Saturday, July 16, 2011
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
“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
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
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?
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
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
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!
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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
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.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
It can be so easy to distill things down to the moments that pass by us like the debris of an autumn afternoon drifting across the face of a gentle stream, or even the panicked rush of the occasional rapids. These fleeting incidents run like a seamless, endless, meandering movie. There is no intermission from it either, unless we choose to get up from our seat in the middle of the row, stumble past the other perturbed moviegoers, and make our way to the lobby for a respite. C.S. Lewis referred to this in his timeless classic "The Screwtape Letters" where the junior charge of Screwtape is admonished to keep his human from leaving the 'theatre', because if he did then God would find a perfect opportunity to speak into the lost soul. It is in the jarring light of day that we realize that it was all just a distraction.
These days we have taken it to an even deeper level with our ability to fast forward, record, rewind, and even edit, so that the illusion roots itself ever further into the strata of our thoughts. When we step outside of the theater we come back to the reality of our mortal existence, and the creeping fear of its sudden climax washes over us anew. The fear of death that Jesus came to free us from. The eject button at the door of the empty tomb.
From the observation car it can become almost numbing to see it all passing by. To step back from the micro, like an actor walking off the stage while the show rambles on. You look around and wonder why it didn't suddenly freeze frame. Why didn't the other cast members notice? The sense of impotency subtly inches its way into the place that virile confidence once held, because you see the limited effect you have on the production at hand. As your eyes flash from face to face, and set to set you finally notice that the director is looking your way. He knows something. He knows that you don't. Perhaps He will let you in on the secret.
Saturday, February 05, 2011
24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!we have a choice as to what we will do with this knowledge that comes to us from every page of scripture, and every moment in God's presence. We can choose to run, and cry out for every rock of human wit and wisdom to build a barricade between us and heaven. We can plug our noses and cover our eyes so as to walk through scripture as blind men, all the while convincing ourselves that we are in the truth, and feeling very righteous about the whole matter. We may also choose to kneel down in the ambrosial arbor, and allow the juxtaposition to wash over our every thought cleansing the very deepest recesses of our being.
We are sinful; worthy of condemnation every day of our lives, even as we are regenerated by the washing we falter and fail. The folly of claiming any self spawned righteousness that has provoked God to shower us with so numerous blessings of His grace is not only left wriggling under the weight of scripture, but even a superficial self examination. What financial aid will I bring to Warren Buffet? Would I teach Robert DeNiro acting, or Michael Phelps swimming? Would I feign to possess some righteousness of which God was not aware, and thrust it, childishly, before Him in expectation of reward?
The beauty of all of this is that of Christ and His righteousness. The power of it is in our confession of it. The hideous ugliness is produced when we claim it as our own. No wonder Paul exhorted us to keep our eyes fixed on Christ, he saw that all of the little idols of men could capture our wanton gazes and turn us to the pitiful adulation of men rather than the right exaltation of the Lamb of God. Our desire to worship will find a source, and weak as we are it tends to be the thing that fills our eyes and minds at any particular moment. Fortunately, today it was Romans.
Yes, scripture is good!