Friday, April 14, 2017

Action Jackson ...

Years ago, there was a toy marketed to kids who could care less about Ken dolls; they craved something more manly, something more adventurous.  The Action Jackson doll (and let’s face it the difference between Jackson and Ken was only in the clothing and packaging), was something more “modern”, more “cool”.  The 70’s style clothing from jumpsuits, to tennis shoes, was designed to reflect the idea that this figurine was ready for action.  He knew karate.  He had a few accessories to prove it.  This figure was the one ready to go out and save the world, get the girl, and return home without breaking a sweat.  So little boys were supposed to be attracted to these ideas and buy them off the shelves until they were empty.  The idea spawned a movie with Billy Dee Williams to portray this kind of hero.  And another movie or remake is now in the offing based on the same fictional character and fictional ideas.  But as movies go, the gentle mind of a child is embellished with far more adult ideas and action sequences.  But the one idea that was to distinguish Jackson from Ken was buried in his name “Action”.
Jesus did not have this reference when He was giving the Sermon on the Mount found in chapter seven of Matthew’s Gospel to the Jews.  But I imagine He did not think He needed it.  Open scriptures, even in the days of Christ, and the Bible was full of heroes that “acted” for God.  Noah built an ark, big enough to save the world, and still sad that it was so small.  Abraham sought God, not the gods of his family, but the real God he believed had to exist somewhere.  Moses led the people of Israel out of slavery and to the gates of the Promised Land.  The list goes on all the way to Jesus.  All of these Biblical heroes had something in common with Action Jackson, in that none of them were at home with Barbee pondering the meaning of life.  All of them were out in the world, taking action on the beliefs they held, and finding that God was right there ready to meet them, and take them to the next step in their respective journey’s.  The difference between Jackson and Ken; Ken stays home with Barbie, Jackson is out looking for something to do.  The difference between any Biblical hero, and the best friend they might have had who we know nothing about is the same difference.  One takes action for God, the other sits home with Barbie content to move no farther.
When Jesus spoke on this day, He was looking for more than had ever been.  He was not trying to reach just one soul, or just one person.  He was trying to reach every soul, and every person.  You included, me included, the best friends we may know, everyone from Jackson to Ken to Barbie.  No matter how they have been marketed, or how your friends think of you, Jesus was not just speaking to others, Jesus was speaking to you, and to them.  What was needed in the church of Jesus Christ, was a congregation of believers who acted on their faith; not content to sit at home and wait for something to fall into their laps.  This was a big change.  Up till now, a Biblical hero was distinguished by the fact that they were so rare.  Jesus was looking to change that entirely.  Jesus wants a sea of heroes, not a spattering.  Jesus was and is looking to recruit you into His idea of a Biblical hero, even if your story never gets formally recorded.
But how does anyone accomplish that?  Even for God that seems like a huge task.  And as we examine our churches, and the people that take up space in our pews, we begin to realize that few are heroes.  As we examine the image in our mirrors, and the indentation in our sofa cushions, we come to realize that we too are more like Ken and Barbie, than like Action Jackson where it comes to matters of faith.  This sad fact however, is not because this is the condition Jesus wants to find us in.  It is because we enjoy routine supported by a fundamental lack of faith that anything we believe in is real.  We recite the words and the stories, but we do not apply them to our own lives.  We honor Moses and David, but not for a minute consider that the story of Moses might not hold a candle to our own, if we “moved” out in faith.  We simply naturally assume that Moses will always be the hero, and we will not.  Ouch.  Content to assume a position we were not designed to take.  It is as if Satan has destroyed the purpose of Action Jackson and turned us all into Ken; who only goes to see movies to see what another hero might look like.
Jesus had other ideas and still does.  He picks up in verse 7 saying … “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:”  Jesus says to “ask”.  Don’t sit there mumbling under your breath, or spewing half believing words you expect no answer to.  He simply says to ask.  Asking requires something on your part, it requires that you initiate the conversation.  He does NOT say you are supposed to fulfill the request, it is not your job to “do”.  But it is at least your job to ask for it.  And the Bible is not mamby-pamby about what will happen when you ask.  He says ask and it will be given to you.  This is mind blowing.  Our first thoughts however, are usually, what do “I” want?  We begin by making a list of all the things we want for ourselves that we believe would make us happy.  Money usually always winds up at the top of that list.  Somewhere near power and control over others and situations, somewhere near a desire to have all others love us, particularly the pretty ones.  And this is where we de-rail ask and it shall be given … to Sofie’s choice.  We ask God for things that would endanger our souls and then expect Him to deliver, or call Him a false god.
Have we ever considered for a moment, that in this case the context was still Biblical?  Ask for gifts of the Spirit, for the salvation of ourselves and our families, for protection from the world.  Ask a host of spiritual benefits for the lives of others and not ourselves, and we then offer God a petition He longs to grant.  But this is usually a change in our thinking, a change we are in so desperate need of.  But the admonition does not end in asking.  Jesus says to us to take the next step, He says to us to seek.  When facing questions we are unsure what to do, how many times do we open scripture without a clue where to look, but in spite of it, we seek anyway?  Seek and you will find.  Look for God and you will find Him.  He is not purposely hiding from you, he is more often blocked from your vision because you do not want Him seeing what you do.  You put God away more often, than you seek His face.  Seek and you will find.  So we have asking, and we have seeking or looking, but this is not all.
Finally, there is “knocking”.  Knocking expresses intent in its action.  Knocking says I am here, I am ready, I want in.  Knocking says I may not be sure what is on the other side of this door, but I am too curious to leave it there and just walk away, I want to get in there and experience it for myself.  Would that Jesus had a church full of believers who wanted in to His Kingdom which has already come.  What might we find inside the playground of spiritual toddlers that exist in the pure trust and security in our Daddy’s love?  What freedom might we find?  What relief from care and burdens might we experience?  But rather than be free like little children, we instead cling to our burdens, and never even attempt to shed them by knocking on the door of that Kingdom where admission is free, and our Daddy longs to greet us on the other side of that door.  We never knock.  So we never enter in.  All of this our own doing.
Jesus continues in verse 8 saying … “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”  Get this through your head Ken doll’s, Jesus is not monkeying around.  He is not offering a half-hearted response like, ‘well, if it is God’s will, and if you have prayed hard enough, or begged long enough, or if there is someone’s life at stake, then maybe God will be there’.  Jesus states unequivocally that God will be there and your action will be met by reaction.  We will receive.  We will find.  We will watch that door open up so we can go in.  Action finds reaction.  Lethargy finds nothing.  Contentment finds nothing.  Lethargy and contentment with our spiritual conditions lead us to look nowhere and find nothing because we do not seek it.  Understanding your need.  Understanding your need is great may be the first step in getting you up off your butt to finally actually do something.  Even if it is only to ask for greater energy and faith in God, it will be granted.  Even if it is only to seek the meaning of this text, you will find it.  Even if it is only to dust off the door-handles of your weekly Sabbath School class and enter in to study and learn from the perspectives of others on truth, that door will be opened to you.  There is no timidity in the voice of Jesus.  There is authority in it.  He speaks knowing it is He you will find.  He speaks knowing He will not fail you.
Jesus continues in verse 9 saying … “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? [verse 10] Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?”  Hello, parents in the crowd, are you listening?  This analogy is meant to cut through our negative or timid perceptions about our God and realize He is better than any parent we could have ever had.  Love motivates how our parents do their best with us.  They may not always give us a pony.  But they do give us gifts motivated by love.  They feed us with the best they have to offer.  They may not be able to afford Ruth’s Chris at every meal, but then if they could, the health detriments might outweigh the incredible taste anyway.  But parents look to keep feeding their children at every meal.  Sometimes when they are poor, they feed their children and go without themselves.  Parent are willing to sacrifice for their children.  Our God was willing to give up His only Son for the rest of His children, for us.  So our God knows a thing or two, about how to give good gifts.  He may not provide the winning numbers to power-ball, but He can put the meal on the table for today, and more importantly He can offer us true transformation that leads us to the road to perfection, if we but wanted it, if we but asked for it.
Jesus continues in verse 11 saying … “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”  Oh believers let us shed our Ken persona’s and adopt more of an Action Jackson state of mind.  Let us shed the ideas that our God is lazy, and nearly deaf, or completely uninterested in our lives.  Our God is passionate about each of us.  Our God is keenly aware of our lives and totally empathetic to what we feel, whether supreme joy (which He loves to create), or the depths of sadness (for which He is there shedding as many tears as we do).  It is not lack of interest that keeps us separated, it is lack of action.  We sit, complaining, but never seeking.  We sit, telling others of our woe, but never asking God to see it lifted and then knowing and trusted it will be removed entirely.  We don’t bother knocking anymore, because we don’t believe there are any doors to knock upon.  Clinging to our burdens so long, we forgot His Kingdom has already come, and the door stands right in front of us all day every day.  Get off the sofa.  Hit your knees or hit the streets and you will find God reflected in love to others.
Jesus then concludes this snippet of His sermon with the most profound of summations in verse 12 saying … “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”  People have called this the golden rule.  But that is a huge misnomer.  There is no gold mentioned here anywhere.  This would be better titled, the summation of the Law, and the Prophets is found in simply loving others.  What we would wish for, we might fulfill in the life of another.  In our marriages and in our romantic relationships, stop defining them by what you want, and instead by what you have to offer, and the passion that exists behind that offer.  What makes you happy in watching the reaction of your partner?  Is there any greater fulfillment in all of life, than seeing that happiness in their eyes, and knowing it is you who brought it to them?  Indeed there is not.  Defining your value this way is defining your value in the light of heaven.
Honoring your mother and father is not merely about obedience, it is about a level of respect and care that would return the love they have shown you, in an exponential way.  There will come a time when without your love and care, their degenerated capabilities will cause them to suffer.  But long before capacity is diminished there is time to love with a passion that knows it is loved in return.  There is time to enjoy the sharing of love, the dedication of time set aside from other priorities, to share and exist, and be known.  Relationships held in a new reverence where their value would be hard to overstate.  The Law, the Prophets, all designed to point your heart back to God, so that you can reflect His love to those all around you.  To those in need, but also to those who believe they have no need, for theirs is the greater danger, and all in equal need of God’s love reflected through you.
Love is not a passive, sit on the couch, kind of thing.  Love is an infectious, got a find a new way to express it, always searching, always discovering kind of thing.  Love and action find a symmetry, that cannot be found in the indentations of a sofa.  Seek for ways to express love to others, and you will surely find them.  Knock on the door of the hearts of others, yourself steeped in the love of God, and that infectious love will work its way into the hardest of hearts.  For it is changing hearts where the skill of God is unmatched.  It is in the transformation of hearts of minds and someday of bodies, where God will work His work of perfection within us.  It can start today.  Action Jackson is sure to find it.  Ken may or may not.  Who will your persona become?  No one can force you either way.  But there is so much more to a life of love, than perhaps today you are equipped to imagine, why not reach out, why not ask, why not seek a little, and just watch what happens in you.
And the sermon was far from over …

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