A Sheep Dog Worldview By a Sheepdog Wanna-Be

A Sheep Dog Worldview By A Sheepdog Wanna–Be

By Jane Tawel

October 4, 2017

 

There have often been days when one singular phrase seems to reverberate through my mind in the small byways I travel.  It is a phrase I heard in long gone days that is the title of a book by Francis Schaeffer.  This phrase more than so many others, seems to encapsulate for me what my worldview should daily center around. This phrase which is really a question, seems to circle round, like a shepherd dog does a flock of unruly sheep. It encapsulates the guiding force that should shepherd the many unruly questions I am asking moment by moment in work, family, play, the world’s intersections, and even in solitude in relationship to God and in relationship to what I read in God’s Holy Word.  I have been a bit stunned to learn from college colleagues, that one of the phrases that has been thrown out and therefore not taught to students (perhaps in favor of “common core” –ironic pause here), is the phrase “worldview”.  I have been told by youth pastors that this phrase does not “resonate” with today’s generation.  I am sorry but the Midwestern in me, cries out, “Hogwash! You must be kidding!”. If there has ever been a generation of people who need to understand that every one has a worldview whether they know it or not and live by it whether they know it or not, it just might be this “worldview on twitter -steroids” generation. There is actually a neato little questionnaire they can fill out (although not on twitter).  The idea is very old and there are a standard and historically and culturally applicable, 7 (or 8 depending on your source)  worldview questions.  Here is a link – one of many you can find. This one is from a well -known source from James Sire.  I use it as often as possible in my classes.

 

http://www.christianity.com/theology/other-religions-beliefs/8-questions-every-worldview-must-answer.html

 

So what is my sheepdog? What is the question that has been imprinted by Francis Schaeffer on my feeble worldview search? The phrase is:

 

“How should we then live?”

 

There is a parallelism to the implied answer to that question that adds balance to one’s life.  It is the “If –Then” equation.  IF I believe such and such, THEN I should be reflecting that such and such in my actions and my choices; in my words and my deeds; in my relationships and my viewing material; and in my “heart, soul, mind, and strength”– as The Christ says in Matthew 22:37.

 

So I recently began rereading and newly reading some Schaeffer. And lo and behold, there in the preface were the words of another favorite theologian of mine, J.I. Packer.   People like Packer and Schaeffer, Willard and Lewis, L’Engle and Sayers, Manning and Johnson, Tozer, and Tolkien, and Terese, — these people have become my sheepdogs along with too many others to name. These writers are the THEN answers to my own  IF worldview questions.  They become the sheepdogs who run the other side of my flock of a life—a silly sheep-like flock of thoughts and actions which has a hard time not ambling out of God’s provided pasture.  My little sheep-like mind has a hard time understanding that ignorance is not an excuse for hypocrisy. And I often ignore the sheepdogs that God provides as they try to keep safe the foolish sheep of my mind, heart and soul and to prevent me from metaphorically running off a pride-invented cliff.

 

My sheepdog saints, both living and passed, are there to help my sheepdog questions and try to keep my unruly sheep-thoughts and sheep-actions in line with the worldview I claim to hold – The Christ in the Center Worldview – Christ in the center of everything, from history to the future of humankind, from the Epistles to the Torah, from society to politics, from laws to mercy and justice, and  from Christ in others to Christ in me. Christ the Great Shepherd has provided us with sheepdogs throughout our history.  But we must allow them into our foolish flocks. And there these mighty, brave, wondrously intelligent, loving and caring sheepdog saints work with the Great Shepherd, The Messiah, to guide my little silly sheep-life.  Great saints and prophets do this not out of love of blessing or manna, but out of their great love for the sheep and their even greater love for The Shepherd.

 

I write because it is how I think and learn best, but here by someone so much more of everything than I, are words from one of the great theological sheepdogs, J.I. Packer about one of the other great theological sheepdogs, Francis Schaeffer.  I hope after reading them, you might want to pick up some of my own sheepdog saints’ writings.  At least pause just a moment and ask yourself as I am today:

 

How Shall We Then Live?

If……. Then……..

 

From J.I. Packer in the Preface to Francis Schaeffer’s Trilogy:

 

“Francis Schaeffer was a reading listening, thinking man who lived in the present, learned from the past, and looked to the future… He was an impassioned thinker who paints his vision of eternal truth in bold strokes and stark contrasts… Schaeffer saw himself as an evangelist, called to speak the truth with an uncompromising urgency to real people in real trouble, whose lives have been broken by the relativism, irrationalism, fragmentation and nihilism of our culture today.  And thus I think it truest to call him a prophet-pastor, a Bible-based visionary who by the light of his vision sought out a world in need and shepherded the Lord’s sheep… The essential perceptions which shaped his vision and work:

First Schaeffer vividly perceived the wholeness of created reality, of human life, of each person’s thinking, and of God’s revealed truth.  He had a mind for first principles, for systems, and for totalities, and he would never discuss issues in isolation or let a viewpoint go till he had explored and tested its implications as a total account of reality and life.  He saw fundamental analysis of this kind a s clarifying, for as he often pointed out, there are not many basic worldviews, and we all need to realize how much or haphazard, surface-level thoughts are actually taking for granted… Christianity must be presented in terms of its own presuppositions and in theologically styematic form, as the revealed good news of our rational and holy Creator who became our gracious and merciful Redeemer in space and time.

 

Second, Schaeffer perceived the primacy of reason in each individual’s makeup and the potency of ideas in the human mind.  He saw that “ideas have legs”, so that how we think determines what we are.  So the first task in evangelism, in the modern West or anywhere else, is to persuade the other person that he ought to embrace the Christian view of reality…. This is to treat a human, not as an “intellectual”, but as the human being that he undoubtedly is.  To address his mind in this way is to show respect for him as a human being, made for truth because he is made in God’s image.

 

Third, Schaeffer perceived the Western mind as adrift on a trackless sea of relativism and irrationalism.  He saw that the notion of truth as involving exclusion of untruth, and of value as involving exclusion of dysvalue, had perished in both sophisticated and popular thinking.  Into its place had crept the idea of ongoing synthesis—the idea that eventually there is not real distinction between right and wrong or truth and untruth, and that antithesis will eventually be swallowed up in a category-less “pan-everythingism.” To make people realize how this viewpoint has victimized them across the board, Schaeffer regularly introduced his topics with an historical analysis showing how Western thought about them had reached its current state of delirium.  The aim of these analyses was to reestablish the notion that there is an absolute antithesis between truth and error, good and evil, beauty and the obscenely ugly, and so to refurnish our ravaged and pillaged minds in a way that makes significant thinking about life, death, personhood, and God possible for us once more.

 

Fourth, Schaeffer perceived the importance of identifying—in all discussion on what being a Christian involves – that which he called the antithesis and the point of tension. The antithesis is between truth and untruth, right and wrong, good and evil, the meaningful and the meaningless, Christian and not-Christian value systems, secular relativism and Christian absolutism.  He made it his business on every topic he handled to cover the “either-or” choices that have to be made at the level of first principles and to show that the biblical-Christian options for personal and community life are the only ones that are consistently rational and satisfyingly human.

 

Fifth, Schaeffer perceived the need to live truth as well as think it—to demonstrate to the world through the transformed lifestyle of believing groups that the “the Personal-Infinite God is really there in our generation.”

 

Christian credibility, Schaeffer saw, requires that truth be not merely defended, but practiced; not just debated, but done….

 

What long-term significance has Schaeffer for the Christian cause?  We wait to see. The law of human fame will no doubt treat Schaeffer as it has treated others, eclipsing him temporarily now that he is dead and only allowing us to see his real stature ten or twenty years down the road.  My guess is that his verbal and visual sketches, simple but brilliant as they appear to me to be, will outlive everything else, but I may be wrong.  I am sure however, that I shall not be at all wrong when I hail Francis Schaeffer, the little Presbyterian pastor who saw so much more of what he was looking at and agonized over it so much more tenderly than the rest of us do, as one of the truly great Christians of my time.”

— J.I. Packer, February 1990

From The Preface to  The Three Essential Books in One Volume: Frances Schaeffer Trilogy

 

So how shall I then live, if I want to put away my sheep-ishness and take on the hard work of being The Great Shepherd’s Sheepdog?  I start by keeping my ears turned to the voice of the Good Shepherd and my heart turned to the needs of the lost sheep, even when the lost one is me, but especially when it is another who is lost.

Jesus gave some pretty strong indications about His own worldview.  He completely believed that He was The Center of The Eternal Worldview.  He believed His Worldview of Him as Son and The Father were the only gate by which we sheep could enter into God’s worldview. Here are the words of The Son of God who lived as I did in this world but came to show Himself as Creator-Savior in a Kingdom whose worldview has no end.  I plan on meditating on these words of Jesus while grazing in my own little worldview pasture today.

From John’s record of The Good Shepherd’s Words to us on Worldview:

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.

14-18 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”

19-21 This kind of talk caused another split in the Jewish ranks. A lot of them were saying, “He’s crazy, a maniac—out of his head completely. Why bother listening to him?” But others weren’t so sure: “These aren’t the words of a crazy man. Can a ‘maniac’ open blind eyes?”

22-24 They were celebrating Hanukkah just then in Jerusalem. It was winter. Jesus was strolling in the Temple across Solomon’s Porch. The Jews, circling him, said, “How long are you going to keep us guessing? If you’re the Messiah, tell us straight out.”

25-30 Jesus answered, “I told you, but you don’t believe. Everything I have done has been authorized by my Father, actions that speak louder than words. You don’t believe because you’re not my sheep. My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. I and the Father are one heart and mind.”

31-32 Again the Jews picked up rocks to throw at him. Jesus said, “I have made a present to you from the Father of a great many good actions. For which of these acts do you stone me?”

33 The Jews said, “We’re not stoning you for anything good you did, but for what you said—this blasphemy of calling yourself God.”

34-38 Jesus said, “I’m only quoting your inspired Scriptures, where God said, ‘I tell you—you are gods.’ If God called your ancestors ‘gods’—and Scripture doesn’t lie—why do you yell, ‘Blasphemer! Blasphemer!’ at the unique One the Father consecrated and sent into the world, just because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I don’t do the things my Father does, well and good; don’t believe me. But if I am doing them, put aside for a moment what you hear me say about myself and just take the evidence of the actions that are right before your eyes. Then perhaps things will come together for you, and you’ll see that not only are we doing the same thing, we are the same—Father and Son. He is in me; I am in him.”

39-42 They tried yet again to arrest him, but he slipped through their fingers.

From: The Gospel of Sheepdog John in Chapter 10

Dear Lord,

Let my bark belong to you. Let my ears prick up at the sound of Your Voice.  Let me joyfully work like a dog in Your Kingdom Pasture. Let me know that You have provided for my future when my legs can’t run any more and that you daily provide all that I need for my tasks.  Let me keep my eyes trained on my flock which so easily goes astray and let me always be willing to go in search of the one lost sheep, just as You do.  I am a foolish old hound dog but You have called me to Your side as a co-worker. You are so much greater than I and yet You allow me to sit at the foot of Your table and eat Your scraps. And somehow, You Oh, Shepherd, call me not Your pet, but Your child.  I praise you with meager “woofs woofs” that in Your loving heart You choose to interpret as my earnest and loving praise.

Help me today, to herd ’em up and move ’em on, further up and further in,

Your Ole’ Dog, Jane

7-herding

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Good Grief! It’s Friday!

Good Grief! It’s Friday!

By Jane Tawel

 

 

We were so afraid.

We weren’t used to troubles like this

And it knocked the breath out of us before we could

Catch up to our spirits.

Breath of Life, don’t breathe too close on us today.

We might just faint away.

In fear.

 

We were so angry.

The spin on You went through the stratosphere.

We based our bottom lines on Your success and fame.

We blessed each other in Your name.

Jesus H. Christ, what in the world were You thinking in the end?

Name above all Names, don’t list us as Your close associates.

We might just kill you

In anger.

 

We were so sad.

Now what were we supposed to do

Without You?

We loved You so much, we can’t stop asking why?

Our worldviews can’t contain the fact we die.

Holy Lamb of God, what good is it for our sin to be gone

When You are gone too?

We claim to follow You,

but we walk un-straight in circles,

In Confusion.

 

We are silenced,

watching now from

So many moons past,

The souls that everlast-ingly,

love from beyond, upon the earth-as-it-is-in-heaven,

As our children’s children’s children

Are still and ever and always–

Afraid.

Angry.

Confused.

 

And we long to send our sisters and brothers a message

As Lazarus could not do,

And yet,

No one has ever had ears to hear

Unless heard in the backward / foreward shadow of Your Cross.

 

But if we could speak from our own tombs,

We would cry “Hallelujah” throughout the earth,

For–

The Son of Man,

He too

Who knew

Anger,

Sadness,

Confusion,

and His daily tomb

And yes also,

His final resting place—

 

Today, deemed “Good”,

Messiah God Jehu

Has died, ‘tis true.

 

And yet…..

And yet…..

And yet…..

Good Grief!  It’s Friday!

And yet…..

 

What is final to The Eternal One?

He slipped through hell without His blinders on.

And rode the glory train to earth and back to Heaven again.

We touched Him so we know.

Before He had to go,

He promised us

Our Fridays would not always be

so angry

so fearful

so confused

Our Fridays too could go from good grief

to just plain good.

 

If only we would spend the Weekend with Him.

 

Good Grief!  It’s Friday!

And yet….

 

The Son of Sunday comes!

 

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Fear Not!

Do homage to the Son that He not become Angry.

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

 

Being Part of The Conversation

Being Part of The Conversation

by Jane Tawel

January 27, 2017

My view has been and remains that President Donald Trump is exactly who America has been pretty much since Reagan– I take that back. Pretty much since the American Revolution. Pretty much since the Native American Holocaust (Today is International Holocausts Remembrance Day. The plural is my addition. Yowza. It is going to be a depressing sobering day — it was a lot more sobering and depressing for holocaust victims though, so…..).

America has always been leaning towards and is now truly an oligarchy of the rich –especially rich and big businesses.Obama tried to make a difference and while I don’t agree with every thing he did, he did change the conversation. That is critical to remember as we continue The Conversation — if nothing else we should mirror his restraint and integrity and respectful speech. I have failed but I must try. This is the Jesus Way– truth with a heart of love. I happen to believe it is not the American way– but I happen to believe it is not the political way any where. Politics always has and always will be about money and power. Only the hands and mouths change.  There are rare people in history who change the conversation –Jefferson, Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham, Joseph of Egypt, Daniel, Mary, Jesus of course, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Elie Wiesel, St. Francis and Benedict, Martin Luther King. But mostly Jesus. Jesus completely changed The Conversation and it was pretty much not by what He said, but what He DID.

Now all of you young people need to stay focused on what throughout the history of mankind has been accomplished in The Conversation and you must own the problems you inherit, I am sorry to say. You must study history and the bible and all ethical and moral humans and scribes that have lived and decide that you can make a difference in the corner of the world in which you live.Then you must start doing it.

And do not be sucked into speaking and thinking and acting as whomever you perceive the enemy to be. This is why Jesus advises us to love our enemy — vengeful actions merely deplete and destroy self; while positive or loving resistance to evil has a way of bringing God into the equation in ways you can not anticipate. It brings your God-image into the equation in ways you can not imagine. You treat your perceived enemy with the respect you do any fallen, sinful human being.This is why we “love others as we love ourselves” because we are fallen sinful, confused, broken human beings with the capability to do amazing great creative miraculous things.  Just like the great heroes of history and just like the only begotten Son.

And you figure out what you can do daily, weekly, to make a difference in the actual space you live in.  If protest propels you to act intentionally, then it is the right thing for you to do. If it is only releasing energy– either positive or negative energy — and then you feel either satisfied or  depressed, then you need to find a positive way of speaking into the universe we share — speaking not just with your mouth but also with hands and feet and minds. And primarily you need to find an action to help someone more needy than yourself. This too is the Jesus Way and how humans are best created to exist.  For white people this should be people of color. For men it should be women. For adults it should be children. And for Americans it should be 3rd world countries and the homeless and the mentally ill and physically ill in our own country. And of course for Christians it should be all of the above as we are commanded to do.  So my part of The Conversation now to speak to myself and all of you is simply:

I hear you. Now what are you going to do about it?

Here is the part of The Conversation I am meditating on today:

The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; Isaiah 61:1

Find your broken-hearted ones, and serve them with truth and love.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
 James 1:22

Time to roll up our sleeves and do something about it. Find your part of The Conversation in the world, and just Do It.

 

The Christmas Letter 2016

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The Christmas Letter 2016    Justine, our eldest at (unbelievably!) 26 years, arrived home late last night from Virginia where she works for Enviva, a company that makes environmentally friendly fuel.  This morning she gave me a big hug and laughed, “Mom I think you are shrinking.”  I smiled, “Why of course I am! As children grow bigger, we parents grow smaller.  It is the way things are supposed to be.”  When our children are born, we look at their cherubic faces and say, “you complete us”.  As our children grow up, we say, “you deplete us”. But as nerve-wracking as all those food and college bills are, depletion is not bad. Shrinking for one’s children is only minorly painful. To deplete oneself for those not one’s own, however, is painful and technically unnecessary, but is in fact a calling to Christ’s upside-down kingdom life, especially when it has to do with the sowing of one’s resources. Isaiah, that great prophetic voice, tells us that “if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” I pour out my prayers that the angels that once manifested in my children’s cherubic faces, will stay perched on their right shoulders, protecting and speaking truth and light into their souls. I pray that my kiddos will humbly keep being seekers who will sow truth and light into a world that seems increasingly dark, as before a great storm. And I pray to feel personally burdened and responsible for all “little ones”, all those hungry for justice and afflicted by transgressions, those that have no one with spiritual or material resources to draw on. I pray to shrink myself for all the little ones, no matter their age, who watch as the giants are busy gorging and growing fatter, and the “little faiths” starve. As Isaiah foretold: May it be that our “Young men and women prophesy” as have always the great prophets from Abel to Jeremiah to The Baptizer to Saint Joan d’Arc to Martin Luther King, depleting themselves on the altar of justice, truth, and love.

 

I like Advent. I relish anticipation, unlike my 82 -year -old mom who gleefully never met a surprise she desired to keep. Perhaps because of my having spent so many years, waiting – for the curtain to open, for the baby to arrive, for the lightbulbs in the minds to turn on – I have always loved the anticipation elements of this season.  But among the many revelations of this year in the country in which I sojourn, I have had a paradigm shift in how I see Advent and the celebration of Christ’s birth.  We modern First Worlds have filled this season with hindsight’s happy, happy, happy– while in fact, for the actual person we say we celebrate, for the Messiah, “Christ – mass” was a dark, hopeless time filled with the utmost evil this world can offer. Wars, tax gouging, prejudice, “ignorance and want” as Charles Dickens might add, and a host of greedy power-mongers trying to rule the world—these are what brought Jesus’ family to Bethlehem. The anticipation of Mary and Joseph was perhaps mostly, “will we get out of this alive?” The Christ’s earthly parents were among the depleted people, with literally nothing to give their little one–symbolically wrapping Jesus in burial cloths, perhaps distressedly anticipating an early death for the poor baby.

 

So ironically as I have lately felt periodic senses of dread and depression and sadness and sorrow, I realize these feelings are truly perhaps the most “Christmasy” feelings I have ever had.  See, I am rich.  I am one of the rich wealthy ones.  Where we err as we celebrate Santa and all the free stuff he brings those who don’t need anything, is that we have turned Jesus into the Savior Santa that gives us free stuff – including salvation—gifts to people who don’t need them. We are the rich who mistakenly gamble that at the last minute, we will still be able to order and buy the God of Lazarus, no strings attached, full -warranty provided.  But Jesus never offered living water or the bread of life at a discount. At a time in history much like our own, Dietrich Bonhoeffer dubbed our Walmart attitude to salvation, “cheap grace” – the desire to believe God requires nothing of us in exchange for all of His Son’s riches, when in fact God requires every thing of us. To understand the Story of the Christ child, you must have a radically new way of seeing and being. You have to be starving to grasp it.  You have to give up everything to own it.

 

News Flash – there were no rich people at the first Christmas.   You can Snopes it. As the baby who became The Son of Man later told folks, “It is hard for you who find complete sufficiency surrounding you – you rich people –  you who believe you are saved because you are the elect and thereby you justify yourselves – it is difficult for you to need anything– and you do not understand nor do you choose to enter into God’s kingdom. It is harder for the rich to carry God’s anguish, God’s punishment, a desperate daily God-sized need – almost impossible to carry the cross – harder for you to willingly enter in– harder than it is for a private jet to fly through an oil pipeline, harder than it would be to import big screen televisions to Aleppo.”

 

Of course we Clausians (“Little Santa Clauses” instead of “Little Christs”) have gotten around that pesky problem by putting the frankincense and myrrh bearing kings snuggled next to the shepherds lurking around Christ’s cradle. What actually happened, though, is that the wise kings entered the scene much later, anywhere from weeks to years after. They had a lot further to travel, those rich folk.  It was a lot harder for the rich kings to enter the Christmas scene than it was for the poor shepherds who were waiting for jobs outside Home Depot – I mean tending their flocks by night.  And here is why our changing the rich folks’ entrance is so disastrous to our understanding of Christ and Christmas– because we use the Magi to justify our hyped- up lifestyle and gift giving and extravagance, and attitude towards the poor –not just at Christmas but in all seasons. Because we want to still stay rich and still stay kneeling at the manger. By erroneously placing the Magi at the birth, right next to the destitute and deplorable shepherds, we get to keep our worldly vision of what a “real” king is like. We tragically prefer serving the bling-laced authority of the Terminator Herod and all his cronies –the powerful, the glutted, the strictly religious First World authorities—finding it preferable to kneeling before the small helpless naked babe in the dungy swine trough. The wise men were wise because they rejected the false flashy authority of Herod and staged a non-violent political and religious resistance to Herod’s and Rome’s and Israel’s religious/ political empire, thereby helping to usher in a changed world kingdom- a revolutionary world that even angels marvel at.

 

But first, possibly for several long years, the wise Magi had to seek and seek and seek and seek and journey and journey and journey to find the real King of the World. When they saw Herod, they knew at a glance that he was not the one they were seeking. Not the real deal at all.  When the alien outsiders found the true King of kings they worshiped him. And because the wise ones depleted themselves in worship of a foreign King it ended up that– possibly unbeknownst to them– their kingly gifts  saved Messiah from the death at the hands of Herod and his ilk, death that awaited many of the other Hebrew babies. The Magi used their riches not to gain but to honor. The gifts were not extravagance but necessity for a displaced fleeing poor refugee family in danger for their lives. The gifts for the God-king helped delay the eventuality by thirty years for Jesus to be wrapped in swaddling clothes for his burial. The wise men who came from foreign lands, possibly even from enemy territories of Israel and Rome, worshiped with all they had a king who, with their gifts, would be able to immigrate to Egypt, enemy territory of Jesus’ religious and national homes.  And later this same Jesus would bring Hope to the hopeless by preaching and establishing a peculiar type of kingdom in which all His subjects and inhabitants must live out radical love to their enemies. And so as the great Magis shrunk into the distance of space and time, the Christ-child grew until He held the whole of space and time in His hands. The Christ grew big enough to flip upside down the whole world.

 

Today Justine and Verity, home for break from her third year at UCLA, worked out at our local YMCA.  I tagged along and yakked with my workout buddies, Bill the ex-postman, Sammy the ex- Russian gymnast, and David, the ex-military black guy (well, he’s still black but he’s no longer military). David told me about a metaphoric event happening at the Y today. The YMCA was hosting a doggie pool party. I was wishing we could take our old doggies, Jolie and Daisy, but they hate to get wet. The Y invited almost 100 dog owners to bring their dogs for a swim before the pool was drained for cleaning.  I love it because of course that is what the Babe of Bethlehem later did when He left His job (ex-carpenter) to go into ministry (Note to self: Ministry means you don’t make money off of it.)  Jesus invited all the dogs (the Gentiles the irreligious, the foreigners, the poor, the persecuted) to a pool party, because Jesus was getting ready to shut down the Pool for a cleaning out and a whole new kind of baptism. At the doggie pool party, anyone could come – with a dog — but the regular YMCA pass was no good. From the time of Jesus’ very first birthday, the party invitations have been sent to all. Star-sealed. But the traditional passes of wealth, and honor, and diplomas, and celebrity have never worked. So the rich usually don’t show up to the pool parties of Jesus. At His first birthday party, it was the poor, the needy, and the sinful who actually showed up, sitting right next to the sheep. And it has often been the same kind of folk who, without a pass, are out there swimming for their lives, doing the doggie paddle with all their “hearts, souls, and minds”.  The God-king baby who would become a carpenter, became a Life-Guard, and ultimately would became a Lamb. Someday the Lamb of God will be having a reunion party with all the shepherds. I think there will be a lot of dogs there too. I hope mine will invite me along.

 

We have had a lot of dream-building happening on our house – hard work for our two men.  Gordon at (unbelievably!) 18 years has contributed a lot of muscle and man power in between finishing up his high school senior year and concurrent community college classes.  As Gordon and our neighbor and contractor, Joe, scaffold and saw and nail, Raoul designs and oversees the classy new siding going up all around our home.  Raoul is the artist – and his dreams are large and lovely.  Raoul’s company Mosaix continues to help other companies realize their own particular dreams.  We have dubbed Raoul, “The Dream Weaver.” Several in our family had dreams come true this past summer. Clarissa, Verity and Raoul traveled together to Paris, France. Clare and Verity experienced for the first time visiting another country and Raoul revisited a place from his childhood. Although France has lately had its share of nightmares, it was still able to provide for our three, some dreams come true.

 

The prophet Isaiah said that in these end times of the second advent before Christ’s coming– not as Savior but as King– that “your young ones will prophesy but your old ones will dream dreams”. As Raoul and I hit those milestones of aging, perhaps our prayers should more and more resemble large and lovely dreams rather than merely wish lists. To shimmy two Shakespeare quotes together, “to dream things true–for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.” I have felt lately and intensely the pause in which anticipation lives, the pause awaiting hope. It is the feeling you have when you wake after a lovely dream and you just want to stay in the dream a bit longer, not waking up yet to the reality of the day ahead. We who own so very much must start dreaming for more than mere stuff for ourselves.  We must dream of a world for everyone, where, as in all of God’s intended worlds, there is no more sorrow, no more fear, no more pain, no more want, no more ignorance, no more hatred, and no more want. Then we need to stop dreaming about it, get started on our day and start creating it. Just like our house siding, it will take hard work, clear intelligence, team spirit, patience, and hope. But then, we have a Master Carpenter who laid the foundation and oversees the crew, so we are secure in the competent nail-scarred hands of the Dreamer of Worlds.

 

We who have been blessed with long life, need to keep strong “the stuff” of dreams. God often had to use dreams — especially to get ahold of adults, including some in the Christmas story. Perhaps God uses dreams because often we big people lose our childlike ability to shrink small enough for faith and joy to bring back Wonder and Awe. And we to readily let the strong pull of the world’s temporal reality deplete our hopes. We forget that God has a different reality ballasted in Eternity, on earth as it is in the heavens beyond heavens beyond heavens.  We must keep believing that though it is immensely hard for the rich to enter God’s kingdom, the Man-God Jesus also assures us that no matter who we are and what we have “with God, – all things – are possible”. The Magi entered God’s kingdom. So can we. IF.

 

We who seek truth and light must stoke the embers of dreams deferred (to quote another great poet/prophet).  We must hold in one hand, sorrow and angst and in the other hold faith and hope. We want the world’s young ones to have hope and with hope, to prophecy against all darkness, living as strong bright cities shining on the mountaintops.  We want the world’s old and tired ones to have hope, and with hope to still dream of a better world.  We want the world’s rich ones to have hope and with hope to deplete themselves for the love of God and all of God’s children. We want the world’s poor ones to have hope and with hope to say, “Blessed are we for ours is the kingdom of heaven”. We want every one of us to have hope and with hope know that we are so truly beloved that we can love others, even our enemies.

 

How does one hope against hope? This phrase from Romans 4:18, refers to a man named Abraham, an old man who is said to have “In hope against hope, believed.” Well, if the aged centenarians, Sarah and Abraham, can keep believing, keep hoping, keep dreaming, then so can we. As the old hymn proclaims, it is when “my hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” – when all we have is weighed on the scales and is so depleted that the scales tip in favor of God’s righteous cross-bearing upside down kingdom.

 

How do you hope? Well, you accept it as a gift, as “the thing with feathers” as Emily Dickinson reminds us.  And you study it as the prophets always have. Whenever you walk in darkness, you put on your armor and you fight the evil that seeks to destroy hope. You joyfully serve others who cannot get a purchase on hope. You laugh hard and long whenever possible to dispel the oh so serious fears. As Frodo and Sam do you keep living your own part of The Great Story– without hope– but with enduring faithfulness.  And you trust the Man-God who in the end had absolutely no hope at all, but who had faith in the Father-God – in Yahweh who needs no hope because HE IS– beyond need of hope – BEING All things Always for All.

 

Dear God, let me keep shrinking, and letting others grow. Let me become like a child, asking only for what I need and can hold lightly in my hands.

 

The Wise still seek and the weary still hope. There are many people throughout the world hopelessly wondering figuratively and literally if “we will get out of this alive”.  This Christmas I don’t want anything at all that Santa has to offer.  What I would like is Hope. Not just the hope I need.  But Hope overflowing.  Hope to share. Hope that changes the world. May we stoke the small embers of Hope and the Wind of God makes us a flame, until the world catches on fire with the hope of the Return of the One True Holy King. May our small acts usher in a kingdom where the small people rule and the meek shrinking ones reign.

 

This Christmas, may your family’s merriness be rooted in Hope. May we learn to pour ourselves out and may Christ’s light in us, like the star at Bethlehem, rise in the darkness so that all those who journey seeking God, may find Him.

 

Hoping against hope, from the hopefully “Incredibly Shrinking Woman” who hopes that Raoul and I might one day say, “Honey, We Shrunk the Kids!”

May it be a Hopeful New Year.

 

From –Jane—- and Raoul, Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon Tawel

The Sky Is Indeed Falling and There are Wolves in the Woods by Jane Tawel

The Sky is Indeed Falling and There are Wolves in the Woods

by Jane Tawel

My husband and son call me “Chicken”.  I have somehow lost all my other nicknames, including “wifey” or “mom”.  And now that I am the sole female left to live amongst my two men, their daughters and sisters having moved to different Dreamlands, I am beckoned or lovingly teased by being called “Chicken”.

Raoul and Gordon tell me I have achieved this moniker because I am always, and they mean ALWAYS, screaming. Shrieking, they claim.  Hence, I am a “chicken”.  Evidently I not only scream during scary and violent movies, which I am now forbidden to watch in their presence, but I am told I also scream, when in the passenger seat; when someone quietly comes up behind me unexpectedly; when some thing bangs in the wind; and I scream, when, or so I am told, a fly lands on the counter, a kitten walks by, a child sneezes, an ant passes in front of me, or someone silently nods their head unexpectedly. I am a Chicken.

I have lately been called, I think “Chicken” perhaps by many of my friends and family.  Perhaps not to my face, but, there is definitely the feeling that many consider me “Chicken” in the sense of the old fairy tale, “Chicken Little”, or “Henny Penny” as the Brexits call it.  It is true.  I have been unable to clear my head ever since the large piece of firmament fell on it in the last weeks, toppled from the sky, Made in the USA,  in the land in which I live.  I have been running around, screaming, “The Sky is Falling!  The Sky is Falling!” My head literally still feels numb and aching — as if my head will blow apart — from the very large chunk of celestial  matter that fell right on top of my mind.  It is like a window in my mind opened up, was blown to bits in fact, and I could suddenly see out on a world that I might have suspected was the reality in which I lived, but which I could still turn away from.  Now I feel as if my mind’s eye is forced to look out that blown out window at what my world — physical, human, and spiritual — is really like after all. It is mind-blowing — like being hit on the head with a sky boulder.

The phrase, “The sky is falling” is meant to imply that the person, or “Chicken” saying it, is foolish and hysterical — humorous –if it weren’t for the fact that the chicken convinces so many of her friends — the Duck, the Goose, the Rabbit — to panic and run with her because the sky is falling.  All these peaceful, non-aggressive truth-seeking animals eventually let the Fox lead them to the Lion — the King of the Forest. The Fox assures all the wrongly hysterical animals that  the Lion will confirm whether the sky is in fact falling or not.  Of course — the Lion assures them they are hysterical and that the sky is in fact not falling.  Then he eats them.  The clever, wily Fox enjoys the leftovers.

So you see, even though everyone tells the story as if the Chicken is foolish and wrong, in the end she is right.   The world might not have been ending right then for everyone, not necessarily because the sky was literally falling, but Chicken Little’s world of peace and unity and justice and love and joy, did end. Just not the way she expected.  The sky is falling is a metaphor —  and of course some of us believe metaphors are always truer than fact — deeper Truth needing to be told in pictures or poetry. The World doesn’t get better. It does actually end. It ends because a predator capitalist fox and a greedy power-mongering lion, ate Chicken and the other animals — not because they were hungry, but because they could,(and because Chicken was irritating).   Just like in the past, a predator fascist Fox and a greedy power mongering Lion ate other animals. And a predator communist Fox and a greedy power-mongering Lion ate other animals.  And  a predator Khmer Rouge Fox and a greedy power mongering Lion ate other animals. And before that a predator European Fox and a greedy power mongering  Colonist Lion ate other animals. And before that, and before that, and before that, and before that, and before that. . . .

And once a Fox named Herod and a Lion called God’s Chosen People Judah, killed a Chicken named Jesus.

And throughout time,  Chicken Littles are mocked or calmed or silenced. Or crucified.  Chickens are told that it is time to move on– “The sky hasn’t fallen, Join us!”, — and we all need to just go back to the pretense of getting along. But Chicken Little was right. Because unless we are caring for the sky, and the earth, and the children, and the other animals, and each other, and Yahweh, and unless we are caring for justice and truth and free will and sharing and serving and mercy and love and shalom — well then,  the sky  is always going to be falling.  The climate is indeed, always changing. And we want to look at a dark night sky and call it daylight. But the sky is falling. And it always has been, since The Fall. Falling. Falling. Falling.

Until Jesus comes riding in on the clouds. Then the Falling will stop.

Trust me, this doom of mine really bugs people.  You are so bugged right now. And I do not blame you. I am not a very good prophet — not really one at all — I am after all,  not Chicken Little but, as  my boys will tell you, I am “Little Chicken”. I don’t mean by this story I’ve retold here, to compare myself to any true prophetic voices — but there are plenty of true prophets out there.  They are even more irritating that I am because they are much smarter and more spiritual than I.

And I don’t blame you for being upset.  No one likes to hear their Sky is falling. Not even Chicken Little– after all she keeps trying to prove to her own self that she is wrong! She is looking for signs and people to convince her she is wrong.  But her head is still hurting from the blow and she is still looking out of the window. And she can’t not see or feel. And she can’t not hear the voices of the prophets, written on subway walls and in Bible verses.

After the prophets are shut up or killed, the people  left don’t care. They can finally move on.   They get to live on with the knowledge that they were right.  The sky didn’t fall after all.  And so everyone gets to say, “I was right, see. You were wrong.” Only a wee part of the sky fell and that part doesn’t affect me. Everyone is safe in the knowledge that they were right.

Except Chicken Little.  She’s dead.

 

You know, the Lion of Judah — the real Aslan — compared Himself to a chicken.  In his own words, Jesus said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 13: 34, 35)

Jesus’ hearers would have remembered their scripture and the words that God Himself spoke to His Chosen People, Israel in Psalm 91, when God compares Himself to a Chicken.

Surely he will save you

from the fowler’s snare

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

 

.  Perhaps what has really made my mind go numb lately as if a piece of the heavens had fallen on top of it, is the forgetfulness of God’s people about Who God is, Who Jesus is.  About my forgetfulness about Who God Is. You see God and Jesus are Chickens.  God and Jesus try to warn us over and over and over again, through their prophets, through their Words, through metaphor and myth and story and laws and examples– through Jesus’ non- powerful death as a criminal on a cross — through The Father’s non-greedy serving heart — God warns us that the Sky is Indeed Falling– but that you, dearly beloved, do  not need to panic like chickens with your heads cut off. You do not need to look to any one — not the Fox nor the Lion — to tell you the truth and save you. You do not need to fear or grasp, or grab, or deny, or fall by the wayside and curl up in a little ball of denial. BUT — (God loves this conditional conjunction and uses it often)  BUT!! — My beloved little chicks, says God: You do need to waddle along  on your little feet and imprint on Me, Your Mother Chicken.You do need to obey me. You do need to repent.You do need to follow in the ways of my servant Son. You do need to see and speak the truth.  You do need to love.  You do need to be different.  You do need to trust Me.  You do need to converse with Me and listen.  You do need to walk the narrow path. You need to seek The Kingdom and The King. You need to lay up treasures that don’t have a president’s picture on them. You need to worship in humility and joy not power and comfort. You need to cover yourself not with the strength of the Lion, but with the blood of The Lamb.

But you know, there are always people who want to see God as being on the side of the Fox and the Lion. There will always be those of us who can not submit to a God who uses feathers not claws. There are always people who will do semantic and spiritual gymnastics to get the leftovers. We always prefer the powerful because we prefer not to trust. And so the sky keeps falling and people call it evolution. And the world never changes til the end, but we call it progress. And the prophets are killed and we call it reality. And the Son of Man weeps and calls… until He judges. And one day He gathers His chicks to a new earth and a new sky.

You know to be honest, of course, the Chicken Littles really just want, like everyone else, to turn off the violence, and not look at the signs, and not scream any more, and go back to pretending that they were never hit on the head with a piece of the sky.  But until this Little Chicken gets tired and folds her cards and admits she is trumped. . . . well, as any one will tell, you, I hate gambling so until I get that tired…..  I’d rather read a good story and keep inviting you all to hear Good Stories as well.

Tomorrow I will tell you the story of “Peter and the Wolf” — another prophetic myth seldom told any more.  After all, the “Wolf of Wall Street” is a lot more fun to hear. And The Ending is to die for.

“Chicken and Her Men”

 

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Fishing For Food for Thought

Fishing for Food for Thought

“Catch and Release”

by Jane Tawel

October 1, 2016

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So, the problem is I have long had this idea that you are supposed to analyze things and figure stuff out and think critically about things.  I believe as many others do that this makes one smarter and wiser. The PROBLEM is, that some times when you apply this thoughtful principle to thinking about other people, you end up becoming not a critical thinker but a critical human. The definition of “critical” when used for valuable thinking is thinking that uses careful reflection for analysis.  The definition of “critical” when applied to another person is to judge severely and often too readily.  Jesus advises us not to judge people but to wisely use our judgement to think critically and grow in wisdom.   But when thinking about “stuff” becomes an inability to let go of negative thoughts about others, then we are not critically thinking, we are thinking critical thoughts. We are criticizing, not analyzing. Our “thoughtfulness” becomes “thoughtlessness”.   The mind ever so sneakily shifts from analyzing in order to understand to condemning to bolster pride.  Suddenly one might realize that she has actually stopped thinking and without realizing it she is instead feeling. Feeling is always “suspect” in terms of navigational reliability, whether you are madly in love or so angry you can’t see straight. We use metaphors to imply that the Heart always needs the Mind and the Will to moor its reckless meanderings. The Bible and all great poets from Shakespeare to Eminem write about the tricky Heart and how it masquerades as a thinking organ.  Our current rich First World View seems to honor the heart i.e. feelings i.e. myself over the mind, the will, the seat of reason.  And when the mind is stimulated to thought by a negative emotion—large or small — then the analytical, rational, “need-to-understand” part of a human begins to deteriorate. Much like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, the obsession begins to take over the person, and “my Precious”, unseats the image of God in me. This is the judgement  that is sin not wisdom. Whenever we sin, our God-image created ability to do and will, and willfully be creative is replaced with an image that is sickly, obsessive, and less than human (or hobbit)-like. Our stature shrinks and we become fixated and obsessed with one thought – holding on to the precious “fishy”.

 

So lately, I’ve tried to apply a fishing metaphor to my problem because I’m weary of:

  1. Feeling negative, grumpy or irritable so much
  2. Feeling helpless to change another person or the situation
  3. Feeling guilty for doing the wrong thing (God calls it sin and we should feel guilty until forgiven — but it’s tiring)
  4. Feeling like I just don’t have time to waste obsessing about negative things or negative people. (Although I believe in eternity, my current lap around the track is more rapidly nearing the Finish Line  each day.)

 

But!!! (she says in her defense) –I still feel like I have to figure out what is going on – even if only so I can stop doing all of the above.  I still feel that if I can just understand, comprehend, assess, analyze, think it through — then I can either avoid the feeling, avoid thinking about the situation, or avoid the person. Maybe.

 

SO………

 

I have come up with a new fishing hole so to speak.  I have determined I will allow the thought, I’ll look at it, do some figuring over it and then as soon as I have analyzed it, I will not think about it anymore. My new brilliant, copyrighted program is called…..

 

The Catch and Release Program

Or

“Throw the Small Fish Back In”

 

I’m going to “Catch and Release” all my little criticizing negative thoughts.  I will still reel in the fishy – that’s unavoidable — but I won’t make it my “precious”.  I won’t bash the fishey’s head, scale it, (do you know how much wasted effort goes into scaling small fish?!)  and take it home with me; there’s just not enough flesh there.  AND –anything too small, too insignificant, too unnourishing to keep, to digest, to “ingest” to make me a more wholesome, nourished human being – any thing too petty, scrappy, silly, tiny, or obsessively consuming — I will THROW OUT.  I will release these small fry ideas back into the shallow waters where they belong. I will quickly reject the negative “guppies” and “minnows”.  I’ll make sure that what I keep –and keep thinking about –are important things—things meant for some growth, either on my part or for someone’s else benefit. And ultimately I will try my best to keep thoughts only fit for the Kingdom. The King of that Kingdom, Jesus, was a great one for guiding His disciples into where to cast our nets for fruitful fishing.

 

Catch… but Release.

 

BUT …here’s the “Catch”. I am one of those disciples that it seems more often than not  keeps fishing out of the wrong side of the boat.  Here are the catches that keep me from being a “fisher of lives”.

 

 

Catch #1:  I’m a keeper. A hoarder, perhaps. Small thoughts store themselves in the corner of my head and I fear letting even one go or I might miss something. I still keep blurry photographs because it hurts me to throw them away. This is like hanging on to memories of bad stuff.

I need to release these remembered unourishing fishies to The Past.

 

Catch #2:  I’m not completely sure I am truly seeing the right “size” of the fish. My mind’s eye is not 20/20. Maybe I could skin it, bone it and cook it.  Maybe it’s not as small as I’m making out. I’m a worrier that I’ll miss something.

I need to release worry fishies to The Future and “let tomorrow take care of its own problems”.

 

Catch #3:  I keep catching the same darn fish.  The little boogers keep grabbing my mind’s line every time I throw it back in the big lake of thoughts.  Same darn little fish.

I need to release obsessive “take up too much of the net” fishies to The Present and to anticipate with hope great things happening – Big Kingdom Fish in my net. I must practice sitting still and praying patiently– in the very moment in which I live– waiting in peaceful stillness for the Big Ones to bite the Hook of Hope.

 

One question I’m left with – how small can I make BIG things? Or rather what seemingly, apparently BIG things could actually be “small fry”? If I put on Kingdom glasses, how would the World’s BIG things look? I mean really, don’t I pretty much blow many things out of all proportion in terms of fretting, getting angry or irritable, or just obsessively thinking about them?  That is– if I believe that the bible’s worldview is true?  If I believe that as Christ tells us, the fish are really all on the other side of the boat?

 

There are indeed big things that we are commanded to either mourn for or fight against or both. There is evil still and monsters in the sea. But in Christ’s Upside Down Kingdom, even those big things in this world are a bit like the monster fish in the fairy tales or “tall tale” stories, where the fish  gets bigger and bigger in the fisherman’s imagination and finally all the fish, even the minnows, are shark size.  Even large problems – newspaper problems, political problems,  pain problems – in the Kingdom Life of Christ the King– truthfully — aren’t they really smaller than they appear?  Just like the ads warn us: “Items in this picture may seem larger than they are in real life.”  Items in this World’s picture definitely appear larger to us  than they appear to God and to us if we live within God’s Real Kingdom Life. Life fishing with Jesus, Life with The Fisher of Men, Life walking on the water out of the boat towards Jesus, make even the sharks not quite so very large. And without doubt, make it imperative to get the guppies out of our nets so there is room for the souls of our fellow humans.

 

So I hope that maybe today I will not worry that I am not smart enough, analytical enough, worldly enough, right enough to figure out all the fish in the sea.  I will also not obsess about the “ones that got away”.  I will focus on the fish God puts in my net. There are plenty there for me and if they are wholesome, good, nourishing thoughts, then there is plenty there to share. All the rest that I catch, I will quickly release.

God provides an abundance of good fish for His children. And God “loves to give His children good things”. We just have to keep our eyes on Jesus and follow his commands to know where to cast our nets.

And Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of souls”. Matt. 4:19

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What’s In Your Center?

A Devotional Thought on Christ-Centeredness

By Jane Tawel

June 7, 2016

As a lot of Christian businesses and churches do, at my work place we talk a lot about being “Christ-centered”.  Do we know what that means?

 

What does “centered” mean? The definition in the Oxford Dictionary is “having a central axis” and we Christians must believe that our “axis” goes through the whole earth. Our axis is the cross of Christ.  That central axis of Christ’s cross is true and it always points due North. So “centered” means our life compass points due North through the cross of Christ.

 

What does “Christ” or Cristos mean?  The Greek word “Cristos” means “the anointed one of God, The Lord”. The overriding biblical meaning of Christ is the anointed KING. So we are saying that we in this place, in this world, in this nation, city, office, house, in this community– serve Jesus the Cross bearer – the God-image bearer — as The King of the World. We serve.  Jesus spoke a lot about himself as the King and what His Kingdom and His followers were like – or where, and how and what His Center would be.

 

In John 18:37 We find Jesus confirming his kingly identity to a mere politician of this world, one who will soon put the Ruler of the Ages, The King of All Kings to death on a Roman cross.  Jesus tells Pilate. “For this was I born.” To be the King.

 

To His first disciples, Jesus offers no cheap grace. No excuses. No alternatives. If you want Jesus to be the center, if you want Him in charge, if you want to put His name on your propaganda, if you want to be Christ-centered, then you must do as He says.  Which of course would include the whole testimony of YHWH, all the laws and prophets, and God-spoken words which we find in the Old Testament.  Jehovah’s law was Christ’s law. “I came to fulfill the law, by my Kingly rule in my upside down Kingdom.” God’s word was in Christ– The Word –from the beginning. God’s word IS Christ. The Word of God in Christ is the Center of the universe, of time, of our history and of eternity.

 

Luke 6:46: “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do as I say?”

 

Jan Victors in “The Anointing of Jesus” writes:

 

To use the word “Lord” displays an attitude of obedient submission to a greater power.  Jesus seems even to expect that those who call him Lord obey him.  To his listeners he asked, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) To call him “Lord” or to call him Jesus “Christ” is to say that he is the King that God has sent who has a right to reign over us. 

This has implications about how we define ourselves as Christians.  Usually, we talk in terms of doctrines and beliefs, but the very word “Christ” calls us to more than assenting to a creed.  If Christ means King, a Christian is one who considers Jesus his Lord and King, and submits to his reign. (Victors, OurRabbiJesus.com)

 

So what does that mean? Well it means that our number one thing on our renewable daily “To Do List” is that, day by day, moment by moment, we live as if only Jesus were around and as if we were the only Jesus around – as if the image of God that was in Christ Jesus is in me.  You are created to be the image of the unseen God just as the True Image Bearer, Jesus The Christ, was and is.

 

At my  Christian school the faculty was asked to discuss the new and revised “Statement of Faith” that we all must sign. There were several folk who were discussing our Faith Statement and remarking that to them, the word “evangelical” which was used in several places, means different things to different people.  Not to put them down in the slightest, but let me just tell you what “evangelical” means to me.

Being “evangelical” means that I live as if the very most important thing in all the earth is the human soul. My soul.  And Your Soul. And that because my soul was created before time to be eternal. Ephesians 1:4 assures us that “even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.”

 

The Human Soul, which is every thing that sets us apart from all else, our mind, our heart, our will – that “very good” thing that God created is a valuable and valued thing to the holy, living Creative God, three in One, YHWH, Jesus Messiah, and the Holy Spirit alive in me.

 

Because of that, because I was bought with the greatest price a God can pay to redeem a human soul  from the weight of sin, the agony of death, and the curse of eternal separation from the Creator – God paid that price through His only Son with His death from the weight of my sin and as a propitiation on a cruel cross – because of that, then I must take to heart that what the bible says is true about the King and His eternal kingdom – a Kingdom established before Time, real in the present, and fulfilled with a new heaven and new earth in the future.

 

So what does The King say about how His redeemed should be centered in Him?

 

John 3:3 –  “You must be born again. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a human is born of the water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

 

Matt 16:26 – For what shall it profit a woman if she gains the whole world but forfeits her soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

 

Matthew 19:23: And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Matt. 23:25 – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

 

 

 

When is the last time I asked the King to point out the dirt inside my cup?  When is the last time I confessed my greed and self-indulgence?

 

We live in beautiful vessels – healthy, well dressed, nice colors of skin.  At my school, we claim to have Christ “in the center” of what we proclaim to be the most beautiful high school campus “of its kind” in the San Gabriel Valley.  But what “of its kind” is this place?

 

No matter if we call ourselves a Christ-centered school, or Christ-honoring church, or Christian nation, or a Jesus-Freak– If we are putting things on from the outside, with statements and policies, creeds and lifestyle statements,  fields and uniforms, trophies and landscaping, higher grades and deeper benefits, winning streaks and more free food — but our insides—the soul of us so to speak — are not washed clean by the blood, are not purged from sin, are not daily under the ministrations of His nail-scarred hands, then we are hypocrites. If we choose to hide or ignore the dirt – if we are more self-centered than Christ-centered – then what is at the center of us?

 

You know when you get those candy boxes and you aren’t sure what filling is inside – so you take a bite and quickly spit it back out because it is some ooey gooey fake berry filling and not the lovely caramel and nuts you had hoped for?  Our King says if His Bracingly Cold Fresh, Clean Living Water is not at our center – or if His Hot Purifying, Bathing, Cleansing Water is not at our center, then like a stale, icky Sees “lukewarm” candy, God will spit us out.

 

In Revelations 3 Jesus says as much to The Church at Laodicea – but He could be saying as much to me.

 

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

So here is my last “evangelical” word for now: He knows our centers. He formed my center. He adores your center. And He knows if Christ is there. I can’t put Christ’s name on the outside – it needs to be from my inside. We are commanded not to ever use The Lord’s name in vain – and in vain means I give Him credit He doesn’t want. It means I am really pushing my agenda ahead under my own steam, but just to make sure I want to use – in vain–without really turning anything over to Him – I want to use the power of His Holy Name – in case. Usually it means I put His name on something that rightfully belongs to this World’s kingdoms, and policies, and politics and powers. When my compass is off, then rather than journeying the central axis that leads due North, I am not only not centered, I am spinning around in circles, with an ever changing, ever confusing center.  I’m off center, not Christ- centered. No matter what I wish were true.

The King wants to know us for who we were best created to be – not okay, not so-so, the best. And He longs for us to know Him –Jesus Messiah– The Center of the Kingdom, The Center of it All.  “My sheep know my voice.”

 

In  Matthew 7: 21-23, Jesus looks at the human souls before Him in the final judgement and speaks these chilling words: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Evangelical? Definitely.

 

When I hear that from the Center of the World, I am very afraid. It’s sobering news. But it’s also good news! Because nothing else matters if you have Christ in the center. It’s doesn’t matter who will run this nation – that is peripheral – It doesn’t matter who wins the game – it’s a game. What matters is – the King is in the Center.  “Ring around the King –We all fall down – and worship.”  Evangelism means I ask every one: Is He in the center of your soul? Right now?

 

 

Jesus is very clear about how we are to live for Him.  We are to crucify ourselves  (Gal. 2:20) We are to put others before our own desires  — even our enemies – we are to not to merely tolerate, not be simply nice, not even to chivalrously turn the other cheek – we are to love others, even our enemies, as Christ loved us.  (Matt 5:44) We are to love God, YHWH, the Holy God with every part of our being – heart, mind, soul, and strength (Luke 10:27).  And we are to worship the Lord, the King – as a King above all kings and Lord above all lords. Rev. 19:16 on his robe and on his thigh it is written King above all kings and Lord above all lords.

 

I believe evangelical means that I can not shut up until every one knows intimately as a bride knows her bridegroom — the ruler of this universe – my King Jesus – until—

10  at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11)

 

I believe Christ- centered means I submit to the king as a servant of all and that I allow my soul to be refined for eternity, for if Christ is not in the Center of this very moment for me, then He is certainly not in the center of a place – school, family, nation, business office, house, or church building – all of which will pass away as all temporal things will.

If Jesus, The King is not sanctifying my innermost parts into His image daily, then He is certainly not at the center of my job, my family, or my friendships. With everything the world has to offer but without Christ in the Center— I am nothing. But Christ in me, means I have nothing in this world but everything in God.

We should be sobered – and elated both – that the description of The Christ that we are proclaiming to be in our very inner most centers comes from: Philippians 2:6-11

6     Jesus, The Christ —who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,[a] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

If today my soul were a piece of candy, what would be in my center?

 

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