
He was happy to debate when he had to, he suffered when he couldn’t avoid it, he was sad when the occasion warranted it and he rejoiced like Snoopy in those hours of reflection when he heard within the gospel music of God. He was Lazarus unbound (Keck), free to live and proclaim good news about a God who said to the weary world through the prophets, “I’m coming to be with you in your trouble,” and kept His word. And when He arrived He took on Him the name: “Jesus of Nazareth”.

Paul was well schooled in the hot topics of his day and like Chesterton’s Lazarus, back from the dead, he’d stop and listen to the wise ones prove this and that and prove there is no life after death, not now or ever—all there is is this gloomy world of death now and death later. Then he’d stride off in the name of his Lord Jesus and murmuring to himself,

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

We can barely keep up with him as he goes in the name of his Lord Jesus raising the dead by the power of that name and establishing little congregations of life all over the place. They were congregations of living people who served their course and left this world but not before the resurrection life had become contagious and remains contagious to this day after nearly 2,000 years bringing wide-eyed people out of tombs into a new creation. And the life that Paul carried within him was indeed resurrection life (Ephesians 2:1-6; Colossians 2:10-12 and 3:1-4). It didn’t and doesn’t apologize for existing. It doesn’t beg Sin or Death’s permission to be alive. This is resurrection life that’s generated and guaranteed by the resurrection life of the resurrected Lord Jesus; that’s what Paul preached and embodied as he went about transforming the world while others ran behind him jeering and showing their letters of recommendation written on paper with ink! (2 Corinthians 3:I-3) I like now and then to imagine Paul and His Lord spending some time looking at the deathless life that continues to spring up all over this planet (even now) as fruit of Paul’s ministry and the Lord looking at him and saying, “I trusted you and you served me wondrously well. Look again at all that and be happy!”

(Holy Father, thank you for Paul and for all those people you provided to keep him on his feet in good faith! And thank you for all those who in faith and proclamation even now in their own unheralded ways image Paul as he imaged you and your indwelling Son (Ephesians 5:1-2) in whose name, this payer.)

 

Yes, Yes, But What Was His response?

“God allowed the nations to go their own way.” Paul said that in Acts 14:15-16. “Allowed!” he said. God didn’t desire it and much less did He ordain it! And He allowed the nations to walk in “their own way!” We can argue about how the entire sinning business got started—we can to that until the cows come home but we can’t deny the awful mess the sinful human family is in.

If Paul’s teaching matters to us we can’t argue about this: “God allowed it!” And then there’s this truth: God chooses to allow what He allows! He knows what He is doing and takes responsibility for His choices. And there’s this, the nations are capable of choosing a direction and living in it. (That sentence needs developed and the dynamics of “national choice” need to be taken into account.)
God “allowed” the nations to go in “their own way.” And the result was what? Here it is spelled out in Romans 1:18-32 & 3:1-20.

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

And God’s response to that? The Holy God’s response to that? The Sin-hating God’s response to that? The righteous God’s response to all that degeneration, cruelty, heartlessness? The forsaken God’s response to that swaggering insolence, that slanderous self-righteousness, that voracious greed and lust for power? He comes walking down the steps of heaven with an innocent baby in His arms to give to the world, to live in the midst of moral insanity, to experience and bear the sins of such a world and in that child who would become a man to redeem it.

And if people asked Paul where can we see God’s righteousness? He points to the young man hanging on a cross (3:21-26). Where can we see that God cares what the malevolent powers are doing to us? Paul points to a young man called Jesus of Nazareth hanging on a tree, like so many voiceless and powerless men and women that were dragged out and lynched (Acts 5:30; Hebrews 2:10-11). And if people asked Paul in light of our awful record of malicious warfare and the starving and robbing of little nations –asked him if forgiveness could ever be possible he would point at a young man called Jesus of Nazareth hanging on a public gallows (1 Corinthians 15:3; Ephesians 1:7; Galatians 1:4: 6:14). And if the dying asked Paul if they could be sure that Sin & Death did not have the last word Paul would say he had met the once dead and now living forevermore Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 9, 22 & 26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, 50-55; Romans 8:11) and His immortal LIFE was gained for all who want it!.

That’s God’s response to Romans 1:18—3:20 and it’s what Christmas is all about.

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