Monday, October 22, 2012

I haven't been here for quite some time now. In fact the last time I wrote anything here I was on a different continent. Things have changed, internet is not as accessible anymore, and three growing kids are taking much more time. There have been some posts written, but they are at my new Wordpress site. I have been trying to emphasize my efforts at photography, and utilizing it as a springboard for posting my thoughts.

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Thanks for your support!


Saturday, July 16, 2011

What On Earth Am I Doing Here???

This has been a question that has been able to creep up through the forest of the everyday to assault me from behind, making me feel like I should be donning a face mask on the back of my bean like people warding off attacking tigers. Of course, walking around with one of those would just highlight the situation and leave me laying on the floor waiting for the first searing pain of feline canines to punctuate my sentence. I have no desire to go that way, so wrestling this surreal query is by far the preferable option. Getting a line of thinking around its insubstantial neck is where the real challenge lies. A pause for thought to word it just right, eliminating the loopholes, putting a scalpel's edge on it, and you're left standing there like a hangman reworking the noose. No, you've got to be quick; merciless.
So what am I doing here, and why does that reality so easily lie in wait between the tasks of the day to snare my passing pondering? The reality of life can sometimes jar us out of the construct that we sequester our minds in to keep them safe from predatory muses. The reality I make of my life here becomes barely tolerable in the sweltering confines of the safe little shroud I throw about it, but even so I will shake it out each day and sweep it before my own eyes for fear of the real seeping through. The shocking truth is that I am pulling up a blanket over my eyes to guard them from the incoming ordinance from spiritual foes that are bent not only on my demise, but of those around me with whom I have been charged. About as useful as a tissue in a typhoon.
This is not the life that Jesus lived in such exemplary fashion for me to follow. He lived without any of the blinders that we don to keep out the glare of the reality that surrounds us every day of our lives. We were not born into a realm that we can shape to our liking, rather we have arrived on the scene of a battlefield from which there is no escape. The bullets are more real than hollow point lead, the foes more ardently purposed than flesh and blood, and the deaths we die here lack the drama that we are shown in popular culture, because there is no veil to hide the rest of the journey. No lengthy gasping and wheezing, just a shift from seen to the ever-present unseen. This is the real. This is where Jesus walked. This is why He lacked the confusion that takes us so often.
Our confusion typically comes in our inability to clearly discern what the events of our lives are telling us. Is there really a separation between what we do on the way to work, and the eternal moment of leading someone to Christ? Do they exist on different levels? Not so with Jesus. He never partitioned His life in this way. There was a continuity to His life simply because in each moment He was fully in touch with heaven and earth, like a spiritual superconductor. Our view leans towards people who turn a switch off and on; now I'm ministering, now I'm not. Walking in the Spirit, walking to work. Eating the fruit of the Spirit, eating my burger and fries.
So now to the point. Why am I here? Today I see a battlefield where the faithful have lost sight of the foe, and they are taking potshots into the darkness. They are hitting targets indiscriminately. I must stand in the gap, at the end of the barrel. Like Jesus amongst the Pharisees. "Nice robes guys, you ok if we have a peek at what's under them. You see, there's that bulge under the folds that resembles an AK47, and we would all feel safer without it hanging there. In fact, you will too."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Again With Context

“Context is everything!”, my friend once said to me as I wandered back to my room to try and find an appropriate scripture to back up what I was saying in the bible study group that night. He informed me that the point I was making was correct, but the passage I chose to support it was not saying what I wanted it to. At the time I thought this was very frustrating because I was up against a time limit to complete this study before the people in the group began arriving. I wanted to use the verse anyway, but I could not get that phrase out of my mind. As I looked again at the text I had chosen it became clear to me as well that I was bending things a bit to make them fit. The saying has never left me as I delve into the word, and it has served me very well over the last seventeen years or so.

You see, the thing of it is that if I go around fitting verses to what I want to say I am really cutting the bible in half. Many times a verse/verses will be there to back up a conviction or belief, but if I add in others that do not fit then those additional verses are lost to me as far as their true meanings are concerned. Those verses and passages become tinsel and fluff to adorn some other sacred cow that I adore, and so they are left just as lifeless. On the other hand, when a contextually aware line of thinking is used to mine the Word the scene changes dramatically from a store window with serenely posed mannequins displaying the wares of the market, and it becomes a living, dynamic part of my life. I go from being a consumer who searches the aisles for that can of “Hope in a Desperate Situation”, and the bottle of “Financial Promises” hot sauce to spice it up, to someone who will walk with the Living Word.

The bible lives and breathes to point not to itself, but rather to Christ. As Richard Wurmbrandt said about the times when he was being tortured because of his faith, he could not turn to a memorized scripture, a familiar hymn, or a trusted maxim from a godly author. The only thing that would sustain him was the living presence of Christ in him, and the relationship that he had cultivated with Him. As he said, even the bible is simply the truth about the Truth. I love that, and it too sits in my breast pocket with my reading glasses, along with my friend's timely advice, to remember as I put them on to read scripture. It is difficult to count the verses and passages that have changed for me over the years as I have done this. Far from taking me into terrible heresies it has guided me safely through many challenges and winds of doctrine. Rather than making me some bible know-it-all or answer man, it has given me a living foundation upon which to place my feet, and it has proved all the firmer when the “hot sauce” in the fridge has gone bad, if you take my meaning.

Most of the shifting that has occurred has been in taking the focus off of the men and women of old and placed it back on the Living God. The capes and tights of biblical superheroes lay now where they rightly belonged all along, at the foot of His throne.

Doctrines meant to allow me a nice acreage upon which to build a pleasant little residence have been evicted by the understanding that I was never meant to get that comfortable here. I am a nomad.

Exegesis that cannot stand in the fetid cells of those suffering for their faith has been gleefully tossed aside in exchange for the Living Word these saints graciously feed upon to sustain their ability to overcome as more than conquerors.

Passages meant to be applied between believers, which have been turned conveniently to apply to those who don't know Christ are being restored to the intent of making the community of faith which will draw the lost rather than the one that repels them. Look carefully for these ones, because while they are not that numerous the omission of their intent is bringing about grave natural consequences amongst us who believe. We have shifted the debt of love from be owed foremost to those closest to us, and have written it in the IOU's we give to the lost. As Jesus said about the weightier matters, we should be doing the latter without neglecting the former.

I think I will knock this off here before it becomes an essay rather than a blog post. I will, though, encourage you to take a fresh look at the scripture next time you are reading there. Come as a child rather than a scholar. We have a good Father.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bits And Pieces

There has been a lot of reflection going on in my turbulent little fishbowl, even the odd refraction when I put it out in the daylight. Sometimes I just glance at it while I mutter through my day, while other times I sit and wonder at how the odds and ends can look so different with just a subtle shift of perspective. Still water allowing glowing streams of light to strike little items with coruscating luminance, ripples and waves camouflaging everything in a shimmering subterfuge. The shell of glass innocently, physically shifting the parameters of every form entrusted to its transparent embrace.
Don't know if this makes any sense, but it is where my brain happens to reside at this very moment. I can tell you that right now I would much rather grab my little fishbowl set it next to yours and share a drink or two while we watch the forgetfull little fish swim around. Rather do that than sit here and punch these goofy keys. How 'bout you?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Who IS This Guy???!!!

Who does He think He is??? What makes Him think we can be trusted with free will? Where did He get the idea that we were in any way capable of walking under the immense weight of mercy and grace? What was He thinking?
If ever there was something that pointed more clearly to the fact that this is NOT all about us I don't know what it is. Freedom. Freedom from condemnation. Freedom from indictment. Freedom from guilt, shame, and, oh yeah.....death. Are you kidding me? No strings either. Like there is any choice in whether we would cast down our crowns at His feet; who could possibly walk before Him wearing a crown? Unimaginable.
Even with the infinite resources of heaven at our fingertips, the doors of heaven thrown open wide to us, the very example of the Son showing us the way, the INDWELLING PRESENCE HIMSELF, we still falter. We still echo Paul's revelation of falling short (Phil 3:12 not Rom 3:23). We are lead on not by coercion, threats, nor even the strong arm (in the mafioso sense). No, the strong arm instead takes hold of that which we could never obtain, and then turns to freely offer it to all who will. We are not lead by empty religion or dusty theology. We are not imbued by endless disciplines and studies, except when they remove our reliance in them and set our gaze firmly on Christ. He trusts in His all sufficiency to draw us on. He does not trust to muscle, but rather the might of His love to draw those who thirst.
When I arrive it will have had nothing to do with me. My crown will gladly, jubilantly leave my brow to honor the one to Whom all glory belongs. What else could/can I do?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Getting Blown Away

In our family devotions this morning we were considering the temptation of Jesus after His baptism, and one point really stuck out to me today that I haven't spent enough time to examine before. The thing that I find so profound about this whole exchange is the reason why Jesus was out there in the desert in the first place. Jesus is my prime example of what it means to be a Christian, and the best picture I could ever have of what it looks like to be in 'ministry', so His reasons and motivations must be of prime importance to me.
The main thing that I took away from this is that Jesus didn't make a plan and then start praying and petitioning God to bless it, nor did He ask Holy Spirit to come along for the trip. The one thing that is clear from Jesus' ministry in this regard is the fact that He was constantly being led by the Spirit rather than His own volition. He went from one place to the next by this leading, and not even the strong hands of men could change this. His disciples asked Him to change his direction, the Pharisees threatened Him with violence if He didn't stop, those beloved women wept for Him to change His course, but none of these had any effect on Him. His face was set to the path that the Father had chosen for Him. Is this true of many ministries these days or are we following those who are following their own well intentioned plans? What are the marks of those who follow as Christ followed? I would put forth that they should be as scripture says of those who follow the Spirit in John 3:8. There is a mystery to their comings and goings. Is this true of the churches we attend, the ministries we follow (or lead), or can it be said that pretty much anyone who gives us a passing glance knows what we are up to?
It is so difficult to let go of the reigns and let God blow us about in His winds, but there truly is no other way. Jesus told His brothers that when they were going to Jerusalem for the Passover He would not come with them. In John 7:6 Jesus told them that their time was always ready, but His had not yet come. He was telling them that they were running by their own adgenda, and they were ignorant of heaven's plans. They were essentially doing what we so often do, and teach others to do; we make a plan for our direction and then ask Jesus to come along. How often does He end up coming along as He did with His brothers; in secret after they left. Does Jesus show up when we are doing our thing? Yes, many times He does. (I firmly believe that He is always with us, and plan to address this in a later post, but for this analogy let's just let it slide, ok?) Does this mean that He came with us? Not necessarily. The sovereignty of God's purposes may intersect with our purposes, but please let's not imagine that we willed, cajoled, or in any way coerced Him into it.
Perhaps it is time for us to subject ourselves and those who lead us to a more rigourous scrutiny regarding the reasons, motivations and means of what they are purposing to do. Seasons will come where we will be forcibly returned to this criteria by the very turns of the society that we live in. No more will we bow to the glitzy conference posters, virile videos, smiling faces, and the bearers of the microphone. Our very lives may depend on the spiritual integrity of those who are leading us. Remember when the people tried to lay hands on Jesus before it was His time, no dice. What if He had been choosing His own purposes above the will of the Father? No dice. The only question remaining is whether we will learn while it is easy or wait until we have no choice. If this happens in our generation we may be fortunate to have our good forced upon us, if it does not we may weep in the end for the loss of all we gained.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Time To Be BIG

I was talking with a friend today and during our conversation we discussed the pressures of being in ministries. It feels odd to even say this about myself, because I really don't see myself that way, but that doesn't change the daily pressures. The demands of ministry are ever present. They rest on your thoughts like an incontinent person on a commode, unmoving and always full. Maybe not the picture that you want for today so let's look at it this way. This thought dropped on me as I was typing to my friend on Skype. Ministries attract religion like a python to a pig in a pit. Once things grow beyond a few people doing exploits for Christ, being obedient to the call on their lives as individuals, to the point where they hang a name on the thing and a sign outside asking you to come in the stench of religion begins to slowly leak from every crevice.
The python wraps itself around the little piggies and starts to put on the pressure. He can feel their every pulse, their every wiggle, their every breath, and he wants it all. The breath enters against the crushing wall of the snake's power with the will to live screaming at the helm. The screams wither against the inevitable force of the remorseless animal power, and all our sense of duty, faith, and obligation crumbles while ministry awaits. Awaits the needful repose before the next attempt to gain oxygen. Awaits the inexorable grasp for life to empty the body cavity enough to cinch its grip ever tighter.
The real snake will eventually crush the life from its prey, and will, with no malice whatsoever, devour its meal. Kind of like me eating barbequed pork ribs; no malice, but the pig's going down. The spiritual snake however bears the most malevolent malice imaginable, and it feeds not on the final lifeless carcass, but on the gasping, grasping struggles for life. It depends on this. Once it has coiled about our hapless souls it imagines days and weeks of slow, succulent, striving. Its fattened form flaunting its power in our fearfully contorted faces. The reticulated ministry snake takes it rest with the victim ever at the edge of death.
As I typed this analogy in a brief text I wondered to myself how one can be free of this thing. The snake analogy left only one option. The option that I have never heard of in all the stuff I've seen or read about how to deal with ministry burnout. What do you do? When you try to fulfill the demands of ministry it takes everything from you, and like the snake it becomes an immovable wall upon which we must expend every available energy. Like the snake it never leaves you able to recover what is spent. The snake uses brute strength while ministry uses guilt, manipulation, and shame in rhythmic cycles. What do you do against this? This time the answer came clear and true. You die!
You die not to the, nor for the, ministry. You simply die. The power any ministry wields is based upon religion. If indeed a ministry needs to wield some power over its people, them religion will swiftly rise to the need. Religion's power lies in its ability to focus us on ourselves. It will focus on what we can do, and what will happen if we don't do. It will inject every line of life breathing scripture with the insidious taint of performance. It will feed on your struggles for life and your guilt ridden misery should you abandon it all in despair and bitterness. What it cannot do is feed on a dead carcass. Jesus knew this. Jesus let the beast of religion nail Him to a cross. Religion did not know that instead of its greatest victory being achieved it was instead forever revealing the path of freedom from its deadly coils. Death is swallowed up in victory.
Be a dead man walking and see how people react to the smell. Heh heh heh!
(2 Cor 2:16!)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ok, no spring clean this time, just some straight up thoughts about us Christian folk. What is the deal with us anyway??? I am so perplexed at this point in my journey that I feel as if my brain is doing some weird mentalist yoga contortions. Perplexed, but not as in not being able to figure out the reasons for the negative kinds of actions we are capable of, but rather perplexed by the mental gymnastics necessary for our continuation of said actions. The justifications and acrobatics that keep our little boundaries from washing away in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary are the stuff that Cirque de Soliel can only dream of.
Ministries are particularly susceptible to these machinations of the mind as they twist themselves around the skewer of truth like a snake on a stake. Almost any tactic becomes usable as they strive to protect the sanctity of their roots in past glories so that present realities do not distort the image they have narcissistically held before their eyes. There can be no outside views heeded to because the history of the ministry is not theirs, and they cannot hold the views that have been formed over the many seasons of service to the cause. Only by submitting to a leadership that may not be questioned in any way but childish simplicity that needs to be set straight can one function with any sense of personal worth. Guilt, manipulation, and suppression are the only way that these entities can continue their existence without being exposed.
The amazing thing about all of this is that God stills sees fit to save and reconcile people to Himself in spite of these conditions. If anything more clearly, in an empirical sense, pointed to a Calvinistic point of view I do not know what it is. If we are given the full reigns of control over the flow and output of any given ministry we can be sure of only one thing, we WILL screw it up. The fruit comes solely from God who will not be hindered by the messes caused during our maturation and efforts at sustaining past glories. He moves on and does His work in spite of us many times. Paul the 'Super' apostle even said that he would rather to glory in his failings than his successes because the failures more clearly pointed to the true Source than any success ever could.
I love this about God. He is never hindered in his will by our actions. How could He be. The real question is whether we are truly willing to live as if this statement is true. Could we stand the immensity of the freedom that flows from this truth???

Saturday, February 26, 2011

To The Point

This will have to be brief because it is time for all of us to go to bed here at the rehab school I work at. I really wanted to check in though because there has been so much going through us of late. Rip tides of emotions have been the norm for the last few weeks. I had to say going through because so much of the time it feels as if I am merely a shade that is permeated by whatever the wind is blowing my way. It doesn't move me from where I stand, but the saturation can verge on unbearable many days. The urge to weep comes over me and then surges away with the realization that I just wanted to use it in an attempt to purge the airborne flotsam.
The coolest things tend to happen during these seasons though, perhaps because of the acute attenuation to every detail of my life that accompanies these times. I cannot help but analyze the gleam and glimmer of every facet. Testing reflections in a dark reflection with night vision goggles is my version of navel gazing. Right in the midst of drawing up close to a particularly peculiar warp of the glass is when I get an elbow to the ribs. Like today when out of nowhere I get a phone call to tell me that someone who should be fully immersed in a more pressing prayer matter informs me that the Father had been pressing my family onto their hearts. "You gotta be kidding me!", was my first thought. The next one, though, washed over like ocean surf on a blazing summer day. Dad is looking out for me. Not only is He looking out for me, but He wants me to know it as well. Simple really, but something I really needed today.