are three questions that must be answered (again) before the great
'day of the Lord' can come to us as individual believers. The reason they must be answered again is that the answers given us by tradition are no longer valid.
The first one is:
Who is the man of God?
The second is:
Where is the house of God?
What is the word of God?
On these three hang 'all the law and the prophets', i.e. the answer to these three questions are of vital concern to those who would walk with Him into His New Day.
We have chosen, in this writing, to deal only with the third question but the other two are of equal importance. Suffice it for us to say that which was valid is no longer valid and that which was true is no longer the 'present truth'.
young man sat quietly as the preparations for the service were being
made. The ministers on the platform were still talking among themselves
when suddenly one of them turned toward the congregation and beckoned for the
young man to come to the front.
He was startled.
He did not know the ministers nor they him.
But he obeyed the summons and started toward the podium.
Before he could step up on the platform, however, the minister who had invited him to the front suddenly placed his hands on the young man's head and began to prophesy.
Afterward, he was instructed to kneel before the other ministers and they also, one by one, prophesied over him.
Some of the utterances were routine (if any such utterance can be classified as such) having to do with admonition and direction.
Some of the things spoken over him were not routine at all.
Indeed, they were quite strange to his ears.
And one which seemed (at first hearing) to be routine, turned out to be the most startling and strange of all.
It was the one that stated, "and you will receive a revelation of the word of God".
experiences are always suspect.
And rightly so.
Especially when used as credentials. Or to impress. Or to intimidate. Or to buttress an otherwise weak argument.
Whether or not a great 'wind' has passed by us (as was the case with one of Job's advisors) the truth of a matter should (and ultimately does) stand or fall on it's own.
And that is as it should be.
I say that what we write today will someday become common knowledge and widely accepted as fundamental.
But the 'days that come' will declare it or fail to declare it, quite apart from dream or vision or personal experience or prophetic utterance.
And that, also, is as it should be.
In the final analysis, none of us can do ought 'against' ultimate Truth, whether we be Pharaoh or Moses, Judas or Jesus.
For which we should all be eternally grateful.
Tradition is simply a narrow defining of God.
When we refer to the scriptures as the 'word of God', we limit and confine the eternal God to a proscribed expression. But the Eternal will not be limited and refuses to be confined by us or any. And soon will break the bonds of our orthodoxy in such a way and to such a degree that it will become obvious to all but the most recalcitrant among us.
This we say.
But we do not say (nor profess) that we are in personal possession of all of the answers to all of the questions that will be raised in our minds as and when He does break those bonds. Or, for that matter, the answers to the questions that we have raised in the preface.
Who the new 'man of God' is or will be is something that each must (and will) answer for themselves.
What we do know is that which you have suspected for a long time, i.e. the collar turned backward and the 'man of the cloth' designation is no longer relevant. (Were they ever? [ed]).
Indeed, the 'earthly priesthood' has been abolished long ago.
As to where the 'house of God' is?
I know only that He no longer resides in that building on the corner of Fifth and Lexington.
Which may seem to be obvious but the overall concept is not abandoned that easily.
My own conviction is that if He is at home anywhere outside ourselves we have little hope of entering (with Him) into his New Day.
And what the true 'word of God' is?
That is the question we would consider with you.
And we begin with the premise that it is not an ancient text, no matter how holy or revered that ancient text may be.
And perhaps, just perhaps, should we be able to grasp just that, it will be enough for now and this small effort will have served it's purpose.
I have heard that this present age is to be "rolled up like a scroll".
Let us weep for it but let us also prepare for that which will take it's place.
"Here A Little...
young man went from his somewhat unorthodox ordination rejoicing. His
calling had been confirmed and the words of prophecy had been
encouraging. As for the one that had to do with the 'word of God' he
assumed that what was meant was that he would have divine assistance as he went
into the Book.
An assumption that was quite reasonable, given the circumstances.
He had a lot to learn!
He didn't know, for instance, that God could be very unreasonable (as man defines reason) at times and that this was one of those times.
He also didn't (as yet) understand how diff icult it is for the mind to accomodate that which is unreasonable to it.
had been a follower of Jesus for years but there came a time in his experience
that he needed (above all else) to be 'converted'.
His ability to be at peace with himself and of aid and comfort to his brethren depended on it.
The words of Jesus to him were simply - -
When you are converted, strengthen your brethren."
Despite the incredible things a man may see and/or the wondrous things he may hear, he is not prepared to have those marvelous things manifest in him or manifested through him until that conversion process is finished.
As with our friend Paul.
Whose emotions were certainly stirred and something deep inside him
touched when he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. But he had a most difficult time either understanding or expressing that which had happened to him and finally wandered off into the desert in an attempt to 'get hold' of that which had 'gotten hold' of him.
Which he did, finally, and thank God that he did.
Our young friend also had a bad time with what his ears had heard and it would be some time before any of it really made sense to him.
The proposition was quite simple, really. But of course, they always are . . afterward. This one had to do with there being a distinction to be made between that which he had always assumed to be the 'word of God' (the scriptures) and the true word of God.
But there can be no honest-to-God change in the belief structure of a man until his mind is accomodated. The fanatic does not understand this and is always seeking to divide between the mind and the emotions. But, although the ways of God may indeed be past 'finding out' (by the mind) they can be revealed to the mind and conversion (the coming together of mind and emotion) can take place.
But it takes a bit of doing!
One of the first things brought to the attention of the young man was that Jesus and his disciples were not hung-up on the Sacred Scrolls as were the Scribes and Pharisees. Indeed, as far as can be determined, Jesus listened a lot more that he studied. And as far as His ministry was concerned, he didn't think of it in those terms, i.e. it wasn't a personal thing with Him. He was simply on the earth to accomodate and to express the views of a Someone Else, that Someone Else He referred to as His father.
Whatever He (my father) tells me to do... I do.
Whatever He (my father) tells me to say... I say.
Quite simple, indeed!
But we're not . . any longer. . and the more's the pity.
The contrast between how Jesus approached the Book and the way the Pharisees did is illustrated beautifully for us in the Fifth chapter of John (KJV). The passage is somewhat misleading in the King James but that is one of the reasons it serves to make the point so well.
"Search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me."
On the surface, an exhortation to look carefully and to study diligently ... to confirm for yourself that you do indeed "have eternal life" because of what is written in the Book.
Of so it seemed.
But the context makes it a whole different matter.
In the first place, Jesus was most assuredly not suggesting to the Pharisees that they immerse themselves in the Book.
Quite the contrary.
As a Matter of fact, He was attempting to divert their attention away from the Book ... and toward Him.
For even in the margin of the King James Version of the passage, it indicates that the Proper rendering of the scripture should be:
"Ye ... search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
And (but) ye will not come to me, that ye may have life."
Jesus was stating the principle that few have ever understood. The principle: that there is no life in the Book!
Never has been. Never will be.
Only the Son "has life"!
it was a point that needed to be made (to our young friend) but it was not sufficient in and of itself. He had wept too many tears and spent too many sleepless nights in his pursuit of the 'truth' as contained in the Book. His life-long love affair with the Scriptures continued.
Perhaps his instructors had erred in their presentation from the scriptures but the Sacred Scroll was still (as far as he was concerned) the 'word of God' to the believer.
Folks who study such things tell us that we are forever being influenced by our 'raising', i.e. the effects of our childhood are seldom, if ever, completely erased. So that one might become, for instance, a captain of industry, but never lose his or her fear of the dark, etc. Rational or otherwise, we are all subject to thoughts and ideas that bubble up out of the pool of memory.
In much the same way, religious tradition (our childhood, if you will) exerts a continual influence over us. While there may be a part of us that longs for release and truly desires to accomodate new and exciting concepts, those born "under the law" will always have difficulty in doing so. The release will certainly not be an all-at-once experience but more likely the "here a little . . and there a little" of the scriptures.
...And There A Little"
be apprised of the fact that Jesus was a Spirit-man rather than a Book-man was
important. No doubt about that. But it was only the "Here a
little. ." that the young man needed.
But then there was that episode on the job.
Resting from his construction job at the noon-break, he picked up a newspaper that someone had discarded. And read an article about a meeting a local utility company had set up to discuss with their customers certain aspects of their operation.
The column heading was: Power Conference Set..... and the date the meeting was scheduled.
The young man read ... and the young man began to weep.
Why was the young man weeping?
Well, it turns out that our young friend had been concerned for some time about his seeming lack of moral and emotional strength. And had been praying earnestly for help. And had asked his God to meet with him and to discuss the issue with him. And, if it pleased Him, to bring with Him that additional power that would enable him to live that life that would be pleasing in His sight.
And it further turns out that God heard his petition and had made an appointment with him to discuss the matter. Which is not all that strange or unusual, as millions have discovered, sometimes to their amazement, but always to their joy.
What was unusual (in this case) was how God had made the appointment. Through the medium of the media.
For as his eyes hit the column heading, something had happened inside him. And understanding was given him. On the very same day that the Utility was to meet, God would also meet with him! His very own 'power conference' and, coincidently (?) on the very same day as the electric company had scheduled theirs.
It was certainly exciting... but it was also strange, at least to our young man. For this was the very first time that he could recall that his God had 'jumped the track', i.e. gone outside his orthodoxy to communicate with him.
It seemed (to him) a little like a man's Social Security check being delivered by carrier pigeon.
While some might say that it really doesn't matter how it was delivered, just so it got there, it was still not the traditional way of doing things. To the young man, the traditional way would have been through the reading of the scriptures ....
Or perhaps a word from a 'man of God'? Or a whisper while praying.
But God taking out an ad in a daily newspaper?
Of course, it could have been merely a coincidence or he might have imagined the whole thing.
But it wasn't.
And he hadn't.
For the day did arrive .. and so did God .. right on schedule.
Evidently God wasn't as fussy about ways and means as he was.
The episode served it's purpose. The young man's mind was opened to accomodate a God who had enlarged Himself. A God who refused to limit Himself to the orthodox or confine Himself to the traditional. A God who could (and would) communicate with His people through a man or a missal (a book for Mass) and use the 'secular' as well as the divine, a daily newspaper or holy writ.
What a marvelous discovery!
A real, live thanks-but-I-think-I'll-do it-my-way --- God!
There is something buried deep within each of us that cries out for just such a God.
Oh, Father-God, don't let me push you around!
Don't let me dictate the terms of our relationship!
Don't let me tell you what to do!
Don't cater to my foolish whims!
"Take unto yourself your great power, and reign. . .
Of course, it is also instinctive with us that we would have our own way. Our fleshly nature demands a God we can influence. . if not control.
That is the reason that we are always seeking the ways and means to confine Him . . either in the laws of nature. .or in secular (rather than divine) humanism or to the sterile laboratories of science.
Some of us would even confine Him in and limit Him to the sayings in a Book!
The object of all such efforts is containment.
We simply can't have a 'force' out there doing it's own thing!
Not answering to anyone or answerable to anything.
Which means uncontrolable!
Which is a bit scary, isn't it?
And so we religious types refuse to let Him out of the Book.
He will do this and He must do that, all according to that which 'is written'.
The same thing the Pharisees said to their God in the day of the Son of Man.
David warned us about adopting such a attitude but we must have forgotten. His God was not one you could make a law concerning or usurp the perogatives of.
David's God was not one you could put a harness on . . or dictate terms to.. or even keep track of.
"Your way is in the sea, and Your path in the deep waters, and Your footsteps are not known".
But the Pharisees of every age are sure that they have found God out... or at least discovered enough about His basic, bottom-line character ... as to be able to predict what He would or would not do..in a given situation.
For one thing, they simply can't imagine Him doing anything contrary to His 'word', ie. the written record. And the thought that He would go beyond His instructions to Moses was unthinkable to the Jews and contradicted the plain (to them) testimony of the scrolls.
They could not even begin to imagine a new Sacred Scroll and a new dispensation.
Because, as far as they were concerned, it wasn't in the Book!
And ff they were with us today. . how might they react?
Probably very much like us who (for the most part) can not for a moment imagine God going beyond the 'plan' as articulated by Paul and Peter, etc and and contained in our new Sacred Scroll!
But the beat goes on!
And the nature of God is revealed from "glory to glory".
And the second act in the drama gives way to the third, etc.
Who knows how it will end . . or where . . or when . . or even if?
Perhaps this drama is simply a part of another drama which is part of an even larger one.
Our young friend knew only that his God had grown too big for the box and that his orthodox imaging could no longer contain Him.
And so he said as much..
And paid the price for the saying.
On one occasion he even went so far as to toss the Holy Book over into a corner of the sanctuary, proclaiming boldly, "It's not all in there!"
Which didn't play too well with the audience.
They simply could not imagine anyone being that disrespectful to the "word of God".
But there was a postscript to the episode.
One of the offended brothers was in his field plowing sometime later and musing on the near sacrilegious actions of the young minister .... when he heard a voice that was for his ears only.
The Voice said, "It's not all in there!"
Which helped his attitude toward the young preacher considerably.
But the young man grew weary of the general unresponsiveness of those he ministered to. And thought himself either out of season or the message he was delivering. In any event, it wasn't working out all that well for him.
And so he hit the airwaves.
Stubbornly, he hit the airwaves.
Persistently, he hit the airwaves.
Having no sponsor wasn't such a big deal (or so he figured) and so he sponsored himself.
Which worked out . . for awhile.
But he couldn't bring himself to ask for money. He could not think of the ministry as a commercial enterprise. Which, it turned out, it wasn't, i.e. it certainly did not return a profit.
The miracle was that the radio program was on as long as it was, sometimes for months, sometimes for years. At different times, on different stations. He almost ran out of names to call it. First there was the "Bruised Reed", at another time the "Burning Bush". Then there was "Thy Kingdom Come" and, finally, "New Day Presentations".
And then there was that other day ...
The day the Spirit sidled up to him and whispered in his ear...... "You may be getting yourself excited but you're not doing a thing for either Me or for the people."
When Jesus passed the fig tree that wasn't producing, His solution to the problem was simple.. cut it down!
And so he did.
And the young man found out the hard way that God was not a sentimentalist ... and that most of our so-called ministry is only an attempt to fulfill ourselves and has little to do with service to God.
Our young man sulked . . and pouted . . and fretted . . and stewed.
And, on other occasions, shouted, screamed, and cursed ... mostly at God. Which would probably mean something ... to someone.
In fact, to anyone . . . except God.
But He's not into conditional convenants anymore.
And the word was "you will receive a revelation of the 'word of God.'" Which he has.
is difficult for us to bring perspective to the subject without considering the
historical facts. Number one among those facts is simply that when the New
Testament writers referred to the scriptures or the scrolls, they were not
dealing with what Jesus said to Nicodemus or the martyrdom of Stephen or even
in those instructions 'in righteousness' the Apostle sent to the various
churches. No. When Jesus said, "it is written" to the Adversary
in the wilderness of temptation, He wasn't quoting St. Paul or John the
Revelator or even what Peter may have said on the day of Pentecost.
The Holy Bible of the Jews was different than ours.
It had to do with writings we commonly refer to as the Old Testament. The sermon on the Mount, the passion of Jesus, the critical analysis of Paul, all missing. So it is that when we read that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, etc." the writer is not referring at all to anything written as a result of the advent of the Son of Man.
It is a small point, perhaps, but one that needs to be made. The characters of the first century, especially Jesus and afterward His disciples, simply had to depend on the Spirit of God for understanding. The scrolls were not available to all and most of the 'tutoring and governing' was in the hands of those more familiar with the ancient texts, i.e. the scribes, the priests, etc. It is little wonder that they (the religious authorities) assumed that any good thing that came down 'from God out of heaven' would pass through their hands first. From their perspective it was a valid position. God Himself had spoken to Moses and Moses to the priests. God Himself had established the Levites as the ones to serve at the altar. And God Himself had given them the code of conduct He evidently wanted them to live by. And they had (and of extreme importance it was to them) the written record of all of those things that God had spoken "through the mouth of His holy prophets" since the world began.
Only as we are aware of that can we begin to appreciate the audacity of the Nazarene. Especially when He says such things as "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath". This in the face of what God Himself had said concerning the Sabbath Day and the absolute, no-one-is-excused demand that it be kept 'holy', not to mention the folks who had forfeited their lives by violating the commandment. Of course we understand today (or do we?) that the law of Moses was only 'until', i.e. that the grace that 'came by Jesus Christ' put an end to (fulfilled) the 'law which came by Moses'. And how foolish indeed it is to dabble in that which has, as far as God is concerned, been fulfilled.
What we do not seem to understand (as yet) is that the established order is always destined to be replaced by another order, which, in it's turn, will become the established order, etc. And so it is that one such passing should not be mourned (although it inevitably is) but should be welcomed and, indeed, rejoiced in.
For our God is nothing if not an Unfolding.
In the scriptures we find a reference to the "present truth".
Which is, by it's implication, one of the more profound of the concepts found in the Book. We of the modern era are always and eternally boasting of our increased understanding and superior knowledge of things spiritual (as compared to generations past). But that increased understanding and that superior knowledge does not seem to have removed us very far from the medieval notion of God as Static Being, i.e one who can be comprehended as Divine Object.
But God is not Divine Object.
He is Fire and He is Wind and He is Water, that is, He is Fluid Motion. And He CANNOT BE KNOWN except by divine revelation. And that revealing flows from His Sovereign Being, not from some fixed dogma concerning Him.
Every day, therefore, requires a new look at God and the structures of our believing. Blessed is the man who can turn from his former verity and embrace quickly that which is destined to become the 'present truth' to his generation.
Do You Understand What You're Reading?
really is the question, isn't it? And one we simply have to answer the
moment we accept the scriptures as the word of God to us. As the various
factions Of Christianity will testify, a common understanding is not on the
Then the Eunuch who rode his chariot through the desert that certain day in the long ago and far away has a valid point. Just who is going to 'show' us and reveal to us that message from God that is uniquely ours?
Philip, who was being blown about by the Spirit on that particular day, was blown into the path of the Eunuch. Seeing that the Eunuch was reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, he asked the question of him. . Do you understand what you're reading? The Eunuch was more open than most of us (and honest with himself?) and replied that he most certainly didn't understand what the prophet was writing about and could use all the help he could get from anyone who did.
Philip proceeded to hop into the man's chariot and, using that very passage, preached Jesus unto him.
Resulting in a most marvelous declaration of faith and subsequent baptismal service.
Now let us imagine just for a moment that it wasn't Philip that happened along at that particular time on that particular road but rather a priest, a scribe, or a Pharisee.
They would have the same passage of scripture to deal with.
And the same Eunuch in need of understanding.
But you do not suppose for a moment that the results of the meeting would have been the same, do you?
No. Not at all.
What Isaiah had written so many years before would have been strained through the belief system of the scribe, priest or Pharisee and the understanding or meaning the Eunuch would have received from the passage of scripture would have been quite different.
The scriptures, of course, say nothing to us.
They do not have the power of speech.
But we do.
And on any subject, at any time, and anywhere, we are apt to exercise that gift of speech that we possess.
And on any subject, at any time, and anywhere (in any forum) there is always the color and the vibration of a man's thoughts to contend with (even our own).
So even in the religious arena (or especially in the religious arena) there is this dichotomy, this mixture, this flesh tone.
It was and it is and it ever will be.
For what consensus will you find me today?
Are we not hard-pressed to find even a 'unity of spirit', much less a 'unity of faith'?
No. There is a veil.
And that veil is over our hearts.
And until the heart is changed, the veil will remain.
And until we gather together 'unto Him' our gatherings together will be the best we can do under the circumstances.
And those circumstances will include our differing viewpoints.
We are as pre-disposed as surely as Saul of Tarsus was.
And most of us are still astride our particular 'donkey'.
And firmly committed to and enamored of our 'truth'.
The scriptures are marvelously malleable!
So much so that anyone and everyone can 'prove' their viewpoint is the correct one.
And all at the same time.
Isn't that beautiful?
So it is truly not what you read but how (with what understanding) do you read it?
It is (quite simply) a matter of interpretation.
"It Is Written . ."
is common and traditional for most of us to refer to the scriptures as the
'word of God'. It is common and it is traditional but it is not
proper. Indeed, the scriptures themselves make no such claim. They,
quite properly, commend themselves to us as historical perspective and inspired
literature. Holy men of old certainly did speak "as they were moved
by the Holy Ghost" and certain other men did indeed faithfully record
their utterances for us. And, thank God, that faithful Record does
continue with us even unto this day.
But the 'word of God' is an entirely different matter.
It is the same trap the Pharisees and the scribes of Jesus's day fell into. Which does make a statement, one might suppose, about just how much religious man has learned in the interim. The more so when one considers that we have their example before us.
And the example of Saul of Tarsus, who was also hung-up on the Book, i.e. what was written. But who, by the grace of God, was cured of his hang-up the moment he met the Author of the Book.
After that, the Apostle wasn't hung-up on the Book any longer. But the Pharisees were.
And it was always they who were challenging Jesus to a duel of words 'written'. It was they who were always waving the Book in His face and demanding that He bow down to their interpretation of it.
Rather than listen to the still, small voice of He who lived in Him and operated out from Him.
May we remember that the next time we're feeling frisky about what Moses said, or Paul, or even Jesus.
The Book is not the last word on anything!
One of the first fellows that Jesus met on His way to His public ministry was a fellow with the Book in his hands. Right there in the wilderness of Judea, the devil shouted at Him 'If you (really) be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread"! Jesus shouted back at him, 'It is written. .
And we've been at it ever since.
Even the devil tried his hand at it.Whipping out his King James Version of the Old Testament (I'm sure they must have had something comparable) he let Jesus know that he too could handle the scriptures (if that was the kind of contest it was). But all he could come up with was Psalms 91: 11 & 12 and Jesus won the match easily, three "It is writtens . ." to one.
We really have.
We've been at it ever since.
Only most of the time with us it is either "now, God said . ." or "it's in the Book, brother' or even (solemnly, of course) "our text today is from the gospel according to St. John".
And thereupon hangs a tale . or two . or three.
Kind of reminds one of the ventriloquist, Edgar Bergen.
How he used to dangle his dummy (sorry, Charlie) on his knee and twist his little wooden head around and, if you weren't careful, have you believing that it was really old Charlie saying all of those funny things?
Edgar, you were the best!
But, then again, I don't know if that was such a mean feat, after all. Come to think of it, we preachers have been doing that act for years. Holding the Book up in our hands and saying stuff like "Now, the Bible says . . ." or "What God is saying in this hour is . ."
But if you look closely enough (bless our little hearts) you can see our lips move.
And you begin to understand that it wasn't really a Book talking or God speaking to us, but just a preacher practicing his art.
And then you begin to say, "Ah, come on, preacher, we don't mind a little ranting and raving at times or even a little screaming and foaming at the mouth. Indeed, we even enjoy an occasional tirade and kind of admire a Man who can throw himself into his work like that. But hitting us over the head with the Book. . and telling us that God told you to do it? And taking what He (God) might have said to someone at sometime and personalizing it. .just for us?
Come on, preacher! If you have an opinion, for God's sake, give it. And if you feel particularly strong about your opinion, we don't mind if you raise your voice a decibel or two . .
But preacher, please ...
Don't try to frighten us . .
Or intimidate us...
Or capture us...
Dont try to tell us that if we don't listen to what you have to say that we'll all be lost.
Or that God speaks only through you.
Or that your church is the only one.
We decide all such matters as that for ourselves.
We'll tell you if you are right . . or wrong.
By the power of that 'endless life' that is already at work and the Christ who has risen up in us.
For we are the 'children of the day' and possessors of the promises who serve not under the old covenant written on stone or papyrus but the new one whose laws are 'put' into our minds and 'written' in our hearts. Yes, we know that "it is written" but we also know that God has taken up the pen ... again.
Holy Bible, the Scriptures, our Sacred Scroll does one thing and does it
beautifully. It bears witness of and testifies concerning Him. But
to call it the word of God is to contradict it's own testimony and to make a
claim on it's behalf that it does not even attempt to make.
Jesus may have been the first to have been totally rejected on the basis of Chapter 4 verse 33 (that which was written in the Book) but others after Him also felt the wrath of those who made their 'boast' in the law. When Paul attempted to make his case before the people for the new coming forth of God through the man Christ Jesus, he too was confronted by the Bible-thumpers. But they weren't dealing with the village idiot this time. This old boy had been there and been caught in the same paper trap as they. He knew what the 'law' said and how it said it.
And so he said to them . . Boys, do you really know what you're talking about? Do you really hear what the law has to say?
Which seems to me to be a fair question.
If we, for instance, insist on preaching the scriptures as the word of God, we ought to at least hear what they have to say on the subject. And because we are as hung-up on the 'new' testament (or more so) as they (the ancient Jews) were on the 'old' testament, it seems appropriate that we solicit our testimony there.
The first verse in the first chapter of the gospel according to John might be a good place to start:
"IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD."
I will leave it to you as to whether John was talking about a manuscript or Something Else.
The writer of Hebrews also has something to say on the subject:
"THROUGH FAITH WE UNDERSTAND THAT THE WORLDS WERE FRAMED BY THE WORD OF GOD."
Quite a chore for the King James Version of anything.
Or the same fellow on the same subject:
"FOR THE WORD OF GOD IS QUICK, AND POWERFUL, AND SHARPER THAN ANY TWO-EDGED SWORD, PIERCING EVEN TO THE DIVIDING ASUNDER OF SOUL AND SPIRIT, AND OF THE JOINTS AND MARROW, AND IS A DISCERNER OF THE THOUGHTS AND THE INTENTS OF THE HEART. NEITHER IS THERE ANY CREATURE THAT IS NOT MANIFEST (MADE VISIBLE) IN HIS SIGHT: BUT ALL THINGS ARE NAKED AND OPENED UNTO THE EYES OF HIM WITH WHOM WE HAVE TO DO."
I do not know what gender to assign to the Book but the one spoken of here is a 'Him.'
And then there is Romans 10:17:
"SO THEN FAITH COMES BY HEARING, AND HEARING BY THE WORD OF GOD."
I am aware of how we have traditionally understood the verse, but, as usual, We have gotten the cart before the horse. The scriptures are not the source of either faith or the hearing that is necessary to produce that faith.
The proper sequence is simply that:
(1) The word of God comes to you, i.e. 'quickens' you
(2) That 'quickening' produces in you the ability to hear what God might say to you.
(3) That hearing produces faith in you.
And then there is Revelations 19:11 ....
Where the Alpha becomes the Omega, and He that was 'from the beginning' is found to be present at 'the ending' also.
"AND I SAW HEAVEN OPENED, AND BEHOLD A WHITE HORSE; AND HE THAT SAT UPON HIM WAS CALLED FAITHFUL AND TRUE, AND IN RIGHTEOUSNESS HE JUDGES AND MAKES WAR. HIS EYES WERE AS A FLAME OF FIRE, AND ON HIS HEAD WERE MANY CROWNS: AND HE HAD A NAME WRITTEN, THAT NO MAN KNEW, BUT HE HIMSELF. AND HE WAS CLOTHED WITH A VESTURE DIPPED IN BLOOD: AND HIS NAME IS CALLED THE WORD OF GOD."
The Book does not testify of itself but of Him.
"AND HIS NAME IS CALLED THE WORD OF GOD".
The Third Heaven
principle of being 'caught up' is central to the Christian experience. It is
Nicodemus was not the last one to need a re-birth, i.e. a raising of conciousness. Jesus did not indicate that Nicodemus was not a qualified teacher of the law of Moses and well-versed in the scriptures.
That was simply not His point.
What He did indicate to Nicodemus was that all such matters were beside the point.
Nicodemus, "you must be born again"! You simply must.
I have nothing to say to you that will be of benefit to you unless and until that re-birth of mind and emotion take place in you. Until you are 'raised'. Until you dis-remember that which has gone before and discover the new world of spiritual insight and illumination.
Without which you will never be able to even 'see' the kingdom, much less enter it.
He understood, and preached, and taught that the 'normal' reasoned approach that the religionists of his day were so fond of was not sufficient. He knew (from personal experience) that the religious mind was enmity against the spiritual mind.
And that a man in a tower had a better perspective than one on the ground. For he had been 'on the ground' once ... and, while there, had seen nothing but the fact (to him) that a group of hoodlums and heretics were attempting to undermine the foundations of the religious order established by God Himself.
When he entered the 'tower', however, he began to see things differently. And the higher one is raised . . .?
When Paul spoke of his 'third-heaven' experience, he did not elaborate. Most of the things he saw, according to him, were so strange and wonderful as to preclude him even discussing them with others. There may have been many reasons why Paul was not able to relay these things to the people.
One was certainly the matter of elevation.
If you weren't 'up there' with him, you would not have been able to see and to hear ... or to understand what he was able to see and hear and understand. And so we find it to be true, i e. that beauty (and light and life and love) really is in the eye of the 'beholder'. And it never has been the question of a new Book or an old Book but rather a new and better vantage point from which to view them both.
Whether dealing with the New or the Old or the Recent, spiritual understanding is a matter of individual perception. And individual perception depends entirely on whether or not the "eyes of your understanding" have been enlightened.
But Paul was not the only witness.
John the Revelator also demonstrated the principle.
And, as with Paul, it was not a question of having a religious experience, although I'm sure that both had one. Nor even that they were both 'born-again'. Which they most certainly were.
They still had need of a special 'catching-up' in order to see and to understand those marvelous things that they saw and understood. John for instance, would not have been able to see what he saw except that he found himself one day "in the Spirit on the Lord's day".
And when the visions were shown him and the mysteries unveiled to him, his ability to take it all in (comprehend it) was a direct result of where he was 'sitting', spiritually speaking.
The voice that spoke to him first invited him to come up 'hither'. And the angel who wanted to show him the "bride, the Lamb's wife"? Well, that inspiring sight was not shown him until he was "carried away in the spirit to a great and high mountain", i.e. he was elevated in spirit.
From that perspective, he was able to see what must have been an aweinspiring sight indeed . . "that great city, the Holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God".
As we have said the principle is basic.
But when we come to the application of the principle, we seem to have a bit of difficulty.
Jesus, as far as can be determined, was the first to apply it to the scrolls.
Indeed, it was His seeming careless use of the scriptures that infuriated the Pharisees.
The meanings He derived from the Book were not the meanings they derived from it. The same scripture meant different things to them.
Paul, later on, explained to his readers why it was that Jesus and the Pharisees had so much trouble seeing things alike when they read the scrolls. The Jews, he said, have a 'veil' over their hearts, i.e. they could read the same passage from the same scrolls but, owing to the fact that their "minds were blinded", neither their hearts nor their minds could comprehend nor accept the 'spiritual' (God-intended) message contained therein.
And, to a spiritual people, the spiritual message (or meaning) is everything.
There is absolutely
nothing wrong with the scriptures. And I do not mean to imply by that an
endorsement of one translation over another. That may be a point, but not
There's simply nothing wrong with the Book.
The translators have done their thing and may God bless them and all those who strive manfully to produce an error-free edition.
It will never happen but God bless them anyway.
It will never happen because the ambiguities and the contradictions are an intrinsic part of the Book. Indeed, one might well say that they are purposed,
i.e. designed into the structure of it.
The obtaining of spiritual knowledge has never been an intellectual exercise. The 'foolishness of God' has always been wiser than men.
And the fact that Paul was able to deduce so much from the writings of Moses, David & Company owed very little to the fact that he worked with an errorfree manuscript.
The secret of Paul's considerable success was due, almost entirely, to what he calls the "spirit of wisdom and revelation".
The same 'spirit' he prays that God might give to the Ephesians and, by the mercies of the same God, to us.
Because it is the Spirit that walks boldly through the ambiguities and the contradictions of that which 'is written' and extracts from it life and light and truth no matter the particular time or season or dispensation . . or whatever.
The fault has never been with the Book, It has always been with man.
Jesus could have been accused of playing fast and loose with the scriptures
(and He was) the episode in the synagogue at Nazareth might very well be cited
as a case in point. It is obvious to we who believe that He had every
right to say what He said and do what He did that day so long ago. But
that's because we enjoy the considerable benefits of hindsight. But if we
had been a member of that particular congregation that particular Sabbath Day?
According to the scriptures, Jesus went to church that day "as was His custom". While He was there He was given a opportunity to participate in the service. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. As others had done countless times before Him, He looked up a certain passage and began to read from the scroll. The Record shows this to be the passage He chose: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord". He then closed the Book, handed it back to the minister, and sat down.
So far, so good.
So far He had done that which was acceptable.
So far He had done that which would probably be acceptable, within limits, in any church (then or now).
Certainly no one would object to a man reading from the Sacred Scroll, i.e. the Holy Bible. Indeed, most congregations encourage such participation not only by the laity but most certainly by visiting ministers.
Which Jesus was. He had already begun His earthly ministry.
And we might also understand that Jesus had chosen one of the most beautiful texts in the entire Book. It was a promise that thrilled the heart and soul of every devout Jew.
It was the promise of the Messiah!
No Jew could ever tire of hearing of that beautiful promise.
And the way this young man read it quickened the pulse and caused all their eyes to be 'fastened on him'.
What good things do you have to tell us, young man? Come on, stir our emotions!
Give us hope!
Tell us that things are not always going to be as they are today and that our God is true and faithful and what He has promised He will surely perform.
We tend to forget, young preacher man.
Please remind us, again!
So Jesus began to say.
What He began to say!
"This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
We can only imagine what went through the minds of these gathered there that day. And what their first reaction must have been.
Surely, one of the first reactions would have to be disbelief. What did he say?
What he said, my friend, was that ...
"This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
And that there was no further need of anyone ever again imagining or wondering or searching for the interpretation of .... that particular passage in the Book.
Not even the if . . or when . . because ...
"This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
Right now. . this scripture . . fulfilled.
Again, one can only imagine the initial reaction.
What we do know by the Record is that they did hear Him out . . before they threw Him out.
And little else.
But we might be able to personalize it just a bit by placing ourselves in the approximate same situation in a modern setting.
You go to church (as is your custom) and you sit down with friends and neighbors, expecting . . what? A song service, perhaps?
A prayer or two? A reading from the Holy Bible? We would call that a text. And then, in most cases, some comments on the passage read? We would call that a sermon.
Now. Imagine the same scene with a slight variation.
You're still sitting there. You've gone through your prayer and praise service. But, instead of the pastor standing to read the scriptures, he invites someone else to do so. Now this someone else is known to most of you. He is, after all, a hometown boy. Let's say he is the son of the local druggist. And you and your pastor have heard that the lad has done a bit of preaching and would like to encourage him. And so you offer him a chance to 'practice' on you.
He takes the Book. He finds a certain passage in the Book. And he reads one of the most precious promises imaginable to the church:
"In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
An he closes the Book, and begins to say ...
"This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
What would you imagine your first reaction would be?
And, what did he say?
And then what?
After you had ascertained that this 'nut' case was actually offering himself as the reincarnation of the Christ? And the fulfillment of the promise, "I will come again"?
But that's ridiculous, isn't it?
Well, hopefully, (and I'm afraid it is only a hope) we would not be as 'filled with wrath' as the folks back there were nor would we look for a hill to throw him off of.
Well, at least I hope not.
But that is not the point.
The point is that we religious folks are simply not into fulfillments. There is something about fulfillments that bothers us a lot.
Perhaps it is all of those wild-eyed gents on the street corners or the solemn types that keep insisting that they have discovered some secret formula that gives them the exact day and the precise hour that Jesus will come again, etc.
Or the scholars or the star-gazers or whatever . . who are always predicting that which never occurs.
In any event, we are leery of fulfillments.
At least we don't trust them here on the earth.
Prophecies we love and promises we dote on, but fulfillments?
No. We have an imaginary place set up 'over yonder' where fulfillments are supposed to take place. But never here.
Have you ever wondered about that strange doctrine of ours?
Most everything 'over there' and very little 'down here'?
But Jesus was a fulfillment . . right down here on the earth and before the face of all. He was a fulfillment of a promise made some hundreds of years before.
Of course, that was a 'special' time. Right?
Yes, it was . . a very special time, indeed.
Much like today is a very special time!
But, of course, we must come to know that . . for ourselves . . and begin to believe in fulfillments in time, rather than in eternity. Is it not strange how that the only time some of us become 'spiritually-minded' is when it come to fulfillments?
The rest of the time our feet are firmly planted on the ground.
For instance, most of us insist that there was, indeed, an historical Jesus. And some of us would gird ourselves for battle against any who suggested otherwise. Despite the scanty evidence in secular history, we steadfastly maintain that there was indeed a man by the name of
Jesus . . born in Bethlehem of Judea . . raised in Nazareth, etc. A man who walked and talked and lived and died in a real, honest-to-God place. One that can be located on any good map of the region . . even to this day.
We earnestly and wholeheartedly believe that.
No meta-physical mumbo jumbo as far as that is concerned, please.
And He (that man Jesus) said certain things and did certain things. We do not believe for a moment that Judas was a mythical character or that a 'certain blind man' was anything but a certain blind man.
And when Jesus proclaimed himself, it was a flesh-and-blood man speaking to other flesh-and-blood men.
Then why is it that we insist that those things promised 'on the earth' must somehow have their fulfillment only in 'heaven'?
And why couldn't that young man that we spoke of (the son of the local druggist) really be who and what he proclaimed himself to be?
Of course, he might not be, but the fact that our minds have been closed to even the possibility reveals a great deal about us, i.e. that our minds are indeed closed.
The closed mind.
And the veiled heart.
Yes, we're at it again!
And we call that being 'established'.
Jesus called it something else.
is inconceivable to us that the ancient Jews rejected their Messiah.
To us in the prophecies concerning Him are so plain!
Again, however, we must remind ourselves that we come at the conclusion that Jesus was the Christ from a completely different angle than they. We reach our conclusions 'after the fact', something they did not have the luxury of doing.
And the scenario we purposed to you (where a modern young man . . in a similar setting ... says something comparable) demonstrates how extremely difficult it would be for any of us to take him seriously.
Much of that, of course, has to do with the passage of time.
If He (Jesus) had arrived on the scene soon after the prophet had spoken concerning Him it might have been a different story.
It wouldn't have . . but then, again, it might have.
But hundreds of years after?
The point is that over the years literally nothing remains the same, not even that which is written. Not that someone had changed the passage in the Book or even come up with a different translation. No. It is not that the words of Isaiah were not there (in the scroll) precisely as the prophet had spoken them. No. That is not the issue. But tradition has a strange way of altering what is written.
It wears grooves in the mind.
Some authority says this about what has been written and some 'wise' man comments on the context in which the prophet said what he said, etc. Before you know it, what the prophet actually said is really not the issue any longer, but rather what someone has said that he said. It isn't long after that until the prophecy (or promise) becomes a projection of how it might be fulfilled when and if it is fulfilled.
And when all of the assumptions are in place, God help us, we have transferred our allegiance from the prophecy itself to the projection.
The point being that there was literally nothing in the prophecy itself that would have precluded a young man from Nazareth from being the one that Isaiah wrote about. Indeed, we firmly believe that He was. But the worshipers in the synagogue that Sabbath morning in Nazareth found it impossible to even consider the possibility.
Because tradition had already written the scenario ....
And there was simply no room in that scenario (at least in their minds) for a carpenter's son.
Yes. It is the assumptions that get us every time.
They're not always what they are cracked up to be, i.e. they do not always follow the script that we have written for them.
Take today, for instance.
If there is one prophecy (or group of promises) that engage the mind and emotions of every believer it is the prophecies concerning the 'end-time' and the coming again of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
But how will He come?
Some say with 'ten thousand of His saints'. Some say 'in the clouds'.
Which some say refers to the cloud of 'witnesses' spoken of in the scriptures, while others say it means literal clouds.
Some envision a huge apparition that will stand 'on the land and on the sea' in the last day.
While other insist that 'every eye will see Him' as He comes 'in like manner as He went away'.
Which means different things to different people.
On the whole, the perceptions and the projections have to do with the particular group we gather with, i.e. they have more or less settled these issues for us.
All in all, we have some rather sensational scenarios written.
Which probably means only one thing. And that is that, although we do not agree precisely as to how the end-time and the coming again will occur, it certainly wouldn't be a young man taking the podium one Sunday morning and saying, "I'm back"!!
It wouldn't take us long to show that young charlatan up and not much longer for us to show him the door.
And it wouldn't be a conspiracy or anything like that, would it?
It would be simply an instinctive reaction.
Well, bless God, we don't know everything but we do know some things. And among the things we do know is that our God would not pull a stunt like that!
Later, of course, after we had cooled down a bit, we might want a bit more justification for our actions. After all, we were a mile rude to our guest.
And so we would go to the pastor ...
Who (no doubt) would go to the Book ....
And there, in black and white (or in living color) would be the 'proof' we needed to confirm the fact to us that the lad was either crazy or a fool.
Which really proves only one thing.
And that is that in two thousand years we have learned very little!
And that we are still inclined to judge things 'by the Book' rather than 'by the Spirit'.
comedians all agree that timing is everything.
The gape, the leer, the double-take . . mean nothing if not in sync with the action. How you play off your straight men, the thrust and parry, the pregnant pause before you answer ... all vital to the performance.
Every great comic has great timing.
Now you may not class God up there with Gleason or Benny but you really do need to consider His timing when dealing with Him.
Most of us have lived in (and marveled at) this fast-paced age of ours and have witnessed the passing away of the 'old' and the bringing in of the 'new'. . like never before. And, like technology in the secular place, spiritual knowledge and new understandings have mushroomed before our very eyes. One hardly is used to the 'He was' before being thrust into the 'I am'. As a result, most of the wise ones sleep with one eye open and their bags packed.
Of course, there is still that part of us that insists that we have found 'it' and that 'it' is so important and so precious to us that everything else is not 'it'. In so doing, we are always repeating the errors of the past. The past where Moses (and his sayings) were 'it' . . and were preached every Sabbath day despite the fact that (as far as God was concerned) a brand new day had dawned and a new and more perfect way had been opened.
And the error is aided and abetted by the basic misunderstanding that the Book, as such, and the literal, common sense reading of it, constitutes an authority which cannot be come over. Of course, 'it is written' (and thank God that it is) but the hand of God continues to write!
This time not on the tablets of stone . . or on paper . . but on the table of men's hearts and on the blackboards of their minds.
And who among us can read what is written there or call any of us to account for what is written there?
How dare I say to you that God did not say that to you? How dare I question your motives or judge you as to 'meat or drink,' etc. We move from one 'degree of glory' to another with the speed of light, and who among us is holy enough or pure enough or wise enough to ascertain the exact quality of your commitment or know the heaven you have ascended to?
When that 'which is perfect' (The Living word) is come, that which is in part (the written word) is always superceded by it.
And the knowledge that the Living Word is indeed come and is now among us. . is a matter of timing.
An another time is upon us!
God, who at sundry times has done that . . is now doing this.
And that which was is no more.
Heaven is no longer a far away place and the word of God is not a Book. What time is it?
It is the time of the raising up!
And the decree has gone forth.
"Come, let us return unto the Lord: for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight."
In that time and in that season it is not proper for us to re-address the issues of the first day or even of the second.
Because it is the third day of God.
To the follower it is everything.
This day he drives his bulls and his goats to the temple and they are accepted from his hands.
The next day he drives them to the temple and there is a sign on the door that reads 'NO MORE SACRIFICES'.
What do they mean, no more sacrifices?
And so he bangs on the door until the priest opens it. Good morning, he says to the priest, now would you please explain to me what this sign means. Has there ben a strike called or something? Or have you run out of fuel for the burnt-offerings? O.K., I can understand that. Things like that happen. Tell me, when will you boys have the trouble fixed and be back in business?
Now, hold on Jack! Just a doggone minute! Maybe you had better take another look at the contract that God signed with Moses.
I just happen to have a copy with me. And it doesn't say a thing about stopping the sacrifices.
Boy, you look pretty young to be a priest in the first place.
Maybe you better just rustle up your supervisor.
The young priest finally does do just that and comes back with the head man. Who has the unenviable task of explaining what has happened to the angry customer.
Hi, the customer says, sorry to bother you but I came down here this morning to offer my sacrifices (just like the Book says) but this young fellow tells me that you've shut down the plant.
Will you please tell me what this is all about?
The head man says. . well, there isn't much I can tell you, except that that appears to be the case. And don't ask me to explain it to you. I just received word that there has been a change of administration and that the new guy absolutely will not accept any more animal sacrifices.
I know! I know!
It's in the contract!
And, for the life of me, I don't understand how they can get by with it. But they evidently can. I received the notice from the International just last night Moses is out . .
And someone by the name of Jesus Christ is in.
That which is secret. That which is locked up in the mind of God. Those 'times and seasons' that are in the Father's hands. The world rocks on for millenniums. Everything pretty cut and dried. You go to the same church and say the same prayers and offer the same sacrifices. It becomes so much a part of your life that you simply can't imagine life without it.
And then one day a weird looking specimen walks out of the wilderness (or wherever) babbling something about repentance (or something). One of those religious fanatics (you know what I mean). And suddenly everything is supposed to change?
Yep. That's what they tell me.
What a way to run a railroad!
Or a religion.
Of course, you can always refuse to go along with it. I'm sure that you can find a 'priest' to take your 'offerings'.
And you can still feel pretty good about all that sacrificing and stuff. Only one thing.
It's not official any longer.
You're just out your bulls and your goats and your money. Without either recompense or reward.
Of course, Paul explained all of that to us, didn't he? And he also warned us.
He warned us that whenever one act of the play is over, it's time for the second. And when that one is over?
I know he seemed a bit confused, on occasion, about how much 'free will' there really was out there for a man to get hold of but he did admonish us to exercise as much of it as we could.
Don't you know that the chronicling of past events is not simply an exciting story to be told around some future campfire?
There are some real issues at stake here. A lot of this stuff has been offered to other folks at other times . . and those other folks blew it.
So don't you (was the message of our friend Paul)!!
Don't harden your hearts.
Hear what the Spirit is saying about the 'right now' of God.
It was central to the message of Paul.
He drew the lines of demarcation carefully.
And you and I read and sit down and marvel..
At how stupid the Pharisees (and their descendants) were.
And turn around (God help us) and do the same things they did and say the same things they said, etc.
God help us!
Do we not yet understand?
That it would be just as grievous an error for us to cling to the 'old' as it was for them to cling to the 'old'. The 'old' being that which has been done away with (fulfilled) by the coming in of the 'new'?
It's all in the timing.
A Matter Of Semantics?
will say that it is only a matter of semantics. And that the distinction
we make is only between the 'written' and the 'spoken' word of God.
That is a distinction to be made but it is not nearly enough for us to make that distinction.
It is more like the one between the 'dead' word of God (the letter that kills) and the 'living' word of God (the spirit that gives life).
But the distinction we make has to do with even more than that.
It has to do with relationship.
How we approach the Book has a direct relationship to how we image God Himself.
In one of the parables, Jesus tells of a man who had an unexpected guest drop by late at night. Finding that he is short on food to set before his guest, the man goes next door to his friend's house and knocks on his door and asks to borrow three loaves of bread.
The friend tells him to bug off!
It turns out that his friend and neighbor is safely tucked in bed with his children and doesn't want to be bothered.
But the friend in need keeps on knocking . . and knocking . . and knocking.
Finally, the neighbor gets up out of his warm bed, opens his locked and bolted door, and gives his friend the loaves he had asked for.
Why did he get up?
Well, the scriptures indicate that it was not, repeat not, because it was his friend who was asking but rather it was because that it was a persistent friend who was asking.
". . . and to him that knocks it shall be opened . . ."
At another time (and in another parable) a widow was wronged by someone, or thought that she had been. Seeking redress, she went to a judge and petitioned him to avenge her of her 'adversary'. But the judge she happened to go to was not a very conscientious public servant. Indeed, according to the Record, he was one hard case, neither' fearing God or regarding man'.
He certainly was not inclined to put himself out for the widow.
But he did . . finally.
For approximately the same reason the neighbor got out of his warm bed and gave his friend the bread.
She bothered the daylights out of him.
". . .because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.."
And then there is the story of the master and his three servants. The master decided to take a trip and so called his servants together and gave them all a certain sum of money.
To one he gave ten pounds.
To another, five.
To the third, one.
And left on his journey.
When he finally returned home, the first thing the master did was to call his servants together again and asked for an accounting of the monies he had left with them.
The first servant had been very enterprising and had gained ten more pounds for his master. The master was delighted and rewarded him handsomely.
The second servant had also prospered and was able to return the five pounds to his master plus five others that he had gained through trading. He was also rewarded.
The third fellow didn't do so well (at least in our parable).
He was so frightened that he might make a bad deal that he made no deal at all with the money his master had left with him ... and so the best he could come up with was the consoling thought (to him) that he, at least, hadn't lost any of the money his master had entrusted to him.
He still had the original coin wrapped carefully in a napkin and offered it back to his master.
But something in his master's manner told him that he wasn't doing so hot and so he hurried to explain his actions.
An explanation that his master did not buy (evidently) as he took his coin from him and gave it to the one having ten.
Three concepts of God.
As a reluctant friend.
An an unjust judge.
And as a 'austere' master.
It is not a simple matter to turn the God of the Jews into a friend, even a reluctant friend. Despite David's testimony (and a pitifully few others) there is little about the God of the Old Testament that attracts one. All that fire and smoke and judgement, etc. All those rules (God, was He hung-up on rules!) and all that punishment when you couldn't hang in there.
No. Not a simple matter at all.
He simply was not a friendly character.
But Jesus said that He had changed. And wasn't nearly as blood thirsty as He once was (or, at least had been depicted in the scrolls). And the disciples, especially later (as apostles) echoed those sentiments.
All in all, they sought (and here and there succeeded) in painting a completely different picture of the old Fire-eater.
And even convinced some of us.
And now, somehow, someway, we count Him as friend.
Not that there aren't times when He appears to revert to form.
But (we fervently hope) it is only an appearance.
Of the three concepts offered, surely the most desirable.
Even if He does appear to be reluctant to put Himself out for us (at times) and does seem annoyed with us (at other times) it is enough for us to believe that His nature is essentially benign and that He is a friendly force in the universe. The second concept of God (as an unjust judge) is one that all of us can relate to. And the cry for justice is one that seems to go unanswered on many an occasion.
Yes. All of us have played the part of the widow.
God, this just ain't right!
And when are you going to get off your backside and make it right?
David was always asking God to avenge him of his enemies.
But he wasn't the first and you and I won't be the last.
To suffer at the hands of men and to cry out for redress of our grievances. Indeed, the cry that goes up before the throne of God continually is the one that pleads for divine assistance in balancing the scales of justice.
But, although we do continually cry out, most of us have settled for a less than perfect resolution. And, although we would never admit it, we secretly harbor a suspicion that the administration of justice (under this Administration) leaves a lot to be desired.
Which sometimes leads us to the conclusion (reluctantly) that this Judge is not always as responsive as He could be.
Which sometimes leads us to the picket line, and to City Hall, and to sit-ins, etc.
Any thing to turn up the heat a little.
Why, some of us even quote scriptures at Him.
And remind Him of how He ought to be acting!
In the hope that just maybe, like the judge in the parable, our continual coming will weary Him also and He will (for aggravation's sake, if nothing else) grant our petition and avenge us of our adversaries.
It is not, after all, like we do not hold Him as having the power and authority to handle the situation. No. We are all agreed that He is the Man. But what we are saying (whether it be clear to us or no) is that it is simply not in his nature to volunteer His services and that He needs to be prodded into doing the 'right' thing in behalf of His constituents.
It is the concept of an unjust (or uninterested) God.
And then there is the relationship that, quite possibly, will strike closer to home than any other.
That between a servant and his (austere) master.
For that was what the unprofitable servant saw his master as.
An austere man.
'For I feared you, because you are an austere man.
An austere master and a fearful servant.
Now many moons ago one of the writers in the Book informed us that God (our master) had not given us "the spirit of fear."
But somebody has.
Somebody has gotten in there among all that wheat and sewn some tares.
And one of the biggest tares in the field is fear.
One of the main things that Jesus kept insisting was not an appropriate response to the new 'coming forth' of God.
Don't be frightened of anything, especially not of your God or of His attitude toward you.
Don't even be afraid that you're going to miss out on something that He has for you. Why, He gets a kick out of seeing to it that you receive it. It is "His good pleasure to give you the kingdom"!
The fearful thing is that most of us haven't gotten the message!
And are still wrapped up in the 'fearful servant' and 'austere master' concept of God.
Three concepts of God.
And then there is one more.
The concept that Jesus of Nazareth brought with him.
The concept of God as a father.
I do not suppose it possible for anyone who has not embraced the concept to fully appreciate the distinction between a God and a Father-God. And, although Jesus spent much of His life and ministry in making that distinction, it is not one that has taken hold to any appreciable degree.
It's simply too 'high' for most of us.
And yet (like salvation itself) sonship is a gift freely given from the heart of a loving Father to His children.
Oh, it isn't as if we haven't heard about sonship.
Paul wrote about it all the time.
And many have been employed in this century to remind us again of the concept.
But sonship is not just a concept.
Sonship is a relationship.
And the world waits for that relationship to be established once again in the earth.
Whereas a god might very well be reluctant to move in your behalf (especially if it happened to be a bit inconvenient for him at the time) . . . . a father wouldn't.
He would be quick to hear the cry of His son ("Father, I know you hear me always") and to answer that cry.
And whereas a god might very well show himself to be capricious (fickle) at times (such things have happened) and care very little for such mundane things as redressing wrongs for one of his individual subjects ... a father wouldn't be capricious and a father would care and a father would do.
And whereas a god might very well invoke fear in the hearts of his servants to such an extent that the servants might live in constant dread of incurring his displeasure .... a father wouldn't.
A father would provoke a son to honor and respect and love.
A father would not need nor require such an emotion.
And what has all that to do with how we approach the scriptures?
For the scriptures are used by the majority of us to call our God to account.
We use them to prod Him into doing that which we fear even our friendship with Him would not impel Him to do.
And we use them to curb what we sometimes think of as His tendency to stay 'above the fray', i.e. disengage Himself form the nitty-grftty of everyday concerns.
He may indeed be a 'just' God, but (or so it seems to most of us) He always needs reminding of the fact.
We also use the scriptures to alleviate our fears and to plead our cause before Him. The cause of the careful, conservative, faithful (howbeit
How do we do all of this.
By binding Him to the Book!
By holding Him to His 'word'!
But a father doesn't need to be called to account. His very nature compels him to fatherhood. He doesn't need anyone to remind him to act responsibly or deal fairly with his family.
He does not need to be told how faithfully his son has served him or for how long.
The inheritance is never in doubt.
A father does not need anyone to wave the 'rule-book' in his face.
The reluctant friend need coaxing.
The unjust judge needs compelling.
The 'austere' master needs a change of attitude.
But not a father.
And the son needs no signed agreement to protect his rights.
He feels no compulsion to 'force' the father to be true to his nature.
He sees no need to pound the Book or to demand compliance.
Nor does he conjure up the image of dead saints.
He doesn't even need precious promises to sustain him.
He depends entirely on the relationship!
A matter of semantics only?
It is a matter of relationship.
THE WORD OF GOD
"In the beginning was the Word. . ."
The cruelest joke tradition has played on us.
God 'up there', His word down here, and us over yonder.
Of course, He will be back, they keep telling us. In the meantime do the best you can. Obtain as close to an error-free translation of the scriptures as you can, prayerfully consider what it has to 'say' to you, and, of course, obey those who have the 'rule' over you, i.e. your tutors and governors.
If there ever was such a time in the affairs of God's people, it is no longer that time.
The book itself tells us why not.
For it tells of a 'new' covenant that God would make with His people.
A new covenant that has so little of that stuff in it that you'd be amazed.
I had something going with my people at one time, God says, but they did not continue with me in what I was proposing for them . . and so I 'regarded them not'.
And brought forth something brand new! And here it is . .
"This is the covenant that I WILL make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I WILL put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I WILL be to them a God, and they SHALL be to me a people: And they SHALL NOT teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord: for all SHALL know me, from the least to the greatest. For I WILL be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I
(I WILL) remember no more."
And then the stopper in the bottle . .
"In that He says, a new covenant, he has made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away."
It couldn't happen to a nicer covenant!
God, the business man, checking the books and deciding that the old way of doing business was not showing a profit any longer. The button hooks and the buggy whips weren't selling as well as they used to.
And that beautiful garden that He had cleared and planted?
And built a tower in the midst thereof?
The wild grapes proliferated.
He looked for judgment, but found oppression ...
And for "righteousness, but behold a cry." it seemed like such a simple matter. . at first.
Just take His people up to the mountain and give them a few simple rules for living. Such as:
Keep your hands in your pockets (you shall not steal). Don't jump the fence (you shall not commit adultery).
And don't sass your parents (honor your father and your mother). Etc.
Very simple rules, really.
The only thing wrong, as He discovered, was that He had put the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble . . He put his trust in man "whose breath is in his nostrils".
Oh, God, may your mighty name be praised forever! We worship and and we rejoice that you have caught yourself in time. And have brought forth a new covenant based on a completely new evaluation of the strength and the ability of man to follow through on his commitment to divine things. And have insured the success of your new venture (covenant) in the only way possible: You're going to do it yourself!
Thank you, God.
Thank you for the unconditional covenant!
I WILL ... I WILL ... I WILL!!
Thank you, God.
As you may have noticed, we haven't done all that well under the old agreement. Not that Paul didn't say some powerful things, and that Nazarene .... wow!
But, as you may have also noticed, powerful words and even the life and death of your Blessed Son has had only limited effect. Indeed, we who were born 'under the law' are, for the most part, still there. Only now we use the new testament as our law-book instead of the 'old' testament. And are as arrogant and as proud as any Pharisee who ever lived! One difference, of course. Now, when we make our boast in the law, we quote Peter or Paul, James, or even the Son.
Instead of Moses.
And the veil that was 'rent in twain' so long ago?
Oh, it was sewn up before the body of our blessed Lord and Saviour was ever taken down from the cross.
Or soon after.
And access to you has been denied us for nearly two thousand years.
And we do groan beneath the burden of our separation from you.
And so we thank you and we praise you, oh God, for coming again to us . . and for saying to us that which you said to Abraham in the beginning, "Blessing, I WILL bless you.. "
Taking the reins in your hands once more. Remembering that there never has been a 'man' who stood with you. No one whose heart was pure enough and whose hands were clean enough.
It has always been your own 'right arm' that has brought salvation to you.
And always will be.
This we finally and at long last understand.
And bow before you. . and worship.
And give thanks to you that we have come to know that which you have
known all along.
That man is nothing.
And that you are everything.
And that power has always 'belonged' to you, and not us.
Whether under the old covenant or the new, men never climb (they have no capacity to do so) but always need to be lifted.
And if we are ever to walk with You in light, it will be simply because You have reached down in mercy, grabbed us by our scruffy little necks, and 'caused' us to approach unto You.
I see now, Lord, why the writer insists that boasting is 'excluded'.
From the beginning, it has been You, and only You.
"In the beginning was the Word. ."
THE WORD OF GOD II
"...and the Word was with God..."
thought of separation has always been with us when it came to our God and His
Word. And Jesus didn't do much to heal the breach, at least not in the
Of course, in one sense, there has always been the Two of Them. And I do not mean that simply as a compromise between the One God people and the Trinitarians.
No. Even in the Advent, there was the Invisible One projecting himself out through the Visible One.
God thinking, Jesus expressing.
The Father saying, the Son doing.
It was as if God had said to Himself, Self, if you're ever going to reach this crowd, you're going to have to get off this mountain and get down where they are. And so the Word which was with God, was made 'flesh' and dwelt among us (as one of the writers put it). That (and that alone) made it possible for we who had lost our first estate (the spiritual place) to once again see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and handle with our hands the "Word of Life".
That was the Word that was with God in the beginning.
The vibrations being lowered, God was able to manifest in the flesh of Jesus the Christ.
It is not a small matter. We who are always aspiring to rise up and to 'be like God' don't have the foggiest notion of what we're babbling about.
God still dwells in that place that no 'man' can approach unto.
Before attempting to, I trust you will do a little further checking into the subject.
And decided that he had been fooling around with things 'too high' for him. Religious ambition is not the same thing as a yearning heart.
There is one mediator between 'God and man' (not a dozen).
And that Mediator was the One that was 'with God' in the beginning. "... and the Word was with God ..."
And was always ready to do whatever. . and whenever. It is little wonder that Jesus (as the Word-Son) was always telling the Pharisees (and whoever) that He was the only one that really 'knew' God.
He should. He was there with Him in the beginning.
And He was the strong 'Arm of the Lord' that brought salvation to earth when man (once again) could not prevail. Jesus was a wondrous lad and God has made Him 'both Lord and Christ.'
But it wasn't good looks or the fact that he may have been a terrific afterdinner speaker that brought the bacon home for God and salvation home to you and I .
It was rather the fact that the Word (that which was from the beginning) was incarnated in him and (later) as Him.
The honors proliferate.
But Jesus knew.
And didn't even think about taking the credit as man for what God was doing in the earth through Him.
It's not me (he kept telling them) doing that good stuff! It's Him!
It isn't me saying all of those terrific things!
Indeed, He attempted to keep it all as quiet as possible when it came to that miracle stuff. He did not encourage speculation about who or what he was ...
Until the divine yeast had leavened the whole lump.
And even then it was not his pronouncement. . but His Father's. "Who do men say that I, the son of man, am..?"
Then (and only then) near the end of the road, He allowed his disciples (and his Father) to acclaim Him. You will note that the Father did not prompt Simon Peter to say simply that he was Jesus . . but . . rather. . "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God"!!
The Christ! The Anointed Spokesman For! The Word of God!
That which was from the beginning.
That which was 'with God'.
Jesus did not remain with us in His earthly form.
Despite some very determined efforts by His disciples to keep Him walking around on terra firma, He 'went away'.
But promised that He would 'come again'.
But the Word had entered back into His spiritualized form.
And when He did return to them (on the Day of Pentecost) it was in that spiritualized form.
And so it was that He kept His promise to His disciples and to "as many as the Lord our God shall call."
That He would never again leave nor forsake them . . ever!
Through the power of that 'endless life' He enjoys, He ever lives to make intercession, lead, guide, direct, . . . . whatever.
But the man Jesus did (at times) come across as a very confused young man. At this time passive, at that time belligerent. At different times and on different occasions he appeared as a man, as a god, and as Very God.
One day He allowed as how He and His Father were 'One' but, then again, His Father was 'greater' than he.
It's just a matter of context, you say?
Or perhaps not.
Perhaps it was just a young Jewish rabbi going through his very own Identity Crisis.
For He really was (it turns out) that Word by which 'all things were made'. He was that which provided the evidence for and testified to the existence of the invisible God. He was that light which was always shining in darkness (and not simply in the day of the Son of Man).
And causing those who sat in that darkness to look to that light and say, "Oh, my, we are not alone! There really is someone up or out there! There really is God!"
Of course, the worlds were framed' by Him and the foundations laid. Indeed, anything and everything that ever emerged out of the void was produced (made) by Him!
The WORD OF GOD!
Without expression, God would be only an alien force, an X-factor in some scientific experiment. And we would still be filled with fear and trepidation at the mention of the Great Unknown. But the Word came and through a man called Jesus, spoke peace to us. He who was 'in the bosom of the Father' declared Him to us. And our fears were dissipated and our hearts were made to rejoice!
All because the Word had come to us. And the Unknowable was made known to us arid His basic character revealed to us.
Teaching us, first and foremost, not to fear!
And proclaiming, for the very first time, the Fatherhood of God.
Some say this and some that about that One who proclaimed (expressed) God on the earth. Some say he was a man (a good man, but just a man). Some say that He was (indeed) God. And others hedge their theological bets by referring to Him as the God-man.
So be it.
But to me he will always be the Man from Nazareth!
The beautiful, incomparable Man from Nazareth!
I don't have that much to do with gods. Religiously speaking, I tend to be as superstitious as the next man. I still vacillate between a full-throttle acceptance of those things divine and a stumbling and a lurching from one proposition to another.
But this Man!
This beautiful Man from Nazareth!
That had all of the feelings that I have . . and yet . .
He suffered, and yet ...
He wept, and yet ...
And, being made perfect ...
Do we really understand that?
The scriptures say that He was 'made' perfect!
All of the great religions of the earth have their legends of God-men.
I have a difficult time identifying with them.
But this one, this Man from Nazareth, was not a wind-up toy from a galaxy 'far, far away.'
He was a young Jewish lad who aligned himself so perfectly with the will and purpose of the Most High God that he was allowed to express Him on the earth plane. He was that 'prepared' body that the Eternal Word of God chose to inhabit for that brief period in the history of mankind.
And He was also the One who gave us the unheard of (until He came) concept of the 'returning'. The world really wasn't just a dying planet set some where in the far reaches of space. And man wasn't just a biological accident.
But more than the telling, Jesus demonstrated (as the Son of Man) that there was something worth the saving. He talked about a glory, a lost estate, and, breaking through the boundaries of His flesh, He returned! Oh, my.
To His former glory and to His lost estate.
Cursed and fallen in the First Adam.
Blessed and Restored in the Second.
But that was not a god returning.
That was a man! Made in the 'likeness of sinful flesh'.
Like you! Like me!
Who is the 'firstborn of every creature'.
Who also expects to bring 'many sons' into the same glory.
Now many believe in a pre-existent Jesus.
Others say that we, too, were there.
However it may be there was One that was surely there.
". . . and the Word was with God . . ."
THE WORD OF GOD III
"...and the Word was God..."
will never again be separated from His word. In truth He never was.
Only we have made it so.
But no more.
It we really want to hear what God has to say to us, we will have to deal with the God who says it.
I know how comfortable it has been for all of us to play at religious charades.
Comfortable and quite entertaining at times.
But no more.
For when God speaks, it is not the same as when a man speaks.
When the Word of God comes to us, the mountain shakes and the oceans roar. And the dead raise!
"The words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life"!
It is sad that we have been led to believe that we can duck the issue by leafing through an ancient text. And accepting or rejecting as it pleases us.
Did you ever wonder why some folks back there cried out when Jesus spoke to them, and put their hands over their ears, and petitioned him not to speak to them any more?
They had the sacred scrolls.
They could certainly read them without getting up-tight. And they had priests and instructors to tell them what they wanted to hear.
But this young man wasn't playing that game.
It wasn't platitudes and religious homilies that came from His lips, but the very 'word of God'.
Just like in the beginning . .
When Adam walked and talked with his God.
No intermediary, no interpreter, no middle-man.
Just Adam and his God.
But something went wrong, we are told, and that simple arrangement was altered.
And a separation occurred.
And steps were taken to insure that the separation would continue.
And, after that, if the Most High God wished to say anything to His creatures, it was always through a third party.
Because the vibrations of man had been lowered to such an extent that he no longer was comfortable dealing with his God direct.
Through an angel? Yes.
Or a prophet? O.K.
Or even through a burning bush or the mouth of an ass!
But no longer face to face.
It is therefore not a strange or unusual thing for the children of men to petition their leaders (as the Israelites did Moses) to appear before God for them.
We don't want to talk with Him, Moses.
You go and talk to Him and then come back and tell us what He has to say.
Yes, we come by it quite naturally.
And we've grown accustomed to it.
Accustomed to going 'through channels'.
Which has been. . as it ought to have been.
And the various priesthoods were ordered and ordained of God.
Someone certainly had to keep the lines of communication open.
And stand between a corrupt creation and a Holy Creator.
And so God continued to speak to His people, but not directly.
". . at sundry times and in divers manners. by the prophets . ."
And when the Word came to the prophets and through the prophets, there was no question about it. .
The Word of God was God!
When Elijah said that it was going to rain, it rained.
And when he said that it wasn't, it didn't.
And when the word of God came to Nathan ...
And when Nathan struck his finger in David's face and cried,
"You are the man . . ."
There was no doubt in David's mind that he was indeed the man!
But always through a third party.
Even in Jesus' time.
Jesus being the only real example of a man who had found his way back home. And, who, somehow, had entered back into fellowship.
He talked to God face to face.
And the Word that He received from God ... was God.
What He said . . came to pass. Arid what He did . . was done.
The Word was God.
Even to the raising of the dead.
Lazarus, you get up out of there!
And he did.
But one man does not a restoration make.
Examples are important but not sufficient.
And if creation itself is ever to be delivered 'from the bondage of corruption', it will take more than an example.
It will take someone or a company of someones back in harmony and in full fellowship with their God.
That means a returning.
Back through the gate, and past guilt and fear, and into complete obedience.
Back to a face to face with God Himself.
No intermediary, no interpreter, no middle-man.
Just you (and me) and our God.
Can we handle it?
Of course we can.
Because the Word Himself is back.
And the Word that was God.. is God.
In the Book it's written and it is a true (Logos) word of God:
"After those days . .
After which days?
Why, after the law has done it's thing .. after that, day.
And after grace has come and gone . . after that day.
"After those days . ."
That was a part of the mystery that was given to the Apostle and relayed to us in the following words:
"Wherefore I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, TO FULFILL THE WORD OF GOD; Even the mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; WHICH IS CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY..."
And so it was that Jesus said that scary thing to his followers.
He said, I'm going away!
And none of you will be able to follow me where I'm going.
Indeed, He told them, no matter how you may feel about it at the present time, it is very important FOR YOU that I go away!
That wondrous form.
That beautiful man.
That unrivaled teacher.
That miracle worker without peer.
Is going away.
Some of us do not yet understand how vital it is to us all that he 'go away'... and that He come again.
If He doesn't 'go away', we will always and forever be following some historical character.
Such is the nature of religious man.
But if He goes away ...
In this form ...
He will return . . in another!
And the separation will, at long last, be over.
"I will not leave you comfortless: I WILL COME TO YOU. Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more; but you see me: because I live, you shall live also. At that day you shall know that I AM IN MY FATHER, AND YOU IN ME, AND I IN YOU."
There are certain things that simply have to be led up to.
They are too 'high' for us.
And we have to somehow 'ascend' to them.
But we cannot take the normal route.
The religious road is much too involved with personality.
And personality always sees itself as separate from God.
Which, of course, it is.
But it's attempts to ascend and to 'be like God' are always ego-centric.
Here we are. - and there God is.
And God is trying desperately to get our attention and to convince us that we should deny "ungodliness and worldy lusts", etc. etc.
Which, of course, we do . . attempt . . to do.
But if we are successful, even in the slightest instance, God help us!
We become proud, and arrogant, and self-righteous.
And fit only for the company of other Pharisees.
And captive to the Spirit of Religion.
But Jesus knew something.
Something that saved Him.
He knew that he was only a body, a 'prepared body'.
And that, when the preparation was complete, the Word of God Himself would come and would occupy and would operate out from that body. Oh, yes.
Every 'quick and powerful' thing that Jesus did . . as He himself testified. . He didn't do it. It was the Word of God, that which was from the beginning, and that which was God from the beginning.
That which was a discerner "of the thoughts and the intents of the heart.."
What do you suppose that was?
What was it in Jesus of Nazareth that made it clear to him that the most respected people of his day were not the children of God at all but rather the 'children of the devil'?
Why, the Word of God, of course.
That two-edged sword that came from his mouth and that which made literally everything 'naked and opened' to his eyes?
You guessed it
The Word . . that was . . God.
And what is it, pray tell, that works in you and causes you to know (rather than guess)?
And provides that divine energy that propels you over those 'walls' and through those 'troops'?
And what is it that reveals you ... to yourself? And challenges your motives and tries your very reins?
And sets a standard so high that you will never be able (on your own) to measure up?
Until you finally stop trying.
And, finally, give up?
And recognize the most humiliating (and glorious) fact of all.
All He ever wanted from you ... was a body.
A body He could prepare. .
And then move into.
He didn't want your cleverness or need your smarts. .
Or your sweet personality or your religiosity . .
God, how He never wanted your religiosity!
Just your body.
That living sacrifice.
Wherein He can be God . . again!
It has been interesting how we have dillied and dallied with the concept. And how we have been under the illusion that we had some great thing to accomplish on the earth. And, after we have accomplished that great something on the earth, they (God & His little helpers) would have an awards ceremony set up - - somewhere. . and we would, at long last.. get what's coming to us.
God help us if that be the scenario.
The fact is that nothing, absolutely nothing of spiritual dimension has ever been done by anyone . . except God.
Even when it seems otherwise.
Even when the sick were (or are) healed and the sinners saved.
Always, it was (and is) God . . and not man.
Or don't you understand that we really are 'unprofitable servants', no matter if we do the whole enchilada!
It always has been.
Even when He is at work in us ... it's not us.. but Him.
Now I know we have this thing about free will and man's part in the plan of salvation.
But if the Logos (that which is true in the Book) tells us plainly that literally no one gets in except by invitation, then it's really God who calls the shots . . and not us.
No matter how strong our will might be.
God is much smarter than that.
He knows that we would find a way to screw it up if He left it to us.
So welcome to the unconditional covenant!
To the "BLESSING, I WILL BLESS YOU.." of God.
He even fixed it so that when He is at work in us, He controls the action:
"For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure."
Both to will . . that's His will and not yours or mine.
And to do . . that's His doing and not yours or mine.
Of His good pleasure . . not yours or mine.
No. When and where that Word operates or manifests (in Jesus or in you) that Word is God (and always has been).
And it is that Word that will bring judgement to this generation.
And that which was 'from the beginning' rides the white horse of Revelations 19 in the ending.
And so we quote for your once more:
"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns: and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: AND HIS NAME IS CALLED THE WORD OF GOD."
And that vesture dipped in blood?
It had something written on it, as well.
"And he has on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS"!
That is close enough, in my book, to be God.
... and the Word was (and is and ever will be) God..."
the writer of Hebrews says, "What shall I more say? for the time would
fail me to tell of . . "Which is my way of saying that we have only
scratched the surface and have left the subject unaddressed. But I feel
no compulsion to cross all the tees (even if it was given me to do so).
The covenant we serve under makes no provision for anyone in the 'teaching'
profession. It states, rather, that we shall all be "taught
of the Lord".
There remains only for me to comment on the well-known and the obvious, i.e. that we do have a tendency to worship the 'creature' rather than the 'Creator'. And to allude to some of the consequences of our actions when and as we do.
FIRST. There is also the tendency (and it is not new to this generation) to use our knowledge of the Book to cloak our ignorance of God. Someone asks us reverend gentlemen a question and our first instinct is to grab the Book and to find where 'it is written'. Which may have nothing to do with anything . . but it does preserve our reputation (at least for the moment). And we are so careful of that.
It might be instructive to look into the scriptures and to see how Jesus handled the question and answer periods. His off-the-cuff remarks were remarkable, to say the least. When the questions were hostile (and most of them were) He could play by their rules, i.e. get down into the scriptures with them. But He could also, God help us, use the same scriptures to build a case for His point of view that bore little resemblance to the way they were originally used. You might say He played the game, all right, but He played by different rules than they.
That is, He carried His own Mr. Hoyle around with him. And whatever the still, small voice inside Him told Him the Book meant, that, to Him, was what it meant.
SECOND. We mis-speak (and sadly so) when we call the scriptures the 'word of God'. For paper and ink are only that, and words are neither sacred nor profane. They're just words. And so it is clearly a matter of the interpretation Of the words. Jesus and the Pharisees did not quarrel over whether He or they had the better translation or whether the scrolls that He had access to were worded differently than theirs.
It was not different translations of the texts (it never is) which were at issue but rather who had a 'higher' understanding. Which of them saw more clearly? Which of them was given to go beyond the symbology of types and shadows into the heart of the matter?
In the end, which of them was closer to the Well-spring, the Source of all understanding, God Himself?
THIRD. That which is written is static. God is not.
He is a mover. He is one who 'goes forth'. David, encumbered by his orthodoxy, essayed to build Him a house. But the writer in the New Testament tells us that God asked him the definitive question about such an undertaking. "What house will you build me . ." Dave? Seeing as how the 'heavens themselves' can not contain Him, it is rather foolish of us to think that the Book can.
FOURTH. The Book is the field and not the treasure in the field. And, once you've found the 'treasure', the need to dig is diminished considerably.
We thank God for the 'field' and the miracles that have preserved it. And the martyrs who have died to deliver it into our hands. Thank God for Guttenberg and those who strove mightily against overwhelming odds to publish and to distribute it. It is a unique and wondrous work.
But it was never intended to be the last word from God to man. It was never intended to bind men or to enslave men. Like the Sabbath, man was not made for it, but it for man. It bore and does bear testimony to and witness of God and His work and His purpose and His Son, blessed forevermore.
But it was never intended to become a substitute for the Spirit! Which brings us to our next consideration.
FIFTH. The Book has become, through persistent misuse, a barrier rather than a bridge to true understanding. I believe it possible to know the scripture backwards and forwards and, at the same time, not know God. And that we become so engaged in our searching for the 'life' in the scriptures that we do not stop to consider the fact that Jesus himself said that it wasn't to be found there.
"You . . search the scriptures . . and (but) you will not come to me."
It is a fact that a working knowledge of the Book is not all that difficult to obtain. All it takes is an intense desire and adequate mental faculties. There are men alive today who can quote for you complete chapters and, in rare cases, entire books.
But those who have begun to approach the proposition as Jesus did, are rarer still.
May their tribe increase.
SIXTH. Paul's new day is not our new day.
Of course, he told us that but we have become so hung-up on the church age that we resist going on into the kingdom age.
Much like the Pharisees, we have become so established in the 'present truth' that we do not stop to consider that it is soon to be swallowed up by a 'more present truth'.
And what will we do when the hour strikes and the decree goes forth? Grab the Book and scream 'it is written' or say to God ... you can't do that?
But of course He can, and He will.
I know that we don't understand it to be true but Paul himself wrote about and prophesied concerning this day. Placing the former dispensations in perspective, he allowed as if neither of them was sufficient to the task that God had set for Himself. Circumcision? The law? Well, as we all should know by now, Paul was a'gin it! And some of the things he said to the folks who tried to perpetuate it were not exactly complimentary.
Uncircumcision? You bet! In fact, Paul spent his entire life and ministry in attempting to persuade the people to accept the incredible gift of the grace of God offered through the cross of Christ.
"I determined to know nothing among you . . except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
Yes. No doubt about it. Paul was a grace preacher.
But then he said something strange and provocative.
He said that neither of the workings (law or grace) were sufficient as of themselves.
Neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."
What's that, Paul?
You mean that it is not the program itself that God is hung-up on but rather the end results?
A new creature? A new creation?
Everything else is just a means to an end?
That that new creation has not emerged as yet should be evident.
which may be one of the reasons that Paul implores us all to "go on unto perfection" . . even if that means (and it will) leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ himself.
Going on unto perfection.
How's that for an agenda for a New Day?
SEVENTH. The Book is not simply what it appears to be. From our point of view it is certainly "profitable for doctrine, etc". The scriptures are also a collection of sayings, a distilled wisdom, a history of a nomadic people, a story of the Jews, and more. They are the telling of an event and the declaration of a life. But the Book is more than that.
It is Gods' very own Rorschach test.
It is the ink blot that we are all set down before. And more truly than any other test that may be given us, it reflects accurately just what we are made of and the state of spiritual development we have come to.
The psychiatrist knows that the same ink blot will provoke many and varied emotional responses, according to the individual subject. If we, for instance, are come to Mt. Sinai we will see only smoke and fire and terror and dread. We will feel the lash of necessity and tremble at the God who thunders. The law of carnal commandments will become (for us) the road we must travel in order to arrive at an appeasement (for that is all we can really hope for) of the God who lives in the mountain.
On the other hand, while staring at the same ink blot, if we should come to the cross of Christ, our countenance changes, and our entire outlook becomes different. The emphasis is then placed (inside our hearts and our minds) on the love and the mercy and the grace of our God. A new and startling facet of His personality has been revealed to us and the scriptures, both old and new, reflect back to us the results of our new perspective.
Have the scriptures changed?
Have they suddenly discovered some new fact that had been omitted previously? Or presented us with another aspect of God that we had not considered before?
The Book hasn't changed.
The Sacred Scrolls are the same.
It is we who have changed. We have been elevated. We now see that which had been hidden from us before.
The facts in the Book have not changed but the facts in us have.
God in us changes, i.e. He is revealed to us to be quite different that we had imaged Him to be. And His attitude toward us is so different as to provoke us no longer to fear and dread but to praise and thanksgiving. Having discovered Him to be different, we become different in our approach to Him. We no longer cringe or cower or grovel.
Because we 'image' Him differently than we did before. He is not the God of Sinai any longer. He says new things to us, things that are consistent with the new image of Him that we have received from Him.
So the Book is more than just a book.
It is the trier of men's souls.
It is the ink blot we look into, and decipher ourselves, and know the condition of our souls.
EIGHTH. We often use the book as a buffer zone between us and our God. it is a well know fact (though not a well publicized one) that most of us are not about to put legs to our prayers. We are in no hurry to try on that commitment that Jesus wore.
We are quite comfortable, thank you, in following 'afar off'.
The lip service that we offer is, to tell the truth, not only proper but, for some of us, an appropriate response.
We are very frightened of any kind of relationship (such as the one Jesus talked about) that presages a loss of control on our part. To give yourself unreservedly and irrevocable to your God and to dare to love with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength ... Well, who wants to get that close to a 'consuming fire'?
Too many intangibles.
Too many questions that remain to be answered.
Too little evidence of an honest-to-God change in the old Fire Eater. This new side may not be a permanent one. He may just be playing possum. He may, at any moment, change back into the Jehovah God of the Old Testament. The earth may again open up and the hail of heaven once again strike the earth.
And so it is that most of us are content with a 'sacred Book' experience with our God.
It at least seems to promise (at least) a semblance of control over this most unpredictable of Gods. We can (again at least) seek out guidelines and (as with hurricanes and tidal waves) attempt to predict His future behavior. We may even, and this we fervently hope, be able to draw some boundaries for Him and a line that He will not step over.
Some of us even seek to bind Him with the cord of promises and demand, not only that He do certain things, but that He do them on schedule.
God, it's time for your to 'rapture' the church now! Or exercise judgement! Or, at the very least, heal my sick child!
Yes, the Book has become the tongs we use with which to handle this very hot potato, God! And the harness we put on Him.
And the cage we have built for Him. And the device we use to dissect and to study and to evaluate Him.
But we do not dare get too close to or to expose ourselves to what may very well turn out to be a fatal dose of commitment.
And His sovereign acts? We don't even want to talk about them.
Study Him (if you will) and 'learn of Him' (if you must) but always keep a respectful (and safe) distance between that which is studied and that which studies.
The Book has served and continues to serve us quite well as a buffer zone between us and our God.
NINTH. Our ninth consideration has to do with the Book being the word of God ... to whom?
Aside from the gospels and excepting, of course, the Old Testament chronicles, most of the 'letters' were actually addressed to specific individuals or groups of individuals.
How is it, then, that we are so bold and so daring as to raid their mail boxes, steam open their letters and appropriate the message they contain for ourselves?
Of course, that's silly, isn't it? Everybody knows that 'every promise in the Book is mine', right?
But that is not right.
And never has been.
They were given to specific people at specific times and for specific reasons.
Indeed, the letters themselves, like the promises they contain, were for another time and another people.
Why, the people to whom they were addressed.
It should be apparent to all that we can get in a heap of trouble by reading and attempting to respond to other people's messages. If, for instance, my aunt Matilda writes me that uncle Henry just died and that she needs me to come and help with the arrangements, it would be appropriate for me to drop whatever I am doing and hop on the next plane.
All in response to the letter I had received from her.
But you may not even know my aunt Matilda and, should you attempt to respond to the message that I had received, you would have a great deal of trouble fashioning a suitable reply.
There are simply some things that are 'yours' and some things that aren't. Some things that have everything to do with you and some things that have little (if anything) to do with you.
And attempting to respond to the letter that isn't even addressed to you cannot help but bring on confusion and unrest.
Most of the things we receive from God are clearly labeled. But there are always the grey areas and our innate curiosity .... and our 'what about John?' And there are also those among us who are not secure enough in our own understanding and find ourselves reading and reacting to other people's mail.
Literally nothing in the Book is mine!
No promise, no prophecy, no good news or bad.
Except it be given me 'by the Spirit' and confirmed in me 'through the Spirit'.
God, who is a spirit, must be approached in the Spirit, be reconciled to 'by the Spirit', and worshiped in the same Spirit.
It is simply not enough that I read the words addressed to someone else . . at some other time . . and react to them.
I am not John, or Paul, or Peter, or a member of the church at Rome.
I am me, a contemporary entity!
I cannot even consider the words that fell from the lips of the wondrous Nazarene as mine for He spoke to an audience removed from me by almost two thousand years.
He may have said.. FIRE! But my house is not burning.
He may have said to another. . 'sell all that you have' but what has that to do with me?
How foolish of us to claim that which is not ours. Such things are vain!
(See also Are We Reading Someone Else's Mail?)
Why not rather hear and respond (with all of our heart) to that He speaks to us . . today? And answer quickly that letter that is addressed to us from the Holy Spirit? When He says to us, 'come and follow me' let us do so with all of the heart, mind, soul, and strength we can muster.
But let us not presume!
Our God is a good God. And He has for us good gifts and will confirm in us that Most Excellent Way. He can also write and there are messages for you and me (from Him) for us to read and rejoice in and respond to.
We do not need to live vicariously.
We do not need to rob others of their glory.
Because our God is not dead, but alive. And walking and talking and doing . . . . today.
No need to 'bring up' Samuel or resurrect Paul. For He that was ... is ... and the whole world waits to hear from Him! Dust off the ancient text if you will and revel in the triumphs of yesterday if you must ....
But our God is a contemporary God!
And this is the day the Lord has made!
Let us rejoice and be glad . . in it!
If you think that day was great, just stick around.
You haven't seen anything, yet.
Does the farmer plow all day just for exercise? Does he plant and cultivate for no purpose? Is chopping corn and weeding soy beans his idea of fun?
It all has to do with expectations.
It all has to do with the harvest.
And the work of God in you?
There is a purpose.
There is a harvest.
And what a harvest!
And it is ripe (again) and the harvesters are few (again).
And God is in the sending business (again).
And we really need to leave that part of it to Him. He sends one to drive the mules and one to cut the grain, etc. So it would behoove us all to hear again the ancient wisdom......
"Let us not judge one another. . any more". There's plenty of work to go around!
Do we really need to seek honor 'one of another'?
Are we so insecure that we cannot do 'our thing' and let others do theirs? Surely he has fashioned us all and we are fitly 'framed together'. Surely we all are the tool that has been tempered and the ones that have come to the kingdom for 'such a time as this'. Let us not second guess our brother. Let the day that is to come 'try' all things, our things included. Let our brother hear what he hears, see what he sees, and speak what he speaks. Let him stand or fall to his own God and let the words that proceed from his mouth either accuse or excuse him.
It is high time that we stopped the practice of steaming open the envelopes and reading the mail addressed to someone else.
Let us, rather, do that which is at our hand, stay in the row that has been assigned us and in the calling 'wherein' we are called.
Such ways are the ways of peace.
TENTH. Our final observation is that:
This has not been that for a very long time.
One of the characteristics of the Son of Man was His unique ability to always hit the nail right on the head. I don't have any pressing need for anyone to sidle up to me and warn me about this fellow or that one, what their motives might be, etc. I KNOW man . . and what is in
him . . and what he is capable of.
Jesus Could see . . through.
He was not hung-up on appearance.
Which made it quite uncomfortable for those who opposed Him and even His friends, on occasion.
He was always looking at your hole card.
We lost a great deal of that when Jesus left us. Of course, there were times when it was given others to exercise the gifts of discernment. And to pinpoint events precisely. And to 'know' rather than guess.
One such time was when our friend Simon Peter stood on the day of Pentecost and, drunk on the wine of the Spirit, proceeded to identify exactly what it was that was occurring.
No, these boys aren't drunk, as you might suppose, he told the observers. No, this is not the tail end of a bachelor party or the third day of an Irish wake.
Then what is it, Peter?
And he told them exactly what it was.
"This .... is . . that. . which was spoken by the prophet Joel..."
If there is one thing we all cry out for it is specificity.
That . . is . . that!
We have been generalized to death. The maybes and the hope-sos are killing us. We are riddled with superstition and have been taken captive by confusion.
Because we don't KNOW!
We hope and we think and we believe But we don't KNOW!
Those who walk with God into the New Day will know.
They will no longer shy at shadows or have to put out fleeces.
They will know!
They will not lay scripture on top of scripture and prove their point by much saying.
They will simply know!
The Clear-eyed One will raise up in them and they will know. Generalized knowledge of God is not to be despised. Indeed, we give honor to and recognize the value of that generalized knowledge. But this isn't the day of generalized knowledge. This is not the time to play guessing games about what this or that means.
This is not the day to formulate and to extrapolate. This is the day that requires of us all of our powers and all of our gifts and all of our commitment. This is the day when the 'sign of the Son' will appear in the heavens.
And the Son knows.
We honor and pay tribute to all of those who have gone before us. All of those who have preached the scriptures as the 'word of God'. And all of the good that they might have done.
But this is the New Day of God. And a generalized knowledge of God (such as the Book brings to us) is simply not sufficient.
Dr. Cho makes the point in his book, The Fourth Dimension. He tells how he first came to make the distinction that he now makes between the Logos and the Rhema, the written and the spoken word, the general and the specific.
And how three young ladies from his congregation met a horrible fate while 'standing on the promises', i.e. depending on what God had said rather than on what He was now saying.
The story was that they attempted to cross a swollen stream on the strength of a promise or promises that God had made to someone . .
at some time. And called that having faith in God.
But it wasn't.
They prayed and they shouted and they reasoned and they believed .... but they did not hear!
God did not speak to them!
God did not promise them that the waters would part (as He did the children of Israel). Nor did Jesus say to them, "Come.." as He had to Simon Peter.
No, my friend.
The Logos is that which is true 'in the Book'. To quote Dr. Cho, the
'generalized knowledge' of God.
But it is the Rhema that is the specific, the right-now, the immediate, the I AM word of God.
That which 'proceeds' (not did, at one time, proceed) out of the mouth of God.
The Logos is the 'said word' of God.
The Rhema is the 'now-saying' word of God.
Whatever God may have said is historical, even if that saying is put into the mouth of the Son himself. And historical fact does not alter the present.
Saul of Tarsus was a rascal and is quite apt to remain a rascal as far as the fledgling new church is concerned. No amount of historical fact is gong to change him. It matters little that a God-man by the name of Jesus actually did walk on the same ground that he now walked on and said whatever it was that He said and did whatever He did.
Saul was still determined to defend the established religion of the Jews against it's enemies and was still waltzing off to Damascus to round up as many of the heretics as he possible could.
The historical fact of Jesus Christ did not stop him!
Nor any of the marvelous and miraculous things He had said and done.
Historical facts are important but they are not sufficient.
It was not an historical fact that knocked Saul off of his donkey but a 'contemporary Presence.'
And it wasn't even what God might have said to Abraham or to David or what He may have promised Jacob.
It wasn't even (God help us) what He had said or done through the Blessed son Himself.
Even that was now the 'said' word of God (the Logos).
Hey, Saul, you rascal!
That's right, boy, I'm talking to you!
That's when the old fire-eater bit the dust.
That's when Saul fell off his horse.
When he heard the 'now-saying' word of God (the Rhema).
To those who do not (as yet) understand that God is again (or still) saying, my speech will make little sense.
But we (understand me, please) are promised very little as the result of what someone may have said at some time to someone.
But we are promised 'life' if and when we hear His voice!
This .... is .... that.
The ankle-bone connected to the leg-bone.
God's tune to go with God's lyrics.
Most of our efforts, God help us, have been a bit like trying to sing the Star Spangled Banner to the tune of Mammy.
The story of Helen Keller is a remarkable story. And the tenacity and dedication of her teacher even more remarkable.
She tells the story of the breakthrough. It seems that the young girl was kept in her isolation from the world because she simply couldn't connect this . . With ... that. Even after her teacher had devised a crude system of communication with her, she was still unable to respond properly because the signal for sky, etc. (when pressed against her open palm) held no meaning for her. She could neither see the sky or hear someone describe the sky to her. She was still isolated.
And then, one beautiful day, it happened!
This .... became .... that!
Symbol and object together at last.
And the young Helen Keller saw and heard and felt and knew!
The teacher led her to the well and began to pump the water as she had many, many times before that day. Only this time she pressed into her open palm the signal for w . . a . . t . . e . . r. and immediately stuck her hand under the pump. Again. . . and ... again she repeated the process. The signal and then under the stream of water. The signal . . and
then . . her hand under the pump.
Suddenly the young girl gave a scream.
Suddenly she put them together.
This. . was. . finally and at long last .... that!
And a light went on in her mind that never went out.
May God grant to us the same.
This is that.
When Jesus was confronted by the devil in the wilderness of Judea and while disputing with the Pharisees, He did engage in a bit of Bible-thumping, i.e. He did refer often to that which was 'written'. And even those who believed in Him were glad when He gave them the historical perspective. After all, as He himself said, the historical Record was one of the witnesses that his Father had given Him.
But when it got down to the nitty-gritty (casting out demons, etc.) He didn't quote nearly as many scriptures. He was more likely to simply say to them, Begone! or Hit the road, Jack!
And when He healed the leper and opened the eyes of the blind, it had little to do with what God had said to Him but what God was now saying through Him.
God, thank you for the prophecies and every last one of those precious
We have lived in the contemplation of them and been sustained in our reflections on them.
But promises (no matter how precious) are historical by nature.
It is fulfillments that are contemporary!
Speaking things 'with His mouth' is one of the functions of God. But performing them 'with His hands' is what really makes Him God!
And the ability to perform is what we are really dealing with.
And fulfillments are what we're really talking about.
True prophetic utterances and promises that God actually made are part and parcel of the Logos of God. But it is the Rhema (the now-saying) word of God that brings them all to pass.
When Jesus of Nazareth stood in the synagogue and read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, He was dealing with the Logos.
When He 'closed the book' and 'began to say' He moved into the Rhema.
"This day ... this scripture...... fulfilled . . "!
The one that the prophet is talking about . . is me!
I AM HE!
This is that.
And when Peter stood on the day of Pentecost, he spoke of the Logos also. Hundreds of years before, a prophet had been sent from God whose name was Joel. The prophet had said certain things and someone (the prophet or a friend) had written them down. An what he had said and what had been written down was important.
It was the 'that' of God!
But until 'this' was put with 'that' it meant very little.
"This. . is. . that. . which was spoken by the prophet Joel"!
God is no longer content with the blunderbuss approach to ministry, but has decreed that we should (all of us) "know the Lord" from the least to the greatest.
Because of the decree, we who follow after must move from the general to the specific. And from the Logos and into the Rhema.
The God who once lived in a Book has moved.