Outflow

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I read somewhere that the Koine Greek word translated as “head” (as in Christ is head of the church) in most English versions of the Bible, carries the connotation of head as in headwaters.

This thought came to me as I came across a photo I took at the south end of Columbia Lake. These are the headwaters the mighty Columbia River that eventually supplies water for irrigation and shipping systems for much of the western USA.

What’s behind that mighty river is a beautiful lake in our backyard that collects the abundant run-off from the mountains.

Christ taught servant leadership.

Jesus: You know that among the nations of the world the great ones lord it over the little people and act like tyrants. But that is not the way it will be among you. Whoever would be great among you must serve and minister.  Whoever wants to be great among you must be slave of all.  Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to be a servant—to offer His life as a ransom for others. (Mark 10: 42-45 The Voice)

It is what flows out of a person that makes them a great leader. If they are in alignment with Christ as their living head, Christ’s love can flow through them. As others join in unity of the Spirit a confluence grows that pours out in an increasingly deeper and wider outflow, providing for many downstream.

When a leader, any leader, demands homage and lords power over others the direction of flow is reversed. When it becomes all about respect for titles and offices and need for recognition coming his or her way the stream dries up. Submission to the type of leadership Jesus demonstrated is cooperation and confluence, not slavery. It produces much fruit.

We love Christ because he first loved us. Our love and worship is a response to him. Love must be voluntary or it is not love at all. It is something else entirely devoid of freedom.

Freely you have received. Freely give.

FREEDOM!

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Christ has risen! He has conquered death by death! The veil separating us from God’s presence has been torn from top to bottom! Jesus lives to intercede for us! He is our only mediator!

But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)

This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. (Ephesians 3: 11, 12)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

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No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Amazing love!

(from Amazing Love by Charles Wesley)

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Ecce Homo: Behold the Man

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I had something else in mind when I started writing an entry for Good Friday. I was impressed by the phrase “the time when the power of darkness reigns” in Luke 22:52-53:
“Then Jesus spoke to the leading priests, the captains of the Temple guard, and the elders who had come for him. “Am I some dangerous revolutionary,” he asked, “that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there every day. But this is your moment, the time when the power of darkness reigns.”

At that particular moment, Jesus allowed himself to be taken captive by those powers that worked in the dark, away from the eyes of the few who would insist on proper protocol, and accountability and the checks and balances that are meant to thwart the misuse of power.

This was a misuse of power.

This morning as I woke I heard: He came to set the captives free.

I’ve been too impressed by the reign of darkness. Jesus said later that his submission to those who would kill him was voluntary.

Love is always voluntary, or it is not love.

This morning the words I heard, “He came to set the captives free,” struck me with the full beauty of irony. Jesus became a captive so he could set the captives free. Jesus died to overcome death.

Jesus died so he could overcome death.

I found a photo I took in Jerusalem at Lithostrotos (Roman Paving) under the Convent of Ecce Homo (Behold the Man – Pilates words when he handed Jesus over to be crucified). In a dark low-ceiling room now underground, it is thought to be the place where Jesus’ trial was held and where the Roman soldiers tortured him.

Our guide told us it was unusually quiet that day. I sat on a stone bench and sang, “My Jesus, I love Thee… If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now,” with tears streaming down my face.

Of all the places we visited in Israel this place had the most emotional impact on me. I could feel the darkness, and yet I could also feel the light that rose out of this powerful yet powerless environment that once echoed with the sound of whips and jibes, knowing that it is by his stripes that we are healed.

His wounds became our health.

Jesus entered darkness to bring light. He became a man of sorrow that we might share the joy set before him. He gave up his liberty to set us free. He became sin that we might be free from sin.

Behold the Man

 

Moving Steadily Forward

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Injustice infuriates me. I hate it when the wicked prosper at the expense of the weak. I’m so tired of seeing demonstrations of the abuse of power in the media, in education, in scientific research, in religion, in families, in politics, in… well, in every sphere of life.

With the Psalmist I cry out, “How long, Lord? How long?”

Lately I have been drawn to Psalm 37, as my agony increases over the abuse of women, and especially children, who are victims of sex trafficking. I’ve known about it since I overheard people I worked with say that part of the cost of getting a producer to consider their project involved buying a boy for his use for the night.

They laughed.

I cried.

Now even more is coming to light despite many cover-ups. Sometimes this world is so ugly. Why do the wicked prosper?

I am reminded of William Wilberforce, who spent his whole adult lifetime working for the abolition of slavery in Britain. Sometimes change is a very slow process, at least by our concept of time, but what an example of endurance and perseverance!

In the late 1800’s and into the 20th century American doctor, Kate Bushnell, and her colleagues worked tirelessly to expose government sanctioned sex trafficking in the brothel camps provided for British soldiers overseas. Later she uncovered similar practices in logging camps and mining operations in North America. With day by day dogged determination she pursued and shamed authorities until laws and policies and were changed.

Sometimes it feels like a dreary long road, but David understood when he wrote: The steps of the God-pursuing ones follow firmly in the footsteps of the Lord. And God delights in every step they take to follow him. (Psalm 37:23)

In the end Kate Bushnell realized that real change required more than revised laws and policies. She saw that what was required was a heart change. Without it the demand for human beings who could be used and dominated continued. It’s not just a matter of prosecuting the people who sell captives, it’s a matter of changing the hearts of the apparently massive number of people who pay to use them. And those people are often also slaves – slaves to lust. Many, many people are realizing they are held captive by an addiction to pornography and illicit sex and cry out for freedom themselves.

A heart change is what God promises when people turn from their own ways of coping with personal pain and disappointment or feeling out of control and instead trust in Jesus Christ.

This is what we pray for. Freedom for all captives and an awakening of the realization that our hearts can only find healing and restoration in the heart of the One who created us for greater things. An awakening to new life as the Holy Spirit moves through our land.

So we press on, day by day cultivating faithfulness, trusting His promises, walking in his path and praying without ceasing.

So don’t be impatient for the Lord to act;

Keep moving steadily forward in his ways,

And he will exalt you at the right time.

And when he does, you will possess every promise,

Including your own inheritance.

You’ll watch with you own eyes

And see the wicked lose everything (verse 34)

But the Lord will be the Saviour of all who love him.

Even in their time of trouble

God will live in them as Strength.

Because of their faith in him, their daily portion will be

A Father’s help, and deliverance from evil.

This is true for all who turn to hide themselves in him!

(verses 39 & 40 The Passion Translation)

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The Scent of Freedom

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Oh how I love the scent of lilacs. I stuck my nose in a cluster and inhaled deeply.

“Don’t you just love lilac season?” I asked a woman standing near the bus stop.
“Dot so buch,” she said and blew her nose in a tissue.
“Pardon me?”
“I’b allergic to theb,” she answered. “As sood as I sbell theb I can’t sbell adythig else. I’b so stuffed up. I avoid theb like the plague.”

Her wiped her red runny make-upless eyes. I wanted to cry for her. What a tragedy not to enjoy the fragrance of lilacs.

For me the smell of lilacs brings back memories of the introduction to freedom. In Calgary and Edmonton, where I grew up, lilacs bloomed around the time I took my Trinity College of London or Royal Conservatory music examinations. I stood outside a theatre auditorium feeling relieved I had remembered all my words and the sharp in the second run of the fourth song. On either side of the steps huge old lilacs bushes loaded with purple flowers swayed in a warm breeze gently wafting their fragance around my head. The test was over. A new summer vacation season stretched before me like a an open invitation to joy.

They could remind me of studying and exam anxiety, I suppose, but to this day when I smell lilacs I smell freedom.

When the poor lady with allergies smells lilacs she smells dread.

Paul (the man who once hated Christians so much he persecuted them until he met the real Jesus) wrote something interesting about fragrance in his letter to the young believers in Corinth. After chastising them for bad ideas that didn’t leave such a great odor behind he wrote:

Thanks be to God who leads us, wherever we are, on his own triumphant way and makes our knowledge of him spread throughout the world like a lovely perfume! We Christians have the unmistakeable “scent” of Christ, discernible alike to those who are being saved and to those who are heading for death. To the latter it seems like the very smell of doom, to the former it has the fresh fragrance of life itself.
(2 Corinthians 2:14-16 Phillips)

Sometimes people’s reactions to you have nothing to do with you. (Okay, and sometimes they do because everyone has moments of weakness when they don’t smell so good.) My point is we don’t always know why people have negative responses to expressions that other people experience as beauty. Sometimes merely being genuinely joyful irritates a person who has lost hope.

Should the lilacs stop blooming to keep from offending someone who has negative reactions? (Full disclosure: I have some allergies myself so I do understand the limits of this analogy.) Put it this way, should those who carry the fragrance of Jesus’ gift of eternal life hide away to avoid offending those who smell death?

Paul tried to stifle those irritating smelly followers of Jesus for a while. (He condoned the cutting down of Stephen in his prime.) Then he met the One who changes everything – and the scent they carried began to remind him of freedom.

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