George MacDonald and Universalism

Christian universalism is a school of Christian theology focused around the doctrine of universal reconciliation – the view that all human beings will ultimately be “saved” and restored to a right relationship with God.  ( Wikipedia)

George MacDonald has been called a Universalist but I think that is too simplistic. I hesitate to label him so narrowly. C.S Lewis imagines a conversation with MacDonald about this during his bus trip to heaven in “The Great Divorce” (which I love). I write about it a little in my blog “What Good is Hell” ( see below) which you may find helpful. MacDonald discusses the subject but rather than forming a dogma or taking a firm theological side he takes a “what if...” approach. He starts from the heart of God as loving Father who is not willing that any of His children should perish. He who descended into hell once to deliver captives may do so again.
MacDonald  does not view hell as punitive but remedial. He also does not see the cross as punishment endured by Jesus for our sins, but as God’s solution to defeat Satan and take away sin’s dominion over us with its consequences of death, sickness, poverty, alienation, captivity, etc. and to pay the “debt” incurred by the wages of sin.

He writes, “When we say that God is Love, do we teach men that their fear of Him is groundless?” He replied, “No. As much as they fear will come upon them, possibly far more. … The wrath of God will consume what they call themselves; so that the selves God made shall appear.”

What if hell’s fire is designed to purge away that which is incapable of entering or even seeing the Kingdom. All that enters the Kingdom must pass through fire consuming that which is combustible and revealing the “gold, silver and precious stones”.  And so, some are saved by fire. There is no place to run from the Fire of God. The further we run from Him, the hotter it gets. The solution is to run towards Him, pass through the fire and come forth as gold.

It is His will that none should perish but that all might be saved. Then can we not pray, “Thy will be done.” Is it conceivable that His will ultimately should not be done?

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “All this is from God who reconciled us to God through Christ…that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ… not counting men’s sins against them.

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The Human Enemy Is Not My Enemy

I was born in China in 1948 to missionary parents. My family was forced to leave China in 1950. The Lisu Chinese pastor who dedicated me to Jesus was later commanded to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. He said that he must obey God rather than men, so they cut out his tongue and said, “Now preach”. He bled to death for his faith.

Pastors, evangelists and teachers were executed or imprisoned. It became illegal to own a Bible or assemble for worship, but the number of believers in Christ grew more than 100 fold over the next 50 years. The testimony of those who are martyred for their faith only serves to strengthen and increase the victory of Jesus in the world. The recent testimonies of Coptic martyrs and their family members in Syria, were filled with expressions of forgiveness from those suffering and grieving.  It is not surprising to discover that the number of Jesus followers is growing faster in the Middle East in the places of greatest persecution, than anywhere else on earth.

This is not just about non-violent resistance, which is a powerful political strategy demonstrated by the wonderful examples of Gandhi, Dr Martin Luther King,  the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela. It is about the testimony of Jesus and His kingdom which “are not of this world” (not about human politics or government). The battle of Christ and His followers is not against evil persons (flesh and blood).  The human “enemy” is not my enemy.

Jesus refused to engage Pilate by resisting the authority of Rome. The Lisu pastor was not resisting Mao or the Peoples Republic.  Jesus’ battlefield is not even between religious systems (such as Islam and Christianity) but against cosmic spiritual wickedness and deception.

As for people, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”.  Here… let me put that ear back on.

For the Royal Family

I bow my knee before the Father, from whom every family  (or all fatherhood)
in heaven and earth derives its name” (or finds its identity).  Eph 3:14-15 (parentheses mine)
Apparently family and fatherhood are at the center of the universe and fundamental to the administration and government of both heaven and earth. We are not so much governed “by” as governing “with” the Family. Not so much “subjects” of the universal Government as we are heirs and therefore co-administrators.  ​We are  to reign with Him.

The government of the planet is upon our shoulders, (with and in the Name of the Divine Family).   Every name, title and authority has become subject to Him and placed under His feet (and therefore under our feet), who are the fullness of Him who fills everything.  (Eph. 1:22-23).  Where are His shoulders and feet, if not in His Body?   It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.

 

Is that really You, God?

Hearing and knowing God’s voice is foundational to discipleship. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them …and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).  The scriptures are full of instructions and corrections to people’s subjective experiences and claims about God. Listen to God’s voice with an open Bible.  Expect God to speak to you when you read the Bible. It functions as an instruction or “Owners” manual to illustrate how people through history have heard God’s voice, what His voice is like and what it is “not” like. They provide an important valuable safety net to the churches tendency to error and deception. I have spent a lifetime reading and studying the scriptures and I love them. I worry about people who say they don’t need the Bible. It has always made me hungry and thirsty to know God for myself the way David and Daniel and Peter and John and Moses and Jesus knew Him. It constantly challenges the poverty of my experience with God and calls me further and deeper and higher. Could we do without the Bible? Yes. Most believers before the invention of the printing press did not have access to the scriptures in their own language.  I have been in remote villages in China where most of the people are following Jesus but there have been no Bibles for more than 50 years. We have the Holy Spirit who inspired the scripture.  He has been given to us to “lead us into all Truth.”  Knowing the scriptures is no substitute for knowing the Author any more than reading a love letter is a substitute for knowing the lover. But why would I want to ignore her letters to me? They help me to know her better.

John Cooke – jfcooke.com

Re-incarnation

A Tibetan disciple reacted when I introduced myself as a follower of Jesus. He broke into a big smile, “Yes Jesus, the Savior. You know, the Dali Llama has the same Spirit, but in a different body.”  I returned his smile and said, “Me too!”.

Christ in us, is the hope of glory. That God is present with us, that we can know Him and walk with him, know his voice, That Glory is not just about a future glory some day in heaven, but is a revealing of the glory of the incarnation in us and through us.  Not the old humanity fixed but reborn, a new creation (or race) mirroring the likeness of Christ, templing the Shekinah.  As Christ was, so are we to be in the world.

John Cooke – jfcooke.com

http://wp.me/p3fSXK-8l

Trumping Karma

It is commonly taught that in order to preach the Gospel we must convince people of their sins and that they are “sinners”.  The real problem, however, is broken relationship with the Source. Sin is merely a symptom. The amazing glad news of great joy is that Sin no longer stands between God and us. The Lamb has taken away the sins of the world! God has reconciled the world through the work of the cross. New Testament preaching is not railing against sin and sinners. Jesus (representing the heart of the Father) did not come to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.  Therefore, neither should we condemn the world.  As far as God is concerned, since the cross, sin is a non-issue. It has been completely dealt with at the cross. Repent means to change the way you think. You are now free to Know your Creator and walk with Him in His Kingdom. Oh, and by the way, “sin” shall not be a problem for you!

The primary Problem is broken relationship with the Creator our Father.  In the first place relationship was broken because of a deception, believing a lie. This is the real problem. Romans 1:21 describes this process very well.  “Even though we knew God we broke relationship with Him, which resulted in our thinking becoming futile and our hearts unenlightened”  (paraphrase mine).  This breaking of relationship with the Father is the primary Sin resulting in many actions called “sins”.

I do not say that Sin and sins are a non-issue from our perspective.  Apart from restored relationship with God through the Savior’s work on the cross, sin will work death in us and through us. There are consequences. Damage is done in us, in others and to the planet (which groans under the weight of a humanity out of relationship with the Creator).

What I am saying is, that from The Father’s perspective, our sin is no longer standing between us and Him. The Lamb of God has taken the barrier away. The door is wide open. Everything that was against us has been nailed to the cross. All humanity is welcome. Whoever will may come! As far as He is concerned we have been reconciled to God and He has given us the authority to proclaim that reconciliation to all humanity; to declare forgiveness with authority.

So, you may ask, what stands in our way? Not the Father. It is our false ways of thinking, what we believe that needs to change. That is why believing in Him and the wonderful Good News is so powerful. To believe Him requires a change of thinking (and that is repentance). This is the only way to trump “karma”. Be reconciled to restored intimate relationship with your Creator.

Some have expressed concern that this sounds like “universal salvation”, that everyone will be saved. From God’s perspective it is obviously universally available, as I have stated above.  We have the authority to offer it to all. As to who believes and enters into the Kingdom, that is not my call.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “All this is from God who reconciled us to God through Christ…that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ… not counting men’s sins against them.”

Jesus, the Way to Know the Father

Jesus said, “If you really knew me you would know my Father as well.”  (John 14:6-7)  In other words, the way to know Father is by knowing Jesus.  Jesus is the most accurate image of the invisible God.  The Son unveils or reveals the Father.  So, we know the Father by knowing the Son.  “If you have seen me you have seen the Father…  I and my Father are One”.

The idea that the Gospel is primarily about Salvation from Hell, and a ticket to Heaven when we die, misses the point.  The Good news is about relationship with God in whom we were designed to “live and move and have our Being”.  Without knowing Him we will continue dying like fish out of water, falling short of our intended humanity as sons and daughters of the Father,  mirrors of God’s image.  Jesus shows us what the Father is like and what it means to be fully human. The New Birth allows us to “see the Kingdom of Heaven” now,  not just enter heaven when we die .  Eternal life is not just about what we experience after death, but an Eternal Source of life that begins by knowing the Father in this life as well as the next. The Kingdom of Heaven has come near to us, is within us, on earth as it is in heaven.

Have you ever wondered how the Creator can truthfully say, “I never knew you”  to anyone He has created.  I thought He knows everything about us, even how many hairs are on our head?  Perhaps that’s because we western thinkers tend to mistake knowledge about  someone for relationship with someone. When the scriptures speak of knowing a truth or a person they mean knowing by experience or by relationship.  When the Creator says,  “I never knew you” He means we never had a relationship!   So, we can only know the Father and His Son by relationship.  Without “knowing” the Father we continue dying, cut off from the Eternal Source of life.  If you want to know the Father, get to know Jesus.  You will become Family, a son or a daughter of the Creator.  You share the same DNA as Father and son.  You will find out who you are.