Uncategorized  Comments Off on “AFTER-CHRISTS…IN TEN THOUSAND PLACES!”
Sep 252016


By:  Ron Woodrum


     When Jesus breathed His last breath, and Joseph of Arimathea and Nichodemus claimed His body and buried it in that borrowed tomb everyone-followers and enemies thought that was the tragic end. The Jewish leaders thought they had squashed the crisis that was the greatest threat to Judaism, as they knew and loved it.  The Romans were glad that they had quelled what might have been the greatest of all rebellions against Imperial Rome.  The disciples were devastated.  They expected Jesus’ ministry to conclude in an overthrow of the Romans, Him ascending the throne of His father David, and two of the twelve, still undecided, would sit at His right and left hands in this new invincible Kingdom.  But those expectations had been crushed on a Black Friday afternoon, that later would be desginated Good Friday.  It wasn’t very “Good” in their eyes at that time. You can read of their devastation and disillusionment in the narrative of the two disciples who encountered the risen Christ, on the road to Emmaus. When the unknown Stranger quizzed them on their sad demeanor, they honestly responded, that they were sad because Jesus of Nazareth had been delivered by the rulers, and had been crucified.  Then they said, “We had hoped that He would have been the one to redeem Israel. i.e. The Messiah” (Luke 24:21).  Philip Yancey, in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew,  wrote about what might have happened if Jesus had never been raised from the dead.  He wrote, “Sometimes I think about how different the world would be had Jesus not been resurrected from the dead.  Although the disciples would not risk their lives trumpeting a new faith in the streets of Jerusalem, neither would they forget Him! They had given three years to Jesus.  He may not have been the Messiah, (if He had not risen), but He had impressed them as the wisest teacher ever and had demonstrated powers that no one would explain.  After time, emotional wounds began to heal, and the disciples would seek some way to memorialize Jesus.  Perhaps writing His sayings down in written form, akin to one of our Gospels…or build a monument to Jesus’ life.  Then we who live in modern times could visit that monument and learn about the carpenter/philosopher from Nazareth.  We could sift through His sayings, taking and leaving what we liked.  World-wide Jesus would be esteemed in the same way Confucius or Socrates is esteemed”.

     But that is not what happened.  John Masefield’s play “The Trial of Jesus” has Longinus, the Roman Centurian, come back to report to Pilate.  Pilate’s wife, Procula, asks, “Do you think He’s really dead?”  The centurion replies, “No, my lady, I do not!”  “Where do you think He is?” she asks.  He replies-“Let loose on the world, my lady, where no one will ever stop His truth”.We have no historical record of Longinus, or anyone saying that, nor even thinking that!  Not even His disciples!  But Masefield gave a good description of what actually did follow.  Jesus was still alive, and through the Holy Spirit, incarnated and invigorated His disciples  to take His message and minstry throughout the entire Roman world in one generation!  Frederick Buechner says that is the real message of Easter-  “we can never nail Him down, not even if the nails we use are real and the thing we nail Him to is a cross!” Walter Wink, in Naming the Powers, says, “Killing Jesus was like trying to destroy a dandelion seed by blowing on it!”  St. Augustine, in describing the Ascension, said, “You ascended from before our eyes, we turned back grieving, only to find you in our hearts!”.  What Augustine was describing was more than a metaphor.  It was a real incarnational transforming of those who would carry on the ministry of Christ in the world-as His body-the Church!  The great author and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, in his writings saw Christians as a seconding of the kenotic incarnation of the living Christ.  He coined the phrases “After-Christs”.  In his poem, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Dragonflies Draw Flame,  He wrote:


     “for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

      lovely in eyes, and lovely in limbs not his,

      To the Father, through the features of men’s faces”


Jesus had promised His disciples that after He left, that He would still be with them by the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit.  He told them it would be even better for them because they would do “even greater things than He did!” (John 1412).  We know the early Church saw the fruition of that promise.  But overall how has that worked out for the Church?  Frederick Beuchner points out this has not always worked out for the best.  He writes, “The Church at Corinth were in fact Christ’s body, as Paul wrote to them one of his most enduring  metaphors-Christ’s eyes, ears, and hands.  But the way they were carrying on, that could only leave  Christ blood-shot, ass-eared, and all thumbs to carry on God’s work in a fallen world”. (The Magnificent Defeat).  Philip Yancey speaks to that failure of the Church to successfully function as the body of Christ, in the fallen world, when he writes quite eloquently, “I could fill several pages with colorful quotations, all of which underscore the risk involved in entrusting God’s own reputation to the likes of us.  Unlike Jesus, we do lnot perfectly express the Word.  We speak in garbled syntax, stuttering, mixing languages together, putting accent marks in the wrong places.  When the world looks for Christ it sees, like the cave-dwellers Plato wrote about in one of his allegories, only shadows created by the light, not the light itself!”

     Flannery O’Connor, in his book The Habit of Being, answered a critic of the Church by explaining that the critic did not understand the role that sin plays in the failure of the Church.  He wrote, “All your dissatisfaction with the Church comes from an incomplete understanding of sin.  What you seem actually to demand is that the Church put the Kingdom of Heaven on earth right now, that the Holy Ghost be translated into into all human flesh.  The Holy Spirit rarely shows Himself on the surface of anything. You are asking man to return at once, to the state God originally created him in. You are leaving out the terrible radical human pride that causes death. Christ was crucified on earth and the Church is crucified in time…The Church is founded on Peter, who denied Christ three times, and couldn’t walk on water by himself.  You are expecting his successors to walk on water.  All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful…to have the Church be what you want it to be would require continous miraculous meddling of God in human affairs!”  Before  you and I use O’Connor’s words to excuse our failures, let me tell you the New Testament emphasizes that such miraculous meddling of God in human affairs is exactly what God has done by sending His Spirit to empower us to live as Christ’s body in the world.  Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, but not I Christ liveth in me!” (Gal. 2:20). 


Robert Frost wrote a poem describing this process…he wrote  in Kitty Hawk:


“But God’s Own Descent

Into flesh was meant

As a demonstration…

Spirit enters flesh, and for all it’s worth,

Charges into earth, and in birth after birth,

Ever fresh, Ever Fresh”


     Malcomb Muggeridge wrote, in Jesus the Man Who Lives, “Future historians are likely to conclude that the more we knew about Jesus the less we knew Him, and the more precisely His words were translated the less we understood and heeded them”.  He may be right.  The goal is not to understand Jesus and imitate Him, (something we do not have the power to do).  The goal is to know Him experientially by the power, presence, and performance of the Holy Spirit and incarnate Him in our lives, as His body.  That is miraculous meddling in the  affairs of men.  That is exactly what God wants to do through us-His Church!


 Posted by at 12:41 pm


 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “PRAYING LIKE YOUR SHIP IS SINKING!”
Sep 182016


By: Ron Woodrum


As Christians most of us have an insatiable desire to spend time praying to our Heavenly Father.  Yet most of us are willing to admit that we spend far too little doing this thing that we say our heart desires.  We do not “pray as we should”.  Why?  The usual answer is that when we attempt to do that very thing we are overcome by distractions.  Even the most dedicated and famous believers have admitted to such difficulty.  Thomas a’ Kempis, author of The Imitation of Christ, said that when he entered into his prayer closet and tried to focus on heavenly things that a rout of carnal temptations would rush upon him.  John Donne, English author of For Whom The Bell Tolls, also dealt with this frustration.  He wrote:  “I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call in and invite God, and His angels thither to join me, and when they are there, I neglect God and His angels for a noise of a fly, a rattling of a coach, the squeaking of a door, a memory of yesterday’s pleasures, fear of tomorrow’s dangers, a straw under my knee, a noise in my ear, a light in my eye, an anything, a nothing, a fancy, a Chimera in my brain.  All these  trouble me in prayer”.  Luther said, “When I would speak and pray to God by myself, a hundred thousand hindrances at once intervene before I get at it.  Then the devil can throw all sorts of reasons for delay in my path, he can block and hinder me on all sides; as a result, I go my way and never think of it again.  Let him who has never experienced this only try it.  Resolve to pray earnestly, and you will see how large an assortment of your own thoughts willl rush in on you and distract you, so that you cannot begin aright!”

     When that happens what should we do?  We must resolve to pray inspite of that.  You keep calling yourself back to your Heavenly Father.  You keep at it-as a spiritual discipline.  Henri Nouwen, Christian psychologist, author, and counselor dealt with this issue.  He decided the only way to overcome it was to schedule 30 minutes a morning to pray and stick to it at all costs!  At first his thoughts ran wild, like untamed animals.  But he kept at it, telling himself, “since I am here for this half hour anyhow, I might just as well pray”.  The sense of awkwardness gradually faded, and in time he felt his soul settling down to a more calming rythm.  He concluded, “The paradox of prayer is that it asks for a serious effort while it can only be received as a gift.  We cannot plan, organize, or manipulate God; but without careful and consistent discipline we cannot receive Him either!”

     British theologian Herbert McCabe had some very insightful advice to Christians dealing with distractions during prayer.  He wrote:  “People often complain of distractions during prayer.  Their mind goes wondering off to other things.  This is nearly always due to praying for something we not not really want…something respectable and proper…but something you really don’t desire deeply like-peace in N. Ireland or your aunt to recover from the flu-things you should want, but really don’t want all that badly.  Your prayer is rapidly invaded by distractions arising from what you do really want-perhaps like that promotion at work, let us say. Distractions are nearly always your real wants breaking in on your prayer for edifying but bogus wants.  If you are distracted, trace your distractions back to the real desires it comes from and pray about these.  When you are praying for what you really want-you will not be distracted.  PEOPLE ON SINKING SHIPS DO NOT COMPLAIN OF DISTRACTIONS DURING THEIR PRAYERS!”

     If we really believe in the God who hears and answers prayer-that should encourage us to pray without distraction.  Karl Barth wrote:  “He is not deaf, he listens; more than that He acts.  He does not act in the same way whether we pray or not.  Prayer exerts an influence upon God’s action, even upon His existence.  That is what the word answer means.  The fact that God yields to man’s petitions, changing His intentions, in response to man’s prayers is not a weakness.  He Himself in the glory and majesty of His power has willed it to be so!”  Really believing that about God-that He hears and answers-can lead to unbridled enthusiam to pray.  John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, wrote “And if by incessant prayer I could hope to change the will of Him who can all things do, I would not cease to weary Him with my assiduous cries!”  But even if He doesn’t answer immediately don’t let that keep you from the prayer closet.  He will answer-His way-His time!

In the meantime prayer that God doesn’t anwer immediately is still valuable to us.  It teaches us that time spent with God is valuable, not just for the answers, but for His presence!  That is why George MacDonald said, “he that prys and does not faint will come to recognize that to talk with God is more than to have all prayers granted-talking with God is the end of all prayers!”  Even as we wait for God to intervene and answer we are experiencing fulfillment of our greatest spiritual needs and desires.  Listen to the great British preacher Leslie Weatherhead explain this:  “I have always found prayer difficult.  So often it seems like a fruitless game of hide and seek in which we seek and God hides.  I know God is very patient with me.  Without that patience I should be lost.  But frankly I have to be patient with him.  With no other friend would I go on seeking such scant, conscious response.  Yet I cannot leave prayer alone for long.  My need drives me to Him.  And I have a feeling that he has his own reasons for hiding Himself, and that finally my seeking will prove infinitely worhtwhile…I long for more satisfaction, but I cannot cease from questing.  Jesus sometimes found prayer difficult.  Some of His most agonized prayers were not answered.  But he did not give up His praying.  I frankly have little to show for all my prayers, but I cannot give up, for ‘my soul longeth for God’ and I know that outside of God there is nothing at all…”

Spending time with God in prayer is not only the only way to see God do for us what no one else can do…but it also allows us to learn the joy of His presence…and the fulfillment of our greatest yearning.  Go ahead.  Talk to God…like your ship is sinking.   He is better than the best Father.  He cares.  He listens.  He answers.  Distractions and all…do it…you won’t be disappointed…but fulfilled!



 Posted by at 12:20 pm


Sep 112016


By: Ron Woodrum


President Abraham Lincoln had a disarming and engaging ability to laugh at himself, especially his own physical appearance.  When Senator Stephan A. Douglas once called him a “two-faced man”, Lincoln responded, “I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?”  Another time he told a group of editors about meeting a woman riding on horseback in the wood.  She “looked at me intently, and said, ‘I do believe you are the ugliest man I ever saw’.  Said I, ‘Madam, you are probably right, but I can’t help it’.  ‘No’, she said, ‘you can’t help it, but you could stay at home!'”   Potentially we Christians can be two-faced.  We can at times show our spiritual image in Christ, or or Carnal image in the flesh!  More often than not, we let our ugly natural, fleshly, and carnal identity have full expression.  The answer is not  to stay at home and hide our ugliness.  Instead it is a better option to yield ourselves to God, in Jesus Christ, and let His Holy Spirit energize our transformation and supernaturally show our best side.  C.S. Lewis said it best, he wrote, “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become’…the alternative is a real disaster.  The more I resist Him and try to live in my own strength, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires.  In fact what I so proudly call ‘myself’ becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and cannot stop!” That is the greatest danger we as Christians face!  Letting our lives become merely “the meeting place for trains of events we we never started and cannot stop!”.    e.e. cummings, in his unique poetic way expressed the struggle that everyone has in preventing the world from defining us.  He wrote,


“To be nobody but yourself

in a world which is doing

its best night and day

to make you everybody else-

means to fight the hardest battle

which any human being can fight-

and never stop fighting.”


The truth is the the hardest battle the Christian will fight, and must never stop fighting is to resist letting the world squeeze us into its mold.  Another danger is to let our carnal self have full reign and rob us of experiencing the transforming work of the indwelling Spirit of Christ’s power to make us the Spiritual person God designed us to be in the first place. That is what C.S. Lewis was referring to.  We are actually in danger of living all the days of our Christian life and missing out on that very thing!  John Henry Newman said, “Fear not that your life shall come to an end, but fear rather it shall never have a beginning”.  Oliver Wendall Holmes said, “the ultimate tragedy is that many people go to their graves with their music still in them”.  That should be our fear…that our Spiritual life shall never have a beginning…that we die with the Spirit-filled melody intended for us still be unexpressed.  Jesus intends for us to get out of our boats, follow Him, and by His power find ourselves like Peter-“walking on water”…doing what is physically impossible because He bids us come! He said that those who follow Him will do even greater things, by the power of the Spirit.  That is how we will show the world the reality of following Christ…of demonstrating His power and nature.  Karl Barth, one of the greatest theologians and Christian thinkers of all time, said, “the Word became flesh-and then through theologians it became words again”.  To him the greatest challenge of the Christian community was to incarnate Him in flesh again.  How do we do that?  By yielding to the control of the Holy Spirit in our lives moment by moment.  Paul Brandt explained it this way, “He is asking us to be the chief bearers of His likeness in the world.  As spirit He remains invisible on this planet.  He relies upon us to give flesh to that spirit, to bear the very image of God”.

When the natural Christian teams up with the Supernatural Spirit of God something Theanthropic happens!  That is it becomes a Divine-human synergy.  The product always exceeds anything we can anticipate or imagine.  Even in the physical realm we can be fascinated by emerging results from some combinations.  In his book on Synergy Physicist Buckmaster Fuller goes to geometric gymnastics to prove that two triangles, when  combined geometrically, the result is unusual.  He writes, “By conventional arithmetic, one triangle plus one triangle equals two triangles.  But in association as left helix and right helix, they form a six-edged tetra-hedron of four triangular faces…when seen as negative and positive helixes they compliment each other…and our two triangles now add up as one plus one equals four!”.  He lost me somewhere in the explaination.  But he does demonstrate that there are times when additions are made, and things are combined, that the product far exceeds the normally understood realm.  He then illustrates it in another way easier to understand.  He says synergy-the combining of elements-explain how metals increase strength.  All alloys are synergetic.  Chrome-nickel-steel combined to make extra-ordinary strength.  This alloy combination produced a high cohesive strength and structural ability to withstand the temperatures necessary for the jet engine.  Engineers invented jet expulsion from watching squids.  By developing explosions to cause similar expulsion to jet a plane into the air required temperatures that would destroy normal metals like steel.  But by combining Chrome-nickel-steel together it became possible to do the impossible! That is a poor illustration from the natural realm  of what can be true in the supernatural realm.  When God combines our human nature with His divine nature, the combination exceeds one plus one.  It is a physical-Spiritual alloy that jettisons us beyond the natural and helps us excel to be transformed into the image of Christ!  That helps us become more than ourselves-more than just a meeting place of trains of events we never began nor neither can we stop.  We can, by that alloy “give flesh to that Spirit, and bear the image of God, in the person of His Son”, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, to a world that desperately needs to see Him real in us!  That makes us “Holy, Wholly, Holy!”  That is what today’s message is about.  Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, expressed the adventure of this Spirit-filled life in this way, “The word ‘Christian’ means different things to different people.  To one person it means a stiff, upright, inflexible way of life, color-less and unbending.  To another it means a risky, surprise-filled venture, lived tiptoe at the edge of expectation…if we get our information from the Biblical material, there is no doubt that the Christian life is a dancing, leaping, daring life.”  (Traveling Light)

 Posted by at 1:24 pm


 Uncategorized  Comments Off on “LET YOUR THEOLOGY BECOME YOUR BIOGRAPHY!”
Sep 042016



It was William Cowper who wrote the words “God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.  He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm”.  (1773).  We know that.  God has shown His awesome nature and power in His creation and in His many works that reflect His majesty and bring Him glory.  But God sometimes performs His greatest works through the commonplace and the least expected means.  Frederick Buechner changed my entire perspective of Christmas when he emphasized the commonplace of the Christmas story.  He wrote, “Those who believe in God can never  in a way, be sure of Him again.  Once they have seen Him in a stable, they can never be sure where He will appear or to what lengths He will go, to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation He will descend in His wild pursuit of man.  If holines and the awful power and the majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly or earthbound but that holiness can be present there too.  This means that we are never safe, that there is no place that we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from His power to break in two and recreate the human heart because it is just where He seems most helpless that He is most strong, and just where we least expect Him that He comes most fully”.  Yes when God became flesh and dwelt among us in Christ-God acted in an untheological way; an unsophisiticated way; and undignified way.  Buechner says, “But according to Christianity it is the way things are”.  The incarnation gives us the ultimate model.  If He wanted to teach us about psychology, he’d sent a psychologist; if He wanted to teach us about science, He would have sent a scientist; But He wanted to teach us about Personhood, so He sent us a Person, the Word made flesh-not only to show us what God is like, but also to show us what Life is life.  Life as He intended, and will restore through this Person.  That model is how wants to continue to work.  He wants to continue to reveal Himself and accomplish His work through those who have become followers of His Son Jesus.  Jesus in His incarnation and Calling knew that He had come to do the works of His Father, and He only had a certain amount of time to accomplish it.  So do we. Buechner summarized how that model is pertinent to our calling and work.  He wrote, “The incarnation means that all ground is holy because God not only made it but also walked on it, ate and slept, and worked and died on it.  If we are saved anywhere…we are saved here…One of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making is the attempt to be more spiritual than God Himself!” 

Major Ian Thomas explained it this way-when God reveals Himself He often does it through an ordinary bush-“Any old bush will do!”.  In other words the shocking message of the Bible continues to be that God has chosen the least suspecting of all vessels to do His work.  What you are at this particular moment in your life is irrelevant.  What counts the most is what and who you are willing to become for His glory.  See that scruffy-looking bush over there?  That bush will do.  See that funny-looking bush over here?  It will do too!  What makes that ordinary bush aglow is the Presence and Power of God.  That is what makes it glow and aflame.  That is what makes it continue to attract bystanders to it-To bring glory to God.  We need to learn that lesson.  God would use Moses, not because of His noble relationship to Pharoah; not because of his elite education in the best schools of Egypt; not because of his years of experience in the desert region through which the children of Israel would pass.  He would use him for His glory because of His presence and power in the life of Moses.  So with us.  Moses learned about God.  But his theology become his biography.

Madeleine L’Engle said it so well, “In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do His work, to bear His glory.  If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves.  If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there is no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own or God’s glory with our own.”  Philip Clarke Brewer  has writen a poem entitled “The Five Loaves and Two Fishes” to remind us of the insignificant things God uses in a significant way His wonders to perform.  Here is that significant poem-


God uses

what you have

to fill a need which

you never could have filled.


God uses

where you are

to take you

where you never could have gone.


God uses

what you can do

to accomplish what

you never could have done


God uses

who you are

to let you become who

you never could have become.





 Posted by at 1:14 pm