A minister of the gospel, while on his way to a funeral, stopped by to visit a member of his church, an old widow woman. The old lady had made several sausages and she was quite proud of them – they were so nice, so round and so sweet. She insisted the preacher should take a piece home to his family. After several pleas, the minister gave permission, and the lady wrapped a portion of sausage in a cloth and placed it in the spacious pocket of his vestment. So supplied, the minister then made his way to the graveside service.

During the ceremony at the grave a hungry dog detected the sausage and promptly traced it to the minister’s pocket. This of course created a big disturbance as the minister had to repeatedly fend it off with some well placed kicks. After the service at the graveside, the preacher and the mourners moved to the church for the funeral sermon. With the sermon over, a brother affected by the service approached the stairs to the pulpit and sought attention by tugging at the minister’s vestment. The minister, still thinking of the dog and what was in his pocket, picked up his foot, made a powerful thrust and pushed the poor brother down the stairs. Afterward, looking down and realizing what his effort had accomplished, he apologized; “I must confess and can no longer hide what’s going on. I have a sausage in my pocket and, for the whole time that I’ve been here, a dog has been trying to snatch it away.”

One can only imagine the effect this had on the mourners; the sorrowing was displaced with laughter as everyone left the service.

(Translated from an old German Almanac by Jonas Borntreger. 5/2/2013)

In order for any local congregation of the church of Jesus Christ to reach its maximum effectiveness it needs to stand in direct opposition to the “consumer oriented” mindset that often pervades our society. Church is not a democracy; it does not exist by the people, of the people, and for the people. The church is the church of KING JESUS. The church has a mission; a mission to fulfill the coming of HIS KINGDOM;” doing HIS WILL in the earth as it is being done in Heaven.” In this church we are servants – slaves even – who are totally divested of our own rights, and who patiently wait, standing quietly in the corner of the room, to attend to HIS every need. Paul said, “we are not our own, bought with a price, we therefore glorify God.”

If we take a somewhat cursory glance at ourselves we might frequently see our spoiled behaviors. We often require our pastors to handle us with kid gloves; and we walk rather than yielding to biblical discipline. We have often developed the opinion that church is a vehicle for obtaining “our best life yet.” We have allowed ourselves to believe that church exists to provide for everything from healing Aunt Nellie’s Bursitis to – after we have wrung out the last dregs of this life – providing a fantastic fire escape plan for us when we die. We shop for our religious experiences the same way we shop for our cars, our furniture, and our fashions. We try to keep our young people in our congregations by offering Holy Ghost Highs; we strive to be “seeker friendly;” and we try to design programs to meet everyone’s needs. In short, we give them everything they ask for and then we wonder why they wander at the first hint of something that requires dedication and perseverance.

Contradicting our approaches, Jesus often challenged the people who engaged him. “Birds have nests,” he said, foxes have holes; I have no place to lay my head. Why would you want to follow me?” Our king said, “Oh, so you want to be my disciple, fine! Here’s your first job. See that cross lying there. Grab it, drag it up that hill, and place it beside mine; and after that, go and practice loving my disciples to the same extent that I have loved you. Be truly one with me and with each other, and when that love blazes brightly the world out there will see it and recognize that you are my disciples. That’s the only outreach program that I desire for MY CHURCH”

Jonas Borntreger
Feb. 2013

 

An insult is the involuntary exchange of social currency. It is a robbery of human dignity and accomplishes this even while it also, at the same time, depreciates the person issuing the insult. In order for our social networks to function properly, all insulting behaviors need to be recognized and confronted. There are two reasons why I believe this is so.

First, an insulted person who vainly tries to simply ignore the insult will usually be unable to do so because of resentment growing inside of himself. The social debt is trying to demand repayment and will often manifest itself in vindictive activities, or in a parting of ways with the insulting individual. An insulted person needs to have the option of either collecting against the debt by obtaining an apology or by choosing to outright forgive it. I can’t forgive what I claim isn’t present and thus, both of these options are closed to me if the insult is never confronted.

The other reason for confronting insults is for the benefit of the insulter himself. An un-confronted insult can never be repaid by the person issuing the insult because for him also, it does not exist, even while it is devaluing him and stripping him of his dignity. Once confronted, the insulter now has his options also. After confrontation, he is now allowed to choose if, how, or when to repay his debt by making amends, but he can no longer continue cowardly hiding behind his misdeeds.

Jonas J Borntreger
Jan. 2013

It is one of those abnormal days that normally come to my small town.

Before the dawn I slip the bonds of my bed and merge into the darkness outside my front door. Southwest of us there is the constant strobe from lightening – a fitting sequel to yesterday’s un-normally pleasant fall day. Before the dawn – lights come on – briefly. A working mother hurries her two across the street. She pushes them; she pushes the fob in her hand; car lights blink twice. Half a block away a porch light also comes on; a woman kisses a man in a doorway; the door closes and the light goes back out. The lightning keeps flashing.

The early mornings in my small town have sounds. Three miles west of me a train signals as it approaches a crossing; down on Interstate Eighty, whining turbochargers kick in and ram air into the gluttonous throats of big diesel engines; a Killdeer makes its strident calls as it flies off somewhere down my street; in a field southeast of here an enormous reaping machine, behind some piercing lights, goes after several more early morning acres before the lightening yields to the rain.

The dawn is closer now; so also the lightening; so also the rain. The associated thunders now mix with the other sounds around me. The train now comes to my crossing, announces its presence, and rumbles past. The breeze picks up and the first drops fall; I move my contemplations inside my dwelling. I move to safety – I move, anticipating the normal. The thunder now rumbles beyond me also and soon the sun comes out. I sit in fellowship at my breakfast table and raise my orange juice glass. L’chei-im – I toast for life.

It is an abnormal day in my small town. Somewhere close to me someone will not rise with the dawning. Somewhere, the struggle continues for a few more breaths, a few more moments with loved ones, just a few more acres in the field of life. And then the gentle breeze brings on the rain. Somewhere the “grinders cease” but the rain will not. Two men will be together in a field, one will be taken and the other left. It is what normally takes place some of those early mornings in my small town.

Jonas Borntreger
10/22/2012

This morning there was another debate over on Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed. Scot was reviewing a book written by one of the ‘scientific types’ about how he saw Christians and specifically the science/creationism debate. I felt compelled to walk into the fray with the following response. JJB

I hate this debate – I deplore it because I’m convinced that the genesis of the discussion is wrong from the get-go. I read science; I devour it voraciously. I could not conceive living on earth without an uber-compelling curiosity to know what makes our physical environment tick.

I am also an Evangelical Christian. I believe that in the beginning “God created.” By faith I understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God. Call me naive, but I can see absolutely nothing to be gained, either for this life or for the kingdom, by knowing precisely how or when that creation took place. I see absolutely no disagreement between my science and my religion. Furthermore, I have no desire to – believe it is wrong to – try and “square” my beliefs with my science. Our Mega/Creation Conferences; our Creation Museums; our blog debates, may serve a purpose for the already convinced among us, although, I sometimes even doubt that. They are not the biblically mandated tools for convincing the world.

When we enter religion debates with scientists we are playing against an opponent with a stacked deck. It’s a battle, ordained by God himself, to keep us from winning in that arena. If we Christians are in a “war-zone” between faith and science then it is a war of our own choosing. If God deems to hide his purposes from the wise and prudent and reveal himself only through faith, then why should we attempt to break the code and reveal his purposes to anyone through science? My Evangelical Christian mission is solely in sowing the seed of the word into whatever soil, and those that come to him still come because they believe that he is, and that he rewards those who diligently seek him.

Dear Fellow Christian:

Your recent posting on today’s social media concerning people who ‘speak in tongues’ was highly distressing to me. It is a pretty lofty position when someone claims to have a superior Bible knowledge, and by that knowledge adjudge an extremely high portion of the current Evangelical Christian Community as, (and I use the terms you used,) “a carnal and satanic show of the flesh,” “an evil and adulterous generation,” “apostate,” and “devoted to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,”

In your postings you use I Corinthians 13:8 as a ‘proof text’ for your claim that ‘tongues would cease.’ The same verse also states that knowledge would “pass away.” When I called you out on that, you claimed that the “knowledge” was in fact “prophetic knowledge” and that, yes, it also was gone. This seems as an extreme oversight on the part of God; especially in this evil world that seems so sorely lacking in spiritual knowledge.

An exegetical look at I Corinthians 13 has clearly established that faith, hope, prophecy, knowledge, and tongues are all five closely linked together in this chapter, and would indeed pass away; pass away when “that which is perfect” comes. Unhooking three of the five and making them pass away before the other two is an old trick that some of God’s ministers came up with a long time ago. Unfortunately, those ministers somehow missed getting the word back upstairs to headquarters. In the meantime the Holy Spirit pays no attention and keeps right on giving unction to the church by using the same faith building tools that have worked for the last 2,000 years. Signs, wonders, and spiritual gifts are still dealt out severally as HE chooses. They still operate through humble people, and are still effective in illuminating the written word of God and getting kingdom results. The letter still kills and the Spirit still brings life.

Not knowing you personally, I at first thought to dismiss your posting as just another thoughtless rant. But then I stopped: What is the possibility that you are perhaps sincere and that your outcry as actually (and unwittingly,) a call for help. Should I hide my candle under a bushel at a time like this? I should at least say what I can. I should at least pray for you.

But then how should I pray?

Knowing your aversion to Spirit anointed utterances and your claimed esteem for the “written word;” here, straight from the apostle Paul and his writings to the “first-love-lost” church; here is my prayer for you.

…remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…. Amen

There is just something about kneeling on the ground, smelling the fresh earth, and trying to nourish growing things.

Or maybe it’s the green plastic water bucket with KB carefully stenciled on the side. That, and the new garden tools bought with a birthday gift card from my children.

Or than maybe it is about being stuck in the generation between someone’s past and some other people’s future.

Maybe it all came down to some old woman living in a nursing home; spitting five plum pits into a napkin and thinking, “With the right care those pits could become an orchard.”

Somehow, almost in another lifetime; I found myself (almost resentfully,) responsible for the care and nourishment; the future, of five plum pits; and – even being held to a degree of accountability for them. And she, who couldn’t remember whether the pits came from raw or cooked plums; couldn’t remember what I had just told her about how I was caring for them; somehow remembered that she had given something to me that was important to her and kept asking me, over and over again, month after month, visit after visit, whether I had planted them yet.

And so it came to pass that almost exactly a year ago I took five plum pits out of the freezer and lovingly placed them in the ground beside my red raspberry bushes and carefully watched over them for an entire summer with urgent fervency. The fervency was heightened soon after the planting when we also planted that dear person’s body on a hill overlooking a field of growing things. We planted her there awaiting a resurrection day. I watched for life for an entire summer and sadly saw nothing.

This morning!

This morning, with my mother’s green plastic bucket and my children’s birthday-present garden tools, kneeling on the grass, pulling weeds from my raspberry bushes, and caring for growing things; this morning, almost pulling it out for one of the weeds, I spied one slender red/purple stalk with perhaps ten delicate leaves; something that was not there last summer and was most assuredly not one of the weeds with which I was familiar.

I am not sure what a plum tree seedling is supposed to look like but if you were here I would gladly take you back next to the alley. I would be glad to let you vote whether you thought the carefully protected thin little stem and its little green leaves was actually a young plum tree. Together, we might voice opinions about whether it might someday become something. What is not up for vote is the effect that young plant had on me. What is not up for debate is “Whispering hope, like the voice of an angel. This morning, kneeling in the grass amidst growing things, that little sprig of life was “making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.”

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