Posted tagged ‘Journaling’

Arguing With Ourselves

August 2, 2011

I woke up this morning with the oddest impression, you know that Scripture about the rich young ruler, yeah that’s the one, the one that makes us squirm when Jesus says, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

 

As I was waking up I had the distinct impression that Jesus wasn’t only referring to the rich man’s houses, camels, and servants, but also to his scrolls, the ideas the young man had studied and held close intellectually. Of course we know that the young man sadly withdrew from Jesus’ presence because he was unwilling to give them up.

 

The rich young ruler was unwilling to let go of the material goods to be sure, but there is a deeper item he didn’t want to release, he didn’t want to let go of the ideas that made him feel comfortable as a well-to-do man of influence. I would imagine that he was expecting Jesus to parrot the teachings of the Pharisees who saw riches as “the blessing of God” or even as God’s mark of approval. He did not expect to have those “blessings” turned into a millstone hung around his neck. He probably sought comfort with his fellow rich men later on, and they talked about the necessity of being rich and how “natural” it was that men like themselves should own so much.

 

You see this is not just a matter of material possessions it is a matter of mind set. The Pharisees were world class champions in that category, they would argue til they were blue in the face about whether one should stoke the fire on the Sabbath (their answer was no) or just how far from home one was allowed to journey on the Sabbath, and they had opinions on an infinite number of other theological minutae and if you didn’t agree with their conclusions you must be one of the other party, those heretics.

The spirit of the Pharisees is alive and well today.

 

I see examples of this on the web all of the time, I see comments like “Well I looked at her blog but it was obvious that she is an Arminian so I stopped reading it” or “you know I was enjoying that guy’s book until he said that Rob Bell’s writings were just a fad, so I closed the book in disgust.”

 

How many of us carry “possessions” in the form of pre-judgments or preconceived notions we are unwilling to loosen our grip on?

How many of us cling to intellectual ideas over and above clinging to the Lord?

 

With the advent of the internet and social media there is yet one more conduit for theological fads to spread across our culture. Now you are a heretic if you do not fall in line with the theological flavor of the month, and there are plenty of people willing to blast you, and burn you to a crisp, for saying otherwise. So what does all of this storm and fury mean?

 

It doesn’t mean anything.

Theological ideas are just the boxes we build to put our latest idols in, and we fight bitterly to keep our idols safe from damage or question.

 

There is so much more to having fellowship with Jesus than fighting over a bunch of silly human ideologies. Put yourself in the place of the rich young ruler with the riches of your ideas arrayed round about you, but with this difference, you then realize the futility of fighting against where God is taking you, and you let go of those clinging encumbrances and turn back and fall in with Him, you follow Him. You learn to listen to Him and let the overwhelming cacophony of the world slip away.

 

It is far better to know Jesus in Spirit and in Truth, than to possess all of the “correct” ideas that mankind can conceive.

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Recovery or Collapse?

July 6, 2011

 

The world is recovering economically!

 

The worldwide economic collapse is imminent!

 

These days you will likely see both headlines, on the same day, sometimes on the same front page. So what are we to do?

 

There is a reality which has to do with understanding what God is doing, very few people experience it, yet many, many people who have walked with Him have known that the power and glory of all the earthly kingdoms and governments is fleeting. All of the kingdoms of the earth are existing on borrowed time. We cannot shore them up, apart from the will of God and we can’t expect our puny ideas to build our own lasting palaces of hope and freedom. There is only one enduring place of hope and freedom and that is to be found in Christ.

 

You see the “church” has spent two thousand years blessing and excusing the actions of men. The problem with that is that we are busy counting things that we deem positive and worthy as good, without asking God about it, and He has made it clear that He doesn’t think like we do.

“There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death.”

Proverbs 14:12 Amplified Bible (AMP)

“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits (the thoughts and intents of the heart).”

Proverbs 16:2 Amplified Bible (AMP)

 

As a culture we spend a lot of time consoling ourselves and rationalizing our actions, shouldn’t we be seeking Him to learn what we should really be doing?

 

We have “churches”, “megachurches”, impressive institutions, one might even call them corporations, but do we have an understanding of the things God is doing and our place in them?

 

As the dark economic clouds gather over our heads we should all be seeking His face. When a man has been living a wayward, selfish life there are small points in time when he might be able to see how things really stand, much like the prodigal son standing in the pig pen. At that point, he may realize, there is nothing further he can do to improve his lot, he must turn to the Father. We are being presented with our small moment of clarity as a nation, but we need to respond to God individually and seek our Father’s embrace.

Our Refuge, His Presence

May 6, 2011

If you are poor, tired, forlorn, and lost there is a place you can go to meet Jesus. It does not depend on your being accepted by a bunch of snooty church folks, you do not have to wear the right clothing, or smell nice. It is a certain and guaranteed thing, because it depends on Jesus alone. Therefore it is not subject to the whims and religious attitudes of men. It is also a place that many have been denied, because the most basic information about it has been obscured for hundreds of years, yielding generations of babies who know a little (or maybe just a lot of academic schlock) about Jesus, but who do not know Him personally (or by means of the Spirit).

 

The place I speak of is the place where Peter was when he was praying in Joppa, (Acts 10:10) and it is where John was when he mentions that he was “in the Spirit” at the beginning of “The Revelation Of John” (Revelation 1), It is where Paul was when he mentions casually that he was taken up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-6).

 

It is as if, when you hear the good news and accept it, you are set down in the outer courts of Solomon’s temple and you tramp around there enjoying all the praise bands and the religious goings on, but to get to the court of the Priests you have to seek the entrance, you have to find the door. Further on to gain access to the temple itself and the Holy of Holies which is your right as a child of the Living God, you have to find the entrance, The entrance in all cases is Jesus, getting to know Him in the most intimate way, is your doorway to these wonderful places. You might say, well this Scriptural evidence is sketchy, yet I am only scratching the surface, there are many examples of this in the New Testament, you just have to look for them, Jesus set the tone in this way of life by spending considerable time, alone with the Father, in prayer.

 

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19

 

“19 You should know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who is in you. You have received the Holy Spirit from God. So you do not belong to yourselves,” New Century Version

 

Paul said very much the same thing in several places in his epistles, and I would like to suggest to you that for Paul the Temple he once served and the temple God was building in His people were not so different, just far more personal.

 

When you ask, seek, and knock (Luke 11:9-13) God sets up a place in your heart for His presence, a Holy of Holies to which you can retreat to be with Him. I also think that in a slightly different way He is speaking of the same thing when He said “Behold I stand at the door and knock,” Revelation 3:20-22
He encourages us to seek Him, but I believe that He also actively calls us to seek Him.

 

The initiative was God’s from the very beginning, it is our responsibility to respond. To live the life that He has so graciously provided we must walk with Him and dwell in Him. But the flesh resists this simple and beautiful gift which God has placed on our doorsteps. The flesh wants an appearance of Godliness, but please none of that radical stuff!! But sometimes, in it’s contrary way, the flesh makes a religious duty out of being radical. So you can see it all around you in the religious observances that Christians occupy themselves with every day.

 

On the one hand, it is fairly easy to detect an immature approach to the Lord, when others try to convince you to follow their example (and they will!), because the followers of babydom do not have the Spirit to guide them, they only have the book (the Bible) and lacking clarification from the Spirit they cling to whatever interpretation of Scripture they have obsessively, because that is all they have.

 

On the other hand, life in the Spirit is multifaceted, you can walk and talk with Him, listen to Him, and obey Him, He guides you, there are secrets and gifts He will share with you so that you may help people, and He has secrets and gifts for you alone, it is never dull and Scripture will unfold for you in the brilliant light of His Spirit, the very one who wrote it.

 

When you give up your feeble, and failed attempts at controlling your life and place yourself solely in His hands you will find that He is adding to you and augmenting your life beyond anything you ever thought possible.

 

This is our legitimate claim on Jesus, and He is pleased to help us receive it.

But it all starts when we find our refuge in Him, our sanctuary in His Presence.

The One Who Dared

April 4, 2011

You chose Your shape in leaving the Father’s side

forsaking all to save us from our pride

conceiving Your earthly form in Mary’s womb

transforming it, when You walked out of the tomb.

 

Teething, cold, and hunger you preferred

to golden streets and thrones and You endured

Our humble fare, coarse bread and fish You ate

And even more You shared our deadly fate.

 

You came and walked the gritty, earthy dust

To show us all the Father we can trust

to know His love, and know the One who cares

And find our Father through the One who dared.

 

To take our form and share our low estate

and move about using our shambling gait

While speaking words with lips and Spirit’s flame

You set about to raise us from our shame.

 

The children knew, they saw it in Your eyes

The Father’s joy embracing, ’twas a surprise!

You sought us first to put us on the list

We’ll see God, as we find You in our midst.

 

In humbleness I seek You

and by your grace I meet You

There is no rite for meeting God to man

To join us in our hearts is what You planned.

 

Why Do We?

January 15, 2011

Why do we use “crossing the Jordan” as a metaphor for physical death when we can live in the Promised land now (by means of the Spirit)?

Why do we not find fault with a minister whose idea of “being a servant” is to insist on being honored and having authority over us?

Why do we find fault with people who fall down when someone prays for them? Maybe they are more comfortable on the floor.

Why do we read about the Spirit in the Bible, but only think about the flesh?

Why do we tolerate preachers who push us down when they pray for us?

Why do we hold hands and proclaim our unity in the sanctuary, but get into a heated theological debate in the vestibule?

Why do some congregations throw people out when they dance in the aisles? After all, that could be the high point of the service!

Why do we say that we love God and live only for Him, when all of our desires and plans have to do with making our way in this world?

Why do we obsess about sin when Jesus already took care of that? If you are troubled, humble contrition is all that is needed, He is in His office 24/7.

Why do we gather with that same old group of crabby, and/or unnaturally cheerful people each week and call it church?

Why do we feel that the people in a church building are God’s people when the plastic smiles and handshakes are less genuine than Madoff’s hedge fund?

Why do we pass up an opportunity to help someone, so that we might get to church on time?

Why are we so sad at funerals (not counting relatives and close friends who are sad because they will truly miss the deceased) when we say that “he/she is with Jesus now”?

Why oh why do we believe the promises of men which are nearly always empty lies, while we ignore the true promises of God.

Why are we content to live shallow lives when we could be living in the fullness of His Spirit?

If you have done one or two, or more, of these things and understand how inconsistent they are, congratulations you are human.

For that matter if you drew breath and opened your eyes this morning you are human.

We all have needs, to love and to be loved, to be sheltered and fed, but most of all we need God.

Our need for God is apparent when we hunger and thirst for justice, or love, or friendship, or even for a break from the chaos which is this world.

God can bring us peace, love, provision, and companionship, if we will have it.

We can live in Him, in union with Him.

Jesus is the cure for our feckless humanity.

The Mountain and the Cross

November 19, 2010

In Deuteronomy 5 there is a wonderful illustration of the difference between living life at the foot of the mountain, where the law was given to Moses, and living the life of the cross of Jesus.

God has Moses call all of the people together at the foot of Mt. Horeb and He speaks to the assembled people out of the fire and smoke on the mountain, then afterwards they say to Moses,

24’…Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives.

25’Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer, then we will die.

26’For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?

27’Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.’ Deut. 5:24-27 NASB

Now there is a subtle shift here and we would do well to notice it, the Lord called the people together for the express purpose of hearing His voice. Then the people turned around thanked Moses for the privilege and the lesson that God could speak to men and they could still live in spite of the danger, but then they suggested to Moses that since they did not want to die that Moses ought to be the one who took the risk and listened to the Lord. So then the Lord tells Moses;

28″The LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken.

29’Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!

30’Go, say to them, “Return to your tents.”

31’But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess.’ Deut. 5:28-31 NASB

God wanted the people to obey the law because obedience to the Law was the beginning of the Old Testament relationship with God under the Mosaic covenant, so what they said was counted as good, but there is something more here. When the people stayed in their tents while Moses went to meet with the Lord, Moses got the relationship with God, and the people got the Law.

This story has another telling factor when the people said “why should we die?” and this is the point of divergence which divides the straight and narrow way from the wide path to destruction. If a person is not willing to give up this world, if that person is not willing to die for God, he gets the Law, and he sets up camp at the foot of the mountain.

Relationship with God is a transforming thing, it will transform the life you once knew right out of you, thus you will die to the world and be renewed in God. There is no substitute for this. You cannot cling to the life of this world and be found in the life of God. So those who are not willing to die, the ones who are clinging to this world, get the Law. We see this all around us, we see people who are reading the words of God’s grace and all they get out of it is law. There is no loving teaching of Jesus’ or Paul’s which they have not made into a series of rules.

You see, they are an example of

“Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house.” Ezekiel 12:2 NASB

for Jesus is right in front of them, in Scripture, walking on the water, feeding the five thousand, and rising from the tomb, He is ready and waiting for them to seek Him and know Him, and all they want to do is to go back to their tents and have Moses come tell them what is required of them. They say they want to fulfill the “requirements”, but they are not willing to die. They are still camped at the foot of Mt. Horeb bogged down in the minutae of that which is required. For them the cross is a gateway to make more laws. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were there too, at the foot of Mt. Horeb, and even in the presence of Jesus, most of them were determined to stay there.

But for some, the few, the ones on the straight and narrow path, the cross is not only the cross of Christ it also represents their own cross, and the entrance to grace and life in His Spirit. So long as a person will not come to grips with something more than the mere “essentials” of the Christian life (the Sacraments or the Ordinances) he will live a life controlled by this world and it’s woes. He will stumble over every temptation and trial that comes his way for there is no remedy for the troubles of this life in the Law. There is only one way out of this trap and that is through dying to self and living in the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of Grace. Each of us must seek God in Spirit and Truth to know Him.

Moses was willing to do or to suffer anything God had for him, the same is true of all the Prophets, they each had a relationship with God because they were willing to seek Him no matter what the cost and it cost many of them their lives. And of course Jesus is the perfect example, His whole life was dedicated to the Father. And it could also be said that His whole life was leading up to the cross, for our sakes.

There is no salvation for you in the waters of baptism without the Spirit of Christ. There is no benefit for you to do good deeds or to have clean thoughts if God is not present in your life. To get that Presence you must leave your tent as Moses did nearly everyday and brave the fire, and smoke and sit in the Lord’s presence. God didn’t kill Moses and He won’t kill you. He will however begin to establish the relationship He always wanted to have with you, step by step, and day by day, and you will die to the old and come to life in the new. And each new day you will learn a new lesson, you will learn afresh how much He loves you.

You will also learn that there is so much more to life in Christ than the “requirements”.

So, by means of the cross, we can go through the fire and smoke and climb the mountain, and there with Moses, the Prophets, King David, and the Apostles we can sit in the Presence of God.

He Is Risen, He Is Alive

November 3, 2010

“Hey, get a load of this guy he hears God!” And the leering speaker twirls his finger around his ear indicating insanity.

Isn’t this the reaction that you would expect to get if you were to tell someone on the street that God told you something? Often, even church people react this way. The attitude that is illustrated here is the culmination of four centuries of propaganda, the reformation may have brought us freedom from the Roman Catholic church’s abuses, but it bore other offspring. For my RC friends, I am speaking of the things I definitely have problems with, the adoration of Mary, the authority of the Pope, the celibacy of the priesthood, priests defined as being spiritually superior to lay persons, and of course the former practice of the selling of indulgences.

When Luther and Calvin and Zwingli made their breaks with the Roman Catholic communion they made another decision which still affects us today. They decided that the abuses of the Roman Catholic church were uniformly bad and they lumped most of the practices of the Catholics together as suspect. The battle cry “Sola Scriptura” a reference to only scripture as the basis for our Spiritual lives had a bee in the midst of the rose. While breaking away from the Traditions (with a capital “T”) of the Roman church and translating the Scriptures into the common languages to make them accessible to anyone who could read were without doubt tremendous blessings, there are other fruits of the reformation which bear looking at.

The bee in the rose which has come back to sting us is the idea that we can know the whole truth of Scripture through scholarship, that we can intellectually comprehend God.
Now to be fair this was not the attitude of every reformer, but the die had been cast and the general attitude of Protestantism was that of an intellectually based scholasticism. This was not a new idea, there had been factions in the Roman Catholic church which advocated the intellectual approach, but dependence on the intellect became one of the defining marks of the Reformation. It spawned many seeming benefits in Europe and new universities began to spring up with this little bit of watering. To be sure the Roman Catholic church had helped the earlier universities get their start, often to train priests. During the Middle Ages and even well past the Renaissance all educated men learned Latin, it was the Lingua Franca of the educated classes, that is doctors, lawyers, and royal advisors (Kings in the Middle Ages did not always learn to read). Indeed the leaders of the reformation were all educated men who knew Latin and participated in the scholarly discourse of the day. Since the vast majority of Protestant leaders were scholars it was second nature for them to promote a scholarly regimen for all leaders in the new churches and to concentrate on the arguments which helped define their theology.

Yet over the centuries a few in both the Catholic and the Protestant communions sought for more. They sought Jesus on their knees and in their hearts. You see the problem with scholarly toil and achievement is that it tends to push away the Spiritual aspect of life in Christ. Under the scholastic culture just about all of the important matters in a Christian’s life were reduced to the “essentials” or to put it bluntly the rituals of christian culture, they were baptized, confirmed, and buried in the church, and that made everything alright in their view.

Many, many people over the centuries and in our own day have keenly felt the lack of Spiritual contact with God. When they question the status quo they are almost always treated as outsiders by the leaders of cultural christianity.
Nevertheless those who seek Him often find Him.
Despite excommunication, jail time, public humiliation, and yes, even execution, there have been many who have managed to find and walk with Jesus in spite of all the things which this world’s religious organizations can throw at them.

The reason that they are persecuted by christian institutions is quite simple, the religious leaders assume that if they can’t hear God, then no one else really can either (there is a whole, pride, misplaced spiritual authority thing here that I can not go into in this post, more to come). Therefore they think anyone who claims to hear God must be off his or her nut. Fortunately, God isn’t influenced by what the worldly leaders think.

So in modern times we have people in the church culture who are influenced by the attitude of the world around them. I remember when I was a tyke, a Sunday school teacher told us about Moses or Abraham and said something like “Now God doesn’t speak to us these days the way He did to Moses or Abraham.”
Now upon what authority is this taught? And no I don’t accept the “when that which is perfect is come” (1 Cor. 13:10) as an answer to this matter.
We see this taught in churches and then they turn around and say something like “that Pastor So-and-so, he really hears God”, after a moving sermon. What? Pastor Thinga-majig can hear Him, but you and I can’t?

I am sorry, but that just doesn’t wash.

There is another facet which the Protestant church shed on its way to prominence. The idea that a man or woman would benefit from withdrawing from the world and being alone with God was seriously down played by the reformation leaders since the monastic system in the Roman Catholic church had been the source of some of the more vivid abuses. Now days if you merely suggest to another christian that you might benefit from staying home on Sundays and spending time alone with the Lord, you will be hit with a lot of attitude and certainly you will hear the quote about not forsaking the “assembling together” Hebrews 10:15-25, some regard it as a command on par with “Love one another as I have loved you”.

Now if we assume that Paul wrote Hebrews, they are quoting a man who spent his first three years as a Christian in Arabia learning directly from the Lord (Galatians 1:15-18) he did not go directly to Jerusalem, the center of the church, he went apart to seek God and learn from Him. Paul of course was not the only one, Jesus spent forty days alone in the wilderness and He went away from the disciples regularly to pray and spend time with the Father. It was a common practice in the early church to go apart for a while to gain a deeper understanding of God to share with the “assembly”.

The Desert Fathers, at least the more sane ones, those not living in holes or on top of columns, believed in drawing apart from the world to be with Jesus, they then felt they had something worthwhile to share. I think that the life of a body of believers would be richer and more deeply Spiritual if it’s members took time and in some cases a considerable time apart to be with the Lord.

People refer to not forsaking the assembling, well what if your pastor is a dud? What if the whole congregation is a bunch of Spiritual dullards? By the way have you heard some of the tripe many ministers teach about the origin and meaning of the Scriptures. I would not trust them to lead anyone to Jesus, because it is obvious that they do not trust that God is Sovereign enough to write and speak to us through the Scriptures. We live in strange times.

So do yourself a favor, the next time you have some personal study time, read some Scripture and then lay it aside and just sit with the Lord. You can pray and ask Him about things, but be sure to take time to sit quietly and listen.
Some folks write out the things which have been bothering them and then ask “What would You like to say to me Lord?” and then write down whatever they hear Him saying to them. This is called two-way journaling, as opposed to one-way prayer.
You know, our God is not only awesome, He is alive and you can hear Him, if you listen. If we learn to seek Him and trust what He is doing with us we will live transforming lives and we will have something to share in the “assembly”.