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*Special thanks to Shila and Pragna for their encouragement and inspiration*

Does Everything Need To Be Un-Natural?

Luke 6 - 35: “But love your enemies, do good to them and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked”.

The short answer to our opening question is, YES. Perhaps the better descriptive for un-natural in reference to us and our walk with God should be super-natural. But not to be mistaken with Hollywood’s versions which have super-heroes, leaping over tall buildings with a single bound. No, our buildings are climbed one brick at a time. We are by grace, living in a divinely appointed process of shedding our natural, having it replaced by the nature of Jesus. A nature that is in no way related to the mindsets of this world. In fact, diametrically and emphatically opposite.

Within the ongoing, reality of the mentioned “process” we can and often do, get caught in “The Trap” between two natures. It can be very frustrating to say the least. We know Who we desire to be like, and yet when faced with our moments of decision, our nature fights for its say in the matter. We all have a “child within” that screams for attention through tantrums.

The danger? These little ones always make “logical sense” as they present their cases in the courts of our souls!

Jesus says: “Turn the other cheek”. Our child says: “Not on my watch”. And we: Get caught in the trap between two voices.

2 Corinthians 5 - 21: “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”.

We are all on a journey complete with a transformation as its goal. To become progressively more like Jesus is our daily destiny. Along the way we are challenged with decisions all of which are determined by our answer to this one question: Will be side with ourselves or our Savior?

In essence, the cross was never meant to make us better people but rather “new people” with a “new nature” to immerse our mindsets in. As we peruse the life of Jesus we quickly come to realize: The most Christ like thing we will ever do is say NO to self and YES to our Lord! Thy will, not my will, is the textured road we walk. I’m convinced: “Thy will” leads me to “thy nature”. I don’t believe there is any other thoroughfare that will get me there.

Is it easy? Not at all. “Self” is a powerful dynamic that has a long history of running the show. How could its death be easy? It won’t give up control with a simple “shush”.

But is this spoken of road glorious? Most certainly yes! What could possibly be more incredible than becoming a more accurate reflection of the object of our affection!

Bad For Bad = Bad Times Two

There’s a lot of grey between white and black in God’s heart. We humans like to think of right and wrong as clear cut concepts with no middle ground for spiritually insightful negotiation or a grace application. It’s our natural default to find fault! It’s called “the blame game” which is meant to absolve us from all fault, but strangely never does.

Those tendencies allow us license to proceed with clear cut responses to our interactions with others. I am right, therefore they are wrong, case closed! Neat, tidy, and to the point. So why the unpleasant residue?

Jesus said: “Judge not”. When reading the words of our Lord, there are times when what He didn’t say is equally important as what He did.

He didn’t add qualifiers or exceptions to the rule with his caution. He also didn’t say, call wrong right. Therefore His omissions can leave us with an eerie greyness of direction. It’s almost as if Jesus wanted to see what we would do with His two word statement.

We usually choose to forge through with our well thought out justified stance of correctness, but not with a great sense of comfort, often left with this haunting dilemma: If my feelings are so perfectly justifiable, then why does my expressing them make me feel so strangely wrong?

Experience is a blessing, but too often accompanied with humiliating pain. Perhaps the bigger and more profound the lesson, the harder the road is to its completion, with our “child within” screaming all the way.

Remember our brother Peter at the “last supper” when Jesus informed His disciples that they would all leave Him when the heat got turned up : “I don’t know who you’re talking to but not me Lord! I don’t know about these other guys but not me. I would die for you! Don’t forget the boat incident Jesus. I was the only one who got out! I’m better than them”: Said Peter’s child!

Two things happened within mere hours, following Peter’s declaration of his invincible faith. A soldiers ear left his head followed by a denial, with Peter in the middle of both events.

When the soldiers arrived to arrest Jesus, Peter whipped out a sword and with the vigor of a swashbuckling pirate cut off the ear of a Roman guard.

I think Peter was still miffed by what Jesus said over supper. This was a kind of: “I told you so. How do you like me know”, moment of synthetic adrenalin courage? Why would I think such a thing? Because in very short order, the same Peter minus the adrenalin, would deny knowing Jesus three times in the scary presence of an unarmed little girl and her queries.

Well, Jesus was left with the job of re-attaching the man’s ear complete with a serious rebuke for Peter’s ears to hear. It wasn’t a passing comment nor a moment of learning. I believe Jesus spoke it with some stern emotion. He had a very important point to make and it wouldn’t be accompanied with a pat on Peter’s head. Jesus said: “Peter, if you live by the sword you will die by the sword”!

I’m thinking, Peter’s thinking: Wow, I just defended You and you’re rebuking me? I’m thinking, Jesus is thinking: I didn’t ask you to defend me but rather represent me and you can’t do that with a sword! A sword has no place in Me being represented. Peter did you notice, I don’t have one and nor should you.

Well, I co-relate the sword incident with our Lord’s earlier caution of: “Judge not”. Judgement can be like a sword in a spiritual sense. Ears that need to hear, are often removed from heads when we judge. Did you ever wonder why, in our Lord’s worst moments, He cared to take the time to restore that guard’s ear to perfect working condition. He knew that man would need to hear: “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do”, in the very near future.

Jesus did say: “Judge not” but that wasn’t the end of it. He further said: “lest you be judged”. “If you judge, you will be judged. If you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven”.

Matthew 7 - 1 &2: “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”.

And here’s the chilling part: He didn’t add exceptions to the command! He didn’t say: Unless he or she or they, did this or that or the other thing. Why was He so adamant and unbending? Did He not know the “kinds of things” we would run up against in life? Of course Jesus knew as did Stephen when he was stoned to death with forgiveness on his lips.

You see the “things in life” aren’t the point. Apart from one, every early disciple of our Lord was executed for their faith, with the one exception being John. Added to that, the undocumented, uncountable, people who met the same fate. “Things in life”, used as justification for withheld forgiveness and judgement were not a dynamic in these folk’s lives.

It was a different time no doubt, but the message to His church hasn’t changed: “I didn’t come into the world to condemn the world but that through Me the world might be saved”. And My church is to “represent” Me in like manner. Folks, we aren’t here to represent ourselves nor our “things in life”, but rather our Savior who gave us life.

A Savior who sat with sinners who were nothing like Him, and yet they liked Him. Jesus, who touched the un-clean without feeling the need to call them un-clean. The Messiah who talked to a Samaritan woman, imparting a dignity into her life she had never experienced before. The Holy Son of God who forgave His abusers from a cross while being mocked. This is who Jesus is! The question: Do we really want to be like Him?

This is the standard of the One we represent! And who was He representing? His Father in heaven. He said: “I’ve come to reveal the Father”. Also: “If you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father”.

When we don’t adhere to our Lord’s directive in this area, here’s the unavoidable problem incurred. We, by our own choices, move out from under the umbrella of His grace and fall under self-inflicted judgement, unless we think Jesus didn’t mean what He said.

It’s why we feel rather rancid after the fact. Going from grace to judgement can be quite the nauseous fall! Oh we may have our fleeting moment of: “How do you like me now”, but like Peter, it will be short lived.

Why so harsh? Because when we judge, we are telling our Lord that we have forgotten all that we have, and continue to be, forgiven of. Forgotten forgiveness is a deadly dynamic to the soul and an insult to our Savior.

Like Peter we could say: I was just defending You. And Jesus would say: Representing Me and defending Me are two very different things. One calls for a sword the other demands grace. A grace that we have freely received and are asked to freely give.

I’ve mentioned in previous writings a question I was asked by a well-meaning brother: So when do we push back? I answered: “Never we love back”. I have a better answer now: “When Jesus pushes back”.

The Trap’s Antidote

Not wanting to present a dilemma without a hopefully helpful resolve, please allow me in closing, to share a real life personal story about a death. My death!

As to not alarm, I’m referring to the death of the “child within me”. Oh, he still attempts a comeback periodically, but for the most part he has been silenced, which is about as close to death as I could hope for, considering his once mighty power in my life.

It’s truly amazing what God can do when we allow Him to deal with our “child within”.

You see, that’s where our faulty nature resides. Once that child is relegated, “the gap”, which causes “the trap” between our nature and that of Christ, dissipates rather dramatically.

We begin to see forgiveness and grace becoming our “new default” which we quickly run to as our first choice of response. Our Lord’s prescribed choice. The best choice for everyone, which includes ourselves. We then develop an uncanny ability to differentiate between that which truly matters and that which doesn’t!

If grace and forgiveness is not our first option, it will predictably be our last. It’s interesting how that works. Our initial choices set us off in a direction that tends to predictably run full cycle.

My Ministry Into Our Ministry

Mark 6 - 38 & 41: “How many loaves do you have He asked?” “Go and see”. When they found out they said, “Five and two fish”. Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to His disciples to DISTRIBUTE to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all”. ( Five thousand plus, were fed that day! )

In the biblical story of the “fishes and loaves”, I so clearly see three dynamics in play to achieve the desired completion of the heavenly orchestrated equation. The young boy GAVE what little he had, our Lord then MULTIPLIED it, and the disciples then DISTRIBUTED it.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus, after the multiplying didn’t say, “Come and get it”. What He did say was, “Everyone find a place to sit on the grass and I’ll bring it to you, through my own”. Folks, He loves to involve us. He loves to make us matter! We are blessed beyond measure to be written into, His stories! Just imagine: Invited by Him to participate in His plans for others!

From the inception of the idea of writing books to be made available to “all freely”, there has never been a moment when I haven’t been aware of its ministry context. I could easily be seen as the “young boy” in the story. Jesus has most certainly multiplied my meager offering to Him.

So may I invite and encourage you to be a distributor of that which He has multiplied, thereby elevating “My Ministry” into “Our Ministry”, thus completing “His Ministry”. There’s something about that idea that sounds “perfect” to my heart!

We all have friends, family, work mates, school mates, etc. I’ve included a simple directional on “how to find” the “fishes and loaves”. Please feel free to share “what you eat” with others. You have no idea where it could lead to! That young boy’s mother could never have dreamed, what that little lunch she had prepared for her son on that fateful morning, would produce!

Thanks in advance. Bill Taylor

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