The Master’s Servants

Many years ago I worked with an outreach ministry in the San Francisco Bay area where I met a man I’ll call Bill who loved helping people. He was especially drawn to war veterans who often turned to alcohol in an effort to drown the emotional pain and guilt that plagued their every waking moment. His love and compassion for the people he worked with won him a place in their hearts. He had a way of mixing encouragement with exhortation that helped them to accept the truth about themselves and find hope to move forward with their lives. Bill was a natural evangelist. Not a few came to know Jesus and the transforming power of his love.

Thing about Bill was he’d often disappear for days at a time, and I’d have to get in my car and hunt him down. He was an alcoholic, and sometimes his behavior was just too much for his wife to bear. Home was not always a good environment for the three children, either. After one such episode, I found Bill in a bar, head bowed in shame. When I sat beside him, he looked me in the eye and asked if I would have a drink with him. I agreed, we had a beer together and I took him home. Somehow that small token of acceptance and companionship touched his heart. Bill stayed dry for awhile after that, but the pattern never ended. A couple years passed and Bill & family moved to another area.

Several years later my wife and I left the Bay Area and planted a church in the Sacramento region. As the congregation grew, Mark stood out as the most generous and outreaching of all the members. He was a natural evangelist – and an alcoholic. New converts would give testimony to the example his life was to them, and how their lives had changed as a result of his unconditional love and acceptance.

A few months ago someone who was still in touch with Bill contacted me to let me know that he had passed away. There were a lot of people in the church building where the memorial service was being held. I could tell by the pastor’s sermon that Bill’s troubles had never ended. Neither had his love stopped. One after one, veterans who had found Christ through their relationship with Bill and ones who hadn’t yet, stood up and shared about the sacrificial love Bill demonstrated that had changed their lives. His wife and adult children all shared as well. No one sugar coated Bill’s problems, but it was clear that, through all his faults, it was the good fruit that remained.

Maybe folks like Bill and Mark are in our lives to remind us that love covers a multitude of sins. I must admit I spent most of my life judging people’s worth based on how “pure” a life they lived. Sure, I appreciated the contributions made by people like Bill and Mark and even had a genuine love and compassion for them. But though I’d never admit it to anyone, I thought of them as being a couple rungs down the ladder from those who lived an “upright” life. And secretly, I brushed off my sense of conviction that they were more giving and caring than I was.

Paul asked the Roman Christians this question: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

In the final analysis, love wins.

David Fredrickson

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Childlike or Childish?

My grandson is one year old and, for the record, the best looking, cutest, most intelligent, and sweetest little guy ever born. Ok, now that I’ve got thousands of parents and grandparents who are ready to back up their disagreement with pictures, I’ll get on with my blog. Anyway, he’s one year old now and into everything. Yesterday he climbed out of his little pool, grabbed the garden hose and marched stark naked toward the faucet while I recorded him on video.

Of course he wasn’t the slightest bit self conscious. He hadn’t worked out a plan before he climbed out of the pool, nor had he worried about whether he was strong enough to turn on the faucet. His curiosity distracted him along the way, and his eyes were bright with anticipation. When he had to step off the patio slab and onto uneven ground, he reached for my hand and moved on with perfect confidence. He was on an adventure, and all was right with the world.

Jesus said that unless one becomes as a little child, he can’t enter the kingdom of heaven.
A few of the loveable traits I observe in my grandson are sweet innocence, spontaneity, curiosity and simple trust. If you’re like me, you probably come up short in comparison.
Part of the reason is that we all still have tendencies common to the old nature. Another factor for many is the part religion has played. It robs us of our innocence by using the stolen knowledge of good and evil to make judges of ourselves and others. We’re told we need to accumulate knowledge taught by men or get permission from a spiritual authority before we can “minister,” so stepping out in spontaneous response to the Spirit is not an option. We are exhorted not to question certain “sacred” doctrines, so our desire to explore new areas is quenched. As for simple trust, it doesn’t come easy when the religious formulas for success fail.

In fact innocence, spontaneity, curiosity and uneducated trust are considered by religious teaching to be childish traits. Yet the very opposite is true. Playing church by making up the rules is childish. Playing big man, little man is childish. Insisting that we’re the ones that have it right is childish. Arguing over doctrines is childish. Pretending we’re somebody else on Sunday mornings, bragging about “our” church and making jokes about the church down the road are all games that untaught children play.

A person who has grown in love, on the other hand, is childlike. Love has overcome the knowledge of good and evil, restoring us to child-like innocence. Love always trusts. Love seeks out the truth and rejoices when it’s discovered. Love is spontaneous because it is unconditional and therefore does not pause to consider the worthiness of its object.
Bottom line, love has forgotten what it doesn’t need to know and restores us to the child-like innocence, curiosity, spontaneity and simple trust we had before the fall.

David Fredrickson

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Justice for All

I can remember outlasting a stare down with my stern and feared fourth grade teacher when she unjustly accused me of some misdeed. On another occasion, the same teacher accused my friend of being disrespectful when he squinted while saying the Pledge of Allegiance. He was taller than all the other kids, and stood in the back of the line where he had to stare straight into the morning sun that was just peaking over the tin roof of the Little Red Schoolhouse. I couldn’t stand the fact that she made an example of him in front of all the other children and followed that with more punishment. My passion for justice led to a confrontation between his dad, my dad and the teacher.

For my entire life, I’ve responded to injustice with angry determination. And when I was in situations where injustice occurred in which I was helpless, I fumed inside. I’ve hated people who used their place of position and power to crush others. I’ve often dreamed of ways they could be brought down to size in the most painful and humiliating ways possible. Yet I saw nothing wrong with my fantasies, because after all, the bullies deserved it. Justice is good and right.

It’s been a long road of repentance for me in learning to shed the cloak of “righteous indignation” by replacing it with “putting on” love. Though the fruit of the tree of knowledge is bitter, it’s the mainstay of the old nature and extremely addicting. We’re fooled into believing that when a wrong doer “gets theirs” the world is set right again.

I’m not suggesting that we take no part in working toward social justice or in standing up for those who are treated unfairly. But many Christians today are obsessed with justice for themselves. They’re fighting for religious freedom. They’re angry at the thought that they’re being discriminated against and are ready to do battle with whoever would seek to make them lesser citizens of this country. The president is there enemy, and they wish him harm. This misdirected passion reveals which kingdom one is committed to and where the roots of his/her identity are anchored.

But there will never be justice in this world until Jesus returns as King. And as kings and priests of his kingdom, we don’t need justice here. We have not gotten what we deserve in the way of punishment, but we’ve been given what we could never deserve in benefits. Lifted above the demands of right and wrong, fully forgiven, made righteous in him, and now joint heirs of all that is his, we live in a kingdom where right and wrong, justice and injustice, fair and unfair are overcome by the One who brings the mountains down and raises the valleys up.

David Fredrickson

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Fig Leaves Religion

On one of our recent podcasts I mentioned a conversation with a couple of teenagers that occurred years ago when I pastored an institutional “church.” I was concerned about their spiritual condition as they showed no interest in the “things of God.” They assured me that there was no problem. Then they said something close to: “We believe and will follow Christ when we no longer live with our parents. They act so differently at home than they do at church, we can’t stand to accommodate them by doing the same.”

I was reminded of that little chat when thinking about Adam and Eve’s trespassing episode in the Garden of Eden. Immediately after eating of the forbidden fruit their eyes were opened, so they made loin cloths out of fig leaves and hid from God. (Gen. 3:7,8)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: Instead of seeing God, man sees himself. “Their eyes were opened.” Man perceives himself in his disunion with God and other men. He perceives that he is naked….[he] covers himself, conceals himself from men and from God.

Since religious Christianity springs directly from human nature as a fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it encourages its followers to conceal their faults by applauding performance that belies their inward disposition. Most of us who were raised in a religious environment would admit that we believe we would be rejected if others knew what we were like in the privacy of our homes. Just like those who don’t know Christ, we see ourselves and others through eyes trained by our stolen knowledge and pass judgment accordingly. As Greg Boyd puts it, we receive and ascribe worth on the condition that our knowledge of good and evil approves it.

But the second Adam has destroyed the curse and ended all judgment against us. We are fully approved in Christ, loved unconditionally, of immeasurable worth and made righteous so that all accusations Satan makes against us are null and void. To the degree that we live loved in this way, we can love others.

David Fredrickson

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Electrical Cords & Demonic Manifestations

I must admit that I’ve encountered a stumbling block in my efforts to move past the elemental doctrines of Christ unto perfection. Electrical cords have effectively thwarted any forward movement on my part.

I refuse to own more than one cord. I keep it in the wheel barrow which you can just barely make out if you peer through tangled loops of rubber covered wire creating a mass the size of a small St. Bernard dog.

Oh yes, I’ve tried wrapping it around my elbows like normal people do. It doesn’t work for me. The square knot method created an even greater challenge.

Each week when the lawn needs mowing and trimming, I know that I’ll be forced to use the electric weed eater. I know it, but refuse to think about it until the mowing is complete. As I roll the mower back into the shed, I can see the orange wire monster out of the corner of my eye. It’s waiting for me like a cobra preparing to strike. After drawing a deep breath, I move quickly and grab it with both hands. Striding purposefully toward the front yard, I attempt desperately to conjure up a flicker of false hope that things will be different today. God knows I don’t believe it.

Now the battle begins. I will attempt to untangle the shapeless mass while remaining in a disposition of relative sanity. I’ve learned in past defeats that there is no good place to begin, so I grab the male plug and pull. The mass tightens. I try the female end with the same result. I begin to weave one end through the countless loops that have defied physics by having no end and no beginning.

I won’t bore you or embarrass myself further with the full details of what generally follows. Imagine a crazy man mumbling to himself while jerking frantically at cord loops and finally swinging knotted sections of the offensive material wildly around his head. His wife who has been happily watering flowers now wisely retreats safely indoors.

The man of God has lost his cool. Not to worry, however; the next day he may well be in his office counseling a client on anger management.

I wrote the first few sentences of this little piece several years ago, and just came upon them today. It’s a bit exaggerated, of course, but accurately describes my feelings at the time. It’s encouraging to realize that I no longer respond to such challenges as I did then. At the same time it’s humbling to realize how small frustrations could have such power in my life and to recognize how easily annoyed I still become at times in those situations. All the more reason to rejoice in the fact that Father’s immeasurable love for us never fails and that judgment ended at the cross. Trying harder always fails. Living loved brings transformation

David Fredrickson

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Light Shows & Daily Bread

In chatting with friends who are still in touch with the latest fads in certain spiritual cultures, it appears that new “revelations” and “powerful” meetings still top the list as events supposed to move one closer to God. It’s not been too many years since I would have agreed.

When Peter, James and John experienced perhaps the most glorious engagement with God recorded in the New Testament, they were clueless as to the significance of what they had witnessed. They watched as Jesus changed into a light being before their eyes, while Elijah and Moses showed up to speak with him.

But Peter’s response completely missed the heart of God for this momentous occasion. He wanted to camp right there and build three private church buildings for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. This evoked an immediate response from Father God who nixed Peter’s suggestion by blinding the three onlookers with a bright cloud. He reminded them that it was all about Jesus; He was the one they were to listen to!

Though any unique encounter with God or special time in his presence is certainly a privilege, it is our lack and his bounty that is more often revealed on such occasions. The moment we step out of the “pond” we find ourselves none the more “spiritual” for the experience. We are aware that every revelation must be lived out in our daily walk, yet we somehow imagine that the next “dip” will take care of our shortcomings. So many feel, like Peter, that if they could just stay in the pond, they would become more like Jesus. So they increase their prayer time and run from meeting to meeting trying to keep “full” of God. They end up leaning on meetings rather than on God himself until they become exhausted and disillusioned.

It seems apparent that a significant need in Peter’s life was for his mind to be renewed so he could distinguish more clearly between his natural inclinations and the mind of the Spirit. But this comes only as we respond to the truth he makes real to us as we yield our ambitions, desires and bodies to Father on an hourly and daily basis. Thus, the revelation of God and self that occurs in any extraordinary time with Father serves as a motivation and reminder to lean on him more fully.

The sense of impotence that Peter and the other disciples must have felt on the mountain was no doubt repeated shortly after they entered the valley. Their inability to cure the epileptic boy further demonstrated their need to trust in Christ alone for the life and power that continually flowed from him. Like the life-sustaining manna from heaven eaten in the dessert by their ancestors, the life from the Bread of heaven could not be harvested in a glorious moment and stored for the following day.* The life giving bread is here and now in every moment, in every situation.

David Fredrickson

*Excerpt from book: When the Church Leaves the Building

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vision & Passion

A few days ago I met with a couple of Christian entrepreneurs whose goal at the moment was to convince me to become a part of what they were doing. It was quite obvious they were devoted to their cause as enthusiasm seemed to ooze out of their pores. They’ve set their eyes on a goal that they want badly enough to give themselves fully to, imagining what life will be like when they succeed. It’s never far from their thoughts, and one of them told me he talks about it to everyone he meets. I have no doubt that their passion will propel them to success in the business venture they’ve launched.

I told them that what I’m passionate for would make it impossible for me to give myself fully to what they are offering. Yet today I’m aware of areas in my life where passion ebbs and flows. The reason, I’m discovering, is that I let concerns and weariness blur my vision.

When Abraham couldn’t imagine becoming the father of nations, God led him out of his tent and told him to gaze up at the stars in the sky. We can get so focused on our little world that we lose sight of Father in his creation all around us. Keeping our eyes on Jesus may be motivated by love, but still takes discipline. When we become focused on the cares of life, we tend to lose our vision of him and end up staring at the idols that promise us happiness, yet only deliver a passing distraction. The result is a transfer of our affections from heavenly to earthly values and a loss of the passion that moves us to action.

When godly passion wanes, human nature turns to earthly substitutes. Religious Christianity motivates people to focus on right and wrong and to look for truth by dissecting scripture. But passion for “correct doctrine” or for “being right” is the antithesis of passion that springs from the revelation of Jesus. There is no substitute for the one who alone fills the vision of those who live in his love.

David Fredrickson

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good, Evil, You Decide

Managing sin. How’s that working for you? Yeah we talk about that, and other things regarding righteousness. Good, evil, you decide. Podcast Link

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Vengeance

A conservative on-line news magazine “supporting Judeo Christian values” somehow got my email address. Occasionally I’ll open the email as I did yesterday when the headline story looks intriguing. This one was about a woman in Mexico who met her daughter’s rapist in the street when he was out of prison on a three day leave. He taunted her before entering a bar, after which she got a can of gasoline, found him in the bar and soaked him with the fuel. Then she lit him on fire and watched him burn to death.

I browsed through reader’s comments on the story until it was clear that almost all of them were similar. The great majority of them praised the mom for what she had done. They were like a cheering squad that regretted missing the action. One mentioned something to the effect that the man’s pain was small compared to what he is experiencing now.

I understand the mother’s lust for vengeance and the response of most of those who left comments. My fury is aroused when I hear of innocent people becoming the victim of a twisted individual with a seared conscience. But if I gloat over the consequences they suffer, it’s because I’ve lost sight of the reality that they are so loved that Jesus took their punishment on himself and sacrificed his life for them. If I think I know what they deserve, I’ve put myself in God’s place as the judge, yet he’s not willing that ANY should perish.

Love that comes from Father does not discriminate. It does not judge on the basis of good and evil. Yet many Christians feel justified in their condemnation of evil doers because they relate to a God that had the Canaanites wiped out. But if we are truly those who have been joined to Christ, then we must understand that Jesus is the sole and full expression of the living God. On the cross Jesus forgave those who rejected him and killed him. On the cross he revealed the heart of his Father for all mankind. Jesus made it clear that no one has seen God nor has he ever been fully revealed to anyone until he was revealed in Christ. For us, Jesus Christ is the only example we’re to follow. His example leaves no place for vengeance; only forgiveness. His love for the vilest sinner is immeasurable and unquenchable.

David Fredrickson

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daily Resurrection

Is it possible to have resurrection on a daily basis? Now I’m not talking literally, but when the Apostle Paul wrote that he dies daily, could it be that we could also have resurrection daily? so begins our recent replay of our podcast. Podcast link 

Posted in General | Leave a comment