Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Good Life

When Jesus came to this world He showed mankind something that it had not seen for thousands of years. He came and showed the world that there was something about Him that set Him apart from others. You could -see it in the way acted. You could -hear it when he spoke, sense -it’s presence when interacting with Him. There was something about Jesus and everyone around Him knew it --everyone could tell that He had something others didn’t.

John, one of Jesus followers and closest friend began one of his letters talking about this something in Jesus. (1 John 1:1)

So what is --it? What is this thing that was so noticeable in Christ’s life that even existed at the beginning of time, that people heard, saw and touched?

Was it Jesus Himself? Was it God? Was it love? What was it?

It was life! Life to it’s highest potential. It was what I like to call the Good Life.

In the very next verse of that same letter John says:

that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father.

The word eternal here isn’t just an adjective of time meaning endless life or everlasting life. But rather, it’s meaning has to do with eternal quality, grand quality, superior quality, the best quality. Calling this life eternal means that it is never ceasing in it’s goodness, filled to the brim in its fullness and never ending in its wholeness. It is –eternal.

All throughout His life you can see Jesus telling people about the Good Life. He even said that His reason for coming to this Earth was to give us this Good Life of fullness. (John 10:15) The promise of the Good Life is for us right here and right now. Unfortunately a lot of believers today seem to have forgotten this (or maybe they never realized it at all).

It seems as though many Christians believe that being a follower of Jesus is all about trying to be good here on earth for awhile while they wait to go to heaven --and once they're there things will be good. Now it's true that Christ's followers will be going to heaven and that things will be good there. But, Jesus has also blessed our lives for right here and right now in this world. Isn't that what the Good News is about? When we fully take a hold of the Good Life we in turn are activity involved in bringing heaven here to the world around us. It seems that many Christians don't really believe that the Good News is really all that good. Or maybe they don't understand the good part about it.

Take a visit to some churches and listen to them sings songs like Ring Out the Message and you'll know what I'm talking about. It's first words are "There's a message true and glad for the sinful and the sad ring it out. . ." In many cases you will find a room of pretty sad and depressed looking facess inging a song about a message of goodness that they believe they should take to the world. --Yeah! Ironic, I know! --Perhaps the people in such an auditorium need to hear the Good News themselves! Now don't get me wrong, I don't believe that all churches are this way but some certainly are.

I believe that when a person truly believes that the Good News (the gospel) is indeed good news that you can tell. Let's take the woman at the well in the book of John for example. She was so excited to hear about the promise of the Good Life that she left behind her water jar and went into the streets of town telling everyone that they've got to come and see this man Jesus. --She seemed to believe that Good News actually was good news!

I believe that the Good News of Christ is amazing! It is because of this that I try to live an intentional life. I believe it's important to strive to live in such a way that others can see the manifest of the Good Life in my own life just as it was with Christ's. I try and live this way so that others can hear the Good Life when I talk, feel it’s presence when we interact and see it in what I do so that they too might have the Good Life and thus be added to our community of love and faith --the Kingdom of God. It is the joyous thing to bring others into our Kingdom of love as we all share in the Good Life of Christ.

May we all take hold of the Good Life in such a way that it may be seen, heard and felt by those around us in our day-to-day lives just as it was in Christ's.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An Excellent Example of Christ's Love

recently saw a video that I think you all should watch by Penn of Penn and Teller. Penn is a magician and very prominent Atheist and in this video he speaks of a resent encounter with a Christian who gave him a Bible. You have to watch this! This Christian was very intentional with his actions -and it showed. This man’s genuine love really seemed to make an impact on Penn. I’ve placed the link to the video on YouTube at the bottom of this note. I seems to me that there are many like Penn out there that really just have never encountered a true disciple of Christ and who know very little about the good life that Jesus came to bring. I think that this man that Penn mentions showed an awesome example of Christ love. A love that doesn't care about loss of time, energy spent or even how socially awkward showing your love might be. I hope that you all are inspired by the video as much as I am.

May we all continue to show the world the love of Christ in all we do. And let those like Penn know that we are not "just one" but MANY; an entire Kingdom of Love and Faith.

The War Prayer

The War Prayer is short story full of challenging and thought provoking criticism and satire. In this short story Mark Twain puts his contemporary Christians on stand as he puts to question the prayers and actions of the self-proclaimed righteous who too often act without putting thought into what they so hastily do in “the name of God.” Mark Twain knew that this work would cause great controversy and therefore decided not to publish it while he was still living. When a friend said that he was going to publish the work Twain interjected and said, “Only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I am dead.” Twain made this decision with his family in mind knowing how the public would react to his work. He wanted to keep his family out of the negative spot light of the media since indeed he would have been labeled a fanatic. As a result, the short story wasn’t published until November of 1916, six years after Mark Twain’s death and (ironically) two years after the First Great War broke out.

Even though the War Prayer is nearly a century old, I believe that it’s just as thought and power today as it ever was; perhaps even more so. It shows the importance of a true relationship God with authentic love for Him and for others. I hope that you enjoy.

You can watch the animated version that I've posted above on youtube. Click on that link there for the first half and click here for the second.

The War Prayer
by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:
"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory -- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.)

"Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.