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.)