Sacred

I stood in a room of lilac walls with three doors. I opened the golden door on the right and the light inside was glowing red. The walls were red. The man inside the door shouted, “It is horrendous to kill an unborn baby, to rip it apart in the womb!”

I closed the door and walked over to the other golden door. I opened it up and inside it glowed blue. The woman inside cried out, “It is insupportable to deny a woman’s right to get an abortion, because what she does to her own body is her constitutional right!”

I closed the door and walked to the third door. This door was wood and white but smeared with dirt and green vines crept along the wall branching out around it. I moved slowly, silently toward it. I reached out my hand and opened the door.

Inside there was no light, but the vines were very green and thick trailing back into the black within. I crept forward and was instantly struck by how silent the place was– as if 1000 ears were listening and none dared to utter a peep to disturb what was being heard. I entered in further away from the lilac-walled room and my eyes began adjusting to the black. The walls were green, but by no paint, purely made up of the things living in this room. Where do they get their sunlight? I wondered. This room looked long-forgotten.

I stepped on a small, leafy sapling twig, which broke making a tiny keek. The effect rippled through the vines of the room and myself concurrently. Both shuddered, calamity filled my heart with ache, and the vines gently pulsed.

But then it returned to the quiet. Something was different. I knelt down to examine my offense. The little leaf was dangling. There was nothing I could do. I shed a tear from my eye which I dribbled with my finger down the stem. It seemed to accept my contrite offering with an unassuming nod.

I looked around the room again. The vine below me was as thick as a sledgehammer-head and ran along the ground to the far wall. And as I looked I saw that a shoot came off from it and increased in length, though much thinner. As I looked, it was clear where the thick vine stopped and where the thin vine began, and yet both were the same vine.

But the answer to the riddle in my heart was not to be found here. My eyes followed the thick vine back into a dark corner of the room. Then, for the first time since entering the room, I started to see traces of light through the thickly-packed growth of the vines clogging every wall. I stepped carefully, and with gentle hands pried close woven vines apart, until I could see: there was a window! And not merely a window but a corner of two glass walls! It had been growing so long that the inner part of the room was deprived of sunlight, but it was still very much alive!

Then I knew where I was. Here was a room with no floor; it was planted in the earth. And all around there was life and beauty and expansion even into the lilac colored room. Here was a room that needed more sunlight to see its beauty.

Then I understood: this vine is living and filling the whole space with its stalks and off-shoots. And yet, it needed care, cultivation and someone to stay here and make it beautiful. Someone who loved the plant could decide how it was best to be kept. It was rightly owed to the root, to the planter of the seed, and the owner of this multi-directional sunroom, for his plant to succeed in its design: full growth. The root decides what will grow, and the wise caretaker must decide once the sapling has had a chance to grow how it will aid the master plan.

I stayed there and received instruction. And I asked my Friend who was with me:

“What do You think?”

“There is more.”

I worked gingerly, painstakingly, and boldly to make room for more sunlight. The effect was unimaginable. The light peered in an ever-widening beam through that dark jungle like a sudden brass solo out of a silent orchestra pit. The vines all reached their tendrils in the direction of the light. The light peered past me into the lilac room, and the vines followed. I kept directing, braiding, organizing, and feeding the stalks around to allow light to shine through. The doorway to the lilac room soon became so overgrown I did not know if I could enter back the way I came again. This however was indeed where I had come to fight the battle for life, and I could see that life was winning again.

Soon, the vines which had sought to wrap around me many times suddenly started popping with life. I turned and looked and saw the lilac room floor, wall, and ceiling was well-lit and now beautified with jasmine, and the fragrance filled the whole room with the sweetness of new life.

All except for the Red and Blue rooms. Their golden doors did not open to let the plant nor its fragrance enter in.

I stepped carefully back out of the room now swarming with life, and as I wiggled my way back into the lilac-colored, now flower-covered room, I turned to the door and started to clean away the dirt smudges on the front of it. As I did a word became clear, one letter at a time.

“Sacred.”

I have seen Enough–Part 3

Suddenly, countless gleaming jewels of all different colors covered the surface of the earth. Each one in turn told the Story in a different way. Their multi-colored glow grows brighter and brighter.

The one who stood to the East said:

-I see the tree a bounty of seeds has born.
-The fruit is sweet yet hemmed about with thorns.
-Broken o’er creation again is the new light of day.
-Brightening more brilliantly, chasing night away.
-The Man also, he is reborn
-With joy he bears suffering and scorn.
-His re-creation has made him play and sing
-To his Creator for all things new making.
I . . .

The one who stood to the South said:

-I see the world still fallen down so steep.
-Injustice’s wounds have run so deep.
-Still there is something which smacks of injustice
-To self, so that others may become rich.
-The Man also, is failing and broken.
-He toils to heal deep wounds unspoken.
-He chooses to make himself nothing
-That through his poverty others might have life abounding.
I have . . .

The one who stood to the West said:

-I see death here still takes its toll.
-Like a great tide it’s waters still roll.
-And yet each death like a crushed leaf.
-Bears the promise of life that spells death’s defeat.
-The Man also, his days are few.
-His death is like to the Man who knew.
-Yet, in his end, he bears witness
-Of the life beyond which he meets with bliss.
I have seen . . .

The one who stood to the North said:

-I see the powers of the world are crumbling
-They thrash and clamber to scramble out from tumbling
-Into the chasm opening beneath to finish him off
-As a new kingdom eternally takes its place built on solid rock.
-The Man also, rejects power as futile.
-He takes his stand while the earth sinks around him.
-He opens his arms to receive the penitent
-And the power and riches of the new Kingdom, he shares
. . . enough!

And The Voice came from the throne above:

“Have you seen enough?”

I Have Seen Enough Part 2.

Then all four looked and recognized something in their midst and each in
turn said:

I see a tree sprung up from the ground.
I see lifeless limbs bear the grief for those standing around.
I see lightning split death’s silent sky at the ninth hour.
I see on display the prize and ends of all wealth and power.
The Man also, is bringing new life by dying.
The Man is weak yet showing enormous strength
The Man is finished, yet eternal in his impact
The Man is powerful, yet makes himself nothing.
This doesn’t make sense.

Then it went deep into the center of it all, and the four saw the transformation:

Can it be? It is as it was from the beginning
Can it be? The poor are clothed in raiment of splendor
Can it be? The dead are raised to life everlasting
Can it be? The wealthy and powerful on earth are defeated
See the Man also! He makes all things new.
The Man in his weakness is made strong
The Man has died once, now lives forever.
The Man is worthy of all honor and power.
We have seen enough.

Then the Man rose up to the One who was above them, and sat at His right hand and said:

“There is still more.”

I Have Seen Enough–Part 1

And the one who stood to the East said:

– I have seen Your life and it is good
– Each day begins with light and hope
– Each tree bears fruit and sweetly carries
– The glory of the tree for a while tarries
– The Man also, his life is good
– Each birth is a bright sunrise of hope
– In his offspring Heaven’s joy is sweet
– And the prime of his life is sacred.
I have seen enough.

And the one who stood to the South said:

– I have seen frailty and emptiness and loss
– Poverty sweeps the world like a flood
– Broken relationships twixt all things bringing sorrow
– And when all is done, if it matters none can know.
– The Man also, is weak and fraught with loss
– His injustices strip him of his dignity.
– He fights his neighbor and both are filled with sorrow
– His life is fleeting, and if it matters none can know.
I have seen enough.

And the one who stood to the West said:

– I have seen the end of all things.
– The Past: the receiver of all that lives in time.
– I see Darkness deepening where once was light.
– The stop is sudden. then all is silent night.
– The Man also, his end is near
– His works may out last, but only for a time.
– His heart is dark staring into that night
– The end is inevitable whether wrong or right.
I have seen enough.

And the one who stood to the North said,

– I have seen both wealth and power.
– They course through the world like a poisoned flower
– They rob the weak many and feed the rich few.
– They kill the righteous and boast against You.
– The Man also, is drunk with wealth and power
– He raises his glass, toasting himself man of the hour.
– He squashes the poor and praises the brutal
– He slaughters the righteous and wars against You.
I have seen enough.

And the One who was above them said,
– “There is still more.”

A Quiet Voice

I speak. Will you hear?

The governing bodies of America are shifting
Like tectonic plates underground.
One presses from New York city skyscrapers
The other presses from the Appalachian Mountains
The molten center is in our capital.

One rises with Nature and Nature’s God
The other builds a tower to the Heavens
One rules by Constitution
One rules by Progress
They clash over one man.

His feet trample the mountain grass
He’s empowered by the wheels of progress
Yet the mountain people praise him
And the city-dwellers raze him.
Why?

He accepts the boundaries of stone
And breaks the bands of silicon.
He pushes back on man’s frailty
Establishes natural rights fruitfully.
A volcano is not self-centered.

Betwixt these moving forces mold
A new way through the new and old
One must accept God’s quiet voice.
As we are led to the defining choice.
A choice that may not be either or.

New growth must retain the life of the old.
What is that life, and where is it hidden?
Ask the quiet voice.
It will tell.
Listen.

The Bible: The Analogy of the Three Testaments

Recently, a friend of mine told me that he believed the church should prioritize Paul’s teachings over Jesus’. Another friend told him that can’t be right. After all, if Paul learned from Jesus, we should prioritize Jesus’ teachings right? I believe this is a wonderful question and I believe the answer can be found by comparing the Old Testament Law and Prophets.

Old Testament

In seminary I learned that the Old Testament has three sections (Torah or Law, Prophets, and Writings) but the last two of those sections are exposition or explanation of the first section. One professor put it this way. “The Old Testament is the Torah and the rest of it is exposition of the Torah.” Another way to say this is that the Torah gives us the definition, the boundaries, the seed of what is to come, and the rest of the writings (The prophets and the writings, or just “the Prophets” for short) just explain how it happened in real life. Example: In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people, “You are going to go into exile, and God is going to bring you back.” (Deuteronomy 29-31). Read 2 Kings 17. You’ll see why He sent them into exile, and read Nehemiah and you will see what happens when God brings them back. Again, I will say it. The Old Testament = Torah + Exposition of the Torah.

Now if this is the case, which should we prioritize in the Old Testament? My answer is this: The Old Testament is set up in such a way that you need both of them to make sense of it. If you just prioritize the Prophets, chances are you’re not going to have much guidance to understand the plot of what’s happening. Why after all, did Elijah shut up the heavens in 1 Kings 17? (The Prophets) Because in Leviticus 26:18-20, God said he would shut up the Heavens if the people disobeyed. (The Law). If however we just prioritize the Law, then we will get lost in semantics and not know how it is rightly to be applied. Example: Leviticus 25 said you should give your land rest every 7th year. (Law) but we see in the Prophets what happened to the land when the land was NOT given rest every seventh year. (The Prophets) Within the Old Testament God does not leave us in the dark but gives us not only the seed of the tree, but also what the tree looks like when it is full grown. The seed of the Tree is God reaching out to love Israel. The Tree itself is God being faithful, and the people of God being faithless. We need both of these to rightly handle the word of Truth. We also need to use both rightly so we don’t get the cart before the horse.

New Testament

Now, this wonderfully simple pattern of understanding God’s word couldn’t possibly be the pattern for the New Testament could it? What major sections of the New Testament are there? The Gospels and the Writings (History, Epistles, and Prophecy) In essence, we have a repeated pattern of the New Law and Prophets.)

Does it work the same way? Is the New Testament, the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament exposition on the Gospels? Yet again, we find that God’s Word in the New Testament not only gives us the seed, but also the Tree. It shows us the Teachings of Jesus in their powerful demonstration and the proof of their truth, and then we are given in the writings what those teachings applied looked like in historical and instructive ways. Paul applied the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6 during the sermon on the mount about worry when he wrote tot he Philippians, “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” But Jesus’ teachings about how to treat your neighbors would not make as much sense to us who are not Jewish unless Paul and Luke expounded on them for us who are the nations outside of Israel.

So then, which do you prioritize? The teachings that directly apply to the nations (The New Testament Prophets) or Jesus’ words themselves (The New Law)? I see how I would lean personally, but once again, I must keep the whole in perspective. Just as the Torah is expounded in the Prophets, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word, so the Gospels are expounded in the Writings, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word. Both have a relationship that must be rightly kept in humble interpretation of each other.

But still there is one more layer to peel back, which I find rather wonderful and sobering

Our Testament

Now that we have a canon of Scripture, the Church is interpreting the Scriptures to the World in every culture, tribe, tongue, people, and nation. We have, in both Testaments, the pattern of the house, and now we are responsible to enforce, to explain, to bring into reality God’s Word as it is revealed through both Testaments. The question left to us is how is this Scriptural revelation of God going to brought to full expression in the world. Or to put it in another way:

What is the Kingdom of God today? Our blueprints are established, and the writings of the Prophets both old and new have shown God’s way of bringing His word to fruition. It is the power and leading of His Holy Spirit that brings God’s kingdom here on earth among his people. And this Kingdom is going to be the final testament to the nature and character of the God we serve before He comes again.

What a tremendous privilege and responsibility!

To show it visibly, I came up with this Analogy of the Testaments. Can you solve the analogy?

What is the answer?

The rule of humor is you give two similar things one after the other, and then the third, you bend slightly to get a laugh. May the church not make God’s Kingdom the biggest cosmic joke that will make those watching to mock our God! Instead, may we be led and empowered by the Spirit to make of the church what the Spirit seeks to make of the Kingdom of God.

Lightning Rod

I see him scrambling to the top of the building.
The lightning flashes all around him, but does not strike home.
He is the only hope they have for power
Because the rest of the people stay inside the lower building praying
And he is the lightning rod.

The classic architecture white and sturdy
Bears him up as he slowly reaches the highest point.
He had passed the gates and open field
He was admitted at the door of the house and allowed to serve
He submitted his appeal to the Highest office in the land.

The wizened Ruler had stared back at him incredulous
“What makes you think you could restore power?
Don’t you believe that your God can help you out without your sacrifice?
Let me give you the power you need, you can stay alive.
Just be my servant, and I will give you everything you want.”

The young man had looked him in the face
Unwilling to surrender that charge which he had carried thus far:
A lightning rod in his hand connected to his darkened home.
He told him, “The power is not yours to give.”
“I go to seek the One who is ruler over you.”

With permission, he had broken forth into the rain like hail.
His charge in hand, his clothes drenched with Heaven’s tears
Now at the top, he stretches himself upwards
And blazing from the sky above the connection is made
Power without limit surges through his brittle frame.

The prayers of the people are answered with self-sustaining light
All the house is enlightened by the revelation of Heaven’s power
The young man knew what this would cost him,
And now charred and scorched like a rag in the ashes
He crumples to the roof and rolls off to the ground far below.

When the Ruler looks out the window, he sees something good:
A power above that could not be rivaled
And one young man who gave his all.
So that others might live in the light of life
He closed the curtains and made a call.

The Joy of Persecution

I saw joy’s fire burning white
In a heart of flesh hidden from sight
Cruel thorns slashed gashes gaping wide
And there spilled out a glorious light

What mystery is brought to bear
When crushed plants’ perfume fills the air
The sweet aroma soft and fair
Arousing those fellow-crushed to care

I heard a spirit blowing past
Being split upon the metal cast
To rend the air with full-lunged blast
That screamed the music breathed at last.

What other ways, has He made known
The joy of new life, despite death grown?
To the humble of heart, proof He has shown
That the joy of the cross can be my own.

“For the joy that was set before him…”~Hebrews 12:2a

The Cynic and the Gospel

“But there’s no happy endings
Not here and not now
This tale is all sorrows and woes
You dream that justice
And peace win the day,
But that’s not how the story goes” ~Nick Urata — Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events

My response: What? Yes it is! Haven’t you heard the Gospel?

Cynic: Pipe Dream.

Me: How Love is the Supreme Ethic?

Cynic: Child’s Play.

Me: It wasn’t child’s play for Jesus who died on the Cross to make it so.

Cynic: Too long ago.

Me: *remembers Legend of Bagger Vance, where Matt Damon’s tells his beloved that their love life was “too long ago.” And the girl says, “No it wasn’t. It was just a moment ago.”

*Considers that this is the very reason for the Church today: to bring Christ’s death on the cross into the here and now. This is the message of the Lamb’s unsealed scroll in Revelation: the only thing that will bring repentance is when the impenitent world sees the followers of the lamb imitating the same loving sacrifice of the Lamb, giving their lives for others.

*Looking lovingly at the Cynic and says, “No. No it wasn’t. It was just a moment ago.”

The Mountain

A young mountain grew taller and taller. The rocks grew stronger and stronger. The mountain took its shape, and started oozing with lava out the sides. One part of the rock split from the pressure, and the weakness of the stone. Another part of the rock split with a burst of flame and lava, and so another rock sculpture was being formed. The wind and rain beat against the rocks, and lightning struck from stormy clouds, and some rocks broke from the mountain. Some rocks refused to bend and be consumed, and they were covered over by the new waves of the same lava which formed the whole mountain. The shape of the mountain now was becoming a monstrous mass of various peaks and crags, but no single mountainous shape.

Then, all of a sudden, up the original central shaft, a burst of fire exploded from the top of the mountain. It spewed such a mighty and rapturous noise of New Earth, that the sidelong peaks crumbled and fell inwards toward the center, and the lava from the top filled in the crags and shapes with its blessing, until at last, it stood: a mountain reaching the heavens, filling the whole earth.