"Nuggets" from Friends
Last week, I asked a circle of friends from all over the world to send me the "latest, freshest" experiences they were having with the Lord. What a week of constant delights in reading their replies!
Here are some of my favorite lines and thoughts from their return emails:
A quote from an interview with Tim Keller (who passed away just a few days before) - "There is a famous short story by J.R.R. Tolkien called “Leaf by Niggle.” Niggle is a painter who spends his entire life trying to paint a mural of a tree. By the end of his life, he has only gotten one leaf completed. Then he dies. But when he gets to heaven, he sees the tree that was always there in his mind. That is the way of the Christian."
"I have been struck in a fresh way by the accessibility that Jesus offers me - that I don’t have to muster up or do anything to earn access to Him. I can come just as I am with nothing to offer but myself."
"No matter what I am facing, which some days feels like a lot, to know and trust and believe and rely on this amazing truth. JESUS IS WITH ME. Right here. With me. Thank you Jesus. Truly."
"Jesus shows up in everyone, if our eyes are open. The bummer is that sometimes it takes [really difficult times] to…open my eyes…..to see all of what he has for us……this is the Kingdom of God come down."
"[During a meeting this week,] I found my mind wandering to a walk with Jesus. Mind you: this never happens to me. But it was just enough cacophony of the world that I wished that I could leave. I pictured a quiet walk with Jesus and the peace & gratitude for all that I have. And that... that moment is enough."
"Psalms 3:5- (modified into my own language for myself and those who I’m mourning for) - When I sweep my sin under the door, my body wastes away. As long as I pretend I’m fine without God, I will face one disappointment after another. Even my wins will be blunted and fall short of full satisfaction. My vitality gets drained just as the earth is when scorched by fire. But when I acknowledge my need for help and stop ignoring my shortcomings, you are there waiting calmly and peacefully ready to forgive me and bring true life back into my mind and body. You sprout new growth in my life and nourish and strengthen me."
"I have just been thinking about and so grateful for Jesus’ kindness this week. He’s so kind and really does not need to be or owe it to us. There are a couple of places in my life that he is making such a clear “way” where I thought there was no way. What’s been getting me this week is that He always does it with His loving kindness. It’s often (not always) so gentle that I don’t even realize He’s doing it or correcting me or guiding me until I am through it."
In pondering on the Ascension of Jesus: "It feels impossible to rise from that place of utter love, full of tears and sorrow and confusion - to a place in my brain that processes language."
Friends, isn't it amazing to think that, anywhere anyone opens their heart to our Savior, by the power of the Holy Spirit, He still speaks like this!
Remember, this day: He is alive!
Just over a week later, the disciples were indoors again and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood in the middle of them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your fingers here—look, here are my hands. Take your hand and put it in my side. You must not doubt, but believe.”
“My Lord and my God!” cried Thomas.
“Is it because you have seen me that you believe?” Jesus said to him. “Happy are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!” (John 20:26-29, Phillips)
* * *
“The answer of Jesus to Thomas is clear. Jesus was saying to him: ‘Thomas, I know that you do not understand what is happening. No one understands. But whatever happens, you have got me. I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ In this world, in the last analysis, what we need is not an argument but a presence. No argument is convincing, and what Jesus offers is not an argument, but himself.”
The Master’s Men
The Inwardness of the Kingdom
"Our Lord saith that the Kingdom of God is near us. Yea, the Kingdom of God is within us as St Paul saith 'our salvation is nearer than when we believed.' Now we should know in what manner the Kingdom of God is near us. Therefore let us pay diligent attention to the meaning of the words. If I were a king, and did not know it, I should not really be a king. But, if I were fully convinced that I was a king, and all mankind coincided in my belief, and I knew that they shared my conviction, I should indeed be a king, and all the wealth of the king would be mine. But, if one of these three conditions were lacking, I should not really be a king.
"In similar fashion our salvation depends upon our knowing and recognizing the Chief Good which is God Himself. I have a capacity in my soul for taking in God entirely. I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me than I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and presence of God... [Man's] happiness increases and diminishes in proportion to the increase and diminution in his knowledge of this. His happiness does not arise from this that God is near him, and in him, and that He possesses God; but from this, that he knows the nearness of God, and loves Him, and is aware that 'the Kingdom of God is near.' So, when I think on God’s Kingdom, I am compelled to be silent because of its immensity, because God’s Kingdom is none other than God Himself with all His riches. God’s Kingdom is no small thing: we may survey in imagination all the worlds of God’s creation, but they are not God’s Kingdom. In whichever soul God’s Kingdom appeareth, and which knoweth God’s Kingdom, that soul needeth no human preaching or instruction; it is taught from within and assured of eternal life. Whoever knows and recognizes how near God’s Kingdom is to him may say with Jacob, 'God is in this place, and I knew it not.'"
From the sermon "The Nearness of the Kingdom"
A Prayer of "Simple Affection"
“Grant Thy servants, O God, to be set on fire with Thy Spirit, strengthened by Thy power, illuminated by Thy splendour, filled with Thy grace, and to go forward by Thine aid. Give them, O Lord, a right faith, perfect love, true humility. Grant, O Lord, that there may be in us simple affection, brave patience, persevering obedience, perpetual peace, a pure mind, a right and honest heart, a good will, a holy conscience, spiritual strength, a life unspotted and unblamable; and after having manfully finished our course, may we be enabled happily to enter into Thy kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
- A prayer of the Third Century Church
All He Was/All He Is
“A God humiliated, even to the death on the cross; a Messiah triumphing over death by his own death. Two natures in Jesus Christ, two advents, two states of man's nature.
“Saviour, father, sacrificer, offering, food, king, wise, law-giver, afflicted, poor, having to create a people whom He must lead and nourish and bring into His land...
“He alone had to create a great people, elect, holy, and chosen; to lead, nourish, and bring it into the place of rest and holiness; to make it holy to God; to make it the temple of God; to reconcile it to, and, save it from, the wrath of God; to free it from the slavery of sin, which visibly reigns in man; to give laws to this people, and engrave these laws on their heart; to offer Himself to God for them, and sacrifice Himself for them; to be a victim without blemish, and Himself the sacrificer, having to offer Himself, His body, and His blood, and yet to offer bread and wine to God...”
What I Have Become/What I Am
“I am no more than a child, but my Father lives for ever and I have a Protector great enough to save me. For he who begot me and he who watches over me are one and the same, and for me there is no good but you, the Almighty, who are with me even before I am with you. So to such as you command me to serve I will reveal, not what I have been, but what I have become and what I am.”
Augustine of Hippo
* * *
Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called “children of God”—and that is not just what we are called, but what we are. Our heredity on the Godward side is no mere figure of speech—which explains why the world will no more recognise us than it recognised Christ. Oh, dear children of mine (forgive the affection of an old man!), have you realised it? Here and now we are God’s children. We don’t know what we shall become in the future. We only know that, if reality were to break through, we should reflect his likeness, for we should see him as he really is! (1 John 3:1,2, Phillips)
A Humorist & Poet
“Jesus had a keen sense of humour which again and again bubbles out irrepressibly, all the more strikingly because it is in contrast with the complete absence of humour in those writings of the Christians of the first century which have been preserved in the New Testament. He had a keen eye for the ridiculous and could make startling what he saw—the self-righteous man with the huge beam in his eye essaying to see and pluck out a mere speck in his neighbour’s eye; the solemn and meticulous legalist who was so conscientious about details and yet so blind to great moral issues that he was like a man who, anxious lest he be contaminated by his food and drink, would painstakingly strain out the most minute gnat and then, without blinking, swallow an entire camel, hair, hoofs, humps, and offensive breath. He laughed at children playing in the market place, especially at those who, pouting, refused to join in the sport, even when their companions were quite willing to adjust the game to meet their wishes. His questions to the crowds about John the Baptist—“What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? … a man clothed in soft raiment?”—must have provoked laughter, so purposely contrary were they to what all of his hearers knew.
“Jesus had the soul of a poet. While few of his recorded sayings are in poetic form, again and again his words breathe the spirit of poetry. His mind thought in terms of pictures and concrete scenes, not in abstract phrases. The parables and sententious sayings in which most of his teachings were couched were such that, once heard, they could not easily be forgotten. It is said that he chose that manner of speaking deliberately, but he could not have employed it so skillfully had it not reflected the quality of his mind.”
Kenneth Scott Latourette
A History of Christianity, Volume I
Fearlessly & Brightly
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom for man to comfort his neighbour. ‘He who believes in me,’ says Jesus Christ himself in another Scripture passage, ‘out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ This happens when we look up to him. No one has ever looked up to him without this miracle happening. No one who gets slowly used to looking up to him has failed to glimpse light around him. The dark earth on which we live has always become bright whenever man looked up to him, and believed in him.
“‘Look up to him, your face will shine, and you shall never be ashamed.’ I just mentioned the ‘dark’ earth. Reading the newspapers, looking around at the world and into our own hearts and lives, we can’t possibly deny that the earth is really dark, that we live in a world to be afraid in. Why afraid? Because we all live under the threat of being put to shame, and rightly so. This would not only imply that we have blundered here and there, but that our whole life, with all our thoughts, desires and accomplishments, might be in truth, in God’s judgment and verdict, a failure, an infamy, a total loss. This is the great threat. This is why the ground shakes under our feet, the sky is covered with clouds, and the earth, so beautifully created, darkens. Indeed we should be put to shame.
“But now we hear the very opposite. ‘You shall never be ashamed.’ What I would like to do, dear brothers and sisters, is to ask you, each and all, to get up together and like a choir repeat: ‘We must never be ashamed!’ Each one would have to repeat it for himself and lastly I would repeat it for myself : ‘I must never be ashamed!’ This is what counts. We shall not be, I shall not be, ashamed, not when looking up to him. Not because we deserve to be spared the shame! Not even because our faces shine when raised to him. Our radiance will be and must be a sign that we will not be put to shame. It is an evidence of the relationship established between God and ourselves. And this is the power of the relationship: what is true and valid in heaven, what Jesus Christ has done for us, what has been accomplished by him, man’s redemption, justification and preservation, is true and valid on earth also. The Father does not put us, his children, to shame when we look up to Jesus. In consequence we, his children, may never be ashamed. This we may know, this may be our strength, this may be our life, if only we look up to him, fearlessly and brightly. May each one repeat in his heart: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.’”
from a sermon in 1956
My God, My Life, My Cure
By Henry Vaughan
My Soul, there is a country
Afar beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentry
All skillful in the wars;
There, above noise and danger
Sweet Peace sits, crown’d with smiles,
And One born in a manger
Commands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious friend
And (O my Soul awake!)
Did in pure love descend,
To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the flow’r of peace,
The rose that cannot wither,
Thy fortress, and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges,
For none can thee secure,
But One, who never changes,
Thy God, thy life, thy cure.
Showing Forth His Excellencies
“…think of the dignity and honor which is ours. Sons of God with Him; Heirs of God with Him; one with Him, perfectly identified with the blessed One in God’s presence. Therefore He is not ashamed to call us brethren. To walk worthy of the Lord is our calling; and worthy of the Lord we shall walk if we have the great fact of our fellowship with the Son of God as a reality before our souls. It is a sad state to speak theoretically of our position in Christ, to know all this with our intellects and not to manifest it in our lives and show forth the excellencies of Him, who has called us from darkness into his marvellous light. He is not ashamed to call us brethren.”
The Lord of Glory
His Lyric Joyousness
“It was as a Bridegroom Christ came, anointed with all the perfumes of a dedicated love, and until the last bitter hour of His rejection, He moved with such lyric joyousness across the earth, that life became festive in His presence. It is as a Bride the church exists on earth, and if no festive smiles are awakened by its presence, and no gracious unsealing of the founts of love in human hearts, then is it not Christ’s Church, for He has passed elsewhere with another company to the marriage-feast, and His Church stands without, before a barred and darkened door.”
The Empire of Love
A Man They Knew
Salvation comes not by “accepting the finished work” or “deciding for Christ.” It comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as His own and paid it, took our sins and died under them and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ, and nothing less will do…
The argument of the apostles is that the Man Jesus has been made higher than angels, higher than Moses and Aaron, higher than any creature in earth or heaven. And this exalted position He attained as a man. As God He already stood infinitely above all other beings. No argument was needed to prove the transcendence of the Godhead. The apostles were not declaring the preeminence of God, which would have been superfluous, but of a man, which was necessary.
Those first Christians believed that Jesus of Nazareth, a man they knew, had been raised to a position of Lordship over the universe. He was still their friend, still one of them, but had left them for a while to appear in the presence of God on their behalf. And the proof of this was the presence of the Holy Spirit among them.
One cause of our moral weakness today is an inadequate Christology. We think of Christ as God but fail to conceive of Him as a man glorified. To recapture the power of the Early Church we must believe what they believed. And they believed they had a God-approved man representing them in heaven.
Man: The Dwelling Place of God
Thoughts Inspired by Matthew 6
Those of the Kingdom of Heaven are everywhere and nowhere: their only conspicuousness is atmospheric; they are otherwise totally hidden. They do good deeds because the Christ within them does them; they feel embarrassed whenever the eyes of men see them. Their works are so synonymous with their enjoyment of abiding in Jesus that they’re surprised at the work their life accomplishes. Their only reward has been the good pleasure of His presence. And that has always been enough for them.
Those of the Kingdom of Heaven are constantly communicating with its King: they are thinking their best and highest thoughts directly to Him. They love to stand and pray, to sit and pray, to drive and pray, to rest and pray, to work and pray: they live in prayer. Their inner life is their cathedral: they meet together with Jesus in its sanctuary, its apses, its towers, its belfries. Unembarrassed, they acknowledge their reliance on His delight; they delight to talk to Him, to hear from Him, as such:
As their perfect Lord, their Heavenly Father, infinitely far removed in the splendors of the Throneroom, who is yet with them;
As the King of a Kingdom with verifiable work to do; whose will is the Father’s; whose climate is of Heaven;
As the Provider-God;
The One who perfectly modeled perfect, personal forgiveness;
As the Shepherd of His sheep; as the Protector from all evil; as the Lord of all Heaven, all power, all glory.
Those of the Kingdom of Heaven are happiest when hungriest: they are satisfied with a sating only offered to them by His hand. They find their joy in eating and drinking of Him. That is their secret. He has become their only diet. (from Mt. 6:1-13, 16-18)
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 12
12 Never forget your Savior in any day of your earthly life, for the days are His and of them is made a life which is meant to express His good pleasure; as the sun rises and sets, as the moon and stars shine in their nighttime courses, you are living out the hours in which to encounter Him, know Him, show Him to the world; when you cross your threshold—going out into the world, everywhere, as His personal envoy—your life is meant to sing of His life like a springtime bird sings its anthem. So be joyous that the Holy One has called you to His side, to His Way; has made His home within you; His Cross has freed you forever: you may move through life with head held high, peace and joy your reality, because all your life is on its way Home—death is nothing to you; the days are places of rich personal encounter with Him; He will provide for your needs; and, again, all of this can only end with you in His presence forever. Glorious meaning of all meanings! says this disciple; all in Jesus is glorious meaning!
I am a person just like you, seeking to learn from life, and have weighed, considered and tested many of the wisdoms that the world offers to man. I have tried its forms of delight, and sought to better myself with the “truths” it upholds as eternal; fixed.
The ways of the earth are like “shifting shadows,” like paths leading everywhere and yet nowhere; its wisdoms as diffuse as the sons of men. Brothers and sisters, there is only one Way. To know Jesus is an endless source of wonder, and everything you give in His direction is toward an infinite gain.
The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, life and life eternal: all of these are Jesus. Abide in Him and obey His voice, for this is the joy of His disciples. He Himself will show you how to follow Him—He will reveal His hidden wisdoms—for He is good.
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 10
10 Abundant joy makes the human heart open outward;
so a little of His joy in us must lead the way, always.
The wisdom of Jesus leads us along His Way;
the wisdom of man is nothing.
When we walk His Way in wisdom, we gain more,
and then may say to ourselves, “We lack for nothing.”
If the pleasure of the King is upon us, let us abide in Him,
for He promises to add blessing unto blessing.
There is a great glory that I have seen because of the Son, another triumph arising from this King of Kings: advancement is set in low, humble hearts, and the poor in spirit inherit the Kingdom alongside Him. Truly, I have seen the lowest raised up in Him, and the rulers of the ways of man quickly forgotten.
He who descended to us has also ascended,
and the serpent has been crushed under His feet forever.
He is shaping us as stones to be set in His Temple,
this glorious Cornerstone who holds all things together.
If we are weak, it is He Himself who strengthens us,
arming us with His own strength,
and the wisdom to carry it aright.
If the evil one attacks one of His chosen,
He gives every advantage, by His Spirit, to that chosen one.
The whisper of His lips is there within our inner ear;
we may cease to trust our own ruminations.
Today, we may begin—and end—with His words alone,
for His mercies are new; His words, fresh and alive.
Our wise King is clear of speech,
and though we oft’ are slow to hear, slow to understand,
He is forever faithful, speaking to us from the Throne of Heaven.
Our work for Him exalts our life’s meaning,
for it leads others, upward, toward the City of God.
Blessed are we, brothers and sisters, for our King is the Son of God,
and He has made us sons and daughters of God too!
Happy are we, brothers and sisters, because this King is our Friend,
and He invites us to the Family Table,
for daily communion: union with Himself!
Through abiding in Him the union ever grows;
each day may play its part in the growth.
He is the Bread of Life: our joy;
the New Wine: our Spirit,
our greatest riches: the Kingdom Himself.
Even as you fall asleep, bless the King of Kings;
in your rising, lift up His name;
for the Spirit that is in you is also in Him;
no blessing you speak of Him is ever lost, ever forgotten.
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 8
8 Who looks like Jesus?
He who interprets all his existence through Him.
Daily experience of Jesus alters the outward countenance,
and His wondrous joy becomes our inner and outer life.
I remind you: Follow our King’s words and Way, because of the New Covenant He has set with our Father. Be ever in His presence; never outside. Take the positions He Himself took in this world; never others. For the Way of our King is magnificent and unassailable, and none are those who can honestly say of it, “This is not the highest.” Each of us who keeps upon it, walking its straight narrowness, finds it daily to be life, and its footfalls to be the path unto wisdom and righteousness. For it is sweeping in its breadth of experience, because it is the living Way of a Man who Himself lived through all earthly trials. For He tasted every part of our existence; who can say that Jesus doesn’t understand us? No other has ever perfectly walked in obedience, guided perfectly by the Spirit of God, all the way to the point of dying a willed death. There was no shirking it: He died to free all people of their wickedness; to deliver mankind from the “vicious circle of sin and death.” (All this we know, of course, but what I’m endeavoring to do is draw these truths a little lower: all the way down from your head to your heart. I want to see you knowing these things, not knowing about them.)
Too, the Righteous One was buried for us. He who’d freely walked the earth, going in and out of towns, villages, synagogues, homes, was truly dead and gone. This was part of His most glorious glory. Because the sentence hanging over our heads—the penalty due for all who’d engaged in sin—involved our dying, He both died for us and was dead for us. And though a world of sinners continues on with their lives, we know the truth: it may be instantly well if they will only hear, turn, repent and believe. Yes, all mankind—from the saintliest earthly saint to the vilest wicked man or woman—is only a repentant half-turn away from the face of salvation. The Cross and Tomb are both right here: available.
This is the meaning of our heavenly-earthly lives upon this earth, that each of us is meant to live out His righteousness, in His love and mercy, so that all people, everywhere, can sense the goodness of His righteousness, love and mercy. I tell you, this is a wondrous purpose! And He has given us His own peace and joy, for all people need to see His heavenly attributes lived in regular human lives, just like ours. These attributes will always linger long after we leave them; His Way with them begins as they see Heaven’s ways right in their midst.
And as we give ourselves to knowing Jesus, and to carrying out His work upon the earth—hindered by nothing because He is limitlessly powerful—we will get to see the wonders of God in our day, and that there are no things impossible because of the Son and His Spirit. Indeed, the more we seek Him out, the more we find of Him. Even the simplest person can find untold riches of wisdom by simply seeking Jesus.
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 6
6 There is a joyous good that I have seen because of the Son, and it may be enjoyed by everyone: any man or woman to whom God gives Himself, so that they lack nothing, either spiritually or temporally, is also given the calling, and opportunity, to pass it on, even to a complete stranger. This is a marvelous thing for any disciple of His to do; it is a great miracle. If that man or woman lives seventy or eighty years, and continually shares the joy of Christ with others, just think of the brothers and sisters they will escort into the Kingdom of Heaven! What a joy! What purpose! For he or she “did not choose Jesus, but He chose them, and appointed them, that they might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” And here they are: knowing the Son themselves, finding rest in Him, and then extending the realm of the Kingdom during the span of their days. Even if their own life should be cut short, they may enjoy this glory today—changing the eternal life of another!
Every deed done for Jesus is of eternity; we may abide in Him, seek His Way, and always find our daily meaning. Every spiritual and earthly joy is already ours in Him! Whether rich or poor, the rule of life—the Way—is the same. So, how much better to fix our eyes upon the things that interested Him, to follow in His footsteps, than to give ourselves to the passing fancies of a dying age. We know the One on the other side of reality!
Indeed, He knows our every breath, He has numbered the hairs on our head, He has counted the course of our days; He knows exactly what we are—and loves us yet. The more of Him we receive, the greater glory; the higher advantage. For He knows precisely what is good for each one of us, having Himself lived this human life: He will teach us to live our lives like He did. Under the Son, we may rise to each new day and live it to the full.
5 Pay close attention to your life, for you are the Temple of God now. Others may draw near to Him by drawing near to you: you are the place where they may hear of Him; even hear from His voice. Therefore, be careful with your words, and let Him use your lips to speak of His glories, so that all on earth may be acquainted with His life in Heaven. Let your own words be few. For your best words are those from His Spirit, and your own voice—let’s be honest—has a way of sometimes getting in the way.
Where you’ve received a promise from the Lord, do not hesitate to trust Him, for He is ever faithful to make good on His every promise. He always does what He says He’ll do. Your life will be richer and better if you trust in Him with quiet confidence, and wait upon Him. Don’t doubt the wild ways He works, and don’t give in to that nagging question inside, But what’s taking Him so long? Be honest: His record with you is one of constant care, presence and blessing. Where your trust in Him is given room for increase, consider it a blessing; God is entrusting you with the opportunity to trust Him more.
Where you see examples of struggle, hurt and anxiety in the world around you, anguish amidst the depredations of sin, you are called not to judge but to go to work; for the God of all men has chosen you and I to be His ambassadors: we are the Body of Christ--we are Jesus!--for the men and women of our day, our time. This is our privilege: this is how highly our King thinks of us.
“The secret of never thirsting is ever thirsting”: he who always wants more of Jesus won’t be satisfied with yesterday’s experience of Him: he will always desire for more. Where encounter with His living presence increases, hunger is both sated and enlarged, and this is nothing but a glorious spiritual advantage. Our rest is only found in Him, whether we know Him a little or a lot, and the greater the experience of Him, the richer our rest in Him.
Here is another wondrous glory that I have experienced for myself: the splendors of the Kingdom of Heaven are meant by Him to be shared with us, and their riches seem to increase as we share them out with others. This is the nature of this Father with His sons and daughters; everything we have comes from His hand. As we were first born of Him, brought along through life through Him, redeemed from death by Him, we now find our whole life in Him. This is our greatest joy: just as He’s always done, He’ll always do. We know He’ll never change in our direction. Moreover, all our days He’s available to us and wants to walk along the way with us.
Look! there is nothing higher or better--or more reasonable—than for you to eat and drink of Him, to abide in Him, to enjoy Him, to find your entire life in Him, for this is the meaning of your whole human life. You have already been given the keys of the Kingdom, all its inheritances, riches and splendors, and you are simply called to humbly accept—this is what’s required of you.
So, today, will you remember this One whose own joy fills your heart?
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 4
4 We have seen the way the Son bore all the embarrassments, indignities, and sufferings which are common to mankind. And look! He even shed tears with us in our pain, and was the comforter of all who mourned. Then He put Himself between the powerful oppressor of humanity, and defeated that one who’d robbed us of all comfort. And when that evil one thought that Jesus was dead—slinking off in his diabolical sense of cosmic triumph—he was in for the rudest sort of surprise, wasn’t he? For better than a martyr who’d die to set us free, leaving us orphans yet under the power of the evil one, is this One who’d die and return to us. That is the glory of this deed done by the perfect Son!
Now we see that all our lives and all the work intended for us is to acquaint mankind, all our “neighbors,” with the finished work of Jesus. This is our purpose and a work we do in tandem with the Holy Spirit.
The wise man gets to work on this, and abides in Christ.
What a joy it is to walk in perfect peace with the One who formed us by His hand, and now fills us with His own Spirit!
Again, I get glimpses of this great purpose of ours: one person may always help another, whether they be close acquaintances or strangers, for there is never any end to the people we’ll meet, and our eyes are almost always upon another who needs Him, so that we need never ask, “What is your will, Lord Jesus?” For there they are: people are the direction of God’s love: what a joy to partner with Him to reach everyone, everywhere, everyday.
And remember: We are never alone. We are forearmed with the power of the One who’s already lived this life. If we stumble, He is there to lift us up. Always. How foolish of us to forget He is ever with us or to neglect to call upon Him for the help that He so delightedly gives! Whether we are lying down, or rising up, or sitting at work, He is there beside us, and within us. And if we ever forget the nearness of His presence, He has given us an internal witness—His own heartbeat, the Holy Spirit, now lives inside us.
How much better to be “poor in spirit,” possessing the Kingdom of Heaven today, than to live like the king of a land whose boundary-lines are ever encroaching; diminishing. For it is a form of imprisonment to try to found a life upon this world; it is a poverty-existence to found your hope upon this kingdom of sand. You and I may rise and live—we may follow after the Son with our everything today: He is the only King who stooped to save His every subject. And there’s no end of Him: He is infinite in His love and loveliness. Those who’ll follow after us will know Him by how we know Him today. Surely this, too, is our purpose and a joyous pursuit of His glory.
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3
3 Under the new economy of Heaven, there is a new season and a new Way for every matter upon the earth:
an opportunity to be reborn, and a chance never to die;
a call to plant seed, and a sending-out to reap the harvest;
a cheek to learn to turn; and His touch, through us, to heal;
an enemy already vanquished, and a Kingdom to upbuild;
a heart to weep with those who mourn; joy to laugh an honest laughter;
a comfort, within, everyday; a dance prepared for the Wedding Feast;
a freedom from judgment, and freedom from the need, ever, to judge;
a love that embraces all, and arms to be His own embrace;
a seeking that always finds, a losing-all that wills to gain all;
an eternal invitation, never to be lost, and no time to be lost in its enjoyment;
a Voice that calls away, and the same Voice who sends out;
the joy of His quiet presence, and the ecstasy of His alive life:
ever loved, freed from all hate and hatefulness;
sent to a cosmic battle that is only to be won through His peace.
What an unbelievable gain has the disciple in what he does for Jesus! I myself have experienced the joy that He has given to His sons and daughters, when consumed with that wondrous work. From within, He makes each of our days a journey with Himself. Yet, even still, He has made this Way an eternal pursuit: the day-by-day of life is swallowed up in the everlasting; the infinite. And I have learned that there is nothing higher, nothing better, than for us to live out His joy, His peace, so long as we live; also that we should learn, in quiet trust, simply to wait upon His provision—it is His promise unto us.
I have found that everything Jesus has done is “finished,” accomplished; the reconciliation of God and man is complete in Him. Every man, woman and child stands at the precipice of salvation; that which is done for them abides: God seeks to save all--through us.
And under the reign of the Son, there is eternal justice by bestowal of His righteousness, even where there was only wickedness before. He says in our hearts, “I came, not to judge the world, but to save it”—this was the purpose of His time, His ministry, His work. Too, He tells us that as sons and daughters of His, He will use all of our circumstances to train us and to purify our hearts. What happens to us is never in vain; as tragedy strikes, or uplift comes, He is working out His will in us. All we’ll ever know will come to us through His hand; there will be nothing in our journey that lacks His purpose and meaning. For all of it leads us back to Him. We are His work, and we walk His Way in His direction. We know where His Spirit within us tends: following after Him is leading us ever Heavenward. Thus I know that there is nothing higher, nothing better, than that we should rejoice in Him today, for that is the true heart of abiding.
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Inverse-Ecclesiastes, Chapter 2
2 He says in my heart now, “Come to Me; I will be your enjoyment; find your whole life in Me.” And look! I have found it to be true. He says of joy, “It is I Myself,” and of delight, “It is yours—come and take it.” I looked inside my heart to find the joy of His life—my heart the place of His personal residence—and I found His Spirit there, showing me what is good for His sons and daughters to be, and to do, during the fleeting days of their earthly lives. We are His great work. He is building us up as houses, temples, branches in the vineyard, of His own creation. He is making us into fruitful places, works of art, planting in us the virtues and beauties of His own virtue and beauty. He has filled us with “the oil of joy”—His Holy Spirit—so that our inner lives are ever watered; ever vibrant. We, His servants, are no longer slaves: we have been born a second time into sharing a place at the Family Table. All He has is ours: “the cattle on a thousand hills” belong to Him: now they belong to us. He will give us what we need—our daily bread—from the infinite storehouses of the same One who made manna. He will sing over us, we brothers and sister of His, and He will provide for us: He delights in His sons and daughters.
He is great, and He is beyond everything and everyone who has ever walked the face of the earth. And His Way and wisdom abide with us. And whatever we ask in His name He will not keep from us. He holds nothing back that is for our good, for His heart finds joy in our enjoyment of Him: this is our experience of the life of Heaven. Let us consider all that He has done for us, all the sacrifice and love He has already shown us, and remember! He is our meaning and our purpose within this life, and there is everything to be gained in the Son.
So let us turn to consider His wisdom and Way and righteousness. For what else can the man do who follows after the King of Kings? Only what he sees the Son doing—who thus watched the Father. And thus we see that there is infinitely more to know and gain of Him; there is no end to One who is both light and life. It is our wisdom to watch Him; we walk His Way by following Him. Abiding in Jesus is the heart’s highest sense of perception. Then He may say to our hearts, “What I have done, you may do. I will be your wisdom, and I will make you wise.” And I have found this to be true in my own heart. For if I remember and encounter Jesus, both historically and contemporaneously, I see that the days are rich and robust with His presence. His life and death become wisdom and joy to me! Oh, I love Him, because what the Son is doing in me is glorious beyond all telling, for it is His life and death and resurrection all over again--in me.
Too, I love the work He’s calling me to, seeing the way it spreads His Way to the generations who’ll come after me—who knows how far my life’s work may go? Those to come, the ones to whom I’ll carry the Gospel, may come to know the Son even better than I. Isn’t that wonderful? And it is for that reason that I rise to each new day and give my heart to Him who is the purpose of each new day, for in this way another who is struggling to find wisdom and a way to life may find them—through me—by observing my own pursuit. Isn’t that the highest version of my human life? In the end, what will any man or woman hold in their hands but those strivings and pursuits that have followed in the Way of the Son? Our days with Him are joy; our work for Him is life. Even in the midst of the darkest night, He is with us. For this too He promises.
There is nothing finer for a man or woman than that they should eat of Jesus, drink of Jesus, abide in Jesus, and follow Jesus. His is the hand of God, and, of Him, we may eat and drink and abide and find our full enjoyment. And from this One who perfectly pleases His Father—who has fulfilled all righteousness—we receive all wisdom and knowledge and joy, and this to sinners like us! Yes, to “those who needed a doctor,” He has given the business of knowing Him, following Him, coming into the full pleasure of God. This is our life’s meaning and purpose—and God’s plan.
Last winter, while reading through the book of Ecclesiastes, I became somewhat obsessed with the thought that, in Jesus, everything we read there has already found its inverse in Him. In other words, if all unredeemed human life is a "vanity of vanities," the life of Jesus has already made it possible for us to live a "glorious meaning of all meanings" sort of life in Himself. In essence, He has already rewritten Solomon's words by the perfect living of His divine human life. And is inviting us into the same.
So I decided to extrapolate what that might mean, using Ecclesiastes' words—but in their opposite, their inverse.
For these next twelve posts, I'll be offering a "chapter" each week showing how Jesus has rewired Ecclesiastes into our New Covenant reality. I hope this brings into focus how glorious is His Way, His Kingdom!
1 The words of a follower of Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Kings.
Glorious meaning of all meanings, says this disciple,
glorious meaning of all meanings! All is now worthwhile.
What do men and women gain by following Jesus
in the day by day of life?
Lives made new, generational experience of the Kingdom,
the world of creation seeing “sons of God coming into their own.”
The Son has given His life! And risen!
He has ascended back to the place from which He came--Glory!
His Spirit now flows into our lives
and travels over the face of the earth in us;
through and through us flows the Holy Spirit,
making all things new.
Streams of His joy pour down inside us,
overflowing and then flowing over:
into the lives of others around us,
that they may see Him.
His Way is rich with life—life to the full;
human lips cannot compass it;
our eyes are full of the wonder of His glory,
our ears with the sound of His voice.
“Even greater things” will He do through us,
and what has been in Him is what we shall do:
all is new and real under the aegis of the Son.
Are there impossible things of which it can be said,
“No, this is clearly impossible”?
He has said we can do these things;
we have heard His promise.
We remember how He did it in His day;
we remember, yes—yet remembrance
of earlier things is not His Way:
for He still speaks.
I, by His own choosing, have come to be a disciple of this Jesus from Nazareth. And I have given my heart and mind to seeking and searching out His wisdom, His Way, right in the midst of the ways of the world around us. It is a wondrous business that He has given to His brothers and sisters to be focused upon. We have seen some of what He has done with a life, and look! all in Him is glory and joy and peace: a daily experience of encounter and following after Him.
The way is narrow and straight,
and we shall lack for nothing upon it.
I rejoice in my heart now, “I know Jesus: He is the Way, the truth, the life: He surpasses all who have ever lived: He lives in my heart right now, bringing with Him all wisdom and knowledge.” And I have given my heart and mind to knowing Him—and also my awareness to all that is not Him. All else that is, is not: it is like chaff in the wind.
But knowing Jesus is knowing Life Himself:
he who comes to know Jesus has attained to Life.
"And I Live"
After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white.
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead
The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.
BY G. K. CHESTERTON
A Scene & A Question
It is a warm languid early-afternoon; you are sitting amidst the trees and flowers in a slight clearing. The ground is nearly flat; it rises just above you, following the climbing of the Mount of Olives; Gethsemane is just below. A patchwork quilt of patchwork quilts carpets over the meadowgrasses; all the followers of Jesus have carried up their lunches. The sun is just past the meridian point; the warmth of the air is restful; everyone is eating; it is a lovely sort of early-afternoon.
Jesus sits near the center of these concentric picnickers.
He is eating some bread and meat, holding them with His nail-scarred hands...
* * *
When was the last time that I simply sat with Jesus—out in the open air, under the trilling of the birdsong, in the wash of the sunlight, breeze, and bright blue skies—and relished how wonderfully alive and present to me He is? Is that the look in the eyes of my “Christianity”?
True In Our Experience
“All our attempts to crucify the flesh, or to keep it crucified, are vain: we need the light and joy of the Holy Spirit to show us what is ours in Christ, what has been given in our union with him, and what he himself will make true in our experience. The very thought of having to keep the flesh crucified may be, very often is, as of a burden, and a strain, and an impossibility: the knowledge and acceptance and faith of the indwelling Spirit makes it part of the great salvation God effectually works out in us.
“Believer, you have the Spirit of the living God dwelling in you. All we tell you of the cross and the crucified life and the crucifixion of the flesh is not to tell you what you are to do, but what you may confidently expect the Holy Spirit to do in you. It is to show you what his work is, that you may in deep humility and entire dependence, but also with joyous faith, claim and receive it. Do begin, at once, to believe, to praise God, to rejoice that you can do nothing but through the Spirit, that you are sure that you can do all things through Christ’s Spirit strengthening you.”
Andrew Murray, The Cross of Christ