Author Archives: Jim McGuiggan

About Jim McGuiggan

Jim McGuiggan was Ethel's husband for fifty-three years. They have three children and eight grandchildren. Ethel went to be with Christ on Easter Sunday, 2009 at the close of a gallant life. He has written some books including: Celebrating the Wrath of God; Heading Home with God; Life on the Ash Heap; Jesus: Hero of Thy Soul; The God of the Towel, The Scarlet Letter; and The Dragon Slayer.

DON’T THINK IT STRANGE (1)

Jesus took Himself very seriously. You know that. Make your own list of the things He said about Himself. I wish here to focus on His claim that the entire OT was really about Him (John 5:39-40, 46). In Luke 24:25-27, 44-49 He said it was all about Him, about His suffering and the glory that would follow. In the Luke 24:25 He rebukes His distressed followers for not taking into account all that the prophets foretold. (We need to take 24:44 into account when reading that rebuke.)

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 makes the point that Jesus died and rose in keeping with the Scriptures. He does the same thing in Romans 1:1-4 and in Acts 26:22-23. Peter does the same thing in 1 Peter 1:10-11, 20. You’ll remember how Jesus trenchantly rebuked Peter in Matthew 16:21-24 when the disciple took issue with Christ’s talk of suffering and death. Peter thought it strange talk for a Messiah but he later learned better and told God’s new chosen People, “Think it not strange that you undergo great suffering—it isn’t strange; you are sharing Christ’s sufferings.” 1 Peter 4:12-14.

Two things (among others) are clear. First, the sufferings and death of Christ were a total surprise even to (perhaps especially to) His followers and Jesus understood that suffering & death were part of what He was appointed to. None of it surprised Him. “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour.” John 12:27, speaking of His suffering and death and more than that. Another conversation for another time, God enabling.

Secondly, that the apostolic gospel included the truth that His suffering and death were no chance events—they were foreknown and took place in accordance with God’s redemptive purpose. Peter to the crowd about Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection in Acts 2:23-47, “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you…crucified and put to death; whom God raised up…” The entire section needs to be read, including 2:38 where baptism is the Spirit-appointed way of acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus via the God-appointed suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that brought and brings forgiveness to sinners.

The apostolic gospel stressed Jesus’ death and resurrection as the fulfillment of  not just a verse or two here and there in the OT, but the entire drift of it. If Israel had known who they were and what their place in the desperately sinful and ignorant world was they would have expected to experience suffering and rejection—it came with the “job”. They were assigned to be the “covenant” and light-bringer to the world via their faithfulness (Isaiah 49) and they via their unfaithfulness became part of the problem and went after other gods. Yet there were those in the nation who remained faithful to God and were called to bring Israel back to God and so bless the world (again, Isaiah 49). Jesus (who is God being a man—David’s son according to the flesh, Romans 1:1-4) was and is the embodiment of all that Israel was to be, Abraham’s child (Galatians 3:16), was to bear rejection, suffering and death that was the fruit of the Sin of the world.

In His suffering and death He was exposing the evil world for what it was (John 12:31). Apart from God and His gracious work in human life there is only lies and deception, loss of honor and life, abuse and alienation from one another, cruelty and corruption. That is the “world” of which Satan is the prince and it ends with nothing but Death. The Godhead purposed that as Jesus of Nazareth, the Son, for humanity’s sake would share their agony and in that way expose such a world, experience its inevitable end (death) and then rise as its conqueror, as the Lord of a new creation that will be consummated at His return though such glory is currently hidden. (None of this has anything to do with God punishing Jesus.)

[To be continued, God enabling.]

PUNISHMENT (1)

There are those who dismiss the very concept of punishment as barbaric and should be outlawed. Perhaps they are right but it isn’t a topic I’m interested in at this moment.
I’d like also, for now, to bracket out discussion about “who has the right?” to punish. The question merits sustained discussion, of course, but it would take us to places beyond where I wish to go at present.
I wish to reflect a little on punishment. The subject soon goes beyond my competence but I wish to express what seems straightforward to most of us who have given the matter some thought. The reader will soon know when the debate should begin. I’ll start this little piece by saying some of the things we should mean when we use the word “punishment” and then make some comments on the points listed.

1) Punishment is something meant to hurt or generate some sense of loss. It can’t be meant to be reward.

2) Punishment is something purposed. It can’t be an accident.

3) It is inflicted on someone thought to be guilty of some wrongdoing. It cannot be inflicted on someone known to be innocent.

4) It is carried out in response to wrong actually done. It cannot be a deterrent meant to keep an innocent someone from doing something wrong in the future.

5) The one who punishes must not only purpose to inflict some form of hurt or loss he/she must mean it to be punishment or it isn’t punishment. This is a point distinct from point 2 above.

Further comment:

Supposing a child knowingly does something wrong and the parents see fit to punish him; it cannot be something that rewards him for his wrongdoing. That is, the parents must not intend the boy to understand it as reward. The boy might not experience it as loss, he might even be happy he has been sent to his room but he mustn’t think that’s what the parents had in mind. However the boy in fact experiences it, the parents must mean it to be an expression of their opposition to the deed. Parental intent is central here.

We hear complaints all the time about how punishment is carried out in the judicial system. The protesters think that those who are imprisoned are being rewarded rather than punished. This makes the point that punishment is supposed to generate some form of loss. Whether prisoners in fact experience incarceration as “a hurt” inflicted that is what it is supposed to be.
Punishment cannot be an accident. A man steals a car, while driving off with it he hits an ice patch, goes off the road, wrecks the car and suffers a leg fracture and a dislocated shoulder. The police arrest him, he finally goes to court and his lawyer claims he has already been punished in that he was physically hurt.

Some people believe he was punished (say, by God) but that won’t do for our situation; it isn’t known that God punished him and it isn’t known that God punished him for that crime. Society can only function on this basis: the man committed the crime and society must deal with him and “dealing” with him will have to take some penal form. Punishment is not the same as suffering!!!!!
Punishment can only be inflicted on someone thought to be guilty of some wrongdoing. It may be the case that the one punished is in fact innocent but he is not thought to be innocent otherwise punishment isn’t punishment, it is some form of injustice. Punishment can only be carried out on the guilty if the word is to retain its rightful meaning.
We do not punish a paramedic for inflicting pain and suffering on the victim of an accident. The victim will no doubt scream when the medic carries out some extreme life-saving act but we don’t think of him as doing wrong when it’s clear he does what he does to save their life. It’s true there may be occasions when the medic is thought to have done wrong but putting the best face on the analogy we know that there’s a difference between inflicting pain for a good cause and doing wrong.
Punishment can only be inflicted on someone guilty of an actual wrong. Punishment is only just in the presence of actual guilt therefore it cannot be used as a deterrent. It may be used to deter the wrongdoer from further wrongdoing but he must have already committed a wrong for which he is being  punished. We may wish his punishment to act as a deterrent on others but punishment can only be justly inflicted for a crime actually committed. If we decide to subject someone to suffering that he might not do something wrong at a future date whatever else we are doing we cannot call it punishment. Trainee soldiers may be put through severe trials of numerous kinds to toughen them but where that is the case punishment is not what is happening.
We must not lay hold of a law-abiding citizen walking down the street and put him in jail or levy a fine as punishment to keep him from doing something wrong sometime in the future. We can’t deprive a young girl of her freedom by confining her to the house for a week (grounding) if she has done nothing to warrant such confinement. “What have I done?” she asks. The parents say, “You’ve done nothing wrong. We’re punishing you to keep you from doing wrong in the future.” Call the confinement what we will but if we call it punishment we are speaking in ignorance.
The one inflicting punishment must intend it to be punishment. This is not the same point as point 2. The above can hardly be controversial but I suppose this claim warrants more prolonged reflection and debate.
Suppose a young man who is mentally ill takes to hitting people with whatever comes to hand. He has already quite seriously injured some of his friends. Those who work in this area will confer on the matter and let us imagine that they finally think it necessary to isolate the young man—at least to place him in care where he will not be a threat to other innocents.
Suppose further than this young man is anguished by his loss of freedom and doesn’t understand why he is so deprived. He thinks he is being treated unjustly, he’s being punished; he may not have the capacity to use the words or understand the concepts but he has the capacity to suffer and his experience of suffering has been laid on him by the authorities.
Those who put him in this place of confinement and special care know that punishment is not the appropriate word. But more than that, they feel no desire to punish—not only do they reject the word, in this case they reject the concept. They feel only sadness for the young man and a commitment to those he has hurt and could hurt and if possible they hope to help “cure” the offender.
Though the young man experiences inflicted pain and loss it isn’t placed on him as punishment; there is no sense that he deserves it. I wish to make the point that to punish someone must in some sense be carried out with the intention to punish and because the one punished knowingly did the wrong.
It’s clear that one can punish another without vindictiveness or in a vengeful spirit but there’s more than that to be said. The word punish will always have its place in human society where there are standards and where those standards are knowingly broken and where for the protection of others the wrongdoer must be punished.

Nevertheless, it’s common knowledge that we forgive and forgive and forgive wrongs without punishing them, without feeling the need to punish or without wishing to punish. On these occasions we wish the wrong hadn’t been committed, we don’t approve of it but we don’t think in terms of punishing the transgressor. People in their millions practice this daily. They forgive.

 

 

 

NOBODY’S A ‘NOBODY’

George MacDonald’s character, Curdie, came to the king’s house because the princess had told him to report to her there. At the door he met the officious housekeeper (who seemed to swell and fill the door) who rebuked him for his comings and goings and the fact that he (as she saw it) made a mess of things while he was there. “Don’t you know this is my house?” she barked. Curdie politely replied that he didn’t know that because he thought it was the king’s house. She responded, he responded, she called him insolent and oozing pride & she asked the poor ignoramus, “Don’t you see by my dress that I am in the king’s service?” Curdie, a young mine worker, wanted to know, “And am I not one of his miners?”

“Ah, that goes for nothing,” she snapped. “I am one of his household. You are an out-of-doors laborer. You are a nobody. You carry a pickaxe. I carry the keys at my waist. See!”
But Curdie checkmated her with, “But you must not call one ‘a nobody’ to whom the king has spoken.”
This is a hard lesson for us to learn. You understand that it isn’t that we’re all to function in the same place of authority with the same responsibilities. There are those that have been given authority over us and though often we don’t like that, there’s no community living without accepting the truth of it. Still, it’s a hard lesson to learn because we tend to be prideful (do we not?) and if we’ve haven’t been given the most sought after job, the one that attracts the attention and gets the big money, we’re inclined to whimper (and other things) a lot. Well, why not? We should be treated with respect and when we are stuck in a lower level position our “personhood” is scorned and many of us won’t stand for that, will we.  (Is that not true—or am I mistaken?)
The sad thing is that some of us get the place we think we deserve and it doesn’t make us better. Like the officious housekeeper we balloon up and fill the doorways of life and are only content when we think we’ve surpassed the other “peasants” way below us. In that spirit it doesn’t matter to us, for example, that others would be better as rich people than we would be if we were made rich. It only matters that we are or get to be wealthy or prominent or acclaimed.
Apparently Curdie had no trouble with any of that. He had a pure heart and was perfectly content to be the king’s miner. He didn’t need to have the keys to buildings hanging at his belt, didn’t need to minister to vast congregations, nor did he need to drive a big fancy car or be the belle of anyone’s ball. He was more than at peace within himself. He rejoiced in the dignity of being one that the king had spoken to and needed nothing more.
(Sigh. What a lovely way that is. It makes me want to be a better man and while I can’t confess that I’m troubled much with jealousy, perhaps there’s more of it in me than I occasionally think there is. Of course I’m well aware that I’m greatly troubled with other things.)
You see the confrontation between Curdie and the housekeeper illustrated in reverse in Number 16 where the rebels weren’t as wise or as pure in heart as Curdie.

Korah, Dathan and Abiram attacked Moses and Aaron because those two exercised authority over the assembly at large and restricted the priesthood to Aaron’s family. The rebels said that these two took too much on themselves because all the people of God are holy and they wanted to exercise the priesthood (16:1-4, 10). Moses reminded them that this was God’s restriction but he goes on to remind these Levites that God had spoken to them and given them their own ministry (16:10). And that was where the problem was rooted. The leading rebels didn’t think their ministry was glorious enough—they wanted more. They thought they were being cheated, you see. They thought that having the priesthood keys at their belt would give them the dignity and recognition they deserved. Had they believed what Curdie knew, that no one to whom the King has spoken is “a nobody;” they would not have despised the privileged place God had already given to them. Though Curdie was a miner with a pickaxe in his hand he knew full well and with joyful contentment that he was one of the king’s servants and in this knowledge he glorified his ministry.

You understand it wasn’t simply that Korah and company were despising their position, they were exalting themselves (compare Romans 12:3-8) and thought they were being robbed. And they weren’t opposing Moses alone; they were opposing God (Numbers 16:11)!
It wasn’t a question about what God wanted. It was all about what these Levites wanted! It wasn’t an information problem; it was a heart problem. “I deserve and want more!”
Poor souls. They talked as though they were suffering like the colonies in their most awful moments suffered when France and Spain and Portugal and Britain were at their plundering worst. They talked as though they were African-Americans that were humiliated and robbed all those years under the worst face of White dominance in the USA or they were Irish during the centuries when England plundered and bullied them. Doesn’t it make you want to throw up sometimes when people (ourselves included?) blessed to the skies whine on and on about wanting more? Those, like Korah, Dathan and Abiram who take the lead in furthering a heart problem among the people of God have something to answer for as the entire Numbers 16 chapter shows.
I can easily imagine someone saying: “It occurs to me that this is a great chapter to use to defend the status quo. It’s a good chapter to use to keep people ‘in their place’.” Hmmm. That’d be another heart problem, wouldn’t it?].

DEATH VERSUS RESURRECTION

Death affects not only the body—it affects the entire person. It’s a well-intentioned remark when we say of someone, “She isn’t dead; that’s only her body,” but it isn’t true. “I” die when I die—not just a part of me! Death affects me!
Nevertheless, there is something that is identifiable as the person that continues to be after the person has experienced biological death. We call it “the soul” or “the spirit”. (The words are used in various ways in the Holy Scriptures and context is what determines how they are being used in the various texts. I’m not interested in pursuing that truth right now though it is certainly worthy of development.)
I don’t think that that “something” that is identifiable as us, that survives biological death, is a physical “substance”—even a very refined substance (as if it were a “mist” or a “cloud” as the movies sometimes show us).
I’m currently content to believe what I’ve said is true. However we should speak of it I’m certain that those who die continue to be and I believe that because I take Philippians 1:23 at face value (though it needs developed). Furthermore, I take at face value what Jesus said to the crucified thief, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, this day you will be with Me in paradise.” Luke 23:43. (There are some people who wish to move the comma and have Jesus say, “Verily I say to you this day, you will be…” This is desperation. Conditional immortality may be true but this is no way to make it look creditable.) And with Paul, I’m one of countless that believes that those who die in the Lord Jesus have not “perished”. 1 Corinthians 15:18, where he will not tolerate such a view.
Taking the above to be true (pursue me at holywoodjk@aol.com or holywoodjk@gmail.com if you wish), I take the view that the body of our current fallen state falls apart (the body of our humiliation or “lowly body,”—Philippians 3:21) and we continue in a disembodied state and not non-existent. (In the coming resurrection we are not replaced—I am I and you are you—not substitutes for the having utterly perished.)
Death leads to the corruption and destruction of the physical body but it also robs us of embodiment and God did not create us for such a state. In the death experience we are robbed of embodiment which is an essential element of fullness of life as God has purposed us to experience as humans.
Jesus during His experience of death experienced what every other human experiences in dying—disembodiment. While disembodiment continues fullness of life—the fullness of life that God eternally purposed for humans—isn’t possible. Death is an enemy and the one thing that scares it witless is the word resurrection.
But not simply the word (which is used in regard to Lazarus who was raised—John 12:1 and who would die again); the word when it is used about the man Jesus!  It is in and through and as Him that life and immortality was/is brought to light (2 Timothy 1:9-10 Acts 26:23; Ephesians 1:19-21, passim). The OT has no developed doctrine of resurrection (that is disputed) but it repeatedly speaks of a coming One in whom human glorification would take place (Luke 24:25-27, 44-46; Acts 17:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “according to the Scriptures”; Romans 1:4).
I think it important to accept that while those who are embraced in God’s saving work, carried out in and through and as Jesus Christ, are safe and blessed they are yet dead! Death is to be viewed from numerous angles but one of them is this: Death is disembodiment! Disembodiment is robbery and is the wages of Sin (Romans 6:23). And as long as we are disembodied Death is lord over us (see Romans 8:17-25 & 1 Corinthians 15:24-26). Those who are blessed, being reconciled to God by His Son’s death, will be saved by His life (His resurrection)—Romans 5:10.
In light of Jesus and His resurrection beyond the limitations of current creaturely weakness (though without jettisoning His humanity!) we need not fear Death though it might well be that we do when it approaches.
Sin reigns through Death and Death through Sin (Romans 5:12-21) over the entire human family. Even the innocent (babies and other innocent ones) are hurt by our having chosen alienation from God and life. The consequences of that choice of Sin/alienation affects all of us.
Humanity’s history and current experience is in Adam (“the old man”)—our experience in relation to him is one under Sin & Death. In being baptized into the Lord Jesus the history and experience of people is/are altered. The “old man” dies (Romans 6:6)—that is, our relationship to Adam dies and a new relationship comes into being (Romans 7:1-6), and there’s a beginning of a new history that culminates in the utter death of Death and the glorification of God when the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:24-26, 45) surrenders the dominion to God in contrast to the old Adam who seized a dominion that because it was alienation from the source of life was actually Sin and Death.
Death is not to be seen as merely a biological  experience. It is that, of course; it is sadness, pain, disruption and more but it is bigger than all those; for those who believe in Jesus Christ and have something of an understanding of the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Death is to be seen as Sin’s reign that affects the creation. Only by gaining a further understanding of the gospel realities about GOD and His Holy Son that come to an unending climax in His resurrection to glory and fullness of life do we see Death & Sin for the vile life-sucking but losing predators they really are!

NO RESURRECTION & THE CROSS IS NONSENSE!

Here’s repetition for you! Please be patient! The Lord’s Supper is not a funeral occasion. Let’s put an end to that sad, gloomy, funereal atmosphere and allow it to be what Paul calls it: an ANNOUNCEMENT, a PROCLAMATION.
Paul said the cross was an offense to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. But there was good reason for Jews to take offense. And there was good reason for Greeks (Gentiles) to think it nonsense IF…….
There is no way to make the crucifixion of Jesus Christ into (saving) power or wisdom! The Jews were promised deliverance and their Messiah ended up hung by the powers that held Israel captive. The rational and practical thinkers saw another hanging of another young man—an event like thousands of other events, dictated by the powerful; an event that might or might not have happened. This event had no cosmic value—it was just another death like a million others!
There is no gospel in the hanging of that young man if there was no resurrection! And since there was no resurrection it was just another of the countless illustrations that the legionnaires or the jackbooted, the spear or the gun, the arrows or the nukes have the power. You can’t get wisdom and power from the Roman killing of a young man who claimed to be the one who would deliver his people from Rome (and more). The cross is an offense precisely because the one who was hung is said to be the LORD! He cannot be the Lord if death ends Him! It makes no manner of sense!  If He was the Lord then the cross couldn’t have happened! That’s what Peter said in Matthew 16. And he was wrong—dead wrong!
Unless the hanging death of that young man is inseparably linked to the resurrection of that young man we cannot understand it as some divine way of dealing with humanity! Only the resurrection to deathless life can defeat Death! Only the resurrection to deathless life can lead us to look at the young man hanging there and invest His death with “deeper magic.” When Paul calls it God’s (saving) power he is speaking of it with the resurrection in mind precisely because without the resurrection it is not wisdom or power! Without the resurrection ”we have nothing to believe and we have nothing to preach” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19). Without the resurrection the apostles are liars when they said God raised Him!  If Jesus remains dead, our hope is fatuous, our sins weren’t dealt with, of all people we are most miserable because we have been duped worse than all others and all our beloved ones who died trusting Christ have perished and all hope dies with physical death. If Christ is still dead and has been dead for 2,000 years then the cross was precisely what everyone thought it was—another pathetic failure.
Without the resurrection the claim of salvation through His death is sheer nonsense! Paul was right in saying the cross was the “deep magic” of a redeeming God but only if he believed in the resurrection of Jesus. The cross did not show God as faithful to His promises and purposes, the cross did not bring salvation without the resurrection! The jeering crowds and the shouted scorn made perfect sense! This was “weakness” and “failure” and they were right to reject Him unless there was the resurrection that transformed what was transparent weakness and not power into the way God dealt with Sin & Death. (Jesus Himself said people were to reject false Messiahs.) If Jesus didn’t rise deathless He was just another liar like Theudas of Galilee!
Jesus’ resurrection was not a resurrection that led to a few more years of life before that young man got to be old and finally died as everyone else grew old and feeble and dead (as Lazaruses’ was—John 12:1, 9). That kind of “resurrection”—however it might have come about—is no defeat of Death; it is/would be only some bizarre postponement. And if Death still reigns so does Sin because Sin reigns through death (Romans 5:21) and the sting of Death is Sin (1 Corinthians 15:56) and the wages of Sin is Death (Romans 6:23).
Paul says the truth didn’t come by wise men and their reasoning. “Eye hasn’t seen nor has ear heard nor has it entered into the heart of man” (1 Corinthians 2:9 and context, 6—16) is a denial that humans could have come up with the “deep magic”. The only way what happened in the person of the crucified Jesus could be grasped as what it truly was, was by Christ’s resurrection to Death-killing life. The realities (His life, death and resurrection) preceded the words (gospel) that were based on those realities. The gospel committed to the chosen witnesses made the realities known and that gospeling therefore made known the powerful redeeming God’s truth and so was the medium through which salvation came to all (1 Corinthians 1:21; Romans 10;14-17). Without the resurrection there was no gospel; the words have no power in themselves. They only have power if indeed the resurrection truly happened and Sin and Death were thus conquered.
The cross is only power and wisdom if the resurrection tells us that! Once the resurrection is known and embraced to be true THEN the cross is seen for what it is—God entering into the world in weakness and vulnerability (Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 13:4; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Corinthians 15:43, 45) with a redeeming purpose because He had promised (Romans 1:1-4, 16). And He didn’t fail (Colossians 2:15)! But we only know all that because Jesus rose everlastingly triumphant over Sin & Death.
The resurrection enables us to make of the cross what it really was—The sovereign God and our Father entering with us into the realm of creaturely weakness to deliver us from weakness and Sin and Death (Romans 8:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:50). Without the resurrection that could not be known. No wishing, no shrewd talk, no philosophy or argument, no tender whispered words could make anything of it but nonsense. The world with all its wisdom (and there are wise men and women in the world) just can’t make sense of it. It still remains impossible to make the crucifixion anything other than sheer foolishness and another exhibition of fleshly powerlessness unless God raised Jesus from the dead! He not only died in the flesh, He died to it and rose in glory so that we who bore the image of the one from dust would bear the image of the one from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47-49).
We MUST keep the cross at the center of God’s dealing with humanity’s desperate plight but we mustn’t stop at the cross! The Gospels all go their own way in dealing with the life of Christ until the crucifixion but they all end, not with the cross, but with the resurrection. Christ died 2,000 years ago but He hasn’t been dead since—He’s alive! And those who teach us must make that clear! Paul’s constant message was “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that follows” (Romans 4:25; 8:34; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Acts 26:22-23; see also 1 Peter 1:11, 21; 3:21). In Romans 5:10 Paul says we are reconciled to God by His Son’s death and “much more having been reconciled we shall be saved by His life.” (His resurrection—Philippians 3:20-21.) See Romans 8:17 and 8:29 and our conformity to our Lord!
God deliver us from ending the gospel proclamation with the (saving) death of our Lord Jesus Christ. The cross was the glorious door to the everlastingly glorious resurrection (read John 10:17 carefully). God is about LIFE!

THE SUFFERING OF A CHILD

Young Sean died soon after he went into hospital. The cancer raged through him with lightning speed. The poor, worn out child made his departure from the world and the parents were beyond consolation. It must have been three weeks later that the preacher got a call from Sean’s father who just couldn’t bear to think that the last word had been said when they laid Sean in the ground. But he couldn’t pretend to believe what he felt he had no grounds for. The opening line was simple.
I’m Sean’s dad, Do you remember me?
“I do,” the man said. “Have been wondering how you were getting on.”
“I told you at the hospital that I thought Sean’s life was pointless.” There was a catch in his voice. “But I didn’t feel that. I only meant…I was only saying since there’s no God then this whole existence was unplanned. Sean meant everything to us and whether anyone planned him to be here or not he made our lives richer, and our hearts are broken. I needed you to know that.”
“I knew it,” said the man that had talked to the parents at the hospital. “Nobody with a grain of sense would have thought you were making little of Sean. In any case, those were awful days and maybe not the best time for a discussion of world-views. I say ‘maybe’ because I’m not sure. In any case, here you are and I want to tell you I’m genuinely saddened by your loss.”
The grieving father said, “You said things I didn’t understand, things I wasn’t in the mood to wrestle with. But I knew you were saying that our son’s life and death had some profound meaning. It didn’t matter to me at the time for all I could think of was that he was suffering and going to die. I think I’m grasping at straws simply because I want to believe that there’s more to his life than a few happy years and a hard death. I’d like you to tell me what you meant, unless you were only saying stuff in an attempt to make us feel a bit better.”
They arranged to meet, met, sat a while, walked a while and then sat some more. And all the while they talked.
“I wanted to talk now,” said Danny, “because I think I’m more open now to being persuaded. I want to believe. As the months go by and the pain eases and I become adjusted to his being gone I’ll not feel the need as I feel it now. I know I’m vulnerable but I think I’ll recognize religious nonsense when I hear it.”
“All that makes sense,” the man said. “And I think you’re right in talking further about this while you feel this way. I hear a lot of talk about ‘rational argument’ and the fact that we shouldn’t discuss things while we’re emotional. Cool logic and rationality’s critically important but there are areas of life that don’t fit neatly into the realm of logic and rationality. Computers are marvelous things but they have their limitations; people are more than breathing computers. To battle injustice in society with nothing but rationality isn’t possible and there are things that human icicles can’t see. There are truths we can’t grasp until we experience love or driving passion. Not everything’s settled by the law of the excluded middle.”
“You said something about Sean and kids like him suffering for the world. If you meant that a child’s suffering might move some people to be more compassionate, I can see that. But it’s suspiciously like one of those empty pious remarks. It can equally make people bitter. Is that what you meant?”
“No, that’s not what I meant; and you’re right, a child’s suffering can work either way. We see that nearly every day, don’t we? Look, I told you that what I believe has nothing to support it if we can’t give Jesus Christ and the Judeo-Christian scriptures a fair hearing. And I do know that that is sometimes very difficult.”
“Do you mean I have to believe everything I read in the Bible before I can see Sean in a right way? If that’s it, we’re wasting our time here.”
“I don’t believe that at all, but the Bible does have a grand drift that comes to a climax in Jesus Christ. I’m one of those that believe God is the ultimate author of the Bible. I’m not interested here in theories of inspiration or exactly how He got that done, but I believe that in the final analysis we have the Bible we have because God wanted it that way. It’s like an historical drama that’s moving toward a finale of cosmic renewal, where all wrongs are righted and there’s a happy ending. Yes, I know, I know—. But it isn’t always wrong to want something to be true. The atheist H.J Blackham said the most powerful argument against atheism is that it’s too bad to be true.”
“So what is it you say we have to do, believe it before we can believe it?”
“I’m saying that to the degree that you’re able, give the Story a fair hearing. Do what you would do in so many other areas when someone is proposing something you don’t go along with—give it a good hearing. Nothing’s gained if we continue to reject it without really hearing it.”
“What if it’s stupid at every point? Should we pretend to be listening?”
“No, I think life’s too short to throw that much time away; but I’d hope that you wouldn’t think that the Christian faith is that far out of whack. I know you know people that are devoted Christians, people intellectually capable, maybe even brilliant, and practical too, so there must be something credible in it.
“Well, can we cut to the chase? I’ll just have to do my best and if I feel I’ve heard enough we’ll leave it at that. That okay with you?”
“Sure. But I need you to understand that ‘cutting to the chase’ doesn’t mean there’s a ten-minute presentation coming up. And you need to understand that to give it a fair hearing means you have to judge the Story within its own parameters. The blacksmith that proved iron ships couldn’t float by throwing a horseshoe into a barrel of water helped nobody.” And listen, Danny, what if it’s true? If the Story Jesus offers is true it changes the world, it changes our view of your beloved Sean; it changes things for you and Denise!
The biblical Story says that God created us out of love and joy. That He created us in His own image—that is, He created us to live in creative, joyful and holy reflection of Himself. So we didn’t arrive here by chance and our lives weren’t meant to be misery, a ceaseless brawl with disease and death.”
Sean’s dad stirred but said nothing.
“But the human family—our parents at that point—rebelled and ‘Sin’ entered. From there it spread throughout the human family, polluting and hurting everyone it touched. Sin enters people and it’s there it must be dealt with. God moved to deal with Sin and the curse that affected both the earth and the life on it. Death was part of that curse.”
“Spiteful, isn’t he!”
“I can see how you could view it that way, but that’s not the only option. The biblical claim is that God didn’t bring alienation from fullness of life—we did and He moved to redeem humanity from sin and mend the relationship—life was the end aim. He was and is the only source of fullness of life and we chose alienation and so chose abuse and hatred, hunger and illness and death. But God refused to dehumanize humans; He doesn’t work magic and He works within a world that has suffered from a moral collapse; He works with a human family that abuses its own and generates disease and deprivation. It’s humans He wants to redeem and He will not turn us into puppets or dolls—He simply won’t obliterate humanness.”
“The final goal is life, so he brings death? Even to innocent children? If you’re saying that God put the guilty to death I’d even have some reservations about that, but when you talk about his punishing children…I think that’s obscene.”
“God doesn’t punish the innocent! To punish those you know are innocent is obscene! But yes, the Bible says that He has chosen to allow even children and good people to endure pain and loss—He doesn’t turn such people into bionic beings. He has chosen to allow children to suffer! But, again, motive matters supremely, doesn’t it? You watched doctors do things to Sean that were physically appalling. No, you didn’t just watch it; you asked for it and even paid to have it done. You couldn’t have done that unless you loved the boy supremely. This was no easy decision for you and Denise and it was nothing but your love and compassion for the child that drove you to say yes to it. The aim was life! If you can even begin to credit a God with love for the human family—the kind of love you and Denise felt and feel for Sean—you are on your way to the possibility of seeing Sean’s life and suffering in a different light—on your way to seeing them as having something truly in common with Jesus’ suffering.
“I can see some point to that. But we did that only because Sean was desperately ill. We wouldn’t have done it to him if he’d been well. If you’re saying that God brought this on him that means God thought he was ill—I suppose you’d say with sin.”
“I’m making no suggestion that your child was a sinner! None! Nor do I say God was punishing him. GOD DOES NOT PUNISH THE INNOCENT! No, the point I want to make about paramedics and surgeons is that their motive is not spite, and it’s not to inflict pain. It’s to save life! Motive makes a difference to actions. And the more desperate the situation the more radical our loving response will be. Surgeons don’t amputate limbs to cure a cold.
To save your beloved from a killing bone cancer you subjected him to terrible trauma. If you’re able, give God the credit for wanting to bring life to a whole human family by dealing with the thing that devours it—Sin and its consequences and effects. I’m saying that your motive relative to Sean is God’s motive relative to His entire human family.”
“But how does Sean fit into this? I can make sense of my putting him to this because he was desperately ill, but are you saying God thought he was desperately ill and gave him bone cancer?”
“No, Sean was a member of a family that’s desperately ill and he suffered from the curse that was inevitable when God, the source of fullness of life, was rejected. GOD so created the human family that if it rejected Him curse would follow even though His response would be work to bring it back to life.”
“But why should an innocent child be punished for the crimes of the family? That stinks!”
“Listen, and listen to this carefully, God doesn’t punish the innocent! Punishment is only for the guilty. Sean’s suffering was not punishment for wrong that he did! He’s a sweet child but he’s a human child and because he is a human he shares in the suffering triggered by a God-rejecting human family. The biblical Story says that Jesus became a boy like your boy and that he suffered on behalf of the human family. Jesus and Sean have some things in common. God wouldn’t exempt His unique Son who was part of the human family—a family under God’s redeeming judgment—and He wouldn’t dehumanize Sean. I’m not suggesting that Sean and Jesus are altogether alike—Christ alone is the world’s Redeemer! The way in which God has moved to redeem the world comes to its highest point in Jesus Christ—a place no other can share. But the truth of vicarious suffering is at the heart of that process and it didn’t begin with Jesus on the cross and it didn’t end there.”
“But why should Sean suffer for anyone? Why him? How does his pain affect anything? Why should God pick on him? His suffering is so senseless!”
“It would be if atheism is true! It would all come down to ‘bad luck’. All life and death would turn out to be sheer chance. At some point you came to believe that, and it brings you no comfort. There’s a choice to make. Believe that death is another pointless inevitability in a pointless universe or believe that it’s an inevitable part of alienation from God. God made the choice to create humans to be humans and to be utterly dependent on Him for complete and unending well-being. God’s Son suffered and died as your son did. Christ rose from the dead and lives immortal now. His claim is that death is not the final word about Sean.”
“So, I’m to find comfort in the fact that Sean will live again?”
“Yes! That’s part of it. It’s the claim of the living Lord Jesus Christ over against the theory that the only future is the vast death of the universe, eternal darkness and unimaginable cold. All heat and light exhausted, all life extinguished and no possibility of it ever returning.”
“If that’s the truth, it’s the truth and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“Of course! I’m just pointing out that facing a future of unyielding despair should make anyone want something better. I’m saying that Jesus Christ says we don’t have to believe that about Sean or anyone else like him. He isn’t gone forever and the life he lived here was not without significance. The Christ’s life, suffering and death give meaning to Sean’s. In the light of Jesus Christ we can’t look at suffering and death and simply damn it as pointless in a pointless universe. In the light of Jesus Christ we can’t look at Sean’s suffering and death and reduce it to nothing more than something to weep about thought it’s that. The glory of God was seen here! Mary mourned at the cross of her Son as you and Denise mourn at the death of yours—that makes perfect sense. But there’s more there than something to mourn! I don’t want to suppress your grief. I say that innocent children suffer because humanity turned to moral insanity and God is using them to bring it back to sanity and life.
“Using them sounds like they expendable—used paper plates and plastic forks.”
“No! No! God loves Sean even more than you do. Your son will live again. The entire story about your son will be told, along with the stories of millions of other innocents that have borne the burden of humanity’s guilt. Atheism might offer the view that we’re organisms that just happened to grow like fungus on the face of a tiny planet in the middle of nowhere. Christ knows Sean personally and they have shared some things in common.”
They agreed to meet again.

WE’RE NEVER GOING BACK!

”For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”    1 John 5:4-5
And what is it that has overcome the world? Not the wisdom of proto-Gnostics or the moral excellence that some might claim but “our faith”. And what is it that has overcome the world? Not God’s faith in Jesus Christ—that’s another all- encompassing truth, but it’s not the truth John mentions here. And what is it that has overcome the world? Not Jesus’ faith in his Holy Father—that’s another massive truth hammered home in other texts, but it’s not the truth John mentions here.
And what is it that has overcome the world? “Our” faith, said John. The faith of the Christian community that is seen expressed in each Christian. “Our” faith—our personal subjective experience, something that happens within us, something we are glad to say is part of us, an expression of us, the inner reality that has restructured our inner world; that is the center of all our convictions and hopes and commitments. It’s “ours”—because we are organically part of the body of Christ and cannot otherwise exist as Christians; it’s “ours”. It isn’t God’s faith in us or Christ’s faith in us—it’s our faith in them!
Yes, but what is this faith. This faith is many things that we can look at from many angles. For those confronted by the gospel it is a condition to be met if we wish to avoid dying in our sins (John 8:24 and Mark 16:16b, for example). For those confronted by the gospel it is a gift of God through the gospel to those God has called not only to salvation but to be part of his elect community (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 10:17; Philippians 1:29, for example). It is what assures us that salvation and life is not confined to any ethnic or social category (Romans 4:13 and Galatians 3:26-28. for example). It is the proof that God has entered our lives via the gospel and taken us back to his heart (John 6:44-45 and 1 Peter 1:5, for example). It’s many things, but here I’d like to stress that it is an inner moral transformation, a moral realignment of the heart with the Holy Father.
I don’t mean it leads to moral transformation though that is true. I don’t mean it leads to a moral realignment of the heart with the Holy Father though that is true. I mean it IS these things already. Faith, in the name of Jesus Christ, is the definitive rejection of the world. The person who loves the world does not and cannot at the same time love the Holy Father or have faith in Jesus Christ (compare 1 John 2:15-16). Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ have judged, denounced and renounced the world (compare John 12:31). Faith in Jesus Christ is a moral reality experienced by a moral being that no longer belongs to or submits to the world!
When the Spirit of God has generated in a man or woman faith in Jesus Christ by the gospel (see Romans 10:13-15 and 1 Corinthians 1:21; Acts 16:13-14) Jesus Christ is in such people. Jesus has become an indwelling presence at the center of them by faith—Ephesians 3:16-17. “I pray that…you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” (NRSV)
Faith that conquers “the world” is the believer’s personal experience but it isn’t faith in the believer—it is faith in someone other than the believer, faith in Jesus Christ! Faith in Jesus Christ is the glad acceptance of who and what Jesus is and what His purpose is. No extra Gnostic wisdom is needed. Nothing beyond Him is needed (1 John 2:20-21). Having come to Him in a commitment of faith, John says the believer has conquered the world; conquered that mass of anti-God, anti-life, anti-holiness feelings, agendas, convictions and practices that has been organized into “a world” without God.
It isn’t just immorality or foul language or war-mongering or sharp business practices or family abuse or arrogance or gossip that the believer has stood up against; it’s more than specific sins! By saying, “I believe in Him!” the believer has said No! to the entire sinful restructuring of reality that the NT calls “the world” (see 1 John 2:15-16; John 12:31). By saying, “I believe in Him!” the believer says, “I do not and cannot and will not trust in me nor will I accept the evil that still clings to me and shows itself in various ways. I condemn that as I condemned some evils that by God’s empowering I’ve outgrown!”
Such a one is born again (see John 3:3-5; Titus 3:4-5 and 1 Peter 1:3).
This is more than a commitment to certain truths about Jesus though it is not and cannot be less! It is a commitment to an actual Person and the commitment is a personal relationship that is experienced along with all those who have committed to Jesus by faith (Galatians 3:26-29).
The relationship is more than feeling and it is not to be defined by the degree of moral excellence we attain (though the pursuit of holiness in the image of Jesus is an intrinsic pursuit)!

NT faith is not about my level of moral achievement!

It is a heartfelt surrendering of oneself to Jesus as the One who stands over against the world for the Holy Father in the Holy Spirit and for us. That is what the NT calls “faith” in Jesus and that conquerors the world, now and in the future!
It is wrong, absolutely wrong to say that one who is in the Lord Jesus can live as they wish; it is a sin-hating, sin-destroying, sin-forgiving Lord Jesus they have been baptized into (Romans 6:1-11). It is wrong, absolutely wrong to say that one who is in Christ will not continue to wrestle with sin (1 John 1:5—2:2). The presence of sin in the lives of those who have turned to the Lord Jesus in faith does not mean the believer has been overcome by the world! John is writing to sinners who are world-conquerors in the Lord Jesus. He uses all the grammatical forms (perfect tenses, aorists in the indicative, present tenses and present participles) to proclaim the truth that his sinning brothers and sisters who confess they are sinners have overcome the Evil One and “the world” over which we made him prince (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 1:4).

Tell that to believers! Tell them that when they go down in baptism they are proclaiming that they believe in God who, to rescue us, became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, that He lived against Sin, that He died to destroy it and when they come up out of the water they proclaim that He rose again Conqueror of Death by which Sin reigned (Romans 5:12, 21) and so showed Himself as the conqueror of Sin (Hebrews 2:14-15 Romans 4:25; 1 Peter 3:21—saved by the resurrection). Tell them that by faith they have become one with the Conqueror of the World (John 16:33 and so share in His triumph).

Urge them to tell “the world,” that seething, breeding mass of evil that like a massive crawling parasite feeds on and poisons a vulnerable human family—”We know you’re still there, we experience your presence and we see you everywhere we look. But we know you’ve been conquered and we know the One who has done it for us. We’ve denounced you and renounce you. We’ve been freed from you, brought out of you into a new creation, a different world (2 Corinthians 5:17). And we’re glad! We’re not going back to you. We’re never going back to you! We hate it that we still have ulcers on us that are the marks of our having lived so long in you but we’re free, the ulcers are healing, some of them need sustained treatment but we have a Great Physician and He has assured us that there’s a day coming when all signs that you ever existed will be gone. Sometimes we can hardly wait, but we will wait, certain that you and all that goes with you will be obliterated and that we’ll happily look in a mirror one day and see someone beautiful looking back at us. And if it is the case that when we look and see some scars they will remind us of a wondrous salvation and a wonderful Savior!
We have conquered you. We have! You can sneer all you want when you hear us say such a thing but the Lord Jesus had and has your number. In Him we’re free and glad of it. We’re not going back to you—You hear? We’re never going back to you; it’s too lovely out here!
(Holy One, thank you for coming and for liberating us from such a death camp.)

DOES ANY OF THIS MATTER? (1)

Do you think Sin began with you? Do you think it will end with you? Do you think that you should have been the exceptional one—that you should have been born into a world that is infected with the Sin virus and that you should never have become sick with it? Does it ever occur to you that you have not sinned or that you are not now capable of sinning? Do you imagine that there are children born into this world that will mature and leave this life without having sinned? Do you think it is inevitable that we humans will sin? I say “inevitable” and not necessary!

Do you sometimes think you could have lived your life without sinning? Whenever it first happened that you sinned, why do you think you did? Do you ever think that Adam and Eve were the only ones to get a clear shot at not sinning? Do you ever think that it’s somehow unfair if God judged us as if we were Adam and Eve if Adam and Eve had a better shot as living sinlessly than we their descendants do?
Do people who have been raised in a loving and wise home and who have plenty of the fine things that make life pleasing—do they have an advantage over the oppressed who live in unchanging squalor, an advantage to live without bitterness or resentment and in cheerfulness; do they have an advantage to live uprightly? If so, does God know that? Does that shape His view in the area of judging people?
Do people who have been privileged to have a deeper understanding about God’s sense of what is righteous and what is evil—do they have an advantage when it comes to fighting against unrighteousness within them? Do people who have been privileged to know that God loves them and seeks to enrich their lives in all the lovely ways that life can be enriched; do they have a moral/spiritual advantage over those who are destitute of such wondrous truth? Does living in a setting filled with encouragement to living nobly and having a network of friends who embody that kind of living give people an edge—does it give them an advantage over those who live where corruption, intimidation and godlessness reign?
When we see a boy or a girl raised in a godly, loving and wise home and richly blessed with the social and economic blessings that make life comfortable—are we (at least) surprised or perhaps shocked if they turn out to be very wicked? Why is that?
When we see a young man or woman raised by corrupt and brutal parents in a ghetto of violence and filth—when we see such a one become a person of moral beauty and uprightness are we happily astonished? Why is that?

Does God see that? Is He astonished? (If Jesus is the self-revelation of God as a human, does His astonishment at the warm faith and trust of the centurion in Luke 7 say anything about God? What does it imply that Jesus was astonished?)

1. Does any of the above make any difference to anything?
2. Does it come down to this: Some of us are “lucky” to be born in the right place to the right people in the right set of circumstances in the right age and others are “unlucky” not to be?
3. Should we conclude that all the “unlucky” will be eternally punished but some more than others? If we conclude that are we not faced with perplexity and does good or bad “luck” determine the destiny of the vast majority of the human family in all ages?
4. Should we simply dismiss all such questions and say, something like, “We don’t need to trouble ourselves with such questions. God will do what’s right at the final judgment.”?
5. If we do that, have we any gospel truth to announce about the “unlucky” majority of the powerless of the ages?

 

THE HOLY ONE & A BABY’S TOES

In Bloomsbury’s book on English literature (is Bloomsbury correct? I don’t have the book in front of me. I’ll check later). the author who contributed a piece on GK Chesterton pretty much dismissed him as not worth much. I don’t remember that author’s name but Chesterton’s is remembered by millions though he died in 1936.
There are many biographies of Chesterton but the one I enjoyed most was by his friend Maisie Ward. I suppose that the majority of biographies these days works on being “realistic” and to some of those writers that means discussing at length “the warts”. I’m not utterly opposed to that. There is only one Jesus and the rest of us fall far short so if biographers do a thorough search on any of us they’ll find plenty of “warts” (and plenty of alleged warts as well, no doubt). Sometimes I think I can spot the relish with which some writers write to bring down “a god”. I think, for example, (though this is perhaps a bit harsh) I see it in Wilson’s biography of CS Lewis. Of course, I never thought Lewis was Jesus (nor did he!) so I “get it” when people show us some truths that make our heroes less than “Sir Galahads”.
I think “realism” is legitimate and important (unless we begin to worship it as at a shrine) and I think that writing or speaking that doesn’t at least take some account of truth that is less than pleasing to a subject’s friends or family isn’t helpful. But I can’t help thinking that covering a beloved’s wrong is a good thing and important. I think the same is true of one we esteem and are grateful to for many good reasons. But, understand, I do think that some things need to be dealt with openly and judiciously.  Sometimes and in certain situations the whistle should be blown!
But is there not a kind of spirit that can shape us and lead us into seeing (real!) evil or shabbiness or purposed violence and urges us to write or speak about it with a salivating fever and relish; urgently feeling the need to tear open the body of humanity to expose the seething wickedness that can be found there? Showing it in movies like Casino or The Good Fellas or newspapers and books that we’re well acquainted with? Yes, but we want realism!  I think that’s a good thing! I also think a very little of certain kinds of realism goes a long way. A lot of it is bound to generate contagious cynicism and gloom and smugness in the writers & speakers.
What kind of realism is it if a husband speaks lovely things of his wife but feels compelled by “honesty” to speak of really distasteful things he finds in her or thinks are in her?
I take seriously William Lyon Phelps’ remark on books. He said this: ”Zola was an artist of extraordinary energy, sincerity and honesty; but, after all, when he gazed upon a dunghill, he saw and described a dunghill. Rostand looked steadfastly at the same object and beheld the vision of Chanticleer.” Yes, I’m currently convinced there is a spirit abroad among us that leads us to “expose”. But I also know there are millions, whether Christian or non-Christians who take to heart this truth, “Love covers a multitude of sins.”
But I didn’t intend to go into all that. (There’s no cure for my lack of discipline I’m afraid.) I simply wanted to tell you (perhaps again) since it’s on my mind, that GK Chesterton in a little collection of his essays called, What’s Wrong With the World makes the claim that a major problem with it is that we have lost the sense of wonder. There is, he insisted, many wonderful things, we just don’t have the capacity to perceive them. Everything (pretty much) is reduced to materialism or rational explanation or economic or social worth. “What does it do? What difference does it make? What’s it worth?” All these asked in a severely pragmatic spirit. “Wonder?” Poof! It vanishes in a cloud of purple smoke or maybe more likely, it slowly withers in us. GK says that we (the world and all in it) have grown old and God has stayed young! God doesn’t make flowers en masse, He makes them one at a time (no doubt with speed passing the speed of light). He loves individual humans also. (I know this raises difficult questions. But not right now.)
He, like a little child isn’t bored with repetition. We acknowledge it (realistically) and adjust to it but He delights in it. Following Chesterton’s lead I’m looking forward to the day when I walk into a room and there’s a baby sitting on the floor with its eyes big and wide in amazement—it has just discovered the wonder of its toes (you’ve seen that, haven’t you!) and there beside the baby is God with His eyes wide open looking at the same thing. He’ll turn and say with excitement in His great voice, “Have you seen these?”
Reduce all we want; make Christmas nothing but a time of greed and capitalism and pain for many poor people, children and parents (sadly, there’s a great deal of that), but if that’s all we see and miss the wonder of the Christian faith and the incarnation of God we’ve been hurt and we have grown old while God remains ever young and ever joyful knowing where He’s going with all this.

(Holy Father, enable us to balance reality with wonder or at least enable us to seek to balance them! This prayer in the name of the ever-young Prince.)

DECEMBER 25th–WHO CARES?

(I don’t know how to respond to your responses (except when we’re exchanging on textual or theological issues—and maybe then I don’t) but I want you to know I read them all and find pleasure in the meeting of minds that have reason to rejoice. So if I don’t add a little note to your note it isn’t that I’m ignoring it—it’s that I don’t know what to say and/or that life has got in the way of my responding. God enrich us all and strengthen us so that even if our tough circumstances (sometimes excruciating circumstances) can’t be changed we will be able to rejoice in the truth that can’t be shaken, the friendships that will not end, the hope that lies throbbing deep within us and will before we know it become experienced reality.)

Our hope is in GOD and He is the GOD who became one of us something like 2,000 years and ago and forever remains one of us. And He became one of us because He did not want to be God without us! He became one of us because He WANTED to. How profound is that? It would be an unbelievable doctrine if it were not for the fact that He actually and historically did what He WANTED to do. The doctrine is nothing but the telling of what He did! (That sentence is over-simplification and needs developed though it is absolutely true.)

I don’t care if GOD became one of us in Bethlehem on December 25th or not! If we hadn’t settled for that date, we should have settled for another! What? May 13th, February 23rd? I don’t care! If we spent as much time reflecting on the utter wonder and implications of it rather than proving it wasn’t December 25th the entire world would be better served and the Church would rejoice in the truth and have something to shout happily to the world. The central pulsing truth is that He DID it! What? It’s a religious crime to choose a day (ANY day) to celebrate the Incarnation of God? Are we mad or what?

GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST (the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ).
Think noble things of God.

John 3:16-17