Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Passion Play

My Beloved Sister In Christ,

I want to tell you that I am soon to be writing on the "manifestation" of the reign (or kingdom) of God.  Jesus said the Kingdom of God is in your midst and the Kingdom (or reign) of God is in you.  I want to share two unique tangible /  visible representations of the manifestation of Christs reign on the earth through extensions of his life, i.e. through the actions of two appendages.  

The first is a young lady named Grace (You), who puts her life on hold to come down to serve my suffering friend and his wife. She comes simply to demonstrate the love of God by cooking, cleaning, changing dressings, house keeping, chauffeuring  gophering, helps and in countless selfless acts of love.  I watch from afar and I am moved as I see a powerful visible manifestation of Christ on earth demonstrating his selfless love and service through you.  That is the Kingdom or Reign of God on the earth as it is in heaven.  As the old hymn goes, "Heaven came down and glory filled my soul."  Observing the divine passion play before my eyes, I am moved to glorify God for such love and devotion.

Second is the suffering selfless servant named Charity, his wife.  Putting her life, her needs, and even her emotions on hold, she kneels down washes, massages, anoints and kisses the feet the of the man she adores.  For her there is no time for tears for her own pain, but she tirelessly and single mindedly leaves no stone unturned in her attempts to demonstrate her love for her beloved;  while all the time living with the thought that this may soon end and I may never have another day with the man I love and have loved all these years.  Ignoring her own deep pain and sorrow she focuses on him even though the wounds deep within her soul  cry out for relief.  I have watched her with awe these past two years, as she, like Mary, kneels at the foot of the cross having her heart broken, torn out and yet every disappointment, every painful memory, every setback is just an occasion for her to dig deeper within to mine out untapped veins of love.  These untapped resources give her the strength to continue to demonstrate that "love neither seeks nor needs nothing for itself  but seeks only what is best for the beloved".  Love gives and gives neither expecting nor receiving anything in return.  I now understand my mothers maxim, you must "Love Until It Hurts"

Subsequently I have seen demonstrated the truth that my beloved  friend and brother has often verbalized:  that in God's kingdom, God's economy,  love is the coin of the realm!   I have watched his wife lavish loves fortune on her man.  I am so deeply impacted by what I have seen, I am so moved that not even tears can fully express the awesome truth I have beheld - the truth of  "Christ in you the hope of Glory."  Such love makes my heart soar.  As it takes wing  I recall with a new grace and understanding a poem I have cherished since my youth:

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there

I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

... and I have been touched.

As I have watched this life and death drama, this passion play being played out upon earths stage before my very eyes, and as I do I  recall a line from another beloved hymn:

"I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene."

And I am.  Jesus indeed is alive and well and living on planet earth.  I have experienced him thus.

With Thanksgiving,

Your brother in Christ

Monday, April 8, 2013

HELP WANTED: Leadership Position


Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant.     Matthew 23:9-11

And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.  Luke 22:25-27
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:1-11

"Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him.  And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She *said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They *said to Him, “We are able.”  He *said to them,  My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” 

And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said;  

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is NOT this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."     Matthew 20:20-28

There is no more popular nor sacred foundational truth within the Western church than the importance of and necessity of - effective leadership. Leadership conferences abound and the shelves of Christian bookstores are littered with countless volumes on the subject!  It seems that the success of God's business, like any other business, is utterly dependent upon the raising up and functioning of can do "leadership". The core belief in the modern Western church is that the growth of the body both numerically and spiritually is a product of effective leadership. Hence, a failure in numerical and/or spiritual growth is perceived as a failure of leadership! Our belief is that without leaders the sheep would all be lost and would most likely become someones lunch. Yummmmmmm!

Our church leadership structure, modeled upon the concepts of the Roman authoritarian governmental system, has been , at best, an abject failure.  Three dangerous "games" that the children of God love to play are Simeon Says, Monkey See Monkey Do and Follow the Leader.  

Our Lord recognized that the leadership problem was not unique to Roman ism but also well established within Judaism.  Many of God's people were followers of the sect of the Pharisees.  For we read in Matthew 15:

Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were [d]offended when they heard this statement?” 13 But He answered and said, Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

BOTH fall into the pit or ditch

Following men is NOT the path to discipleship no matter how seemingly gifted or sincere you or they are!  It can and has often led to rack and to ruin.  

There is grave danger in following men. However the other side of the coin is the danger of placing the burden of 'leadership" on the shoulders of brothers and sisters telling them that they are special or chosen ministers and are called to bear responsiblity for the health, safety, growth and well being of God's people.  Chosen vessels not the answer.  Historically the landscape of Christianity is littered with the carcases not only of slain sheep but also of fallen leaders who fell under the weight of such a heavy burden.  Even the divinely called and empowered Moses was not able to take God's people into the promised land!  The truth is that leadership is not a job or task for mere mortals to perform.  In God's economy true leadership lies only within the purview of the Holy Spirit - the spirit of Christ.

...for when He (the Spirit) comes He will guide you...

I have become burdened and am deeply grieved, not only for the sheep that have been sacrificed but also for the "leaders" who have been chewed up and spit out!  I have seen so many walking wounded; countless Christain zombies: men and women having the testimony of Jesus who have become burdened, burned out, and. disillusioned Many have collapsed under the weight of leadership.  These believers have been educated and commissioned to do the impossible  Having answered the call and having received their ministry credentials they have been sent out to do the Lord's work and made to shoulder a burden too heavy for any mere mortal or group of mortals to bear. 

So in consideration of this situation and in consultation with my dear brother Jay, I thought to offer a potential avenue to healing and restoration for these battered and bruised saints - the walking wounded.  Together we envisioned an organization called A.A. (Apostolics Anonymous). It operates as a sort of spiritual Betty Ford clinic for the terminally self important.  So I offer for your consideration and edification the following remedy.

Twelve Steps to Effective Leadership

1. We admit that we are powerless over pride and that our lives have become unfruitful.

2. Having come to our senses we realize that we need Jesus more than He needs us and that only He can restore our hearts and us to fruitful service.

3. Having made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care and control of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we now seek to descend from our lofty positions as self-proclaimed leaders.  We humbly ask that we may have the honor of becoming His bond slaves; that we too may wash the feet of His disciples.

4. We ask the the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and convict us of our error and all sin, including considering ourselves over and above others.

5. Rather than feign perfection, giftedness or spiritual superiority, we admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our transgressions and sins.

6. We acknowledge that we are entirely ready to have God remove all defects of character and we ask for the fullness of the Spirit - that the character of Christ be formed in us. 

7. We humbly ask Him to remove us from our positions of prominence and visibility and give us a heartfelt desire for invisibility, insignificance and loving selfless service.

8. Having made a list of all persons we have hurt, shut out from the “inner circle”, overlooked as insignificant or lowly, those we have stepped on, ignored, condescended to or made to feel inferior in our search for personal significance, achievement, position, and power - we put on humility and seek  forgiveness as the Spirit leads.

9. With respect to those we have directly harmed, burned out, abused or defrauded, we purpose to confess our transgressions and repent.Where necessary we purpose to make  amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. We seek daily to  prayerfully take personal inventory, and when we are wrong to promptly admit it – publicly when necessary.

11. We determine to give ourselves to prayer and the Word of God so as to deepen our relationship with Him that we might know His will for us and do it.

12. Having returned to our first love, we purpose to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  We seek nothing for ourselves but commit with all our heart, mind, and energy to love one another as He has loved us and so we may prove to be His disciples.

"They must know it is not their aptitude,

but their attitude,

 that will determine their altitude." 

Jesse Jackson.

Not by Might, Not by Power

But by My Spirit 

saith the Lord!