Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Massacre of Children

As the pain of watching the news Friday evening wet my cheeks and stabbed my heart, I heard the words more than once from those who were closer to the event than I: “There are no words.”

No words?!
I realized in the words of those reporting the horror, I had many words. My thoughts were full, and many of my words were not polite. I wasn't cussing in my head, though I had anger in desire--lusting?--to curse that twenty-year old killer to hell. I am human, right?

Thoughts banging in my head were not crude or vulgar words lobbed at the gunman. Few people have ever heard me list the moral and on-paper laws I violated as a twenty-year old. I have no condemnation for immature decision-making. I have been forgiven, and we all need the grace in which I am immersed.This gunman represents something more than a badly behaving twenty-something.

My thoughts as I worked my way through a wretched, sputtering sleep, would be called boorish or uncivil in the general social climate of tolerance in the 21st Century. Likely some will label me the worst possible pejorative, fundamentalist Christian. Risking that label, I write this post.

No words?
In the case of the parents who suffer the greatest loss in the most horrible way, the only words are words of prayer for their consoling in the midst of a towering grief.

No words?
For society, I have plenty. We Americans reap the whirlwind as we have sown to the wind. What happened yesterday is logical. It is predictable, and all our law-making, social activism, editorializing and psychological counseling will not stop it. The First Testament of the Lord God (Some refer to it as the Old. Thanks Frank Viola for the more accurate label.) warns that disobedience brings a cursed state or condition. The warning is intended to protect not punish. He warned humans in understandable words of that historical context of a consequence of living life according to natural desires, of being governed by selfishness. Negative consequence follows idolatry. 

Earlier this week, the front page of the national publication USAToday displayed a title, Urban Outfitters Holiday Catalogue Gets Naughty—followed by the details of the store's nationally distributed catalogue using a vulgar term that starts with "f" in multiple contexts. The article states advertising gurus were praising the marketing strategy. From the article: “Marian Salzman, a national trend-spotter and CEO of Havas PR. ‘It's the right voice for the teen market.’" The article explains that where such a publication would have met serious repercussions only a few years ago, in today’s climate of social media—read, anything is acceptable to say publicly  nowadays—the catalogue is “brilliant.” This is but one minor example of how our culture exhibits a cursed state of humanity. A state which naturally occurs when the Creator of love, self-control, and kindness is rejected. 

The evil of the Newtown school massacre is a much more serious example of societal descent into living out the cursed state of separation from the Lord. Some are shaking their heads at my narrow-mindedness by now. I am but another one lost in myths of spirituality, eh? The modern logic says, "This isn't anything more than a mentally ill person who had easy access to guns." If you live in the secular world and understand all things as more or less random that is the answer…and there are no words except the sifting ramble of psychological terms to attempt a relief from an unbearable grief.

In the Christian paradigm, there is a spirit rampant among humanity which is rallied against the Lord Jesus and His holiness. It lives strong in casual attitudes which are a function of loving pleasure, fame, and wealth. We debate ethics nationally while the population explores all possible human experience. What is often explored is just this century's version of human depravity. Mental health professionals work to alleviate situations where illicit sexual drives and anger have caused immense suffering among individuals and in families, while the entertainment industry pushes graphic sex and death...and we buy it.  We teachers are mandated to teach character ed while the kids are fascinated by and reinforce among themselves on the bus and through social media what gratifies them in the latest pop-culture movie or video-game.

In my seventh grade classroom recently, the fire marshal for the county was showing a video of a night-club fire a few years back. It happened in Rhode Island, and 100+ people died within two minutes. A member of the audience watching the band was video-taping with his phone. Fire leapt from a pyro-technic display onto the ceiling. Within seconds, the flame was spreading and the camera man was caught in a crush of people headed out the only available exit. Finding himself outside, he panned back to the one exit. It was then blocked fully by a human log-jam, a plug made from too many people trying to shove out in panic mode. One of my seventh graders began to laugh, though it had been clearly explained that over one hundred people were trapped inside and dying from smoke and 1000 degree heat. Was my student simply a bad attitude kid who disrespects basic humanity? This disconnect is the result of knowing death only as entertainment.

Why are we shocked when a mentally-ill person or a sane person chooses to act out dark, human feelings and desires which our collective fascination with sex and death has constantly communicated in the entertainments of movies, books, television, video-games, and  through the sensationalism of the news broadcast?  I do not claim here to know what the gunman in Friday's massacre held in his mind or heart. Perhaps he saw himself enacting revenge against some perceived wrong. The dark side of humans is dark for multiple reasons. How does anyone connect with such darkness? We know, but we are in denial. The culture of family and simple living is disdained by pop-culture while sex and death are enshrined. Something in humanity reaches for the dark spirit.

It is logical when the eyes of those who are disconnected from a general understanding of what love and respect mean, and who have been conditioned to view life as just a means for gratification, that the horrors of the Newtown massacre will then visit the larger culture of family and home. I contend, it is an invited spiritual condition of the cursed state upon ourselves by our national disobedience and idolatry before a holy God, the Lord Jesus.

No words?
Our national collective tolerating and celebrating sexual license and blood lust has embraced a spirit associated with lust and power and perversity. However our culture rejects "spiritual" answers and prefers labels like neurotic or psychotic to explain human depravity. As long as a human involved in depravity is a consenting adult or just pursuing fantasies as entertainment, we either laugh knowingly or turn the deaf ear of denial. Once the fantasy becomes a nightmare and violently kills innocent people, we grieve deeply over the loss and lament the randomness of the universe. Sometimes we blame our Creator, though He did warn us faithfully about the fruit of our choices, while graciously giving us the choice we cherish.

No words?
Repentance comes to mind.  Adam Lanza lived out his sickness...a sickness of the heart embedded in our culture. A sickness in the human heart which we have embraced as normal thus confusing our young as they develop and cocking the gun in the minds of the mentally ill.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Eyes on Mordor and not on Christ

In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a great evil lives. By the end of the story, we are confronted by the image of an oversize eye floating atop a massive stone pillar. The pillar and eye form nothing more than an emotionally thrilling, deeply threatening lower case “i”. The metaphor is simple: "i am God" is a great evil. The lower case indicating the human.

From the most logical stand point, all of life is spiritual. There are choices and activities which hinder spiritual development. Even a weakening or stagnant spiritual life is a spiritual condition. The paradigm shift that needs to occur in the practice of the Christian faith is a decision, an awareness, a self-discipline to reject the notion that some aspects of the Christian life are mundane, human and not spiritual. Rather, there are no coincidences, no simple happenstances which we simply live through. The mundane and every other aspect of our existence is meaningful in Christ.

Christians are sometimes confused or overly confusing regarding what is and what is not spiritual truth. In that confusion, folks influenced by such winds of doctrine are very likely to emotionally disconnect…to not realize, recognize or respond to God as real in a every moment. String several of these together, and the result is to describe our condition as a “dry time”. The wind will blow a dust in our eyes, stinging and blinding. We are likely to blame God, or in the least lose our focus on Him.  

Our Lord is not the author of confusion nor is there a desert in His Presence. 

Or perhaps, we may not be confused, but experiencing the effects of the great darkness on the earth. In not being aware of how we continue to love life in the earth and what it offers, we unwittingly live on the dark side while professing Christ. Several of the groups into which Christians have sub-divided make a portion of their teaching  to include “spiritual warfare” against the devil. True Ephesians tells us to wear the whole armor of God, and that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers in the heavens. Yet it appears to this author in the fights of his life, that what we blame on the devil are very often simply decisions and desires that reside within us in our fleshly-- read that oriented toward our physical body--minds. In being our own person, the "i" rules. In loving ourselves over God, we choose sin instead of submission and reap the natural consequences! Making blanket statements about how the devil is attacking us and asking others for their prayers in the face of this onslaught sounds spiritually effective and dedicated to life in Christ, but such is nothing more than pretense at the forms while denying the awesome power of the love of God.

i know what i am talking about.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Joy of the Feast

I am thankful 
 Immanuel is come. 

The only Eternal Kingdom rules my heart
 and I am filled to brimming over.

With family and friends 
I share a communion
of the Bread of Life
filled with new wine.

I am thankful to You, in-dwelling Presence of Jesus,
 I am clothed with righteousness,

A Thanksgiving feast with meat and gravy and cream?

With but rice today will I be any less satisfied?

Ah, the continual feasting
under the banner of the love of 
the Father!

  Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness
 And let Your godly ones sing for joy. Psalm 132:9

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reflections on Compassion

Compassion is the topic, a component of the reason for living and the meanings of life to be found illustrated in the Holy Text. Billions of people reject that my reference to a “Holy Text” is valid.

We believe so because our experience of life demonstrates the world rejects the Truth revealed in the Bible and thus, among other things, lacks compassion. Human to human relationships without the revelation of the Spirit of God are rooted in many motivations, but these can all be analyzed as selfish, competitive, or driven by base, physical desires which are instinctive to the fallen nature and animalistic.

The “walk in the Spirit”, when found, is discovered to be a higher way because it introduces a compass, a way to hear and see as a human that looks and listens above the selfish, competitive or bodily drives. The human spirit enlivened by the Lord is tuned to a different frequency on the spiritual level. It is a frequency resonating from God’s heart, and it is the source of love, goodness and beauty. The human who will reject the nature driving all humans and look outside of him or herself for the connection to this Spirit will find the effort is not without merit nor will it be accomplished without the reward of seeing a reality in spirit. It is a reality of humanity to which the unredeemed remain blinded. Our God may be known within the parameters of our limited intellect, but more importantly in the final analysis, through an expanding, love-braced heart.

And the greatest wonder of all is that we do not merit anything, but an act of grace on the Father’s part has opened the door. We accept our sin as a disqualifier and receive the atonement of Christ by an act of humility. Therein we begin a walk into the true state of human existence, an existence defined in large measure by compassion and not competition. It is a reality, which in the act of creation, the Creator intended for those made in His likeness.

Some will say that acts of compassion are numerous among those who do not profess Christ, and as a corollary of evidence against my point, that many who profess Christ are simply mean. Yes, both are true. However, I would say in the latter circumstance of “mean” Christians, we find solid evidence of a rebellion against God; and wherein, some people who profess Christ are false believers. Some “mean” Christians are simply immature, but those opposed to Truth engage in misconstruing all failure to walk in God’s nature in negative terms. In the former circumstance of compassion existing in people who make no profession of Christ, it is evidence that many will choose to live by something God has written upon the heart of humans though they have not yet met the Author of their motivations. I believe that in the end when all is revealed about the earth, that goodness will have one source: the heart of God.

 All else that appeared to weak humans as goodness will be revealed simply as conspiracies of an evil seeking confusion on the subject for the purpose of manipulation. Consider what we know well, modern marketing is a master of making a consumer feel important and valued but only for the opportunity of making a profit on the consumer. Is goodness intended to manipulate truly goodness? 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reflections on Romans 7 and 8

I ran into the self again yesterday. 
A familiar place, a dreaded place, in which I am not of the spirit of God.

One might attempt to curse against the barren land needy for a seven-times-seventy grace plan.
It only takes a glimpse to recognize the hardened, fallow soil of the earth,

dust and rock and dryness. 

A curse, curiously, is the self mocking righteousness.

The word of Truth ends up lying as waterless seed
in the cemented bottom of the rutted heart.

The lament of Paul
"O wretched man that I am," is identifiable.

Spotted heart, cancerous and blackened
by an illusion of foolish self.

Do not founder here...such run-ins with self

simply call for will 

drawing from a deeper well,


Living Spirit of Christ, 
in You is a love without separation.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Church is the Compost Bin for Human Garbage

Think of the human soul as a plant. The natural man, the one we know as our inner self, is fallen and sinful and good for nothing that is holy. Yet, this inner man is the rich stuff of humanity. Our ability to love and be compassionate, our ability to empathize, our desire to be helpful and supportive of others was a part of creation before the fallen creature became what humans are. We were created in His image, right? Now all this good stuff is destined to be used for selfish ends. Manipulation and coercion in the name of love, those pressuring expectations we resist from people around us yet continue to foist on others, all stem from our selfish desires mixed with our ability to love. We often believe we have another's best interests in mind, but our whole perspective is usually tainted to one degree or another with our own limited understandings. These limits are usually a manifestation of our self will.

We experience the spiritual birth and freedom from self given to us by an act of grace. We become a different plant in our souls--the new creature--but we fail the purity of the love of God often and adopt the stance, "It's a process." The composting metaphor is about this Christian growth process.

The compost pile achieves its wondrous reduction of organic wastes into a rich additive for garden soil by aeration. There are other factors, of course, but that exposure to oxygen enhances the effectiveness of the compost pile. That's why our ceramic, under the counter composter has holes in the lid. That's why our back yard bin has the grid system of vents on all four sides and from top to bottom. Exposure to oxygen is necessary. 

Remember I mentioned the odor sometimes in the under-the-sink container? That's because those holes on the top are a marketing feature. They don't work. There is not nearly enough aeration from these holes, especially as the container fills up. The stuff on the bottom has little air and rots without actually "composting." Those lid holes allow the label to read "kitchen composter" and not simply "multi-use ceramic container". The price is raised, as the container with the holed lid has "value" beyond what it actually is. I've seen this item at $15.00 in most stores. The phrase "Buyer Beware" comes to mind. (Ours was a gift.)

Our Christian journey is like this. We all know and understand the principle of confession. However, in application, we often regard confession as necessary once we have actually sinned. I think our sinful nature needs a place of open sharing on an on-going basis. We need Christian brethren to provide a place of exposure for willful thinking and desire, our sin nature, without judgment or censure. We need acceptance from others for the fallen creature we are. I am not condoning, condoning sin. Rather, I am suggesting a greater level of honesty. Because we fear condemnation from others in our Christian groups for having the thoughts that spring from a sinful nature, we only discuss this reality in guarded ways if at all. The result is our sinful nature doesn't get the exposure it needs to decompose. Exposed in discussion in a safe environment, we gain knowledge that others are experiencing the same and see we are not alone or different. This builds understanding of others and camaraderie between folks, and our sin nature weakens through an exchange that allows us space to deconstruct our feelings and motivations looking for the selfishness to admit in confession. A confession that comes before we act out that selfishness.

What's left in this process is an awareness of our core ability to love and an understanding of how to be angry without sinful attitudes; we gain a connection to our human ability of empathy without a need to manipulate others. By contrast, when we allow ourselves confession only after sin has occurred, it is a bit like those holes in our under the sink ceramic composter. It looks like aeration for the soul's need, it is marketed as such, but deep inside the container, the rot flourishes.

God's Spirit moved to reveal Himself to us; we responded by accepting the atonement. Salvation is the result. However, life within the Body of Christ is the functioning of a sanctification process which is intended to help us deconstruct the power of the fallen nature. We embrace this process fully as individuals through a group dynamic. We willingly create a Christian social climate that fosters mutual admissions of our fallen natures as a daily reality...or we only cautiously give lip service to the same which stumbles us all.  In open climates without judgment, we discover between us a patient love for who we are as fallen beings, and there grows freedom from the fallen state.

Individuals so connected to others will find worship in spirit and truth of our Creator in the prayer closet and throughout the day. When our earthly attitudes are being composted through aeration among brethren, we find ourselves more able to draw sustenance from Him, more connected to His purity and strength, and we become more spiritually skilled at abiding on His stem resulting in a flourishing of spiritual fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in abundance.

We by grace are connected to Him, and in a responsible manner among ourselves, we practice spiritual principles of forbearance and honesty. Then our core human abilities draw life and direction from the stem of the Spirit of God rather than from the spirit of the world which burdens us. We discover a vitally different source of nutrition for our souls.

Church is a compost bin for humans.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Composted Souls

I need to empty the kitchen composter, but it's on my mind to get the second post up on the subject of the natural man.

Composting is a process for getting carbon-based stuff of all kinds to rapidly break down into a substance that can be easily worked into soil. The process invites a literal hot-bed of micro-organisms into the compost bin and thence into the soil once applied. As a result, the rich nutrition which is inherent in the carbon-based stuff is made available in the composted product and is used to boost soil for better plant growth. Plant growth from compost supported soil is vigorous and more fruitful than it might have been.

Back in the late 80s and into the 90s, I remember books and sermons and seminars about being "healed" emotionally. The line of thinking was that trauma in youth or some other point in life damaged the emotions and created an obstacle for folks in over-coming sin. The "spirit" walk that produced the fruit of righteousness was in want of an emotional state that supported it, thus gaining a "healed" state was part of the path into God. God, of course, brought the healing, yet such healing was a prerequisite to successful spirit life. Perhaps...I am not discounting the idea. I was certainly one who thought I needed healing of this kind.

I am thinking though, that the semantics of such logic sets up its own obstacles. The believer so instructed has a ready explanation and often justification for selfish behavior.  "Man, I've done it again. When will I get over the root of this problem? When will I be able to truly serve God? Better see my pastor--spiritual mentor--Christian therapist soon before I fall again."

For most, I think it better to understand what God has clearly established in the Bible is enough. The old man is waste material. It does contain some vitality or dynamism, if you will. However the value of that is simply like the value of the stem of a tomato or a gladiola or ... etc. The stem is needed for a while, but once the intent of the plant is fulfilled--the tomato is in the salad, yes?-- the stem and leaves are in the trash can for the garbage it has become. Or, for the more disciplined individual with a little foresight, that waste material ends in the compost pile.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Garbage, the Natural Man.

In our kitchen underneath the sink and out of view is a ceramic canister about ten inches tall. It is our in-house repository for kitchen waste in the first stage of becoming garden compost. 

The lid of the canister has a unique feature. Multiple small holes of about a quarter-inch each encircle the center knob of the lid. Held in place by a small rim inside the lid is a foam pad. Thus air enters the canister, but odors are not escaping. Lifting the lid might relieve a strong and sometimes offensive odor of rotting vegetable parings and coffee grounds. The odor or lack thereof is the result of the actual mix inside and the length of time it has waited on me to empty it. With the simple lid in place, however, no one need be concerned of foul smells when opening the cabinet door. Odors are kept in the canister.

When the canister is full, I empty it outside into a larger version where yard clippings, this smelling mishmash from the kitchen and piles gathered from horse barns “cook” into a rich addition to the garden soil. The key to getting kitchen waste and other organic leftovers to become a mixture suitable for the soil is aeration. The larger composting cubicle has an open, half-inch wide, grid system running horizontally every five inches up and down all four sides to promote aerobic activity within the bin. It is a similar principle to the lid in the kitchen canister.

Composting is a telling metaphor on how we deal with the natural man. I’ll head down this path next in the Wildwood.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Extreme Decisions, Ending Thread.

Robert E. Lee is a keen example of "good" decision-making that has catastrophic consequences.

We all know the power of decision-making, and its pitfalls. Life is about risks, weighing out probable and possible consequences and taking action based on deliberations. Or, the appearing antithetical of living life spontaneously.

Extreme decisions, take on the weight of being evil, as well. Mass, random killers come to mind. Well-armed, delusional beings who without mercy act to kill. What better evidence that a rebellion against God exists?

I contend that decisions are best made actively in the Spirit of God.

This day is all I have. I cannot make having money next summer or even the spiritual condition of my children the issue that gets my heart and drives my decisions. Today is about being obedient to the spirit of Christ within.

In Him, I find a compassion for others. I find a willingness to look beyond another person’s obvious problems and short-comings which are clearly of the corrupted flesh and its concurrent issues of a selfish heart. The human condition is never escaped. Many manage it by focusing on something outside of the person, the “larger” mission bigger than self. This is a one of those situations where the "good" keeps one from the "best". Living for others to benefit the self does have the positive effect of stabilizing the soul and providing meaning to keep going. However, subduing the flesh for some greater purpose is not freedom from the flesh.

I seek connection with the Eternal Creator. By faith in His grace, I can assert that such is my reality. Fulfillment of the desire must begin in such faith. Thus, I proceed through the day actively choosing an altered state of being and perception, a state of being in spirit and not in my natural man. Such allows me to see others more compassionately, and in so doing I perceive needs and am open to hear how God is moving to touch others. My decision-making is altered, and I have no worry over unforeseen circumstances. It is all in His hands.

This is the wonder of the in-dwelling Christ. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Extreme Decisions, Part 2

Robert E. Lee images entered my thoughts the other day as I pondered people making “extreme” decisions. 

When reading diary entries and letters from the Civil War, habitants of the ante-bellum era in the US, both northern and southern, write with repeated contextual references to “honor” and “noble causes”. Coupled with historic recounting of Lee, it is repeated of him that his love of Virginia and duty to serve there was the basis for his resignation from the US army to take command of Confederate forces. As Postmodern Redneck pointed out in his comments to the previous post, Lee undoubtedly altered the course of the war from short to protracted—five spring seasons in four years saw brother killing brother and friend killing friend—and he did so based on this strong sense of devotion to his home state.

We tend to think of ourselves today as members of one great nation, and we happen to live in one of its states. From what I gather in reading, during the first nine decades of US history, most folks saw themselves as citizens of their state first, then a US citizen. The first US constitution, the Articles of Confederation, outlined the way these sovereign states would work together without giving the federal government any real power over the states. Regional loyalties defined by state boundaries were common and strong. The developing divide of the early Nineteenth Century between North and South regions is rooted in these state loyalties.

So a noble and duty-bound man makes a momentous decision for himself that impacts the young nation profoundly. It is arguable his decision had the potential to rend the nation in two, throwing his military skills as happened to the Confederate Army. That was, afterall, the goal of the southern military and political establishment. Lee most likely didn’t calculate that his decision equated with the greatest loss of life in war the US would ever experience.

Never quite see the full consequences of our decisions, eh?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Extreme Decisions

Growing up in Southern culture, the last gasp of the Confederacy as it turns out, my familial elders and the status quo bureaucrats running the state educational system, sought in varied ways to shape my thinking about the world.   Both groups made sure I revered one guy from one hundred years prior, General Robert E. Lee. By the mid-sixties when the Civil War roots of our community, state and region were uprooted politically by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the social weeds they were, Robert E. Lee remained somehow immune from any racist dispersion which tainted his contemporaries or the renegade status of many Southern leaders from both nineteenth and twentieth century’s. Anybody remember George Wallace?

In reading of Lee in varied accounts both primary and after the fact, he is renowned for two things; military brilliance and personal integrity. Many people attain prominence for either abilities or their character. Fewer are those respected for both.  It is curious to me how Lee could throw away a future with the moral high ground side, the most likely to be and was the winning side, arguably the “right” side in order to join a rebellion dedicated to an ill-fated--and generally now accepted as immoral--cause but is recalled by history without judgments of profound denial or stupidity.  Why this Teflon coating?

Here’s a man who makes a clearly radical decision in support of a discredited and even hated by many regime, yet he remains a well remembered and honored character in the history being told by the winning side.

What is the mitigating dynamic here? Is it that he chose honor (in the form of love for his home state) and dedicated himself to duty?  Really?  Honor and duty mattered that much…these matter now?

Ah, the twist and turns in the Wild Wood!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

There but for the Grace of God, Part III

The last commenter to this blog, Postmodern Redneck, stated simply what I intended for this post. Postmodern said, "... religious activity can help a person mask their sinful nature and keep from facing it."


...and we Christians tend to call it "grace" from God. There is no getting around it, Jesus did say, "Forgive seventy times seven." So, yes, when we have sinned but seek forgiveness, receiving forgiveness is grace. To receive forgiveness multiple times is also a function of the deep and wondrous grace of our Lord Jesus.

Which brings us back to Jerry Sandusky and his example: a person who appears dedicated to good works, attends church regularly and maintains an abhorrent secret life of molesting children. Some people harbor a particular sin. That's it. They make friends with it, living "for Christ" outwardly while practicing the sin in hiding. This duality weighs on some, but for others, it is just the way life must be lived. The conscience becomes silenced purposely or "hardens" through the individual's lack of response. Such a condition is both evidence and process of a growing spiritual darkness. The jargon employed explaining this behavior to one's self may include phrases such as, "life-dominating sin", "the area of my struggle", or the inane euphemism "my cross to bear". Ultimately, however practicing the sin is accepted, the perpetrator accepts a rationalized truth that humans are a mixture of good and bad. Thus, the "bad" has to be accepted as inescapable reality, but the good one works is of value. Hey, one must take the good with the bad, eh?!

Seems to work okay when the "bad" is a bit of laziness, over-indulgence in food or alcohol, or maybe a bit of lying--the little white ones, of course. But we must be honest with ourselves and with the Lord. Does degree or type of sin actually dictate who receives "grace" and who does not? Is the person who tells lies occasionally, who admits these are wrong to the self, but who nonetheless accepts that behavior as both inevitable and as forgiven under the covering of God's grace any better than a man who sets up a charity that helps hundreds of kids but molests only 10-15 boys? If we allow that "grace" accepts our continuing in the sin of lying, since after all, we do much more good than that little bit of lying we won't let go of; then "grace" must have accepted Sandusky in his continuing acts of child molestation in view of the real good he accomplished otherwise.

Either God justifies individuals on the basis of the good done, or He does not. Either God must allow us to be ruled by sin under the flag of grace or our logic about grace is faulty.  Why do we Christians not notice a non sequitur. I suggest many of us simply do not accept grace for its true power. If we are claiming Christ but living with a secret sin, the evidence of this lack of understanding is clear.

Grace as undeserved forgiveness certainly is part of the gospel message. That grace does function in the face of seventy times seven. However, once we accept our sin nature as the inevitable way we must live, we have denied the spiritual reality of a grace which also equips us for walking a victorious life over our sinful natures.

Grace, the full measure of the grace in the gospel truth, leads in righteous choices. Such choice is exercised over our inclination to sin and into the light of submission before the in-dwelling Presence of Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

Does my natural man rule me? Yes, unless by the grace of God, I choose a different way. Except for this grace, I travel the same road of self-delusion as Sandusky and... well...every other human. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

There but for the Grace of God, Part II

The topic is child molestation not Jerry Sandusky, but as the latest public version of the problem,  he allows us a human face.

Simply put, as abhorrent as his behavior was, there is no room to cast stones at him. It is a human story of failure to recognize sin or to recognize it but fail a walk in the available grace of God. Perhaps knowing the meaning of grace is part of the problem. I contend Jerry Sandusky --no matter what he believed about God, professed about God, nor practiced in his religion -- did not understand the grace of God.

That is the end of the matter, however. Rewind to the beginning.

How did he manage to become ensnared by such vile desire? I'm guessing, but I am confident in the guess, to assert his sexual exploration began as a child with other boys, perhaps even pre-pubescent. In his teens while he acted oriented toward girls of appropriate age, he maintained some level of secret behavior involving boys. Some part of his soul driven by his fallen, flesh nature never matured beyond this. He developed heterosexually or pretended to do so, but a secret willingness to participate in homosexual behavior remained. The desire remained along with the knowledge some boys could be so coerced. With his advancing age, developing position and disposable income, he learned techniques of manipulation. This likely behavior pre-dated the start of the charity, and it is plausible he started the charity without plotting a way to groom a never-ending list of boys of the age he targeted. He may have even prayed, "God help me not use the charity this way." Such is the folly of self-denial.

I think something in him believed in doing acts of charity. This idea on my part is tied to my life experience of knowing we humans, Christian and not, are a mixed bag of good and evil decisions. How many church going folks will lie on their tax forms? How many folks would never steal anything but have very immoral sexual fantasies? How many pastors, policemen, judges, doctors, firemen, teachers, etc., went into their chosen vocation to answer some inner-drive to help fellow humans, and yet harbor feelings, desires, thoughts or out-right actions of wrong behaviors? Jerry Sandusky is not alone. He got caught because he abandoned himself to a lifestyle of self-indulgence in his prurient interest, which produced enough witnesses to incontrovertibly testify he did the acts.

Is the one who acts out a prurient desire worse than the dreamer of such? Perhaps so in most US citizen's eyes, but not when judged by the holiness of God our Father. Our actions may or may not be judged by the law. The heart is judged by God.

Next path in the Wild Wood will examine the nature of the grace of God, and Sandusky et al professing grace while living outside the same.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

There but for the Grace of God...

The news is vile on most any occasion...or at least too many facets of it. Gruesome murders, scandals amid politicians and others of lesser note, child abuse, drug conglomerates leaving their piles of human debris. Sandusky couldn't be missed, eh?

The child predator appears one of the worst, no doubt. However, the unease of a man establishing a charity reaching for and lifting up under-privileged youth, who then picked his victims from the clients of the charity is peculiarly nauseating. That mask of overt goodness as a cover-up of pedophile predatory behavior ravages one's sense of trust in any goodness at all.

Raises some questions; no doubt about that at all.

How could others turn a blind eye?
How could this man's theology not scream at him he was in the wrong? (I read in the news he was a church goer of some regularity.)
How did he get himself involved in sex with minors to begin with, and why did he determine to start the charity?

I could go on.

It's all about sight, or lack thereof. I have some windows to wash so,

more later from the Wild Wood.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Reporting on an Unusual Week

I wrote a teaser on June 6. Thought by the weekend, surely, I'd have a new post up. Little did I know what kind of week I was about to enter.

The following piece of news from our little community actually went world wide:

On Friday, June 8, as children showed up for the last night of vacation Bible school (VBS), they began to play in the church cemetery. Like many small, country churches, the cemetery is located near to the church building with no fences or boundary markers of any kind. Anyone at any time can simply stroll through the monuments. A freak accident occurred and a twelve hundred pound, stone cross broke off the top of its monument and fell upon one four-year-old little girl. She didn't survive the trauma.

This child was the second child of one of my former students. The former student is from a family my wife and I have been friends with for over thirty years. In fact, the precious child who died so suddenly came to Christmas dinner at our house as a swaddled infant when our two families gathered to share a holiday meal--a tradition we had kept for one and half decades.

This event wrenched our hearts and commanded our thoughts and prayers for many days.

The day after the funeral, we received a call that my wife's mom had been admitted to a local hospital for emergency angioplasty. This was her second such operation in a little over a year. We packed and left for Clayton on Wednesday. I am happy to report my mother-in-law is doing well and getting better. The operation turned out to be needed to fix the first stent.

Friday, as we worked around Mom's and Dad's house for a few days, we heard the news from our hometown that a sixteen-year-old boy had been killed in an auto accident Thursday night. Once he had been identified, I learned he and the boy driving the truck were both former students of mine. Their faces were easy to connect to their names in my mind's eye.

I have been thinking much about death this week. Not morbidly or even sadly, though two of the events mentioned here are horribly sad for the families involved. I just find myself thinking it over.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I have been debating what to do after a couple of months of silence. I either start fresh or pick up in the middle of the last series.

Either way, just thought I'd rumble a bit and let the world know, I am thinking again.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Cutting Edge" Christianity, Part Three

Two points in this series are the power of labels and the functional shaping of groups by fear and pride. On labels: Discussions and teachings that I hear on sin of mention the problem the heart while most of the real words and related concern focus on the behaviors acted out as a result or on the consequences of these behaviors and the costs. In other words, what tends to get our attention and energy are the surface, material issues we can see. The inside of the problem or the root issues are not effectively addressed even if identified accurately.

Today, consider the words "cutting edge" as a label. We use the phrase to mean that the thinking or action so described is beyond the common approach; it leads others. In Christian circles and applied to Christian experience this might mean a given church is unique in its programs or that its use of technology is at the forefront of such applications. Perhaps a "cutting edge" church is a mega-church with organizational approaches to management of huge numbers in membership and attendance.

There are not pure applications of the phrase "cutting edge" since it is not specific technical nor spiritual terminology. It is a phrase used both as a trend and in describing the beginning of trends. The phrase has a meaning -- it's in the dictionary -- but it's application is loose and not limited to Christian topics clearly.

The use here as the title of a series of posts is intended to raise questioning of Christian "trends". My question is, "Is there something inadequate with what God intended for church?" And a corollary question: "Can the current church actually be substantively moved into greater levels of effectiveness in its missions of providing the faithful with spiritual instruction and support, evangelizing those outside the family, and mitigating for people generally the impact of this painful world."

The label "cutting edge" applied to church is seen in various movements and particular expressions of church gatherings across American culture. It is a biased label without actual meaning. The bias simply put is one of perspective. One might label a church "cutting edge" for its programs and another church across town as "dead" for its teaching. Clearly these labels are not logical but emotional. They are not used based on measurable quantities, as each label is simply a subjective phrase which reflects the view of the label user.

This dynamic illustrates perspective on the Christian experience and subsequent descriptions are based on surface factors literally seen with the natural eye. We think these outward signs sparking our labels are evidences of the spiritual state of the groups under inspection. If we would be honest with ourselves, we would admit the failure of our labels to appraise spiritual reality. Why do we continue to trust in these labels and fling them at others...or posture ourselves under their tyranny?

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Cutting Edge" Christianity. Part Two

Once again I briefly was involved in a discussion of what it means to be a Christian. This occurred on a Facebook page initiated by a brother in the Lord which involved reading a book by Bonhoeffer entitled Life Together and participating in a group discussion. Greg invited me to join the group/page discussion, and as is typical for me, I read a comment and jumped in with a response. I didn't notice at first that a book was being discussed, nor did I make the connection that I had therefore not read the chapter under consideration when I went blathering off with my thoughts.

Anyway, the point here besides my thick-skulled willingness to talk without knowing what I am talking about, is the wonder and curiosity and immediate thinking provoked for me when anyone who knows Jesus begins to speak of that relationship and how such plays out in the simple reality of daily living. The idea that we as humans have far more in common with one another on the basic level of our humanity than all the attention given to our differences, this commonality of human experience, fascinates me.

The conversation in question was largely over the position Bonhoeffer takes in his book on how Christians are to relate to one another: we relate to Christ first then to one another. This developed into a lively discussion on how Christians relate inside the family, that is as a gathered group labeled "church".

In commenting about that topic...again...I failed fairly miserably in the Facebook discussions to encourage others in this. The lack of my ability sent me into reflection before the Holy Spirit, which became some notes, which is becoming this next series of posts in the Wild Wood.

Anyway, it all boils down to this: sin is far too much the focus of what church is all about in modern day practice. Therefore, when the church seeks those outside the family of God for the purposes of evangelism, it is a constructed outreach that is handicapped by sinful attitudes on sin. This impacts the fellowship of those so gathered.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Cutting Edge" Christianity: the Maintenance of Holiness while Authentically Living Among Non-Believers

9 As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth ; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him. 10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners ?" 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 "But go and learn what this means : 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." 

The gospel author, Matthew (chap. 9), above recounts an interesting moment in the life of Jesus, a circumstance of spending time with "sinners"  Jesus revisits in other situations throughout the gospel accounts. 

We are called to mix with those outside the family of the Lord while knowing a sanctification of our souls which creates a revelation of the living Spirit of Jesus.

This next series of posts in the Wild Wood explores the tension between being separate from worldly desires while living among those who are still ruled by the same, and this accomplished without coddling  or condemning those with whom we interact daily.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Can't believe it's been six weeks since I put up a post here. I am both busy and lazy, which means stuff that I don't HAVE to do slips by easily.

I have made some notes though for the next post. Maybe ...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Abiding In Christ (developed from a four year old post, so if this sounds familiar to you, thanks for being a faithful reader!)

Think about going through your day to day life. Involvement in a discussion at work bounces back and forth between dual levels of communication. With a co-worker, we  speak in the expected or required. Yet, in the case of a co-worker we have befriended, as well, we seamlessly switch back and forth between "professional" and "casual" registers of speech. The cadence, vocabulary, and intent of the thoughts involved to speak on these two levels are accomplished with very little calculation. We are the trained worker and our natural self at once. 

For example, we are communicating professionally with the employee-friend who quips unprofessionally about the work, a customer, the weather or the President. A rejoinder in kind out of our mouth is immediate. That answer back, detached from the professional mode of speaking, springs from whom we are emotionally and largely separated identity-wise from the moment before when we were fully engaged in professionalism. The professional register is put on and maintained to meet the job requirements, but underneath this vocal register and its thinking is our personality constant in its residence of our soul. This dual condition is an "abiding" in our casual personality while fully engaged in the “dress” of professional responsibilities.

Now think about how on top of it all, we run “sub-programs” of thought where we comment to ourselves, feel things in response, notice details and make mental observations. The inner self exists with links to our dispositions shaped by our born natures, our experiential nurturing, and our adult, active choices. We experience the level of exchange with others in the outer world simultaneously with our on-going observation, analysis, and emotional response of the inner-person. When the personal or casual register is employed with others, we speak from the condition--whatever it is--of this inner sub-program. This inner level is our soul and its state.

“Abiding in Christ” simply means monitoring the flow of the inner sub-program and accepting training of this inner person. Therefore we actively make decisions to keep the inner thoughts and feelings lined up with a knowing of our life-force as alive from Christ. Since He has brought about our redemption and rebirth in Spirit, and we exist in His Presence. The soul, its feelings and thoughts, are not what is important. Thoughts and feelings are experienced and are indicators, but these are not the reason one exists. His Truth is important. Living as a vessel filled by Him achieves His purpose and is why we exist. This is what is important.

We train the inner flow by acts of will to reject thoughts or feelings that are not of Jesus. We  learn instead to wait upon God and utilize the resulting peace this abiding produces as the basis of stirring up love, patience, gentleness, and on. Making such active, "fruitful" decisions is a function of an individual's will.

Feeling insecure or uncertain? Does He feel insecure or uncertain? Revenge or hate? Does He want revenge against or experience hate for other humans? Feeling afraid and want comfort? Does He wish to escape reality and provide Himself wanton pleasures? No. Neither does your new creature in Him. So, we must sort the inner world. We seek to know His in-dwelling reality of supernatural love which is His Spirit and which we feel with Him. We seek to have His light shine upon and convict when our thoughts and feelings are simply of our soul. We seek to have His light confirm when we are resting in Him. The mechanism which enables this understanding and insight is the connection between a Living God, who in every moment is personally engaged with us, and our conscience. If a conscience can be seared, is it not also made more sensitive? An ever more sensitive conscience is evidence of a growing maturity in the spirit of Jesus.

Maintaining this attitude might be called taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Walking through life monitoring this inner flow and thus actively seeking a sensitive conscience will guide what springs from our casual register of speech in day to day life. This is a function of knowing we are with Jesus and appears to others as an unusual ability to love.

We are…abiding in spirit.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It's Been Said Before

We are told to speak the truth in love. Why? Love separated from truth does not destroy truth, as truth cannot be destroyed. However, love separated from truth opens the soul to confusion over the nature of authority, superstition about spiritual matters and licentiousness of the body. What the world needs, as it has needed, is love. The church in America purports to offer the Truth. When the rank and file of the church – not its high-sounding rhetoric or social justice or political activism -- manifests the love that offers truth without condemnation, hospitality over tradition, and water for one's enemies, then the spoken message of truth will be credible.

The modern American experience in and out of the Body of Christ is an emphasis on the intellect. The result is that we are in the midst of a culture which has benefited us all by any prosperity measure one cares to examine, but which has also failed us humans emotionally.  That failure is the cut off from understanding and fostering healthy emotional growth. We feel our hearts but are cut off from factoring in this component of ourselves effectively in every day life. We either are over the top with passions we insist make life meaningful (an over emphasis on "loves" that are of the earth and not of the Kingdom), or some manifest a coldness of demeanor that would frighten a statue in the park (an over emphasis on strict adherence to words of truth). Most of us are a pile of emotional confusion that survives by coping mechanisms intended to control our heart. We cannot fathom how to release our hearts without fear of the consequences. Aside: the general population regards such coping as emotional maturity.

This is a spiritual issue, of course. Moving from the general population to the Kingdom of Our Father and Creator is the remedy. Praise His name forever for the love, compassion and grace that has enabled such a rebirth! However, the church generally is a mixture of the falsehoods of coping clothed in Christianese and the Truth of wholeness between heart and mind found in spirit life. This unfortunate circumstance is not to be condemned, as it is part of the path. However, it can be remedied. 

The individual Christian must be encouraged and supported through fellowship in the growth of the heart and a walk with and by the Holy Spirit. Such a walk both eliminates the dangerous passions we mistakenly think are an expression of life and brings forth a warmth from heaven resulting in powerful actions reflecting the wholeness of Jesus.