Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christian Groups: Human and Supernatural

Is God's intent to foster a group of people prepared to enter into His intimacy for eternity or is it to establish a personal relationship with individuals?

Though you will hear both ideas in most groups, around here below the Mason-Dixon line there is a definite framework in which the words "Gospel of Jesus Christ" will be heard. That framework is that God's intent is salvation of the individual and intimacy with God for eternity is the reward for those who are so saved.

This theological framework is marketed (unfortunately not used metaphorically) by the tag line, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." So begins the gospel pitch to a me-oriented population. The gospel of Jesus Christ has become a passionate, evangelical hawking of salvation which warps the perspective by which God is known and the manner in which He is sought.

The irony is that all the words used are literally true and therefore continually draw new converts into the status-quo matrix of large organizations collecting vast sums of money, dollars often used for very real good works in addition to uses less noble. So why am I against this? Well, I'm not, if I can be allowed to split a hair or two.

Being against something and examining the same object under a critical-thinking lens are not necessarily the same thing. Nothing in my heart desires to see denominations deconstructed or ecumenically fused. The status-quo is there for a reason and supports many good people and good initiatives.

Yet, neither can I remain silent as I think I see something through which Christians might find themselves more deeply satisfied individually and, therefore, equipped more fully to seek the superlative spiritual life described in the Bible.

The solution to unfulfilling group-think, a condition which has the potential to become cumbersome and even rob adherents of spiritual life, is to seek a simple existence together as family in God and before Him.

Ephesians 4:14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming ; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together *by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

I contend that systematic theologies, named theologies, regional theologies, et cetera and et al, fail the simple truths in the Bible by masking them and reducing the clarity with which the Bible speaks. A group of believers who will purpose to build itself in love through submission to the spiritual headship of Jesus will learn to please God together. Individual needs will be met as the whole is prepared to spend eternity with God. It is more complicated than rocket science, perhaps, as it involves humans and not mathematical formulas; nonetheless, the Christian walk together in a group is uniquely sublime in its simplicity and profundity. Why do we bother over making it unnecessarily comlex?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Opinion and the Truth

My stated opinion in the last post likely caused discomfort for some readers, as it may have seemed I had taken a tack of attack. I appreciate that and today would like to qualify my position.

First, with a quote from postmodern redneck's comment to the last post:

"Always keep a distinction in your mind between the actual words of Scripture, and the interpretations you and others put on them. Almost all the fighting is over interpretations; and unlike Scripture, interpretations are not divinely inspired and are not guaranteed to be inerrant."

Second, it's a given churches are "divided" groups just from the regional function of meeting with those in some sort of proximity to one another. Is there something wrong with that? Uh, no.

Aside: I was once in a discussion with a pastor who invited me to attend his church. Since the location of that building and hence the meeting to which he invited me was over twenty miles from my house, I declined over the practicality of his suggestion. He countered with one family in his flock drove a hundred miles round-trip to attend and there was a veiled reference to no price is too great for commitment to the Truth. That begs the question of the line between commitment and extremism, but I can't allow myself to become side-tracked!

Which brings up, perhaps, the defining question of why we have denominations (and non-denominational groups who have the flavor of denominations), and what is wrong with people meeting with others of like mind?

Whose truth?

I do not suggest, as a Campbellite of yore might, that I know how to foster the restored church of the New Testament. That is an example of the kind of red herring many of the rationales are which form the basis of particular-group theologies. That is, in attempting to create a pure society of Christians or a sanctified culture which honors the holiness of God, groups of Christians will sometimes put an over emphasis on some interpretation of Scripture and thus fail God's fullest will.

That I even write the words "God's fullest will" is an example of how things might go wrong. Me stating that God's fullest will is anything in particular reduces God to fitting in a box I have created in my rationale intended to qualify meanings I see in the Bible.

There is much tension in attempting to articulate Truth!

Maybe apostasy is the result of shrinking from that tension in denial of what is needed. If that be true, then this discussion is necessary. Ultimately the real problems which are faced by Christian meetings known as church are articulated clearly in the letters to the seven churches of Revelation and other specifics in Scripture. A topic like this serves an evil end if pursued to the point of polarizing brethren around defense and offense of any man-developed truth, the exact emotional dynamic I decry in the last post. Conversely however, is there not a positive outcome in examining what about our groups fosters lukewarmness and other abandonments of our first love, Jesus?

Next up, my take on the solution to the problems of group-think in the church.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Divide Between Goats and Sheep or I'm Not a Fan of Denominationalism

Assumptions allow us to agree together but prevent depth of understanding, thus a depth of connection. We too often accept both our individual limitations and the limits on communion among brethren as a function of our fear and/or pride. (It’s a double whammy but part of the truth of ourselves we must face.) We call these limits the fruit of our flesh, and trust then such is covered by blood. Does this reflect God's will on earth? I think not.

One of the great ironies of church history is that in attempting to determine exactly what the written word says--as a sincere act of service no doubt--groups have developed around particular interpretations of the Bible. We name this with the dignified sounding word doctrine, and begin separating from others over whether or not they believe as we do. In the name of God who says His disciples are known by their love, we divide the people for whom Jesus bled and died intending to redeem them into union with Himself and with one another.

In the pursuit of our doctrines to establish the boundaries of fellowship, we hold huge portions of brethren to be wrong and not worthy of fellowship.

In the pursuit of holiness, we hold to traditions which become empty of meaning in the ritualistic practice and leave people cold and heartless but approved as members of our particular doctrine club.

Further in the effort to avoid disagreement, we have carved out territories of belief systems, whereby we do not have to deal with individual differences--we have been bitten once too often with the deep teeth of conflict and want to avoid the emotional pain. Instead we teach, “Believe thusly and you will be walking in truth,” which reduces the Christian walk with God for too many people into nothing more than being in the truth as evidenced by holding forth the doctrine club’s spoken and unspoken social expectations and assumptions.

Consequently, the hearers of doctrine become a people who are not given instruction and support in walking in the nature of Jesus. (Note I am not describing those who are hearers of the Spirit of God and are mixed in with the subject of this piece. This is the goat and sheep dichotomy.) The word Jesus is often frequently given as the rationale for what is done and taught, but the Living Spirit of Jesus is not active in the hearts of those gathered under the conditions described above. Such conditions are to the detriment of all individually and the development corporately overall of groups who seek only to behave according to a tradition. The end result is a hollow spiritual fa├žade with little spiritual maturity in living out the nature of Jesus.

It has to do with how we see and hear. Ever wonder why God did not cause the Scriptures to be written from a more clearly developed outline, which spells out step by step how to live as a Christian?

Parables hide the truth from all except those who have ears to hear. The Scripture's meaning can be in plain view and plainly read, but is pieced together in revelatory wonder by those who have a heart for God alone and above all else. Thus are few taken out of all who are called to know Him.

(A corollary and needed essay is probably about what is The Doctrine around which Christians need to unite. That is another idea, and I need to get to work.)

Have a blessed weekend and a glorious reunion with others of like heart in joy and thanksgiving during the coming holiday. Don't know when I will post again!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Long Time, No Write

The baby's asleep. The two women in our home are too. Not only is the house quiet, but our town has been unusually quiet for the past two nights, as well. If light made noise, that huge full moon setting in the west would have us all awake and grouchy. Well, I am used to being awake at 5:00 AM, so I wouldn't be grouchy I guess. Funny how in trying to make writing interesting, the facts get switched around a bit.

I realized this morning looking at that moon through the bared branches of late autumn, that it has been nearly a month since I have written anything for the blog. I don't have an essay for here this morning either. I decided to simply give a glimpse into what is happening with my writing thoughts.

I have spent time selecting old posts to consider for use in a small book--devotional maybe-- about walking in the spirit. I have rewritten several into (hopefully) a more useful form for a book format. This began to push me into a corner. I didn't want to invest much time in rewrites that I had not considered well the final putting together thereof. The whole needs a flow, a focus theme that builds insight into the topic. Or so I am thinking. I spent some time searching for an organizing framework for the whole work, which wasn't time at the keyboard but was time in these quiet morning hours thinking over the finish. Knowing where you are going is useful to getting there, though from a creative standpoint, not absolutely necessary. Sometimes the creative process discovers its own path and end--like a walk in the woods!

In the process I found myself doing a Bible study on holiness. Searching with Crosswalk.com tools, I identified 118 occurrences of words that are translated one of four ways: holiness, righteousness, sanctification, and godliness. That caused me to wonder about other words.

Here are the current results:

God 1170
Jesus = 948
Christ =496
father = 340 (many of these are about an earthly father--didn't read to sort that out)
spirit = 319
Holy Spirit = 92, so possibly 227 times of just the word spirit
love = 184
hope = 68
faith = 228
peace = 88
joy =68
devil/satan =65
evil = 98
sin = 94
I have tried several other "meaty" words with direct spiritual meaning looking for a large number of mentions. Nothing I can think of compares to these. Any ideas?

Obviously I am excluding prepositions, conjunctions and common nouns like day, night, man, or woman. Also, searching in the NASB for hell, abyss, lake of fire and outer darkness was about 30 mentions together.

Suggest some words for me you think may have multiple mentions in the NT and are key to a "spiritual" understanding. It would be helpful for me!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Life Update

I spent about six hours today catching up on some paper grading.

We are enjoying our fall. So beautiful as always!

I have been working on the book in the time I created by not trying to post weekly. That is currently a slow process, but it is processing.

I miss the small exchanges I knew as part of posting here. Fellowship occurs even across a cyber-abyss. Our God is amazing!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


For a period of several months I have had a personal goal to post once a week on the blog. Then I started losing my motivation, then I determined my perspective on posting needed to change, then is now.

Now I state, I will only post sporadically. There is a reason. Also for several months, I have been thinking about starting a masters program. I have looked at several and considered multiple angles for this pursuit. In the end, however, I have decided instead to give my extra time to writing a book. I did this once in the '90's but the effort never enjoyed publication. I have decided I want to try again. (I am also working with a brother on another book project, but that is currently not in a high mode of priority.)

So...I will still post some here, but not even as often as once a week.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Questions to Ponder

Philippians 2:12 and 13 reads as follows:
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

The meaning in the Greek for will in these verses is interesting. It is
to will, have in mind, intend
a. to be resolved or determined, to purpose
b. to desire, to wish
c. to love
2. to like to do a thing, be fond of doing
a. to take delight in, have pleasure

Is the function of our will in joining the work of God nothing more than learning to love God?

And a corollary,,,

If loving God means we are equipped to exert our will toward His ways, what causes love to grow?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Front Page Comments Post Part II...a bit long but what is on my mind.

Twenty odd years ago, a friend of mine would joke he spent 8 hours a day in the Word. When the statement drew response or perhaps someone was suckered-in to momentary belief, Tim would answer with a gleeful grin that he named his bed, "The Word." The sign hung over his bed, if we wanted to come see.

craig v. said...
"I believe I would give more legitimacy to regular (daily) Bible reading. I agree that there are abuses and misunderstandings. Perhaps an analogy would help clarify my view. I'm married and have a relationship with my wife. We are together much of the day, but that doesn't mean I'm really listening to her. I suffer from the male ability to look and sound like I'm with her even when I'm not. If our communication begins to decay, it would make sense for us to agree to a regular time together where we focus on one another. Sadly, I might still hear her words and not really listen, but that doesn't mean the discipline of a regular meeting is a bad idea. It only means I can use it poorly. Given how easily distracted we are, it's not a huge stretch for me to see (at least of myself) that even though God is in me through Christ in the presence of the Holy Spirit, I'm still quite capable of not listening. A daily time in His Word, where He speaks and I focus on listening, makes sense to me."

craig v., (conversing not challenging) I certainly understand both your discipline and the rationale for it. By "legitimacy" I wonder if you are making a personal statement or if you intend an application across the board for believers. Could I not make a similar statement to support what I have described for myself? I would need to state as you do, "I agree that there are abuses and misunderstandings." But with that qualifier, I uphold a traditional view that I have adopted as my own.

Of course, in my case I am actually upholding a variant view from the traditional. Or am I? Consider the early Christians largely did not read and the letters, which would later be canonized, were circulated by slow travel overland and often not in the hands of the ones who could read. (At least early on and the Torah excepted.) As a result, a majority of believers would describe a daily guiding from the Holy Spirit as their spiritual sustenance and account hearing the written Word as a secondary experience. In this situation the tables would be reversed, and I would hold the "traditional' or common view and you would be seeking to establish the legitimacy of the variant view. Despite their lack of daily reading, their faith stunned the population around them, extant writings from non-believers of the day giving such testimony.

I recognize the counter-point is I have the Bible and do read, so I have a responsibility to utilize both. Let's mush through this a bit. I have three thoughts. First, I have been very careful to NOT suggest someone would waste their efforts in daily Bible reading. It is a very valuable practice, clearly and certainly. Especially when, as you describe in the analogy, someone is in the active maintenance of the most valuable relationship and practicing daily reading to listen attentively to the One speaking through the Word.

My second thought--thinking about responsibility in maintenance of our relationship with God. Consider in comparison the following two experiences:

A. A modern American Christian (Mac for short) with a blue or white collar job rises with enough time carved out each morning to spend twenty minutes in a quiet time: reading the Bible for ten and praying for ten. Within the fellowship in which Mac participates, this has been presented as the needed minimum for daily devotionals regardless of the time of day it is practiced. The stated goal from his pastor's point of view is thirty minutes or more. Mac being a relatively young but devoted believer is seeking to establish the minimum in his life. He has determined it must be a morning routine to ensure it occurs, as having skipped a time or two, his busy days made later times impossible; and at the end of the day, he was frustrated with himself for failing to meet with God that day. So! Mornings are a must.

MAC is growing in his excitement for God. He is involved in a weekly meeting with three accountability partners, signed up for a men's retreat next month and currently studying much of the Bible through the workbook of Experiencing God by Blackaby. Some mornings he actually spends thirty minutes in his study and follows with prayer while commuting. He feels his relationship with his wife is improving, and he is growing spiritually. Through the workday God comes to mind occasionally, but Mac experiences blocks in the day, hours even, where his focus and thoughts are on the job before him. Mac wants to think about God more often, even pray throughout the day. His experience to this point in his walk is that work grabs his thinking and doesn't let go. He wonders if praying without ceasing is possible in the modern world, knowing he fails that maxim miserably. Mac will end his day reading a scripture with his wife, then they have a prayer together and a bit of reflection shared about God. Mac on his pillow now, quietly speaks to God about his day before sleep comes. Does this man "walk" with God? Who could tell him he does not or that his daily Bible reading is not legitimate?

Total time in a day when Mac "listens" (assuming Mac is not playing the male game of pretending to listen) to God, as you set up in the analogy of dedicated time with the wife? Counting his study, prayer while commuting, sporadic times of acknowledging God through the hours of work and his ending exchanges with his wife and with God in the solace before sleep equals... does it matter? Rather, is he at peace in his knowing God and satisfied he has fulfilled his responsibility before God?

B. Mac's brother, rises daily and spends an unmeasured amount of time meditating on God, usually 15 minutes. Some mornings, the meditation leads to a Bible inquiry or the readings from Christian authors who are reflecting over the scriptures and represent the Christian walk across centuries. The reading of the Bible (or in the context of a Christian author) is just a verse, but it turns into a check on the Greek meaning of a word. Throughout the day, Mac's brother considers the Greek usage and analyzes the meaning in the context of several different circumstances in his life. While commuting or walking to the water cooler at the office but in all time not devoted to focused work, this man continues his reflection on the meaning and is waiting on God for illumination or inspiration over the word/verse in question. Throughout the day, as well, in almost every exchange with a co-worker, this man is in quiet prayer over the conversation, over the question/ professional problem involved, or the spiritual state of the other human. After he's home and the day's duties ebb such that he feels his time is his own, the man's interest is stirred and he spends thirty minutes more with a lexicon and Bible comparing with other verses where the same word is used and records notes.

Or more often during the morning meditation a memorized scripture comes to mind. Mac's brother reflects on the scripture several minutes without needing to open the Bible, the Bible is open in his heart, and he feels no complusion to open the material Bible. His day, however follows a pattern similar to that described above of waiting on God for illumination/inspiration and holding many moments spent with others before the Presence of God in his heart, a talk/prayer. Regardless of whether or not the literal earthly Bible is opened for reading in the morning, Mac's brother devotes an almost continuing exchange with God on a daily basis, sometimes listening, sometimes talking, sometimes worshiping with singing running through his head or joyfully out loud in the privacy of the car, but always, always in awareness and dependence on God's Presence. A week may go by before the literal Bible is opened once again, however, the fellowship with God is daily and nearly unending.

I know the comparison is artificial. However, within the confines of the stated construct, is Mac or his brother in need of correction in his approach to walking with God? I think it must be left to an individual how the responsibility acknowledged as his or hers before God is lived out in seeking Him. Is time spent in daily reading really the issue? Does remembering a scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit and being stimulated by it less legitimate than opening and viewing the printed word? I think most would agree it is not.

It seems to me your concern, and that of most others, is the issue of maintenance of the relationship.

With that in mind, my final thought: Turn the spending time with the wife analogy around just a bit. The husband decides that his wife needs to know where he stands without doubt on a few things. The primary understanding he desires his wife always remember is he loves her unconditionally, that she might be confident in returning love to him and have that love bring order to her feelings toward others. These thoughts he writes to her that she may always know and return to the letters whenever she may choose for assurance or clarity. He writes repeatedly until he has a collection of letters, which he one day gives her as a gift. She is thrilled. Only now, every day when they join for dinner and he expects to talk, she instead pulls out the letters. She is concerned that she dutifully maintain her commitment to his stated love and constantly rereads the letters before him and makes comments to him about the contents. She is consumed with maintenance of the relationship in this manner but never ever again searches him out with real time conversation or even her eyes to connect with him as a person. For her, reading the letters in front of him is the source and practice of all communication with him.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Comments Moved to a Front Page Post

Sometimes the blog feels a little like me dominating a discussion in the living room, while the real discussions takes place in a back bed room. The following is a comment response to a reader.

Josiah said, "I hear you saying the Bible is certainly a kind of Spiritual Encyclopdia to help us define, articulate, and check our spiritual walk and knowledge. I think I do take it is a kind of duty to understand the Bible. If I were not a inclined toward my intellect or were not a good reader I think I would not feel the duty as strongly. However, as a christian (who reads alot); I feel subject first to God and secondly to the Bible. If it is in the Bible and I can understand it, I feel a duy to obey even if I have not got a specific leading in my spirit. Are you warning aginst this? or is there a particular bondage of duty against which you are warning likened to differences in Law described inthe Bible. Law bringing death -- law bringing Life."

The questions you raise are insightful and needed to help me articulate something beautiful but hard to reduce to mere words. I am warning only against a self delusion I experienced once upon a time. That is that I perceived my daily discipline of Bible reading as a measure of my spiritual maturity and the basis for my spiritual insights. Of course, what insights I had spiritually were from understanding the Bible, however now I view those insights as intellectual at the time and weak for their lack of connectedness to my heart. I do not think that I view the Bible as a Spiritual Encyclopedia, but I think it is that at least and I like the analogy. I completely agree that in lacking a clear spiritual nudge from the Holy Spirit one turns to and obeys the Bible to the fullest of one's understanding. I think sometimes the Lord is silent in spirit often because He has clearly addressed the issue in scripture.

I understand your feeling of duty to develop your intellectual understanding of the Bible. I have felt the same. Duty is an interesting word and here is a hinge in the discussion. Following duty is a good thing, unless one trusts that one's duty is the measure of spiritual reality. We feel duties differently, in varying degrees when applied to varied topics. I followed duty not love in inviting my mother to live in our home as she neared the end of her life and needed to live with others instead of alone. In following that duty I learned much about love, though I must be honest that my love for my mother did not increase. However, I feel the experience helped me separate from my love of her many anxieties and resentments that had built up toward her. Duty is like that sometimes. We follow it not realizing it will bring us to a place of deeper spiritual understanding. Yet, there is no guarantee it will. We can dutifully do something for years without any change in our spiritual awareness. This is the kind of conundrum that piques my curiosity. What is the difference, and why is it there? I postulate but do not assert, the difference is that in the one our heart is open to hear God beyond the duty even as the duty positions us to hear. When duty fails to spiritually enlighten us, we have approached the duty with the hidden agenda of establishing our own righteousness.

I must be off to work. craig v., I will post my response to you later today, perhaps early enough for you to read before you get into the weekend this Friday evening. Thanks for being patient with me.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

If the Bible be Holy Spirit Inspired

Reaching back two posts, I listed three bulleted interactions between a person and the Bible. In a simplistic way, I intended to illustrate a common perspective on the Word. That is, people often don't know exactly what to do with the Bible on a personal level other than to read and attempt application. In that reading, they will be stirred emotionally, even if that is described by the reader as, "I'm not getting anything out of this." Dulled, disconnected emotional reactions are still emotional reactions. Most often, individuals will seek out others regarded as more knowledgeable in understanding scriptures for aid in the quest. This may or may not include a trained member of the clergy. Sitting under the instruction of designated teachers or seeking out a friend who is trusted as more mature in the faith is a basic way of gaining a handle over the meaning of those glorious words. Attending a Bible study is a different formula toward the same end of wanting to hear what others think.

Christian tradition focuses on the study of the Bible to divine its Truth. Therein has developed a constant focus on scripture reading in both formal and informal gatherings of believers and the fairly common practice--expectation?--of the discipline of a daily quiet time to include scripture reading pervasive among (as far as I know) most modern Christian circles. Nothing in the assertion I made in the previous post negates the validity of the Word in those practices. I fully receive the Word of God as the word of our living God and consider it a miracle living in and of itself.

Consider the statement made in the previous post, The mind and heart of Christ known through the in-dwelling Christ, the Holy Spirit, is the only source of truth and wisdom available to us within the current paradigm of the natural existence. Does this line suggest we live without the Bible? Only if someone reads that into it. If the Bible is to be revered as the Holy writ, infallible and trustworthy, is this perspective itself not based on a belief, no...more the faith, that the Holy Spirit inspired its writing? To call God the Author when we know men penned the words is a full acceptance of the Holy Spirit's Presence and actions. Coming to an understanding of the Word in line with God's intent and heart is recognized as a function of the Holy Spirit. We consider it revelation. Something active in the Holy Spirit of God must be received by the reader for the Bible text to become "spiritual knowledge," for the life in the words to spawn life in the heart of the reader.

My assertion is not an attempt to encourage spiritual life without the Bible. Rather it is an appeal to receive the words in the fullness of their meaning. The life of God has become available to sinful man. This is the wonder of both the grace in the Father's heart and the spiritual work of Jesus in the atonement at the Crucifixion. The life of the written Word, by faith, then becomes a real and continuing exchange of the dynamics of the emotions and dialogue of the intellects between the believer and the resident Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit is the living Spirit of the Living Word who became flesh, held in the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant within one's heart. This joining of the Holy Spirit to our spirit birthed by God removes the reading of the Word from the confines of our self-absorbed souls and the constructs of the traditional teachings of men and brings to fruition the maturing of our spirit, the new creature.

Life in the spirit then is beyond the written Word but a result of the same. Further use of the written Word is not stopped because this relationship is the core of faith but becomes more purposeful from this vantage point. I no longer use the Word to seek out my relationship with God. That treasure is fully mine. The written Word is part but not the center of my communion with the Living Word. Jesus living within me as the Holy Spirit is the center, the object, the sustainer of my spiritual life.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

An Assertion on the Christian Life

The point of all the posts on Knowledge is the basis for a simple assertion. If we desire as the body of Christ to effect the most growth in spiritual maturity of the most believers; then reduce Christianity to its simple core, the gospel message of redemption from sin through the cross and living in the fullness of the in-dwelling Christ made possible through the resurrection. All other discussions, though interesting perhaps, quickly erode into winds of doctrine and a fractured family of God. Christ in us is the hope of glory, but our understanding of glory should not be a compartmentalized belief that makes the glory of God a platitude existing in the next life. Christ living in us and our recognizance of plus obedience to that reality is the glorious answer of God to the mayhem around us.

Intellectual knowledge of the natural world, though useful for participating in the culture through gainful employment or otherwise, is not the end of human experience. In the eternal perspective of things, the brain is but a tool to be developed and utilized, nothing more. We Christians run a muck as a consequence of equating an intellectual understanding of the Word with spiritual knowledge; or worse, equating subjective, personal understanding of the Word with all its inherent problems of a wavy lens--individual perspective--as spiritual knowledge. While intelligent exegesis is rightly accepted as superior to common conclusion in understanding the meanings of texts, spiritual knowledge is not an automatic result of intelligent thinking over subjective personal perspective for the simple reason that none of us escapes our own subjectivity. Human knowledge and wisdom, even that which builds its rationalizations on the Bible is of no value in the larger framework of eternity. The mind and heart of Christ known through the in-dwelling Christ, the Holy Spirit, is the only source of truth and wisdom available to us within the paradigm of the current natural existence.

It probably goes without saying but as a balanced writer I cannot shirk the responsibility of stating that no carnal knowledge, that which is known through muscle and bone or the related drives of hunger, thirst and libido, is the source of spiritual knowledge. It's a given these are all part of the natural life, but you will hear no call to asceticism nor epicureanism from me. Living to please the body or subdue it reduces the quality of life rapidly in the best case scenario and is a path to madness in the worst. We were never intended to live as animals do through competitive instinct fulfilling a need to survive. When the source of our soul's satisfaction is based on our carnal natures, the reason why we live results in philosophies which rationalize barbarism and/or paganism as logical and fulfilling.

Spiritual knowledge isn't learned by listening to sermons, though certainly teaching has its place and I do not suggest discarding any gift God intended for us. Spiritual knowledge is that which we learn through Christ as our active teacher, a function of us walking in the faith that the Holy Spirit is within us as He said He would be. (You gotta love the way the three persons of God wreak havoc on personal pronoun usage.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Knowledge Discussion Moves Forward

So the regular reader may be wondering why I spent three posts to state the obvious about knowledge. Besides being a cumbersome thinker who is talkative, I have an overall goal. That goal, though in line with the sub-title of this blog, is stated so often here in the past two years (nearly that long anyway) my readers may feel cheated--or at least like yawning for the umpteenth time. Well, I hope I am being an effective witness for the narrow way of Jesus in the long run but even I think I am starting to sound like a broken record. (Guess that's a dated simile, but malfunctioning CD's don't repeat the same line over and over just a syllable or note in rapid staccato

The reason I posted on knowledge is to develop a background of delineated meanings from which an assertion may be made regarding Christian decision-making on a day to day basis, which then leads to some degree of wisdom-gain over a life time. The next stop is to identify how the common man or woman deals with scripture. There might be generated a complex list if I attempted a no-stone-unturned approach, but for the sake of this blog is not a tome, I will work with a few main possibilities. I came up with three:
  • Reaction--meaning the words flip some switch in the heart on and the person goes off. Most of what is thought then is really skewed by this deeply ingrained, emotionally-controlled state which is our baggage in common terms and in secular terms is closely akin to psychosis. (That's a joke, but it may not be far from the truth.)
  • Interpretation--sounds formal but for many of us, it is not. Once the switch is flipped back off (this is not completely possible except under one condition but a person must believe it is at least attempted--that's a later post), the person begins to work on understanding what the scripture actually means. I do not mean formal interpretation as if one is a Bible scholar, just the sense that, "Hey, I better figure out what this means. I'll go ask Joe. He knows stuff like this."
  • Application--"OK, I got it now and I'm gonna do the right thing by this."
For any reason, if one of the readers think another bullet or two must be considered, please help me here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Go figure...I said I was gonna write more and school kicks into high gear. I didn't see this coming??

I have a next post in my head and am looking for a spontaneous moment when writing for a few moments fits in. Maybe this weekend even!

Monday, August 24, 2009


Sometimes I sit to write and begin to throw terms around that I think I understand. Hoping to keep from looking foolish, I check the term in dictionary or encyclopedic sources and discover I am way over my head in either understanding the term or in being able to offer a reasonable opinion related to what I thought I intended to say. In other words, before I checked the sources I was writing something akin to horse manure.

Well, horse manure can harm or help plants in the garden depending on how it is applied. Not wanting to harm the relationship with readers, I have withheld application tonight.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Spirit Knowledge

Now I add a third category of knowing. It is neither intellectual nor carnal, though it is related to both. It is the knowledge fully resident in the new creature being. A knowledge in God, which He shares with us and is about all of life. It wells within the heart and springs from there--under the right conditions--like a river flowing from us to others.

Spiritual knowledge isn't the practice of disciplines which inhibit carnal knowledge expression. Spiritual knowledge is a heart reality become understanding which brings the will into submissive loving of God and the mastery of the body's appetites to rest fully quieted underneath the foot of the believer. These appetites are to be regarded as dead, though a shift in love from God and toward self will cause the animal to rise.

Spiritual knowledge isn't simply the ability to offer a sharp apologetic from the scriptures about life in God. Such is an intellectual exercise which may or may not be a function of one's spirit.

Spiritual knowledge begins with God, develops with God, and results in the glory God deserves as it is the mark of the sons of God for which revelation the earth groans . That mark is the fruit of the spirit which so naturally emanates from individuals who walk in it.

An interesting characteristic of spiritual knowledge is that it is so dependent on God, the possessor is so aware of that connection, that spiritual knowledge never declares itself as the property of the human in which it is found. Spirit knowledge only acknowledges the One who is the source of the knowing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

On a personal note...

I had an epiphany a moment ago about this blog. The two of you that regularly give this site a hit, my kids who check in fairly often, along with a bit wider readership that isn't quite regular will recognize I haven't written very consistently for the past several months. The tech troubles of the late spring notwithstanding, there is a simple reason of motivation behind the paucity of writing. I haven't been engaged for the last six months or so with the blog.

I recognized why this morning. Somewhere along the way--and I'm not sure where--I shifted from wanting to express my ideas to needing to expound well. The emphasis on achieving a quality experience for myself before the reader has undercut my interest. Oh well. I have never been interested in a personal blog in which I journal about my life, nor the casualness of such writing. Yet, by moving to pieces that are thought out and "crafted," I was not enjoying the writing.

Anyway, I think with a little more spontaneity back in the mix of my approach, I will write more often.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Is Ice Cream Consumption a Carnal Act?

As human beings, we find ourselves within the boundaries of a time and space dimension. Our physical bodies have a finite amount of time to exist measured against the movement of the earth around the sun. While knowledge is, on the one hand, understood to be a function of intellectual capacity, each individual gains a body-based composite of knowing by being alive in our physical bodies we may label in two categories:

kinesthetic knowledge --physical understandings like knowing how to ride a bicycle, wherein a person need not be able to carefully articulate the physical laws involved, nor the math of speed computation, but nonetheless "knows" the way to balance and move the vehicle forward successfully.

carnal knowledge--within Christian circles, carnal knowledge is synonymous with sin but in the fullness of definition is a bit broader.

1. pertaining to or characterized by the flesh or the body, its passions and appetites; sensual: carnal pleasures.

2. not spiritual; merely human; temporal; worldly: man of secular, rather carnal leanings. (Dictionary.com)

Is riding a bicycle carnal? It pertains to the body and is a mere human activity. (Though I have had many a bike ride wherein my sense of God's presence and my communion with Him during the physical activity was sublime.) So...biking is carnal. Biking is carnal?!

Consider the carnal pleasure of eating ice cream. (We visited a local ice cream shop here in Seattle. All organic ingredients and the spoon/bowl was compostable. I selected coffee and the product included ground coffee beans--yum!) Most of us do not place this human act--based on no nutritional need but pursued by the majority of us who enjoy ice cream simply because the taste and texture of the dessert is enjoyable--in the sin category.

Carnal acts which are sinful have a quality that goes beyond simply enjoying a pleasurable, physical act. When do we cross that line?

What do you think? (I'm using my daughter's Mac and frustrated by it!!! I have no clue why the second half of this post is showing up in a white box, nor can I figure out how to get it to stop. I think I need to rename the blog to reflect my continuing fight with technology.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Degrees and a Cabbie's Knowledge

The brain grows a dendrite, and literally an individual gains a mental connection. The person has new knowledge. A fact is known.

The word science is rooted in a Latin word, scire, meaning to know. Knowledge is simply what we know. Knowledge builds on itself, hence a formal education requires years; and individuals categorize their learning into specialties of focus, which drive a lifetime of learning in that field. We award such knowledge a credential verifying the education met standards.

Gaining knowledge includes non-formal education. One's brain may contain a pile of facts about a particular city's streets which has developed as a function of driving a cab for a living. The brain in this case rarely requires a map for reference. Experience is a great teacher.

In the cab example, the individual learns more than just where the streets lay. The cab driver will be aware of related but necessary facts that are a function of the city planner's action, which streets run two-ways versus one-way for instance; and of particular importance, which way that one way is! (I've been visiting Portland, Oregon since yesterday, and this city employs the one-way more than most cities I have visited! Well done, I might add. It hasn't been difficult to navigate.)

Further, the cab driver will be well versed on facts that impact the orientation and the planning of the streets: hours when the given streets experience heavy traffic, locations of popular attractions that will impact traffic flow, ethnicity concentrations, crime areas, etc. Knowledge is layered and nuanced.

We gain and accept our level of knowledge capacity and the layering of our given circumstances as a function of life. Taken as a whole, the amount of knowledge and its expanding diversity leaves the common person within an unfathomable labyrinth. All of us live with his of her pile of facts while leaving much information to reside out of our brains but within the reach of research. Factoring in the multiples of other people's nuance, add in the forces of nature and the laws of physics wherein a volcano may erupt or trained bicyclists misjudge by millimeters into a shattering fall and to knowledge is added the complication of "randomness" which at times scrambles life beyond planning, protocols and policies that all stand upon knowledge.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Knowledge, Part II

Moving from the last post, today is a simple framework of definitions and premises.

Knowledge: the body of truths or facts accumulated in the course of time. Dictionary.com

However, the Christian experience opens us to the Mind of Christ. Considering the beginning definition from the Christian perspective, knowledge is limited and finite. It is expanding rapidly in this age, but will never approach what is held in the mind of the Lord. Additionally, as Christians, we may divide knowledge into two components:

  • Knowledge as the composite of data with which humans function in the natural world and upon which is constructed in ever-increasing complexity that stuff labeled scholarship or erudition.
  • Carnal knowledge or the realm of understanding which springs from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
My next post or two--I'm not exactly sure where this is headed--will be essays in which three areas of "knowledge" are the key components. These are knowledge, carnal knowledge and the Mind of Christ.

Knowledge from God

As a jumping off point for commenting about knowledge, the following quote is shared from a sermon of George MacDonald's sometime in the late 1800's:

"...so that the selves God made shall appear, coming out with ten-fold consciousness of being, and bringing with them all that made the blessedness of the life the men tried to lead without God. They will know that now first are they fully themselves. The avaricious, weary, selfish, suspicious old man shall have passed away. The young, ever young self, will remain. That which they thought themselves shall have vanished: that which they felt themselves, though they misjudged their own feelings, shall remain--remain glorified in repentant hope. For that which cannot be shaken shall remain. That which is immortal in God shall remain in man. The death that is in them shall be consumed." (the emphasis in the selection is from MacDonald)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Shibboleth –noun

a peculiarity of pronunciation, behavior, mode of dress, etc., that distinguishes a particular class or set of persons.
From Hebrew shibboleth, "stream, flood," from the use of this word in the Bible (Judges 12:4-6) as a test to distinguish Gileadites from Ephraimites, who could not say 'sh' but only 's' as in 'sibboleth'. (taken from Dictionary.com)

...and so it goes. Humans have their vocal signals that delineate groups and establish both simple regions and lines of demarcation of profound political division (the division around language is more complicated than simple pronunciation, of course). We humans function along lines of creating culture--both broadly within large political boundaries and site specific as in the "corporate culture" of business. Culture leads to lines of thought around who is part of us and who is not. In the broadest application of this idea, we confront ethnocentrism or a tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one's own. However, within site specific cultural identities the same group-think takes shape of who is and is not part of the culture.
Denominations and independent churches alike are subject to this dynamic.

When the Christian school I served for seventeen years determined to more aggressively recruit its student body from a broader base in the community than simply the church group which started the school, we immediately had to leap the hurdle of how our group was considered "different" and market our "sameness" with "traditional" Christian thought and practice. Getting people of different backgrounds together is not an easy task. The culture of cooperation I hoped to engender among the broad spectrum of the larger community had to reflect who we were within our school culture first. In pursuit of that goal, I added a section to the teacher application wherein the applicant had to express their willingness to reach across boundaries within the broad spectrum of Christianity. In this section, an applicant from the Pentecostal Holiness tradition stated that she followed this teaching believing it closest to the Truth.

Isn't that why any of us practice what we practice? Yet all women do not wear their long hair as a bun across the top of the head swirled out of never-cut locks. Which brings up a tantalizing (possibly tiresome to some) array of questions over the analysis of what is "True" Christian expression.

Oh! ... that IS why we separate within the Body of Christ, isn't it?

Postulate: a Christian will function in life something like the O blood type. That is he or she will be emotionally and intellectually equipped to give to all others and to receive all others. This ability will include being able to relate practically with both those in darkness and those who are redeemed and renewed in the light of Jesus Christ.

I described cause for disunity among believers in the last post over knowing God or knowing one's own self righteousness.

This leaves me two areas of understanding to explore:

  • What is knowledge? (Since "knowing" God is a prerequisite for unity.)
  • What is the righteousness upon which we must agree to be unified? (Since reasons for practicing anything as a function of our Christianity, like piling hair on the head if one is feminine, are rooted in our seeking of what is right according to Truth.)

If you care to, leave a thought about other topics you see as salient to a discussion on unity.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I believe there is a tremendous unity in the Body of Christ, the many divisions of practice and emphasis notwithstanding.

It is really very simple. There are those who are learning the way of living life in His righteousness. These folks either know or are knowing through learning the way of Christ in the spirit and a divine view of righteousness flowing only from Jesus Christ. Such a state supplies and guides the soul with all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Then there are those who are simply seeking to establish righteousness through their own effort of choice to abide by law. The use of spiritual terms and scripture are espoused in elaborate constructs of righteousness matrices, but these hearts trust not the in-dwelling Presence through the Holy Spirit.

Unity occurs among the former group; posturing and strife are the hallmarks of the latter. Many will think this simplistic, and point to places where there is mixture of both trusting Christ within and self-trust. For this reason, I think, Peter told those who heard his call to faith, "walk out your salvation with fear and trembling." Practicing the Presence is not something automatic but a function of our exercise of faith. There is a learning curve, if you will allow.

Accepting none of us is perfect in trusting Him in all things all the time--for such confession and forgivenness exist--the question reduces to what do we embrace, Jesus Christ or our human understanding?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Affected or Affectionate

For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:8

I get a kick out of being startled by the Word of God.

Recently Philippians chapter one jumped into my attention space. I began returning to the selection fairly regularly to digest again and listen to the Spirit. This morning, I noticed the verse above and checked the meaning in the Greek of affection.

The kick was in the gut--literally as the word means bowels. Well, that's the first definition. The third statement describing connotations of the one meaning is a heart in which mercy dwells.

I tend to think of affection as a physical manifestation of tender feelings. This is, of course, the show of affection. Yet, the word as used indicates to me an acknowledgement by Paul that his affective domain, the realm of his emotional being, is tender and full of mercy toward the Philippians, and that he ascribes this state to Jesus. He is not saying he can't wait to be hugging on them, though if with them most likely would express what he feels in that way.

Further, since (according to Strong) the Hebrews regarded the bowels as the seat of the more tender emotions of kindness and mercy, I was struck by the very limited way I have understood affection. I have defined affection as an act. Paul here uses the word to state the condition of his inner-being.

It causes me to question: When will our devotion to Christ, our abiding in Him become so real to us that we are released within to the freedom and authority of a gut level sense of mercy toward one another within the Body of Christ? When will we abandon ourselves to one another emotionally far beyond the affected, obligatory cultural construct of showing physically something we believe ideally perhaps, but do not fully emotionally embrace because of fear or pride?

We modern Christians live in a world where the headlines about predatory priests are but one of the fearsome depravities with which humanity is afflicted. Have we let the world around us hollow our guts of the tenderness which is Christ's mercy? If there were more affection, more depth of the feeling of it within our God-families, would some who have been of the faith but fallen into depravity been equipped by the emotional sustenance flowing from those with whom she or he walked, such that the lure of lust could not have masqueraded as a desirable end?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

So What?

If society as we know it collapses, so what?

We ought ot understand and be comfortable meeting in our homes.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Endless Steppe

Have you ever read the book entitled The Endless Steppe? Probably not. Though it is a bit similar to Anne Frank's Dairy, (young Jewish girl recounting how WW2 affected her) it is not nearly as widely read. The book is written for readers roughly 12 to 15. In it, young Esther is the only daughter of a wealthy Jewish family living in Vilna, Poland. WW2 is raging, yet she is in Poland occupied by the Soviet Union, and the war stops at her garden gate. That is until her family's wealth is confiscated, and they are relocated to Siberia for the crime of capitalism.

The story then follows her journey barely surviving Siberian winters until what remains of her family is allowed to return to Vilna after the war: happier ending than Anne's but an equally compelling read.

For my purpose here, I will place The Endless Steppe alongside Gone with the Wind. I do this because of one similarity the books share, though Esther's true story is moving and not nearly the soap opera as that of the fictional Scarlett. What do these books have in common? The collapse of a social order in which the wealthy are stripped of their power and prestige radically and rapidly.

Think of the Romanovs, the last ruling family of Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution. How startling to find one's self at the center of tradition, heritage of family and state, and believing that you are fully within God's will living life as it is has always been known for generations. (Esther in Steppe did not address the God angle so much as I recall--read the book forty years ago now--but it is easily inferred as a complicating factor for the emotions of her family who are Jewish.)

Are we as American Christians prepared for what lies ahead of us? I am not so much addressing this from an eschatalogical viewpoint as I am simply extrapolating the consequences of a bankrupt US government.

I am not one to write about politics, so don't read that last sentence as a political statement. It is more economic and sociological. What will become of society as we know it, if our government's debt is called in by those lending to us and we cannot pay? Have we assumed the US Constitution faced no real threat of abbrogation or that our society would endure as it is now long past our short lives?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kindness oils new friendships and glues old ones.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Digging Out

I am beginning to see a break in the "busy" clouds raining on my blog parade.

No essay here, but thought I would leave a short message:

The Christian walk is full of surprises we cannot imagine but none we need fear.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

One might think that in a two week interim I would have written something to post as soon as I had internet access...or, at least, that I would have had several ideas.

One might think.

I have planted our little garden and done much yard work. We had a frost last night. Probably the latest frost I have seen in the thirty years I have lived in these mountains. Won't know what we lost until this afternoon when I get home. I have large, five gallon buckets over the most vulnerable plants, and since I leave for work before the sun cracks open the horizon, knowing will have to wait.

Anyway, I don't have a post. The last several weeks, even before the internet loss episode, I have struggled to have something to say here. I have been thinking about much, but there is nothing to make public from this period of reflection.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tech Trials Update

Just laugh:

We have
  • replaced a faulty phone jack
  • replaced bad phone wiring
  • replaced the entire box on the outside of the house that receives incoming phone wiring
  • spent hours on the phone either on hold or receiving tech instructions from the old internet provider (good-bye AT&T, nothing personal)
  • acquired a new internet provider (took a week before the technician could visit the house)
  • moved our computer and all supporting devices to a different room to employ cable service

The result?

Our daughter's lap top works fine including receiving an internet signal. Our computer works but will not connect to the internet.

Our next step will be to buy a new computer. We are not planning on doing that soon, since the state has reduced my pay for the next two months.

There is a reason for this season, also!! Sometimes we identify the time of instruction before we understand the instruction to be gained.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The long story is too long to tell at this point. The short story is it will be another week before internet service at my home is restored. Don't look for a post from me until about May 18 or 19.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Still no internet. sigh

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Due to technical difficulties (no internet connection for several days now), I cannot post currently. A technician is scheduled to visit today to correct the problem.

This is another of those evil misuses of school computers!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Great I Am

Our Father delivered His name to us through Moses: the Great I Am. Jesus is called the Living Word.

I have always found it fascinating that God reveals Himself as a small, functional being verb and His Son, likewise is associated with abstractions.

God is the generative power of the universe, the central core, the connective sinew...He is all there is. Yet, He did not choose magnificent terms to speak from the burning bush to identify Himself. Instead He revealed He is the Identity of all cognition.

His Son, as the Living Word reveals the nature of human identity, which is our ability to form mental concepts and label the abstract with nouns and verbs. The words Jesus uttered and the understandings those who walked with Him delivered to us about Him are the essence of true humanity, or what we may conceive of as God's intention for His creation.

We are little I am's. We are small identities playing with the abstract reality of the power of thought. Focused on ourselves, we only identify with the death of sin from the Fall. Redeemed by Christ and born of the spirit, (at the very least an abstraction of thought foreign to all earth-bound thinking) our identity becomes tied to the source of life.

Consider self talk. Listen over all thought. What follows the "I am" statements we make or more pointedly we simply think: words of earthly, self-related logic or those in which meanings spring as pure water for life from the Identity at the center of the universe?

Friday, April 24, 2009


When I started the blog, I had no idea how much of my self would end up on display to the public!!

Okay, here's the ugly truth. My computer did not crash, and no, I have not lied to you. I honestly thought that it had!

We took a family vacation over the spring break from school, which is always the week after we Christians celebrate the Risen Lord Jesus. In leaving our home for that length of time, we turn off the hot water heaters, unplug everything pluggable except the freezer (This trip, we even emptied the refrigerator, cleaned it, and left the door open to allow the fridge to air out!) and we're off.

On our return, I replugged everything including both power strips serving the electronic array we have at the computer desk and turned on the computer. After a few minutes use, it shut down inexplicably. I CHECKED ALL THE PLUGS, I shout, as you snicker thinking you have diagnosed my problem already. I found no problem connections. I rebooted the computer, and it whirred alive. The computer is old (seven years); it has done some odd things lately, and I muttered aloud that it might be getting ready to crash.

This second go round, it worked long enough for me to check our e-mail, loading the 32 messages stored from the previous week, then it shut off again. I checked all the plugs again, but this time the computer would not come on. I tried several minutes later, then several hours later--nothing. I concluded it had crashed, and on Monday I posted it was dead. No one sent flowers, so I thought this wasn't a painful passage but a rather routine one as I have read.

Until Tuesday, when out of curiosity, I unplugged and replugged everything. The computer came on, and I knew I had to face the public admitting my distinct technical deficiencies. I have no clue what happened or why, but maybe my wife and I will get another year out this computer.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I returned home from 13 days away, turned on the computer which immediately crashed. I guess it was mad for being neglected.

I have no idea when it will be fixed or replaced.

I am writing this from school, which is actually wrong for me to do because I signed a use agreement for the network stating I wouldn't use these computers for personal use. (When you finish reading this I am hoping it will self-destruct leaving no evidence of my transgression, but that seems a bit naive.)

If you are someone I e-mail with, e-mail me, as I can correspond through the server when I get computer time on someone else's computer. I need you to e-mail first, as I have downloaded all e-mails from the server (only activity I accomplished before the crash) and therefore have none for reply currently.

Don't expect a post any time soon.

C'est la vie in cyber world.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hallelujah!! A Resurrection Reflection

The supernatural occurs. Daily. Eternally.

If the eternal God is accepted as having entered the limits of our timed earth; if His resurrection is seen as the basis from which life in the believer springs; if we are truly hidden with Jesus in the heavenly realms as a result of His supernatural life, then our earthly existence in a natural state hardly exists in comparison to our eternal state.

The butterfly must pass through the caterpillar state, but does it bother over being just a caterpillar?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thinking About Encouragement

Encouragement in the faith and encouragement generally cannot be built on statements we doubt. Differences of practice need not be reason for doubt between believers. We are as a universal Body of Christ aware of the great diversity of belief and practice among Christians. However, I am convinced there is only one faith in Jesus. There are, in contrast, various levels of maturity. The encouragement we might rightly offer others of different practice is to seek the Father. I do not expect anyone’s walk to look like mine in practice, yet I believe there is mutual understanding of what faith is and how it is lived, if we would humbly accept it lives beyond our man-made boundaries of religious practice.

Believers need to feel free to question anything in their own tradition when that is their need. Questioning practice of the group is not questioning the existence or authenticity of the Lord. Open discussion and mutual reflection is a benefit to us all.

We must trust in the mercy of our Father, and such trust is the basis of an authentic encouragement. I think there is no such thing as human objectivity, not in a pure sense anyway. Each of us is primarily subjective in all things. In my view, it is only as one opens to the in-dwelling Spirit of Christ that we partake of the Mind of Christ and touch truth. It is from a clear view of truth that we become strong in the ability to encourage others.

Encouragement is a key factor in one’s development as a Christian. We must beware, however, the voice calling to self-help for development as a better person. Becoming a better person is a siren’s call crashing one’s hope on rocks of discouragement. The old nature cannot be fixed. (And we all have the old nature.) For all us Christians, we must learn how to exist as our new creature through the depths of faith. It doesn’t happen by flipping switches. Rather, when people who share a significant past encourage one another, the established trust together on Christ opens individuals to the growth our heavenly Father guides.

This begs the question of whether or not Christians of varied backgrounds may develop a significant past. I say, love has no boundaries. Therein lies the true nature of encouragement. It meets its intended use from God when we are encouraging one another from a position of trusted love toward a deepening of the love which is from God. In contrast, encouraging one another to a better, more sophisticated humanity is nothing but empty humanism, the great lie of Lucifer to lift himself to be God’s equal.

Do you practice your faith in a different manner than I? No matter, love between us and for God together will flourish if we but seek to lift each other up into the light of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obedience? (adapted from a letter I recently wrote to my children)

What is the nature of the term obedience in a Christian context? Many, including me, have held to various forms of legalism to achieve the beauty of obedience--embracing futility with fervor, certainly, and as certainly a residing in death. Andrew and George spar somewhat in the previous post over the issue, as we know Christians throughout time have done and continue to do.

Consider the two great commandments: love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; love your neighbor as yourself. These two statements are a great organizer of a believer's thoughts and actions. Lining things up with these two daily, life works fairly simply. If we focus on the active verb "love" the Bible has more to say. 1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind, of course. Here, if we are having trouble sorting out whether or not what we feel is love, we have a guide sure and true. Sometimes what I feel as "love" is really my selfishness feeling sentimental. However, I might insist my action proves my obedience to God even as my “love” serves my own selfish ends. The challenge becomes to learn obedience to one's conscience, the sensitivity of which is developed both according to the Truth in the scriptures and through actively living in the Spirit.

My regular readers, friends and family know I am all about moving Christian experience from a legalistic application of the scripture to the revealed Truth of Jesus in-dwelling the believer. The scriptures point the believer to an experience of being united with the Holy Spirit. Anything less is just sentimentality or manipulation of words. Yet, as I have listened to others speak of the active guide of the Holy Spirit, I have found people saying things that undermine the trustworthiness of the Bible as a revelation of God. I recognize how the Bible has been used to harm as some push its meanings to parameters that are not in line with the revealed Truth of the Spirit of Jesus within. That is a problem, but a pendulum swing away from reliance on the written Word is not the answer believers need. However, on the opposite end of this spectrum, to rely on the Word alone can sometimes create an idol of the self who is one that “keeps the whole word of truth.” The self becomes qualified for adoration by its own “spiritual” achievement.

The paradoxes we face!!

The reality is that we walk a walk with a living God; God actively loves humanity and in-dwells the believer. However, the understanding to begin and maintain this walk is most often supported by the written Word. Thus we enter and live trusting the in-dwelling Presence we connect with through our conscience. Christianity isn't understanding the Bible alone or understanding living from within one's heart alone. These dispositions are in harmony with one another not in opposition. (Since the Creation speaks of Him, I don't think we can discount coming to know Him without the Word. Who are we to limit God speaking of and revealing Himself? Even so, such an experience of revelation is limited if it never comes to involve the revelation of the Scripture.)

Can one live the Christian life fully with the two Great commandments alone and trusting the Holy Spirit within? I think “yes” and “no.” God exists in such singularity of eternity that within the human understanding we must always grasp at knowing Him by holding onto tension created within paradox. This is one example of paradox. The whole of God’s intent might be summarized as the Two Great Commandments. The fullness of its meaning is grasped by embracing with faith the reality of the in-dwelling Christ.

So “yes” this is enough. It is the complete gospel: God has redeemed man who has become a holder, an ark, of the Divine Being. In this place, our personal responsibility becomes to love God and others.

Paradoxically, it is a “no” this is not enough for fully living the Christian life: There are two reasons. First, we are subjective creatures. Humans think according to what they believe in the depths of the heart. This thinking is self-referential. We reflect on what we believe to determine our decisions--thus our belief system which is skewed with error leads our decisions. Also, we will act instantly without true decision-making from an inner place where we do not even recognize we are guided by self and not outside-of-self insights. How does one learn to sort out a direction from God against these feeling-generating beliefs that are ours subjectively? Case in point, how do we know our feelings of love are the pure love of God and not our selfishness to love our own way? This requires taking the command to love and analyzing it, learning it according to other teachings in the Bible which reveal the nature of the word love.

Second, we need other people to hear what we say and think, to watch how we act and react and give us honest feedback. That is, we cannot simply take the two Great Commandments and think we are thus equipped to live life fully unto the Lord Jesus. We must enter into real relationships where love is practiced to fully understand love. We need others to experience our love and respond. How do we know we need fellowship? From the written Word and from within our hearts in union with Jesus. How do we get the courage to risk love? From the written Word and from within our hearts in union with Jesus.

The conclusion I draw for myself is...The Bible reveals Truth, Jesus, and can be trusted in what it says in guiding us into the living, active relationship with the in-dwelling Holy Spirit. The Bible reveals the insights we need to fully dwell with God, neither squandering nor exaggerating the meanings of life or love according to our subjectivity. Living in the Spirit and considering the Word cannot be separated functionally.

As a young believer I searched the scriptures to understand Jesus. As an older Christian, I rest in Jesus to reveal more Truth to me through the scripture and my daily life among others.