Sunday, January 13, 2019

LIVING LIFE FROM THE INSIDE OUT


WE live in a media-driven culture that survives on aesthetics and appearance. We celebrate the political pundits and spin doctors controlling our airwaves, Appearance drives our markets, heavily outweighing content and leaving  the public striving to balance truth with ante-deluvian floods of half-truths? This finds us living life from the outside-in.

True character can only be found by building life from the inside-out, as Jesus taught his disciples.  Trustworthy relationships can only be experienced when they are what they appear to be. Jesus taught his disciples to tenaciously avoid duplicity. Very simply: “Let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no,’” Jesus announced. All else “is of evil” (Matthew 6:37 NASV). 

Judge each other, as you would be judged. Examine “the log” in your own eye before judging “the speck” in your neighbor’s eye, Jesus announced  (7:1-5). We are called to avoid becoming mere façades, mere fronts appearing without supporting structure behind it.

Live life from the inside out. Begin where you are and be yourself, rather than a shadowy illusion or a fading projection. Integrate your life by practicing the wisdom of the proverbial professor who taught his student preachers to “live so that you can in no way be misunderstood.”

Wholesomeness enriches our social fabric. Conform your attitudes and behaviors so the two sides integrate as one coin that is easily recognized, not easily misrepresented, and not readily misunderstood. Avoid duplicity by maintaining simple (pure) values that reflect more substance than appearance.

Vicar Rowland Taylor lived his life with a singleness of purpose that prompted people who knew him best to follow him as a trustworthy Reformer. Taylor was a man of eminent learning, having achieved his degree as Doctor of Civil and Canon Law. His personal commitment to pure and uncorrupted faith resulted in an impeccable integrity. His life and conversation became valued for his life of unfeigned Christian holiness.

In living his life with intentional selflessness, Taylor exhibited a humility that prompted the most vulnerable in his community to take comfort when seeking his assistance. On one hand, he stoutly rebuked sin and evildoing. On the other hand, the richest men in town knew they could expect Taylor’s declaration of fault, when needed. 

Taylor’s community revered their good pastor, finding him mild natured and without guile or ill will. He willingly did good and sought evil against no man. Like the Christ he represented, Taylor forgave his adversaries and made his home a haven for the needy, a place of provision and continual relief. Taylor’s household was occupied by honest, discreet, and well-nurtured, salt-of the-earth individuals that served as candlelight in the surrounding darkness of night.

The Church Hierarchy, however, called Taylor a heretic because he challenged their authority, and the rule of “Bloody Mary,” the Queen. Taylor refused to conduct Mass in the church after concluding it was unbiblical. The Bishop responded by summoning Taylor and giving him a verbal tongue-lashing. To this, the Bishop added an extra two-year prison sentence. Eventually, the Bishop pronounced a sentence of death upon Taylor.

While many stories abound, one story finds Taylor within five days of his death. On February 5, 1555, Taylor presented his beloved son with his last remaining book, a small volume on Christian advice. Taylor further commended his family to God and declared his firm personal conviction of God's faithfulness. He shared one final challenge with his parishioners, which was to walk faithfully in the truths he had taught them.  

Assured of his own heavenly welcome, Taylor reportedly cautioned his followers to avoid the blasphemy of returning to false religion. Then he prayed: “In thee, O Lord, have I trusted: let me never be confounded." The Sheriff terminated Taylor’s prayer by escorting him to Hadleigh--to burn.

As they trudged along the road toward Taylor’s eminent death-by-burning; he gave his shoes away, distributed his remaining coins among the blind in the crowd, and endured the tip of a guard’s staff thrust into his mouth to prevent him from further preaching. Approaching Aldham Common, where his suffering awaited his arrival, he reportedly saw a great multitude of people and questioned, "What place is this, and what meaneth it that so many people are gathered hither?"

Someone allegedly informed him, "It is Aldham Common, the place where you must suffer; and the people have come to look upon you."

"Thanked be God,” Taylor exclaimed, “I am even at home," With that, he exited his horse and
used both hands to rip the hood from his head. The weeping people pleaded, "God save thee,
good Dr. Taylor! Jesus Christ strengthen thee, and help thee, the Holy Ghost comfort thee!" and
other good wishes. 

Taylor walked to the stake, kissed it, and set himself into a pitch barrel they had prepared for him to stand in. Standing upright, his back braced against the stake, his hands folded together and his eyes looking upward towards heaven, Taylor prayed.

They bound him with chains and when someone cast a fagot at him, it cut his face so that the blood ran down, He replied "O friend, I have harm enough; what needed that?"  As they kindled the fire, he held up both hands, called upon God and prayed, "Merciful Father of heaven! for Jesus Christ, my Savior's sake, receive my soul into Thy hands!"      

He is described as standing still without crying or moving, his hands folded together, until Soyce struck him on the head with a halberd until his brains fell out, and the corpse fell down into the fire. Thus; this humble Man of God entered the eternal presence of his merciful Father in Heaven. He loved with his life, after preaching earnestly and faithfully. Following God obediently, even unto death, Vicar Rowland Taylor glorified God in his untimely death.

Appearance rates a very high value in our contemporary culture, but the teachings of Jesus challenge us to restructure our lives and live from the inside out. We are invited to experience a metamorphosis rather than doing a mere makeover. We are invited to experience a transformation rather than merely project a façade. We are promised the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit, integration into a single personality whose external appearance will coincide with our internal self.

By building from the inside out, and integrating our internal beliefs with our external behaviors, we will discover what Jesus called abundant living. 
This is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com
remembering those labels installed on every Zenith radio during my boyhood. Every radio came with this label: “where the quality is built in.” The Christian life is one lived where the quality is built in and that is when we really begin living.
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For additional material, read the following links:
3 http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Taylor,_Rowland_(DNB00)
4 http://rowlandtaylor.wordpress.com/category/1510/
5 http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/TAYLOR/2000-03/0952801386
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RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME


It was December 2001 when I read Allan Perkins report on reopening the “Leaning Tower of Piza.” This tourist landmark had been closed a dozen years when I read Perkin’s story reporting how Engineers completed their $25 million renovation project designed to stabilize this landmark attraction that had become unstable across the years.


Construction workers removed 110 tons of dirt from around the base of the tower and reduced its famous “lean” by about sixteen inches. This was necessary because of the increasing tilt from hundreds of years now threatened the stability of the facility. The top of the 185-foot tower actually leaned a full seventeen feet further south than the base of the tower. Authorities feared the eventual collapse and the loss of their profitable tourist attraction.

It seems the sandy soil on which the city of Pisa was built lacked stability to sustain a monument of this size. This created a potential hazard. It provided an insecure foundation, built on shifting sand. It also offered a true-to-life metaphor for understanding the story we find in Mark Nine about the disciples that could not heal the son of the desperate dad who brought his son to them with an unclean spirit.

On returning from his extraordinary transformation experience, Jesus found a crowd gathered around this despairing Father. His disciples had been unable to heal the boy and they watched Jesus heal the lad and quickly move on. When finally alone with Jesus, the disciples questioned him as to why they could not heal the boy. Jesus replied simply but directly, “this kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29 RSV).

After Jesus healed the boy and they left that place, Jesus had further conversation with his disciples, warning them that he would be killed, but alerting that he would also return three days later (v31). Of course, they did not comprehend. Yet, fearing to ask for further clarification, they journeyed on further with Jesus, trusting but uncertain and unknowing.

Our metaphor of the tower built on sinking sand opens to us new dimensions of meaning when we learn to trust Jesus implicitly as to who he is. Seldom do we journey far with Jesus without experiencing opportunities for developing deeper trust in him. When Jesus approached the disciples and asked them what they were discussing so diligently among themselves, he already knew they needed an “attitude adjustment.” He knew they needed to learn to complement one another rather than compete among themselves. They were still unwilling to confess their competitive spirits and because he understood the nature of their strivings, he gathered them around him and taught them a lesson on true greatness.

You want greatness, Jesus asked: serve others. Wait patiently at the end of the line. Give assistance to the least among you (33-37). Genuine prayer, rising upward out of deep trust in Jesus, makes walking with him increasingly important. Our life of prayer needs to center on Christ as the bulls-eye, the target at which we take direct aim (38-50).

When we hit the bulls-eye, our behavior matches our belief (our proclamation). We do not hinder others of our fellowship. We mutually compliment rather than compete. We serve in the name of Jesus. We anticipate mutual receiving of full and fair reward by all. When all else falls short, we offer a cold drink to the weary traveler, in Jesus’ name.  Our message becomes the issue, rather than the message-bearer. Living the life of holiness , our orthopraxy brings its own rewards.

On the other hand, breaking fellowship—offending the child—offends God. Personal discipline minimizes hindrances and enriches our lives mutually, making it more pleasurable to delight in the blessings of God’s presence rather than enduring the torments of clinging to hindrances.

Jesus was ever the realist; thus, he assured his disciples that everyone will be “salted with fire” (49). Salt enhances tastiness, unless it loses its saltiness. The disciples needed that saltiness and they needed to be at peace among themselves, as do we. When faced with the fires of temptation, adversity, and failure, we all stand in need of proper seasoning, salt appropriately sprinkled. 

Similarly, prayer enhances and provides the full flavoring  that enables us to experience an adequately salted (seasoned) relationship . In turn, this finds us at peace with one another, united in purpose, and powerful in sharing his-story.

Have you seen those TV commercials advertising relief for restless legs and cramping muscles? Pharmaceuticals have discovered how to formulize our aches and pains and offer solutions in simple phrases and acrostic forms we easily remember. This makes it easier for us to self-diagnose our ailments and ask our family doctor for assistance.

Prayer becomes that deep trust that comes when walking daily with our Lord. It results in fuller living and living out our relationships with growing trust. In time, it becomes our lifestyle. Restless Leg Syndrome is my simple formula (TRL Syndrome) for  introducing you to the essential ingredient you need as a Christ-believer.

This is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com
leaving you with a simple formula for reminding you how to transform your daily life into a fuller,  richer and meaningful experience.   

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

THINKING PEACE


Until people willingly “think”
             (1) outside the box” of normal thought, and security, and such issues
                        AND
                                    (2) convert their patriotic one-upsmanship; 
                                                AND
                                                           (3) transform their Nationalistic hubris of Patriotism;

NOT UNTIL THEN

            can we hope to discover a win-win formula that will allow everyone to come to our common table of global humanity. UNTIL THEN, we will ignore the pleas of working families for a living wage; we will scoff at those who call us to wage peace; we will continue ignoring the eternal truth that hostile relationships are a useless waste of time and words

AND

That historical phenomenon we know as the Pax Romana will remain a dusty reference in Father History’s Book of Time. Meanwhile, the age-old story of “Peace on earth among men of good will” will remain a mere figment of legendary history.


Peace requires
alternatives to war, other than violence, hatred, hostility and refusal to forgive.

            Peace requires high levels of optimism and faith; all-be-it, at the risk of trust.
            Peace provides choices -  war or peace, violence or non-violence, trust or distrust.
            War demands spoils --but the spoils of war most often plant the seeds of the next                                conflict.


ON THE OTHER HAND,

Peace steps back-and-away peaceably in an attempt to avoid confrontation by intent.
Peace offers cooperation, complementation, and conflict resolution as an achievable solution. Peace asks, “How can we mutually benefit by intentionally cooperating?

Peace attempts to avoid conflicts of interest:
Peace puts Common Good above politics and Party interests.

Peaceful Politicians could work together and inch OUR COUNTRY forward, IF they had the character and integrity; rather than quarrel singularly and suffer the agony and ecstacy of political hubris found on either side of the aisle.

The Pharisee of Pharisees, Saul of Tarsus, encountered the peaceful Jesus on the Damascus Road. Saul began his journey full of bigotry and filled with the pride in the purity of his Phariseeism, READY TO TAKE CAPTIVES, He angrily determined to exterminate these heretic followers of This Jesus who put a blemish on unity of God (monotheism).

Saul left on his journey a catapillar vigorously intent on fulfilling his mission. Somewhere en route, he had  a vision of God; call it what you will. His experience so transformed his Jewish Monotheism that the lowly catapillar metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly we know as the Christian Apostle to the Gentiles--Paul. 

In his metamorphosis, he discovered the power of a personal conversion. He discovered a broken relationship could recover peace and renewal by introducing reconciling processes that allowed people to gain mutually from their relationships. Paul consequently challenged his every audience to accept God’s higher authority of

LOVE…………………………JOY……………………… AND PEACE.

Paul gave value to a world that favored neither Jew nor Gentile, while strongly affirming that every individual was a person of value for whom Jesus died. 

Becoming Christ’s personal Ambassador, Paul met a global community of citizens, soldiers, and slaves that were badly in need of a model for building intentional peace and friendship. As an Ambassador for Christ, Paul put his life on the line, like a simple slave, just to bring healing to multitudes of broken people oftentimes scorned as unproductive political drones and social parasites (Eph. 4:1, 7, 26; John 3:16).

Real Peace can only come by beginning with being reconciled to God in one’s self.
Peace with God internally, leads to external peace with one’s neighbor, whoever that be. 
God calls us to follow him, and through God's Spirit in Christ he commissions each of us, not only to follow him but to share him by introducing peaceful negotiations into our hostile world environment of interpersonal relationships (2 Cor. 5:16-21).

As individuals; we become God’s Ambassadors. It becomes our stated purpose to give “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14, NIV). Only as we learn to relate individually, can we learn to relate globally as nations. Paul summarized his Mission Statement quite well when he announced, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18, NIV). 

This ancient message of Peace launched in Bethlehem and went far beyond Jerusalem —Calvary. Pentecost gave God’s Rocket of Peace the thrust it needed to enter into the orbit of history’s  time and space. Christmas to Easter nicely frames in our basic Christian year, but further research reveals Paul never strayed far from the teachings of Jesus. It is a truth: if we walk any distance with Jesus, we will discover we are “called” to love [even] our enemies, and to think peace, not war.

This is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com
thinking we should take more seriously than we do, Paul’s advice to the Romans to make the second mile a thinking man’s choice, to share one coat when we have two, and to give a cup of cold water when we have nothing else
. . .Be blessed.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Re-thinking Who We Are as a People of Faith


I am a lifetime affiliate of the Church of God that I refer to as the Anderson Convention. I was born into it. I have enjoyed a heritage at Grand Junction Camp Meeting, the Lester Lake Farm of sixty acres (then) where Warner, Fisher, Byrum, Michels and Company worshipped and celebrated together and evangelized from, after relocating Gospel Trumpet Publishing efforts in 1886 to downtown Grand Junction. That was the place of my spiritual rebirth.

The village of Grand Junction was actually little more than a rural community, burned over via the Chicago Fire. It had no infrastructure such as banks or even something as vital as water. They did have a common water well from which people could carry water to their abodes. The  village also acquired a four-way railroad intersection that prompted the Saints to envision  as to how they could go anywhere in the world from there with their published message. It was primitive at best and you get a good taste of that story in Noah Byrum’s series republished as THE BOOK OF NOAH Stultz/ Welch).
It is so easy to miss much of the beauty of these pioneers of our faith. They were mostly young. They were youthfully zealous. Their message was radically extreme; but, it was clear cut. It separated the sheep from the goats. Warner himself was a master at flailing Babylon, something I never could do well. They berated the denominational world with their “come-out” message that promised an ecumenical unity they sometimes fell far short of. When we view all of that from our contemporary  perspective, it is difficult for us to view them as little more than ultra-conservative radicals with a Gospel agenda.


It is even more difficult in our political climate today to recognize them as the breath of fresh air that they were in actuality.  Several examples quickly become obvious to me, examples that take me beyond the dogma being taught to that of recognizing the transitioning social climate. Professional scholars and historians and their ilk understand this well, but we of non-academia sometimes fail to read well the sign posts along the way.

As I read my current very non-religious book, I picked up at the library; it gives me the history of voting in America--THE EMBATTLED VOTE IN AMERICA by historian Allan Lichtman. I don’t know his faith or his politics but I find him to be a distinguished historian at American University. In reading  Lichtman, I am made to remember that D. S. Warner, a Patron-Saint in my journey of faith, lived in a social climate very different from what I do. This is especially apparent when I read Lichtman's review of women’s suffrage. 

For example, in 1867 the equal Rights Association petitioned a New York constitutional convention to enfranchise women and “abolish the burdensome property qualifications for black men.” Among my favorite stories is that of Sojourner Truth and how she became a women’s rights advocate in Akron about 1851, in addition to already being an Abolitionist and former slave; all of which came out of her journey from being a Sojourner to finding  the Truth—an illiterate but highly effective Holiness Camp Meeting preacher, that held her own among the men during the great Miller revivals of the midcentury that birthed Adventism.

Now Horace Greeley (NY) turned against these ladies, echoing the “the pragmatism that had limited the scope of Fifteenth Amendment protections for black voting.” D. S. Warner lived in this closed, male-dominated society where women had few legal rights, scarcely owned property, and were considered hardly capable of understanding the political affairs of the day. Warner lived in this era of gross inequity between whites and the inferior black slave race while attending a college that led the way in teaching women and equalizing blacks under the holiness teaching of Charles G. Finney Oberlin). 

This calls to my mind the involvement my wife and I experienced when our first-born purchased her first house and the gender-gap she experienced ln Kentucky State Laws as related to women, property rights, and matters of credit (very male dominated) and in my own contemporary time.

Yet; I find Warner and his Company of Saints practicing racial accommodation and equality. I find among those Saints a host of black Saints rejoicing in their newfound freedom and acceptance. I see Female preachers teaching men and publically acknowledged as Spirit-filled leaders and extended equality. Mother Sarah Smith left her husband at home and became the senior member of Warner’s evangelistic party, while doing double duty as supervising matron and keeping everything on the up and up in Warner’s mixed group of evangelistic travelers going about the country in revivalism.

I see these Saints proclaiming an all-inclusive, unifying Message to an exclusive society where denominationalism and racism dominated, where competition ran rampant, and produced hate-filled vitriolic communication. It was not a pretty sight! The Saints offered an opportunity to take a forward step, a very progressive and inclusive step forward to live outside the boundaries of bitterness and rancor and competition, and enjoy unifying Love, Joy, and Peace, in a fellowship where every person God accepted became acceptable.  Competition was out. Cooperation and mutuality was in. The Message was as inclusive as God is and as exclusive as only God can be. And, you need not worry about what the other guy thinks - “man rule.”

Too often we miss the beauty of much of this. We fail to see the liberality and progressiveness of it in comparison to the narrow context in which it was experienced and endured. In many respects, those early Saints were a breath of fresh air. They brought clean air to a polluted society.
It behooves every one of us today to reevaluate our own lives, and the standards we think are proper, and move into our new year with their youthful fervor, their “fresh air” of inclusiveness and equality and racial reconciliation and social concern for people needs that justice and reconciliation and renewal always demand.

From walkingwithwarne.blogspot.com … 
In the political jargon of 2019, the principles within the Church of God message are inclusive,  people-centered, need-oriented, and grace-filled--full of justice, reconciliation. and interpersonal harmony. Twenty-Nineteen is not a time for Pharisaical gathering of our traditions and personal issues, it is a time for emergency action that results in belief and behavior becoming one and the same.  

Monday, December 24, 2018

Count Your Blessings

Counting one’s blessings can too easily become the hapless victim of unanticipated circumstances. Some years ago while living in California’s North Bay Area I had this experience. Mind you, I have always prided myself on being cautious and careful to avoid unnecessary predicaments. On this particular day, I finished my errand and returned to my residence where I casually parked my car in my driveway and strolled mindlessly into the house.

When I returned later; I saw no car safely parked in my driveway. Suddenly, as one reawakened from slumber, I quickly looked up and down our street, surveying the neighborhood for any evidence of my 1970 green Chrysler. I had purchased it new on a very good deal from a nephew by marriage just before moving to the West Coast. I did not relish the thought of something happening to my new automobile.

Scanning the neighborhood with a sharpened eye, I suddenly spotted my car a quarter-mile away, down at the end of our street casually resting against the neighbor’s block retaining wall. Relieved to know I still possessed a car; I was panicked at thoughts of what might could have happened. I quickly walked over to the car, to assess potential damages. Mentally; I was prepared to see the worst possible scenario. Most of all, I feared damage to my neighbor‘s retaining wall.

Investigation revealed no serious damages, other than a very slightly-crimped fender. Stricken with the possibilities of what could have happened, I observed that my Chrysler had somehow wandered down the street on its own and mindlessly meandered across the T-intersection, rolled over the curb and gently rested against the block retainer wall.

Hindsight dictated the facts of the case: I had hurriedly parked, given the gearshift a thoughtless shove, and hurried into the house. It could have been a very costly lesson; yet, it left me with little more than a deep gash in my pride plus a well-learned lesson—“count your blessings.”

In retrospect. my wandering Chrysler could have struck another vehicle approaching our neighborhood. It could have bumped one of the occasional pedestrians walking in our community. It could have just as easily crashed into one of the nearby homes. It could have easily damaged the retainer wall. I knew any of these alternatives could readily have resulted  in a lawsuit for damages of some kind! 

Since I was already in emotional overload with my work and my personal life; my anxiety knew no limits. I needed no additional agenda with which to cope, but when my panic lowered enough for me to calm down, I began to realize just how foolish my anxiety appeared; I began to see just how much worse off I could have been.

I saw how much greater damage my thoughtless action could have created; after all, it was my fault. With that reassessment, I began counting my blessings. I remembered watching the recent retreat of storm clouds and seeing the sun joyfully pop out. I had a good job. I enjoyed free time with my family. My health was good. I enjoyed a comfortable four-bedroom home in a good neighborhood. We enjoyed good neighbors and we loved our church, within walking distance. We were people of faith and we lived without harassment or threat of imprisonment. It was perfectly obvious that God had not abandoned us. We experienced His Presence in our lives and His Word confirmed his loving grace.

A thankful heart looks beyond the circumstances of cloudy days and enjoys the day at hand; cloudy or clear, sunny or partly-sunny. Thus the Psalmist reminded us to “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will act” (Psalm 37:5 RSV).

Out of his library of personal experience, the Apostle Paul added this thoughtful conclusion: be “joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:16-17 NIV).

Having now passed ninety mile-markers, I have learned to count my blessings and breathe a quick “thank you, Lord.” When I lost my beloved a year ago, I could neither weep nor ask for more. Our days had already been well seasoned with God’s loving grace. The fact that God had given us seventy years together instead of the three-to-twelve months the doctors had diagnosed for her at twenty, only added peppery zest to my days. 

As I transition through this Christ’s Birthday Season and prepare for the potential new year before me, I understand that valuing those things that last longest and count most is what truly adds the music to my life. There is an inspirational old hymn I have sung throughout my entire lifespan that offers this rousing conclusion to my theme: It suggests,



          When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

                     When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,

          Count your many blessings--name them one by one,

                     And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.1

_______________

              1 “Count Your Blessings” by Johnson Oatman, Jr. and Edwin G. Excell, PRAISE! Our Songs and Hymns, edited by Norman Johnson. Grand Rapids: Singspiration Division of Zondervan Corp., 1979, p. 430.



I am

walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com

_____

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Finding Hope Inside a Fence


I have long enjoyed Phillip Yancy.  I have found him mature in his faith; thoughtful, sensitive, and authentic. I have long enjoyed Phillip Yancy.  I have found him mature in his faith; thoughtful, sensitive, and authentic. Reared behind the walls of fundamentalism, he has ripened as a mature, fruitful thinker. Yancy described finding God confined inside a barbed wire fence, where he met Jurgen Moltman.

As a youth, the German theologian planned a career in quantum physics, only to be drafted by the German Army at the peak of World War Two . Assigned to anti-air-craft batteries in Hamburg, Moltmann saw others incinerated by fire bombs and was long haunted by guilt. Questions pressed his mind and he wondered, “Why did I survive?”

Moltmann was surrendered to the British Army and spent three years in the prison camps of Belgium, Scotland, and England. Seeing German prisoners collapse from within, lose all hope, and become sick unto death. He experienced his own growing grief while learning the real truth about Nazi Germany. It weighed him down with a somber burden of guilt he could never pay off.

Coming from a non-Christian background, Moltmann brought two books with him into battle: Goethe’s Poems and The Philosophical Works of Nietzsche Finding no hope in either, the young prisoner of war opened an Army-issue New Testament and Psalms given him by an American Chaplain, signed by President Roosevelt.

“If I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there,” he read.  Was that possible; he wondered. The words captured his desolation and disillusionment and convinced him that God “was present even behind the barbed wire—no, most of all behind the barbed wire.”

Reading sparked a tiny flame of hope. Walking the barbed-wire perimeters during the night hours for exercise, he described circling a small hill in the center of the camp, where he found a hut that served as a chapel. In that chapel, he found a symbol of the presence of God in the midst of the suffering that surrounded him.

Transferred to an educational camp in England operated by the YMCA, Moltmann experienced a warm welcome. They brought him food, taught him Christian doctrine, and never mentioned the guilt the soldiers felt over the Nazi atrocities. Moltmann described how he felt better treated there than by his own German Army.

Following the war, Moltmann began articulating this personal theology of hope and how we exist in a state of contradiction between the Cross and the Resurrection. We are surrounded by decay while we hope for restoration—a hope illuminated by the faint glow of Christ’s resurrection. Faith in that glorious future, says Yancy, can transform the present, just as Moltmann’s own hope of eventual release transformed his daily prison-life.

We find two themes: God’s presence within us in our suffering and God’s promise of a perfected future. Had Jesus lived in Europe during the War Years, he likely would have been branded like other Jews and shipped to the gas chambers, observes Moltmann. In Jesus, he found definitive proof that God suffers with us, as he did in the Crucified God.

Today, searching people assume from the suffering seen in Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere that God is neither all-good, all-powerful, or even all-wise. Yet, faith allows us to believe God is not satisfied with this world any more than we are, and he intends to make all things new and right. Thus, Christ’s Second Coming brings the Kingdom of God to the fullness of its intended shape.

In the meantime, we establish our Kingdom Outposts and we continue using the Gospel as our template. While the Old Testament inspires a certain fear, the New Testament fills us with hope, because those authors have already come to know and trust the Lord whose Day it is.

This is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com
Seeing a summary of our human past, present, and future captured in the sweep of the pen that describes “from Good Friday to Easter,” and knowing as others before us have observed
“God weeps with us so that we may someday laugh with him.”

Thursday, November 29, 2018

SAUL vs PAUL


Saul of Tarsus was dedicated to God, heart, soul, mind and body. As a Hebrew, he was deeply entrenched in the teachings of the Master of Teachers, Gamaliel. Although a Hellenist Jew, he was thoroughly educated to the fullest degree in the heritage of his precious Hebrew faith. Pleasing God remained Saul’s primary objective in life, the pearl of great price he vigorously sought.

Saul’s choleric temperament, as one writer described him, prompted him to grasp his cup of life firmly and drink deeply while others might merely sip. Saul felt driven to empty his cup, even as others quickly fell short shy, lacking Saul’s driving passion to be a “Pharisee of Pharisees.” It was in quenching that driving thirst that Saul launched his crusade to defend The Almighty. This self-sufficient, impetuous hot-tempered law student threw down the compulsive gauntlet for his peers, driven to defend the purity of Jewish monotheism against the heretical creed of this little-known prophet called Jesus.

One such mission saw Saul head for Damascus, filled with divine vengeance, only to make a life-changing discovery. It came as a revelation from heaven itself, and Saul abruptly discovered his life did not center in his own values and beliefs; he was in a state of dissociation from life’s center.  Saul suddenly saw his life as it really was—an engine stalled on the disconnected sideline of an abandoned railroad track.

Seemingly, this prophet-from-nowhere called Jesus took on a new dimension of life and meaning for the fire-breathing exponent of Jewish Legalism. For the first time, Saul was recognizing a dimension of life with a totally new and different perspective  on life and values! No longer able to look upon his own humanity, or that of others, “according to the flesh”, Saul now discovered new flashes of human insight and divine inspiration: “God was in Christ, reconciling us to Himself.”

Shook to the core, Saul caught a whole new vision of life, that brought a new and different set of values from those that been his, and he began a several-year-transition that saw him become a new and totally transformed man. With the demise of Saul’s selfhood, there arose a transformed Messenger, an Apostle of God, that history recognizes as Saint Paul. As God’s Ambassador to the Gentile nations, Paul became the personal Emissary of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16; Romans 1:16-18).

In the cross of Christ, Saul of Tarsus experienced death to himself and a resurrection in the Lord that empowered him to live a new life: “And I, “said Jesus, “if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32 NASV). Death came to Jesus, “that men … should cease to live for themselves,” and “live for him who for their sake died and was raised to life” (2 Corinthians 5:15 NEB). Thus; Saul of Tarsus, this Hellenist Jew with a Pharisee’s pedigree as long as his arm, experienced a personal metamorphosis when he personally encountered the Prophet Jesus he had sought to exterminate.

This encounter transfigured an arrogant Pharisee into a humble follower, a self-described “doulos” (servant) of Jesus, the Christ. The “terrorist from Tarsus,” now became forever remembered by posterity as the Christian Apostle to the Gentiles, aka Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ.    

This message of the cross so transformed Saul that it enabled him to disengage himself from the racism, culturalism, and creedalism of his time, and be metamorphosed into Paul, the zealous Christian Apostle, launched into the Gentile World as God’s Messenger.

Through the Calvary Cross, God empowered Jesus to overcome sin and death and experience the kind of resurrection that enabled Christ‘s Devoted Disciples to live like their Master and be known throughout history as “little Christ’s. Paul conse-quently confessed, “For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God.”

Through this inspired reasoning, Paul concluded, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:19-20, NASV).

It was through the cross that made Jesus his Lord, that Saul found the power to become Paul, a new man with a new vision and a new hope for a potentially-new humanity. Saul went into this spiritual cocoon a sinful worm, but he came out a full-of-grace Butterfly, enjoying…
G od’s
R ichest
A t
C hrist‘s
E xpense.

            From then on, Paul no longer regarded any man, woman, boy, or girl from a worldly point of view. Instead; Paul saw the cross of Christ as God’s divinely-inspired invitation personally delivered to people of all colors, people, of all cultures, and people of all times and all creeds, whatever their need.

For this reason, worshippers continued to gather throughout the span of history and today we sing with the poet,            
Beneath the cross of Jesus [I] gladly take my stand  . . .
            The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
            And from my smitten heart with tears, Two wonders I confess--
            The wonders of His glorious love And my unworthiness.            --Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1872

The church, concluded German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is “our hope for the present and the future.”  Bonhoeffer followed in the wake of history’s Ancient Fathers who agreed, “God [is] our Father, the Church our Mother, Jesus Christ our Lord, [and] that is our Faith.  Amen.”1   

I am walkingwithwarner.blogspot,com, 
reminding you in this Advent Season, of EMMANUEL! (which means God with us)” (Matthew 1:23 RSV). May God be in your heart as you celebrate the birth of Jesus.
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            1 Mary Bosanquet, The Life And Death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  (New York:  Harper & Row, Publishers, 1968), p. 65.