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.

Why So Little Interest in Jesus?

Jesus and “born again” were hot topics in the 60’s and 70’s. Today people suppress a yawn when we bring Him up. We can feel the growing anti-Christian sentiment around us, but what’s more alarming is that our neighbors’ have no interest when we bring up Jesus, our faith, Jesus, or things Christian.   Polls by Gallop and Barna document the decline of the church’s reputation over the last 50 years. But they fail to note that Jesus’ popularity has plummeted along with the church.

What’s behind His eroded reputation?  How about direct disobedience of His command to “love one another.” and his prayer, “Father,may they be one.”

 We have failed  to reach two generations of young people and are losing a third, many of whom are being taught to actually hate Jesus. Has our failure to obey Jesus’ mandate  a reason why?

Billy Graham s success wasn’t primarily his preaching. I helped lead two of his campaigns in New Jersey. He  would not come to a city if a sizable number of church leaders there did not join together in prayer and support of the campaign. This was one of the keys to his popularity and his fruitful efforts to win others to Jesus. .

 What was his authority? By this shall all men know you are my disciples, “If you love one another as I have loved you.” John 13, 34,35. And Jesus’ prayer, “May they be one Father, as we are one that the world may believe.”

The Love Revolution  a book about Jesus’ forgotten and neglected command ,  written by Pastor Gaylord Ens, greatly impacted the men’s group I am in. He, myself and other believers are praying for the body of Christ in the U.S. to wake up to the Great Command of Jesus  to “love one another,” and his prayer, May they be one Father, as we are one that the world may believe.”

Doesn’t the failure of Christian leaders to bring their flocks together and competition among churches rather than cooperation, show our disrespect for Jesus’  New Covenant command–His new order for a New Order? What if leaders would reach out to neighboring churches and explore ways to bring their flocks together to witness and do good works? What if local  churches were known for their mutual cooperation and united loving actions rather than their competition? Jesus promised obedience to this agape love would make a positive impact on our neighbors. Why don’t folks get this?

Please pray with us to lift Jesus higher as we recall and practice His mandate for us to love one another and his prayer for our spiritual unity.

Your comments are valuable. Please let us know you are out there. Thanks.

 

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.

What Do You Think?

Argument or Agreement? I am alarmed at how the church of Jesus and our United States nation are becoming more and more divided. I wonder if those who devote themselves to arguing for or against right or left in faith and/or politics are considering the damage they do. It saddens me to see how they limit themselves to dwelling in their blind spots. Does fighting for their views really change anything for the better? It saddens me how constant, unremitting debate, fails to reverence the larger landscape–the beauty of God’s enormous love in Christ and the profound harmony of His universe. After all, the Apostle is clear that God’s ultimate objective is unity and harmony, not disagreement and argument. When I consider the many ways we do agree, I am at peace. When I focus on our differences, or worse, argue for mine against yours, I add to the boiling crisis dividing us and get irritable bowel syndrome in the bargain.

What do You Think?

Uncle Sam or Jesus? My obedience to Christ includes bearing witness to Him by my conduct of life and my words. If I resort to using politics to realize Christ’s agenda, I fall into a quagmire. When I hope to see His purposes achieved through government, do I head towards Him or away from Him? Didn’t he say, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s?” Isn’t it clear that the issue is “not serving two masters?” I love my country, but to whom do I pledge my obedience and loyalty—Uncle Sam or Jesus? It’s got to be one or the other.

What do You Think?

 

“My Friend Irma”…

was a radio show back in the day. This Irma’s not so friendly though. As my wife and I wait her arrival in SW Florida, we have undergone all the vicissitudes of the weather–from anxiety, to calm, to terror and even laughter. Last night my son in Houston, called. Since our prayers for his family’s safety from Harvey were answered, I prayed with faith, “Oh, Lord, calm this vicious storm. Reduce its winds and floods to a category three or even two.” My son, Wade replied, “Look, Dad, if I’m going to ask for a miracle, I’m going all the way, “Lord, reduce the winds to a tropical depression.” “Never mind,” I told him, “I was at Walmart last night and believe me, there’s lots of depression here already.”

Slow and steady, Charlene and I are praying as though it all depends on God and working as though it all depends on us.  We have done pretty much all we can do to secure our stuff. At this writing, I not only feel physically strong for my 77 years, but even better, the storm in my heart has died down, leaving me with an odd sense of well-being.  You might be thinking, “The old man has really flipped his lid this time!”” Be assured. I have never felt so sane.

When I had Stage IV cancer, my son advised me to praise God, which I did, on long walks and found  victory. I’m finding it easier this time around. So, while Charlene naps with her cat, I’m in my room with my wonder dog Quincy, (Did you know dog is God spelled backwards?). I’m offering these words of hope and comfort as assurances of our well-being as we face the storm within and without.

 Fear has fled in the face of joy. Psalms, hymns, songs and promises like, “Rejoice in the Lord always. andMy peace I give you,” have taken on new meaning. While many have fled the area, Charlene and I have God’s assurance we are to remain in our home. Some may say, “Flee like a bird to the mountain, but we have already fled– straight into the arms of God.  Psalm 11.1. Well, not many mountains in Florida, anyway and if we went to a shelter, Charlene couldn’t take her special recliner needed as she recovers from recent shoulder surgery. Besides, we would have to leave our children, Quincy and Annabelle behind. Not happening.

And so my heart is glad. My soul is full of joy. My body also dwells in safety, without fear.” The words of of the Psalmist kind of reflects my present mood, but it could change in a moment. This 2nd verse from the Finlandia hymn has always been special to me. Now it’s much more so.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

This song has also been helpful, especially when I sing them out loud.

You are my hiding place. You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance, whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You. I will trust in You.
Let the weak say I am strong in the strength of the Lord

Finally, because “It is well with my soul,” I believe Charlene, sensing my well-being, is finding it as well .

Be safe out there.

Why Are We So Divided? What Can We Do About it?

A Reader Asks: I’m confused. Why are there so many churches, all with different  labels such as, Denominational. Non-denominational, Catholic, Independent, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Fundamentalist, Charismatic, Baptist, Orthodox, on and on?  Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Is there such a thing as one true church?

What did Jesus intend for his church? If we can get a hold of this single idea, we may be able to untangle this webWhen Jesus declared to Peter, “I will build my church,” did he have a non-profit institution in mind or was his intent to build a community of faithful, active disciples?  Well, let’s look at what a non-profit requires: (1) A name (label); (2) By-laws (Polity–how it’s run); (3) Articles of Incorporation (Statements of  Faith); (4) Money; (tithes and offerings); (5) Leadership (professional clergy to run it) and a Constituency (laity). Does this sound like the community of faith Jesus had in mind? In other words…

Is the church an institution?  A wag once said, “Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to be in an institution?”  Indeed! We realize marriage isn’t an institution, but  a committed relationship between two individuals—a “we” not an “it.”  Is the church more like marriage or more like a non profit?  

Did Jesus love and die for a people or an institution? What does the Bible say? When we gather or dispersed, are we called to be a living community or an organization? Notice how biblical synonyms for Christ’s church stress the personal over the impersonal.

  • Bride of Christ ”Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved [agape] the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of the word, to present her to himself as a radiant church. Eph. 5:25- 26 (FYI: NIV accurately uses “her.”  Many translations mistakenly refer to the bride as “it.”
  • Eklesia, the Greek word Jesus uses for church, means “a gathering of people.” Certainly a community not an  “it.” (BTW: Synagogue has exactly the same meaning.)
  • Body of Christ. ”so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one of us members of one another. (Romans 5: 12). (BTW: When Jesus asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting me, he meant, his church body. Is this where Paul arrived at the revelation of the church being Christ’s body on earth?)
  • God’s Temple isn’t a thing either, as Paul explains, ”Don’t you know you all (plural) are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (Romans 3:16)

These are the Questions we must ask: Is God’s house a building or the people inside? Does He live in things or believers? Does He inhabit institutions or does he dwell and empower the believing community within [and sometimes without] those institutions?

How did the living Church become Institutional? In the third century, church leaders began to assume special titles of rank and position for themselves. Today we call them  “clergy.” Over time they expanded their role to one of authority and learning above and apart from rank and file believers— called “laity.” (BTW: The terms laity and clergy are not found in the Bible)

Today many so called laity find they are relegated to the role of pew sitters. Like fans at a football game, they are spectators who support the team, but unlike clergy professionals, are not active participants. Was this Jesus’ dream for his church? Was this how early Christians were regarded?

Just the Opposite: Paul stressed, ”faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other.” (Col. 3: 11. See also Eph. 4)  Ironically Peter, who was promoted to a Roman pope posthumously, wrote that all believers are “royal, holy priests (1 Peter 2: 5, 9). Moreover, in the Bible. we find every member had an important function in the body. (I Cor 12 and Romans 12) True, certain individuals were gifted by the Spirit to lead as prophets, apostles, pastors, episcopoi (bishops), and presbyteroi (elders). But these gifts were not seen in any way as creating a superior class of Christian.

Over the years the church became more and more identified with her leaders not the people. An extensive hierarchy developed. To accommodate elaborate and often extravagant systems, measures were required to organize into complex and well-funded institutions. Massive building projects followed. Today tourists are wowed by these hundreds of spectacular cathedrals all over Europe, but with hardly any worshippers.

The Reformation was supposed to cure this, but sadly did not. The same division between “clergy” and “laity” prevailed. Moreover, there was a strong emphasis on the  doctrine of “freedom of conscience.” This justified various leaders who had differing ideas, often about Communion and Baptism, to form denominations and sects, following their own doctrines and ethnicity. In America, those division have multiplied exponentially far beyond anything we find in Europe.

Our next post will address the difficult question” What can we do about it?

Your comments are important to us.

When a Man Loves a Woman

It was Percy Sledge who sang that song, describing how a man feels when he falls in love. That’s the fun part, the easy part. But how does he win that woman’s love and keep it burning all their days?  That’s a lot tougher thing—one God himself has to deal with concerning his human creation.

Is it odd to consider He wants that kind of relationship with us? It’s pure Bible. Jesus described himself as a bridegroom coming one day for us, his bride. Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves us, His church.  Hosea wrote of a day to come when:

“You will call me your Husband, not your Master…and I will make a new covenant…when you will be mine, faithful and true, in love and tenderness. Yes, I’ll wed you and will never leave nor forsake you. You will know me for who I am, your Lord.”

I was always taught, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.” Yet what man is foolish enough to think he can win the woman he loves by telling her, “I order you to love me.”  I tried to show God my love by doing the things they taught me in church. Gaylord Enns, a pastor friend of mine tried all his life to obey that command. But how could he just love God? He had a life to live, responsibilities, people depending on him. He felt guilty that he wasn’t praying enough, reading Scripture enough, witnessing enough, etc. One day he had a complete breakdown. While recovering, he began taking a new look at the Scriptures. Eventually Gaylord was set free from the bondage of that old law. You can read all about it in his monumental book, The Love Revolution. Discovering the Lost Commandment of Jesus.

When I was young and stupid, I gave up on loving God.  What had he done for me, except put me in this evil world, filled with crushing losses and disappointments? I even began to study atheism. But God didn’t give up on me. He led me to some believers at Yale University who accepted me and took me in. This caused a doubt: maybe I was wrong about God. One night we sang a Wesley hymn, “Amazing love, how  can it be, that Thou my God hast died for me.” I was shocked! Was Jesus God? I never knew that. I got alone to pray to God, who until that moment, I had rejected. But he hadn’t  rejected me.

It was at my conversion that I knew for sure God hadn’t abandoned us while  comfortable in his heaven. He came down to live with us, suffered with us, went to a cruel cross, stretched out his arms to say, “I love you this much!” I knew then the song I sang in Sunday School was true, Jesus loves me, this I know. “Jesus,” I prayed “I’m yours.” Only lately however, have I come to understand that God knew ordering us to love him wouldn’t work. It was a temporary measure until He actually proved His love by doing this amazing thing for us.

The New Covenant Has a New Command.  It’s been lost on us, maybe because we’ve been so stuck trying to obey the old one. John writes clearly of the night Jesus was betrayed when he washed their feet, instituted a meal commemorating his coming sacrifice and gave them a new order for a new order.

“A new command I give you: Love one another in the way I loved you. This is how you must love one another. By this everyone will recognize you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13: 34,35)

Confused? You are probably thinking, “That doesn’t make sense.”  He knows it doesn’t work to command us to love him. Why then does he order us to love these people, who are, after all, a lot harder to love than He is? Stay tuned. In our next post we will examine this apparent contradiction and see how supremely logical God is.

We love getting your comments. Please do.