On making a difference:
To make a difference, you need to go to a place and a people who are different.
How can you expect to make a difference within the community that shaped you, among people who are like you? “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country.”
* * *
On two kinds of people:
There are two kinds of people:
those who have problems, and find scapegoats; and those who have problems,
* * *
Even the laziest people like to work hard -- but only under the right circumstances.
When he feels like it, a lazy person can work extremely hard. But one thing or another soon happens to distract or upset him, and he loses the will to work. The more this happens, the easier it becomes to distract him, until he scarcely ever feel like working.
The lazy person who is unhappy says, “I am too depressed to work”. The diligent person who is unhappy says, “If I work hard, it may help lift me out of my depression.”
The lazy person sees adversity
as an excuse not to try; while the diligent person sees adversity as a
challenge to try her best.
* * *
On 'Christians' and 'Christophers':
Believers in Christ are called “Christians”, meaning ‘servants of Christ’ (Acts 11:26). However, many so-called Christians ‘serve’ Christ, yet do not know Him. Their service does not save them (Matthew 7:22-23).
Perhaps “Christopher” (that is, ‘bearer of Christ’) would be a better designation that “Christian” for Jesus’ genuine disciples. For true believers do not merely serve Christ, they carry Christ.
Orthographically, “Christ” is within “Christopher”. The legendary Saint Christopher supposedly carried Christ upon his shoulders -- but the true believer carries Christ within himself, not upon himself.
“Christ” is the leading part of “Christopher”. As Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
On the other hand, the familiar form of “Christopher” is “Chris”. “Christ” is in “Christopher”, but “Chris” is in “Christ”.
“Christ” means “Anointed
one”. “Chris” is “Christ” minus the “t”. Jesus fully shares
His blessed anointing with us (John 14:12 ); but He does not fully share
with us the cursedness of the Cross. Only He is the One who
redeemed the world through the sacrifice of Himself; so only He has been
exalted above all others, and given ultimate authority (Philippians 2:5-11).
* * *
On suffering for Christ:
Why suffer for the Gospel, when so many who “simply believe” slip into Heaven without much pain or effort?
Mount Washington in New Hampshire has a road to the top. Tourists who drive to the top reach the same altitude, and enjoy the same scenery, as the hikers who have sweat and struggled for hours to reach the summit.
Tourist and hiker reach the same place – but their experiences are quite different. The hiker exults in his accomplishment; he KNOWS the mountain he surveys from the summit. The car-bound tourist is merely impressed by what he sees.
Remember that the wounds
Jesus gained on the Cross will last for all eternity -- and so shall our
wounds for His sake.
* * *
On the Father's practical love:
Did God really love His Child?
Did God arrange for His Child to be born in the cleanest, safest, most comfortable possible conditions? No. He had Jesus born in a stable. No doctor was present; and quite possibly no midwife either.
Did God give His Child settled conditions for a stable and secure infancy? No. God made Jesus a refugee for the first several years of His life.
Did God seek out a prosperous, peaceful, and powerful nation for His Child’s citizenship? No. He chose Israel, a defeated, occupied nation, a hell-hole of oppression and violence.
Did God arrange for His Child to grow up in an upscale neighborhood, so that He would associate with the “right kind” or kids? No. God placed Jesus in Nazareth, in Galilee, a thoroughly disreputable place even among Jews.
Did God provide for His Child the best possible education at the most prestigious schools? No. Jesus was trained as an apprentice carpenter. It’s a surprise that He even learned how to read.
Did God get His Child involved in sports, or music, or drama, or some other extracurricular activity in which to excel and gain recognition? No. It seems like God was not all that interested that Jesus gain recognition.
Did God pay room, board, and tuition for His Child’s higher education? No. Jesus’ ‘higher education’ was 40 days in the desert, without room or board. Jesus’ “tutor” was the Devil.
It appears that God’s paramount concerned was that His Child experience first-hand what it means to be unsettled, oppressed, despised, and deprived.
Now did God really love His Child?
Do we really love our children?
* * *
The Father will not judge:
Jesus will judge (John 5:22, 27). For that reason, all sins against
Him will be forgiven, for a judge cannot at the same time be plaintiff
or witness. It is not right for Jesus to serve as judge in cases
where He Himself is the injured party (Luke 12:10, 23:34). Instead,
He will judge our sins against the Father (John 5:30, 45). But our
sins against Jesus are in effect sins against the Father (John 5:23), because
Jesus is the Father's representative.
On joint assignment:
“… as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you (plural).” (John 20:21)
Jesus did not send out an assortment of individuals to preach the gospel. He sent out a single Church. When we function as independent individuals, even independent churches or denominations, we are not fulfilling His commission.
Those who act as dominators, become denominators.
Holiness is harsh environment, like the Arctic or the Himalayas. Most people cannot it endure for long. God uses a few people as intermediaries – those who are willing to pay the price to be close to God, who absorb in themselves the raw impact of His holiness, and then transmit what they receive to others. Moses, Daniel, John the Baptist, and Paul all did this. These are people who changed the world. But these are also people who really suffered, because they saw clearly the ignorance, sin and degradation which people have sunk to, and bore in themselves the effects of others' sin (Colossians 1:24).
On society's priorities:
The priorities of the
populace determine the development of their society. What are the
priorities which the Bible expresses? What activities does God see
as important for man? The society whose priorities line up with these
priorities will be blessed by God. (Psalm 144:15)
Christianity IS an inferior
religion. It is a religion for weaklings, wimps and rejects; for
perverts, addicts, and hopeless
cases. It’s a religion for people who have tried everything else, and found that everything else has failed. As Jesus said,
“Only those who are sick have need of a physician” (Matthew 9:12). Only those who realize that they are absolutely
powerless to deal with their own sin, can truly be converted. In this respect, Christianity is the “Alcoholics Anonymous” of
* * *
When you were surrendered Jesus Christ, God did not change you – He EXchanged you. If you want to go back to the same habits and thought patterns you had before you were saved, they are still there waiting for you. Instead, you must continue to walk according to the new self He has given you (Ez. 11:19, 2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 5:16).
* * *
Apart from pride, we may discern something else in David's heart when he numbered the army of Israel (2 Sam. 24). Armies are usually numbered in preparation for war. But God does not rejoice in war. He sanctions war only when it's necessary for the safety of His people, either from invasion or from sin. When these needs are not present, war is abominable to Him. But David continued to look for war, for he was a man of war (1 Chr. 28:3). Violence had so tainted his thinking that he looked to violent means even when they were no longer necessary. Look at the bloody instructions he gave to Solomon on his very deathbed (1 Kings 2:5, 8-9).
* * *
Suppose it once took you two hours to drive to the grocery store. The traffic was always terrible, there were stoplights every 2 blocks, and the pavement was lumpy and full of potholes. But the city has just built a new highway, and now it takes less than five minutes to get to the store. How happy and grateful you are! BUT—the highway doesn’t do much good if you don’t use it!
Now God in His mercy has built us a highway. The highway was paid for and constructed through the death of His Son. (Joshua 6:26, 1 Kings 16:34) This highway takes us speedily to the Father’s storehouse of spiritual blessings. The name of the highway is Petition. The vehicle we must use to travel the highway is Humility. The vehicle is fueled by the Holy Spirit. Let us travel the highway frequently, using the appropriate vehicle and the proper fuel!
* * *
There is a common, grotesque misconception that, because salvation is a free gift, it doesn't cost anything. In fact, it costs everything you are and everything you have. This seems like a contradiction, but it isn't. Though salvation costs you everything, what you give up does not at all pay for your salvation.
Here is a simple illustration of the situation. Suppose you have auto insurance. You get in the mail an offer for free auto insurance. "That's great," you say, "now I can get double coverage." But it doesn't work that way! To take on the new auto insurance, you need to give up the old.
Unfortunately, many Christians try to opt for "double coverage". They want both salvation and the benefits of this world. They end up invalidating both. “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).
Most wars are not clearly “right” versus “wrong”, but rather involve a mixture of motives and justifications: some valid before God, and others not.
The current conflict between "Muslim" Middle East and "Christian" West aptly fits this description. Though we Christians acknowledge Jesus the only-begotten Son of God and Muslims do not, our recognition of this truth does not make us "right" and them "wrong". Atrocities have been committed by both sides. Most recently (especially since the rise of Western imperialism), we “Christians” have used our technological and military superiority to coerce the Muslim nations into obeying our will. If we truly want to be the side which God supports, then we must be the first to acknowledge our abuses of power.
We cannot simultaneously promote God’s interest and self interest. The two must be completely separated.
We often sing “God bless America”. But how often do we exhort, “America, bless God!”? Without the latter, the former is empty.
* * *
Consider the doctor’s role in the healing process. The doctor does not heal the body: rather, the doctor creates conditions so that the body can heal itself. Our role vis-à-vis the environment should be of a similar nature: but currently, it is not so. We create environments which require continual chemical and mechanical intervention. Our lawns and gardens always need fertilizing, weed- and bug-killing, mowing, and watering. We do not create self-sustaining natural environments, because we are dissatisfied with what comes naturally: this is characteristic of our entire lives (Proverbs 27:20), not just our treatment of the environment.
* * *
Jesus says: Do you feel that God has left you? All that pain of abandonment, all of the deep groaning within yourself -- that’s Me. When you felt that God abandoned you, that was Me inside you crying out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
* * *
Are you a Christian? If so, then is there anything in your life which distinguishes you from unbelievers?
It’s true you go to church, pray and read the Bible occasionally – but many unbelievers also have religious habits. It’s true you are honest and moral – but so are many unbelievers. These in themselves are not significant differences.
If you share the same values and expenses, the same activities and interests, the same everyday concerns that unbelievers do – then there IS no fundamental difference. Functionally, you are just the same as an unbeliever. “For where your treasure is (i.e., your money, time, and interests), there your heart will also be.”
* * *
Many different Christians have called me many different names. Conservatives call me liberal; Liberals call me conservative. Charismatics call me traditional; Traditionals call me charismatic. "Conventional" Christians call me a fanatic; Fanatical Christians call me "conventional". Rationalistic Christians call me “mystical”; mystical Christians call me “rationalistic”.
These names give me great comfort. First of all, they show me that I must be in the middle somewhere. I couldn’t be too far off to one side or the other. (though I may be off in an entirely different dimension!).
Second of all, I am absolutely sure that, if Jesus were here, He also would be called names as I am. Because this is what the Body of Christ does to itself. Were Christ Himself here physically (not just spiritually, embodied in the the Church), then the Body of Christ would merely continue its current practice of labeling and libeling itself, that is, Himself.
* * *
Physicists seek for an esoteric “Theory Of Everything” which only geniuses will ever be able to understand. However, again and again the Lord has shown us that His works are readily explained and understood, through analogies with ordinary phenomena which we ourselves can experience first-hand (the spiritual world is the same way, as Jesus clearly shows us in His teaching).
As to how the universe works, most likely the answer is staring us in the face, in the form of an analogy which is ready-to-hand. We simply have not made the connection.
* * *
Jesus did not just come to give you life. Jesus came to BE your life. He said: “I have come that you may have life”, and “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”.
* * *
It’s sad that Samson at his death asked for strength instead of sight. He valued vengeance more than wholeness.
A community is connected only to the extent that the children play together. Community rejuvenation must focus on fostering kids’ play.
Every square inch of road is stolen from small children’s safe play space.
Every ungated fence is an Iron Curtain for kids.
True community safety is found, not in fences and Crime Watch, but in closeness and familiarity.
* * *
The grace of God always intrudes, despite man’s best effort to shut it out (Psalm 139:7-12). Man constructs prisons for himself to wall out God – but the wonder of the Eternal One is manifest in the very stones used in construction (Luke 19:40). The most obscene pornography, intended to corrupt our appetities and alienate us from the life of God, is still vibrant with color which is God’s incredible and beautiful gift to us.
* * *
We Americans need to live fuller, not faster.
We should wake up, look around and wonder, “Why are we moving so fast, and where are we heading?” High tech companies are putting enormous effort into elaborate technologies, with less and less financial return. The entertainment industry makes bigger “bangs” with more bucks, but with less and less effect on audiences.
We need to begin to develop technology which promotes simplicity: simplicity in lifestyle and in relationships.
* * *
"There are so many needy in this world. Surely we cannot help them all."
Jesus lived in a small country. His ministry was limited by poor communication, poor transportation, and racial and political barriers. Not only that, His significant personal influence only lasted for three years. And yet, He touched the poor of the whole world.
* * *
God is the Father of all dramatists. He always snatches victory from utter defeat.
* * *
Believers are our brothers and sisters. We are One Family in Christ.
But what about unbelievers? Are they our brothers and sisters too?
They are estranged children, wayward children -- But children nonetheless. And hence our brothers and sisters.
To be sure, they are also Satan’s children. For Satan has gained legal custody, through the sin of Adam and Eve. However Jesus Christ paid on the Cross to gain custody. He now has the legal right to adopt them on behalf of His Father, that they might be children of God.
However, the child himself has the last word on whom his guardian shall be. He can still refuse Jesus' offer.
Our society despises the spiritually weak:
We parade violence across our entertainment screens. We deify men of action who demolish their enemies with guns and fists, inciting the unstable and imbalanced to imitation. What’s more, we make instruments of violence readily available.
Women seductively flaunt their bodies on magazine covers and even on the streets, arousing lonely men who have no recourse but fornication or, at best, masturbation.
So the weak stumble – and we blame them when they fall! But according to Jesus, WE (the “strong” ones) are to blame, and we merit the more severe punishment (Luke 17:1-3).
Our society has been very concerned about providing handicap access to public buildings. But when will we become concerned about accommodating those who are spiritually impaired?
* * *
The most demonic aspect of modern Western culture is the myth of secular lifestyle: the idea that you can live a successful life without prayer, and without acknowledging God.
In past time, God was a part of everyday conversation. “Goodbye” meant “God be with you”, and was understood as such. Nowadays, virtually all conversation, even between Christians, is devoid of God.
* * *
Whatever is not of faith is of sin (Romans 14:23). Faith implies absolute reliance, and absolute dependence. If you get out of bed on your own, depending on your own strength and not on God, it is sin. If you blow your nose or use the toilet or drink water or take a walk without faith, it is sin. For without faith it is impossible to please God – and whatever you do without relying on God’s power cannot please Him. For only God is good – and any truly good deeds we perform must be expressions of the good which He has placed within us.
* * *
In my experience, speaking in tongues is a tangible expression of constantly living by faith. For speaking in tongues is the body’s audible response to the stirrings of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 14:2). Tongues spoken to oneself in the mind (1 Cor. 14:28) is the inner song of the soul, which builds us up and firmly establishes us in the perpetual presence of God. “Singing in the Spirit” (1 Cor. 14:15), the continuous indwelling of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” ( Ephesians 5:19) is another such tangible experience. Spiritual music need not necessarily be church music, but any type of music which expresses His joy in creation.. At times, we break out openly into the song which resonates inside of us. How many times do we sing at church, but the song does not come from inside us? The only requirement be that the music is a a flowering of the Spirit of God within us, and is lifted up to God.
* * *
Compassion is not sympathy. Sympathy may be found at the bar, among drunks who commiserate among themselves for their misfortune. Sympathy feels good, sympathy is comforting, but sympathy does not bring healing or renewal. Compassion is not shown to people who have been wronged. Compassion is shown to people who know they are in the wrong.
Compassion is not the acknowledgement of hurts sustained, compassion is the forgiveness of sins acknowledged.
Sympathy may be shown to anyone. Compassion may only be shown to sinners.
* * *
The American Church is the intestine of the worldwide Body of Christ: Having received food and blessings both spiritual and physical, and it’s up to us to process and distribute these blessings so that the entire body may be nourished and strengthened. Unfortunately, the American Church is not functioning properly – the Body of Christ has Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS).
I myself have IBS, and the only way for me to avoid internal pain is to eat very simply and deliberately, and to maintain myself in the peaceful presence of God. This also is the only way for the American Church to avoid pain is to do the same: live simply, live calmly, and cultivate the presence of God. Unfortunately, so far we have been unwilling, and we are suffering the consequences: the Church is filled with immorality, alienation, and addiction (religionists take note: ‘innocent’ addictions such as food, T.V., spectator sports, cars, work, gossip, and so on are just as unholy and defiling as drugs and alcohol).
* * *
Western culture promotes
the idea that talent, combined with diligence, focus, and perseverance,
will always bring you to your goal. This is a dangerous fiction.
For every one who reaches his goal, ten crash and burn (Ecclesiastes
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Prov. 16:3)
Focus your own efforts on diligently seeking God. Then He will direct and empower your endeavours.
Labor to enter His rest (Hebrews 4:11). Our labor is to seek Him – the rest is up to Him.
* * *
"They may forget,
yet will I not forget thee." (Is.
He will not forget you -- don't you forget Him. Don't forget you've seen Him in the poor, the destitute, the lost, the abandoned, the blind, the starving, the crippled. Don't forget that whenever you reached out to help of these, you reached out and touched Him (Mt. 25:37-40).
* * *
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, (Luke 19:41)
And God shall wipe away
all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow,
nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former
things are passed away. (Rev.
Surely God wept at the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem, for He is the Father of Jesus, who wept when He saw the mourners at Lazarus’ grave. But He wept for the parents, not for the dead children. He felt the sorrow of the parents, and wept with them. He wept out of compassion for the parents, not out of distress for the children.
On God’s scale of importance, bodily death is a far lesser evil than spiritual separation from Him.
God rewards the righteous with death, and punishes the wicked with the living hell of alienation. Cain was punished with a life of banishment from the presence of the Lord. Pharoah did not die, though tens of thousands of his people perished. The longest-lived kings of Israel and Judah were the wickedest. So intolerable was such a life that Judas preferred death. But death was no escape from his torment (Luke 16:22-25).
* * *
"These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven" (Jn. 17:1)
Most of us only lift our
eyes halfway up to heaven. We seek the things of God, but cherish
the comforts of
earth. Jesus warns that no man can serve two masters. Eventually, a choice must be made between one or the other.
If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you [of] heavenly things? (John 3:12)
Jesus always used visible, physical things to illustrate spiritual realities. Just so, the HIV virus illustrates the spiritual nature of homosexuality.
HIV-positive people may appear to be completely normal. However, their resistance to disease is gradually weakened, to the point where they fatally succumb to diseases under even the slightest exposure.
In the same way, homosexuals may lead apparently normal, outwardly moral lives. However they have cast off the gentle, restraining voice of God's Spirit within their consciences, and have substituted their own feelings and rationalizations. Their subjective, unstable sense of right and wrong is easily clouded and corrupted, so eventually they become easy prey to demonic deceptions and temptations.
Another similarity between the HIV virus and homosexuality has to do with their transmission from person to person. Though HIV is pernicious, it is not contagious through ordinary contact. In the same way, homosexuality may not be caught through ordinary (non-intimate) contact with homosexuals. I would allow my child to attend a school where some students or teachers were HIV positive, as long as certain medical precautions were observed. Similarly, I would allow my child to have a homosexual teacher, as long as boundaries of acceptable influence were maintained.
Now HIV has passed far beyond the bounds of the homosexual community. Most new cases occur among heterosexuals, among whom awareness and preventive vigilance is far more relaxed. There is indeed a spiritual analogy. Even those who have the Spirit cannot afford to relax. Spiritually, we live in a polluted and disease-ridden environment.
On 'Sorcerer's apprentices':
"The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do; for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." (John 5:19)
"I am telling you the truth: those who believe in me will do what I do---yes, they will do even greater things, because I am going to the Father." (Jn. 14:12, MKJV)
In Mark 5:41, Jesus says, "Talitha cumi". In Acts 9:40, Peter says, "Tabitha arise", which in Chaldee is, "Tabitha cumi". Only one letter is different!
Jesus was so explicit in
his example that even a dummy like Peter (or you or me!) could take his
cue when the time came.
Weren't the situations in Mark and Acts almost identical? The same crowd of wailing mourners. The same untimely death of a specially loved one: in Jesus' case, a young girl; in Peter's, a compassionate, generous woman.
In any event, Peter gets the message. He has deja vu all over again. So he does just what he'd seen Jesus do: he sends everybody out, says virtually the same words, and -- hey presto, it works! I feel sure that Peter was almost as surprised, and certainly as delighted, as all the rest.
The whole incident in Acts reminds me of Walt Disney's version of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice". The apprentice didn't really understand what he was doing -- but he just went along and did exactly what he had seen his master do (although in Disney, things quickly got out of hand!)
The story encourages me to be patient with my children and bring them along slowly. I shouldn't expect them to show initiative right away. I should show them exactly what to do, and at first they will just copy. Later on, when they become confident, they will explore variations on their own.
* * *
The world is messed up. The fundamental question for determining my life’s course is (or should be), How can I most effectively help to fix up the world? (2 Cor. 5:18-19) To find the best answer, I must first understand what the real problem is.
There is no lack of good will or good intentions in the world. Most people desire peace, prosperity for all, an end to starvation, a clean environment, and so on. As far as these practical issues are concerned, we all basically agree on what is good and what is bad. Even in problematic issues like abortion, both sides agree that the world would be much better if abortion were never necessary.
The difficulty comes, not through lack of agreement on what is basically good, but on just how to bring these good intentions to pass. Different people have different priorities, based on their personal preferences. Preferences are based on what each individual has learned to appreciate, through his/her own exposure to life and personal experiences.
My contention is that much of the world’s troubles persist because the most deeply spiritual aspects of life are underappreciated by people in general and Christians in particular. God’s invitation to partake comes in a still, small voice, which is drowned out by the more strident voices which fill our hearts and minds with their clamor.
For this reason, some of the more trivial aspects of life have taken on an outsized importance in our life and culture. We are consumed with distractions, and highly protective of our trivial preoccupations. Since others do no share our priorities, then conflict of interest develops. Effective action is paralyzed; efforts are fragmented.
If our priorities were aligned
with God’s, then we could work together with laser-like effectiveness.
As it is, we emit only a vague, fuzzy glow.
Copyright © 1998 CrossPollen
Last Revised: November 23, 2002
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