Hound of Heaven: God, Quincy and Me.

The Hound Of Heaven. This poem by Francis Thompson, a brilliant but tortured drug addict, hits home. It exquisitely describes how a friendly but persistent God pursues us with patience and love. Saints in every age, prodigals all, grasp the pure joy of being caught in the Divine Chase and the utter misery of running away from Him.

Charles Schultz’s hound, Snoopy did something similar, but in a subtle and light, tongue-in cheek style.  It’s interesting that in his Gospel According to Peanuts, the author, Mr. Short reminds us dog is God spelled backwards.

Quincy is my “some-timey” hound. Why do I say my 10 pound poodle is some-timey? The other night I kindly let him do his business out back. When I whistled for him,  he ran to me, likety-split, happily wagging his tail. Hugging him I said, “I just love it when you obey me like that!”

Today–a very different story. When I whistled, he glanced up and gaily went back to exploring all those lovely smells he’d found. I called, yelled and cajoled. Nothing. The pleasures of his doggy world had him in its grasp. Sadly I had to go and fetch him.           (I’m so like that).

So I’m thinking God must feel joy when I obey him—delighted when I come into His presence at his call–sad when I put him on the back burner, caught up in worldly cares and pleasures. Yeah, I think that’s probably right.

Some, with a puritan bent might raise an eyebrow at the notion that God feels joy or disappointment over us… or anything else for that matter.

Others might scoff that it’s anthropomorphic—projecting human traits and feelings onto the Divine. But isn’t believing we can attribute good stuff like love, joy, or bad feelings onto the King of the Universe rather like saying we invented ourselves?

King David, had deep insight into such things. No mean song and dance man, he also wrote some really cool lyrics to a bunch of songs, called psalms. One of them shouts, “Hey, it is He who made us! We did not make ourselves!” Dummy!  Wasn’t David the guy  ”after God’s own heart?” So isn’t it just plain whack-o to buck his insights and talk about projecting our feelings onto the Creator when it’s so completely the opposite.     

The prophet who heard God sing. Zephaniah wrote, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty. He will save and He will rejoice over thee with joy. He will rest in his love. He will joy over thee with singing.” Zeph. 3:17 (Good old KJV)

In the very front of the book, we read how we are all made “in His image.” So, when we sing, dance, celebrate, feel joy, love, peace, good stuff like that, we are reflecting Daddy God. To say he reflects us is absurd, like saying the sun reflects the moon. A more recent song puts it this way, “I find beauty looking through my Father’s eyes.”

So in my relationship with Quincy, my hound, I get a glimpse of how God is happy with me when I trust him, obey him and love Him and others. It’s a good bet, like me with Quincy, Jesus is delighted when I come running at his call.

Thanks for reading us. We live for your comments. They keep us going.

 Next post: The Humanity of God? Sound like heresy? Let’s talk.

God Shows Up–Inwardly and Outwardly

“ Jacob dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth to heaven, with the angels of God going up and down it.  At the top of the stairway stood the Lord.”

After joining the Air Force, I was sent to Yale University to study Chinese. Restless  to shed my Sunday school faith, I began reading a book by the atheist, Bertram Russell.

One day I was surprised and happy when a real Yale student visited me in my dorm. Showing genuine interest in me, he invited me to a weekend gathering of Ivy League Christians. I agreed and when I arrived at a YMCA camp, felt their warm welcome.  As they studied the word and worshiped, I saw for myself their inward faith by their outward fellowship and love for each other. to me it felt like family and it was. I already  knew Jesus was God’s son who died for my sins. But when we sang, “Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God died for me,” I was floored. Could it be? Was Jesus actually God?

That night, desperate to know the truth, I went and sat on my bunk. I can’t call it a prayer; it was more like a dare: “God, if you exist–if you truly love me enough to die for me, surely you can reveal yourself to me.” I was soon overwhelmed by this Great Presence—what Jacob must have sensed when he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place.”

It was an inward experience. There was no need then for outward evidence. I yielded, completely to him, inviting Jesus into my life for keeps. With slight hesitation, I began to share with a few of my buddies what happened to me, causing a mild stir. I had no clue that my inner experience would soon become a very outward, tangible one.

It started when Alex, a new friend, came to me one night with his Bible. He read to me from all four gospels John the Baptist’s prophecy: “I baptize you in water, but He who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Alex then read the passage in Acts where Jesus said his followers would be his witnesses after the Holy Spirit came upon them, filling them with power. He also pointed out five instances in Acts where believers did receive that promise. In all cases there was outward evidence of the inward presence–most often it was the gift called glossolalia–the supernatural ability to praise God in a language they never learned.

Alex shared with such deep sincerity. “Wade, this promise of Jesus is for you and all believers. You just have to ask Jesus to fill you with God’s Spirit.”  How could I doubt it? It was right there in the Word? I began to ask Jesus to fill me like that. As with all God’s promises, it is received by faith, so I believe Jesus answered my prayer at that time. However, it was a month before I experienced the actual evidence of that reality.

It happened at a believer’s gathering where I was praising God inwardly with such gratitude and love I could hardly contain it. Suddenly my tongue was moving in a strange way. This must be it! I opened my mouth and couldn’t believe it! A beautiful language gushed from my inmost being,. I was expressing praise to God in a way my limited English could not.

When I returned to my classmates this time, I was on fire, not at all shy to tell them all what had happened. Gossip buzzed all around. Some wanted to hear more, some thought I was nuts and Satan sent a band of militant atheists who took it very seriously. They grilled and argued– trying to talk me out of it. Much later, their ring leader who mocked me openly, told me in private, “Wade, you have no idea how much I envy you.”

After graduation from Yale, the Air Force sent all 30 of us to for training at NSA headquarters. Then it was off  to a mountaintop in Taiwan with a mission–listening by radio for activity of the  Communist Chinese Air Force. Little was going on then, so we had lots of free time. While my buddies were seeking the world’s pleasures, I was having a ball among my fellow believers on the base and down in the city of Taipei. An elderly missionary couple recruited me to preach and also teach the Bible to students from Taiwan University. They were eager to learn English. A young missionary and I became friends. We began witnessing to a brilliant Taiwanese artist and my friend urged me to pay him a visit.                                                                         .

When I knocked on his door, the most beautiful young woman I had ever set my eyes on answered—in a revealing negligee. She was deaf and dumb, but her eyes told me she was available. With hormone’s raging, I fled in panic. That’s when the devil began working me over in earnest, tempting me to join my lost comrades in pursuing the world’s deadly pleasures.

I decided on my own private retreat with the purpose of finding a way out of my faith.  I wrestled with God, rationalizing that it was possible that my inward experiences of His love could have been imagined. But then I recalled the outward, tangible reality of Jesus’ baptism with the amazing gift of tongues. I was stymied. It was no go. It would be  intellectual suicide to deny that. So the devil lost that round and I dedicated myself to serve the Lord with renewed commitment.

Years later, I realized that my wrestling was not unlike Jacob’s in Genesis 32. He had already had an inward experience of God years before at Bethel. But a night came when it became very outward. “A man came to him and they “wrestled” all night. Who was that man? Jacob had no doubts. In the morning “he called the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face.”

Isn’t it clear that God’s Word is very clear. God’s will and desire is to confirm to every believer’s heart their inward faith with objective, outward evidence of His love?  Isn’t it true that God will fulfill His promise when believers earnestly seek this baptism? My best friend, Tom Wood, was raised in a church that opposed this experience. They hated the idea of “tongues.” One evening Tom asked me, “What exactly is this baptism in the Spirit?” Immediately God gave me the answer. I replied, “It’s a baptism of Christ’s love.” Satisfied, he joined me at the our chapel’s altar to seek the fullness of God’s Spirit for himself.

This is only a small part of my story with many wondrous things. All praise to God.

If you have not sought this promise of Christ’s baptism in the Holy Spirit, I urge you to search the Scriptures and seek for yourself God’s outward sign of his inward grace.

 

 

When God Reveals Himself

“When you said, ‘Seek my face’, my heart answered, ‘Thy face, Lord, will I seek’--Psalm 27.8 “Ask, and it shall be given; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it will be opened.” Matt. 7.7

Imagine the mystery of the universe lying behind this great, heavy curtain.

  • The atheist stands before it, declaring, “There’s absolutely nothing back there.”
  • The agnostic comes and has no doubts, “We can never know what’s back there.”
  • The philosopher expounds on and on about what lies behind the curtain.
  • The religionist explains it with a host of creeds, doctrines and rituals.
  • The humble penitent comes to the curtain, asks, seeks and waits…until the curtain opens and the Lord God, King of the universe, reveals Himself

God revealed Himself first in real history. That first Christmas He actually did show up, coming to us as a babe. He lived among us, suffered with us, forgave us, saved us from sin and guilt and proved his love by dying for us. We celebrate Easter because He really did rise up from the tomb, conquering our worst nightmare—death. To top it off, he offers those who will ask and receive, the incredible gift of eternal life.

God reveals Himself today to us if we ask and seek. Surrounded by skeptics at an Ivy League University, I was on my way to becoming an atheist. But I had not given up my  curiousity, so I must have been asking and seeking. One weekend I chose to be among bright, eager, young believers. They lived out their faith, sharing their love for Jesus Christ with me. I joined them singing a hymn by Charles Wesley: “Amazing Love, How can it be, that thou my God hast died for me.” Those words floored me.

Could it be true? Is Jesus, who I heard all my life, died for me, really God?  I had to know, so I got alone and—well I guess you would say I prayed, though it was more like a challenge. “God, if you really love me and died for me, surely you can reveal this to me, can’t you?” Then I waited and guess what. That curtain opened for me. I knew and felt to be in the presence of the Holy. There was no doubt. It was all true, so I surrendered to Him and my life changed forever.

We come to know God the way we come to know anyone. Let’s say I go into McDonald’s, sit down next to this guy and we get talking. After some small talk, we ask each other some personal questions. By asking and answering we come to know something about each other. We might continue with this and eventually form a friendship. But if I don’t care enough to ever ask or he doesn’t ask, can we ever come to know each other?  Wouldn’t we leave McDonald’s as we came—complete strangers. To know God or anyone, we must care enough to ask and seek.

I am still asking God questions. I have found prayer includes asking, seeking, listening and waiting. God, as it turns out, delights in opening the curtain, revealing Himself and answering my questions. Over the years, we have formed a close bond this way, as He continues to reveal Himself to me. He speaks to my heart by His Spirit and to my mind by His Word, the Holy Scriptures. God’s servant, Paul surely grasped this, writing, “…that I may know him in the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings.” 

Would you consider taking this challenge by honestly asking Him, seeking Him and knocking. He will surely open that curtain for you.

Please make comments. They keep us going.

What Holds the Universe Together?

“We say atoms are bound together by weak attractors, but let’s admit the truth.  We know the universe is held together by LOVE.”  M. Von Kerr, Mystic and Physicist, CY 9942

The quote above is from an episode of a TV series inspired by Gene Roddenberry.  Dylan Hunt, captain of the Star ship Andromeda, bridges time and space to be reunited with his long lost love, Sara, who is leading an expedition to rescue him from the death grip of a black hole. While she does save her great love, they realize they must acrifice their personal love for a higher purpose–for Dylan to pursue his heroic mission to restore a fallen, darkened universe. In the end, their painful decision bears fruit. The Star ship captain does restore his fragmented kosmos and brings peace to those who inhabit it.

Pretty heady stuff! But let’s look at another quote, not from the mind of Gene Roddenberry, but from the mind of God. “Everything in the universe was made through God’s son and everything is held together by Him.”  Colossians 1: 17

Now, let’s bridge these thoughts with another, even more astonishing revelation–one  that comes to us, fittingly, from the disciple whom Jesus loved.“He that does not love, does not know God, for GOD is LOVE.”—1 John 4: 17

This revelation that GOD IS LOVE is without a doubt, the greatest single statement ever made about God, answering many questions and unlocking a multitude of mysteries. It also reveals the profound insight of Roddenberry’s quote. Christ, who is one with the Father, is Love and is the source of energy that created the kosmos, holds it together and keeps it going with remarkable mathematical precision.

This gives me profound hope for our own darkened world. What do you think?

P.S. The revelation that God is love answers some of our most basic questions .

  • Why are we here? We have been created because it is the nature of Love to require another to love. God created us to love us and to be loved in return.
  • Are we free to choose or not? Love, by nature, requires a free response. To be truly free to choose Love, we must be free to reject Love. This explains why the Creator placed that tree in the garden. It was there to give us freedom to choose God.
  • Why is the world filled with evil?  Since God loves us enough to give us freedom, we are free to reject Him, which we have done, thereby opening a Pandora’s Box of evils such as hatred, strife, abuse, greed, selfishness, violence and wars.
  • Does God watch over us or has he left us to fend for ourselves? Love does not abandon his beloved, but seeks her best. God watches over us and has chosen to preserve us, even though we reject Him. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my all.

There is hope for the human race.

Friendship and Eternal Security

A certain theologian advocates eternal security, declaring, “those who have been genuinely saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone. shall not be in danger of God’s condemnation or loss of salvation, for God’s grace keeps them forever saved and secure.”

I see merit in his statement, but have some questions. (1) Who of us dare say whom are saved and who is not saved? Isn’t that God’s domain? (2) Since friendship with Christ is a covenant–an agreement between two parties–what is our part in the covenant?  (Calvin is dead wrong to exclude believers from the covenant, teaching it exists only among the trinity, Father, Son and Spirit. That notion has no support in Scripture.)

 Friendship with Christ: Jesus tells us that true friendship includes sacrifice, i.e. “laying down one’s life.” (John 15:13). Life (Gr: psyche) implies dying to self or laying down one’s ego for his friends. Jesus adds,  You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Our friendship with God is a great gift, but not one based just on a past decision made to trust him.  It rests foremost on God’s steadfast love, but includes obeying his command.  What command?–the mandate he gave at His table which he repeats twice in this discourse: (15. 12, 17). “Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus laid down his life for us. If I am his friend, I will obey him by loving my fellow believers which includes  laying down my life, i.e. my soul, my ego, for them.

My best friend and I became pals years ago. We continue to enjoy that bond, but it means calling and meeting each other; helping when and if needed. But what if I make no effort to nurture our friendship? Would we remain friends? Clearly not, since Jesus defines friendship as a two way street. Friendship in his covenant is with Jesus on the vertical plane but includes loving others. This what we mean by “the horizontal church.”

 ”If you abide in Me…”Three things I see in this phrase, (a) Abide is a remaining or continuing in Jesus; (b) The little word “if” means I must do my part. (c) Abide is in the present tense. We remain in Him today not  just yesterday or 40 years ago at conversion. Salvation is past, present and future. Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2) andToday. if you do not harden your hearts…” (Heb. 3:16)

Jesus’ Prime Directive is his order for a new order: “Love one another as I have loved you. -–John 13: 34. Many professed believers are apparently in for a shock.  ”Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy… cast out demons…and perform wonders in your name?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.” Matt. 7.21, 22” Again, in his parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus rejects professed believers he terms “goats.” In shock, they ask, “Lord when did we see you…. and not help you?” He answers, “when you refused to help the least of these my brethren, you were refusing to help me.”  Their sin? Disobeying Christ’s prime directive.

Don’t get me wrong. I have full confidence in God’s ability to  ”work in me to will and do his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12). Without his daily grace, I am lost. But I shun the arrogance that says, “It doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do, I’m going to heaven.” I’m  a sinner whom God has reconciled himself to by Christs death and am “being saved by his life (within me). (Romans 5:10) And so I …work out my own salvation with fear and trembling.”–Phil 2:11. I also try to be “diligent to make my call and election sure.” (2 Peter 1:10). So,

Your comments and thoughts are important to us. Thanks.  

P.S. From Genesis to Revelation, we God’s relationship with his people is reflected in  marriage. I would hazard then, what is true for friendship, may go double for marriage. I’m just saying.

The Ambiguities of our Faith

It’s a strange but true fact that we are often held captive by our culture. For example, in the West, we believe truth is usually black or white.

I was sitting in a lecture hall at Yale University, scratching my head, trying to decipher Dr. “Freddy” Wang’s accent. “Chinese is wery ahm-big-oo-us.”  Forty of us were there to learn Mandarin, courtesy of the Air Force. NSA would then train us to spy on the Chinese mainland. Anyway, after his lecture, we were laughing at Freddy’s repeated attempts to say, “Very ambiguous.”

Years later it dawned on me. In that phrase, our professor was sharing with us the wisdom of his ancient culture. We johnny-come-lately westerners are clueless about the oriental insight into the dynamics of ambiguities such as yin and yang.  Webster’s defines ambiguous as” having two or more possible meanings. In the West, we keep trying to force reality into “‘either…or,” a rather static view of the world and the Word.

English has many synonyms for ambiguous. Paradox is one. Dialectic is another. The dialectic method holds that two contrasting ideas (dualities) may be in tension with each other, to reconcile the two into one new meaning, called synthesis.  In simple terms it means life is not always “either… or.” Sometimes it is “both…and. Our Christian faith has such ambiguities. Not convinced? How do you answer these questions?

  • Is Jesus man or God?
  • Is God one or three?
  • Are we saved by God’s grace or by our faith?
  • Are we going to be judged by our faith or our works?
  • Is salvation a present or future reality?
  • Which testament portrays God’s true nature, the Old or the New?
  • Does God judge us in our sins or extend forgiveness?

Congratulations if you answered “both” to all seven. Paradoxes like these have sadly been the cause for dividing Christians for centuries. Often it’s because the western mind fails to grasp what the eastern mind does–reality is not always a one-edged thing. Sometimes it has two-edges, as we see in this passage, “God’s word is living and active, as sharp as a two-edged sword, dividing asunder soul and spirit, where joints and marrow join, for God’s word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions.” –Heb. 4:12.

Did you notice the five underlined pairs? They are dualities. I believe the inspired writer put them there purposely, to help us see truth often has two edges—two contrasting ideas in harmony with each other.  This insight helps us resolve so-called discrepancies found in Scripture. It also may help us reconcile doctrinal controversies.

Consider two passages, quoted by opposing sides of one such controversy. “I have written these things that you may know you have eternal life – 1 John 5: 13. “How can those who abandon their faith be brought back to repent?”-Heb. 6:4. It’s tempting for one who is zealous for his doctrinal position, to twist a text to make it agree with his view, or to manipulate one to disprove the other. But why not let God’s Word be His Word? ”Let God be true and every man a liar– Romans 3.4. We can solve the dilemma when we hold these two truths in tension with each other. We are not forced to choose one over the other.

Once on a long car trip, I sat between two pastors. Each of them was as dogmatic as the other, heatedly arguing Calvinism vs. Arminianism, proof texting their positions from Scripture. After many miles of this, I finally spoke up. “You know, I believe you are actually both right. But is it “right” to let your doctrinal views come between you as brothers?”

Many church splits have been caused by these kinds of disputes. How sad, when the inspired Word clearly states,  “Be in harmony; show love for one another; be united in spirit and agree with one mind”– Phil, 2.2.  Brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus the Messiah,[o] I urge all of you to be in agreement[p] and not to have divisions among you, so that you may be perfectly united in your understanding and opinions. –I Cor. 1.10

Paul is just following Jesus when he made this fervent prayer before his passion. ”Father, may they all be one, as you and I are one…may they have such perfect unity that the world will know you sent me.”–John 17.21-23.

Please add your comments. They keep us going. Thanks

 

What Can We Do About Our Divisions?

Previously we traced some root causes for the many divisions among Christians.     In this post we stress why unity is vital and offer some steps to implement  it. 

Part 1:  If Christianity is to recover from its malaise, our leaders  must find ways to cooperate and work together, not competitively. God’s ultimate plan for our broken world is “to bring all things  together in unity through Christ both in heaven and earth.” (Eph 1:12) . We can help heal our broken church to find  ways to model agreement and harmony, fulfilling God’s dream for us.

Why Is Unity So Important?

1. Jesus’ heart cries out for it “I pray for them Father…that they will all be one,…may they be one. May they be together in unitymay they be one. In this, his high-priestly prayer, urgency grips the Savior. Five times he pleads for us “to be one.” [BTW: Wesley wisely observed that the Bible’s most essential truths are the ones most repeated].

2. Our unity conforms with and reflects the harmonious relationship within the Godhead. Jesus’ prayer shines light on  God’s perfect unity within himself.Father, as you and I are one…as you are in me… as you are  in me, Father, and I am in you.”

3. We are called to ”Imitate God and follow Christ’s example of love” –Eph. 5:1. If we imitate God and follow Christ. we will seek grace to resist temptations to argue and bicker over doctrines. Is my job as a believer to criticize you and correct your beliefs or  to love and encourage you? -Galatians 6: 1-5

4. Divided we fall and our witness is dead in the water.  Jesus prayed for unity so the world would know we are genuinely His “…then the world will believe you sent me” and “…so the world will know you sent me.

  • When we demonstrate unity and model Christ’s love among ourselves, unbelievers will be open to us and the gospel of love we preach.
  • .Competition, lack of cooperation, doctrinal quarrels, is a real turn-off. Divided, we lose our saltiness and hide our light. (Matt. 5:13-16).
  • Jesus calls us to “be” his witnesses,”—live the gospel, then “tell it.” -Acts 1:8

6. Our unity goes hand in hand with obeying Jesus’ new covenant command: “Love one another as I have loved you”—-John 13: 34.

  • He promises the same results in his command and prayer: “Your love for one another proves to the world you are my disciples
  • Lost, hungry souls need to see we are genuine before they accept our message.

 Part 2: Vital Ways To Restore Unity. 

1. Pray! Pray! Pray together and alone, fervently with expectation, that mutual love and unity will take root in our fellowships and spread across our divided church.

  • It shows our love for Jesus Christ“If you love me, you will obey me.”
  • Prayer changes things. Our prayers may help put “united” back in USA.
  • Pray for peace in our homes. Eph. 5 and 6 offer 365 wise words of counsel to families. When we follow them, God’s peace strengthens family ties.
  • Harmony in other relationships Charity (love) starts at home, but it mustn’t stay there:  “As far as possible, be at peace with everyone.” (Rom.  12:18) “Do good to all, especially to those of God’s family.”  (Gal 6:10)

2. Prayer Requires Actions. Ask God as if everything depended on Him. Act as though it all depends on you.     

Future posts will offer more strategies to implement His love and unity.  

Please, share your comments. It encourages us if we know folks read our stuff.

 P.S. Seven Words From Scripture To Help Confirm This Truth To Our Hearts. 

  1. Peace: (eirenei) Inner peace comes when we have peace with God & others.
  2. One accord: (homothumadon) In Acts whenever disciples are “of one mind and heart,” God blesses them with rapid growth and miracles.
  3. Agreement/harmony: (symphanos) Jesus promised His special presence when we agree. “How good it is when brethren dwell together”…like a symphony
  4. Reconciliation: (katalogei) God unites and restores us to himself, then calls us to be his ambassadors of reconciliation to unite others to God and one another.
  5. Love: (agape). “I show you a more excellent way.” Where I Cor. 13 love is practiced, unity follows. If we are in unity, expect miracles of grace.
  6. Friendship: (philei) “I now call you my friends. If you are my friends, you will obey my commandment to love one another as I have loved you.”
  7. Fellowship (koinonia) is our common love for Christ and one another.

Feedback encourage us to continue in this ministry until Christ’s dream for us to be “one” comes true.