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Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

David’s Rescue: A Cautionary Tale

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We often teach or preach based on a single passage, parable, or even chapter of scripture.  But I LOVE hearing the voice of David Suchet (who played Hercule Poirot for 25 years of drama) read the Holy Bible in the NIV-UK version, and found myself listening to the Book of 1 Samuel as Mr. Suchet narrated.

In Chapter 24 we see King Saul, maddened with jealousy and fear, seeking the life of David. While David and his men hide in a cave stronghold, Saul (leading his men) enters the cave to answer a call of nature, and David has his perfect opportunity to dispatch this enemy. He refrains, not to bloody his hands in revenge against the Lord’s anointed king. To hear the encounter and its conclusion (which takes 3 minutes and 48 seconds) click RIGHT HERE.

Normally, teaching ends right there and we break until another week, or lesson, or sermon, or whatever. (After all… the chapter is ended… go in peace… etc.) But as one blessed teacher of mine was always diligent to point out… “Scripture itself” didn’t come with chapter divisions. The next chapter “looks like” it takes up a whole new topic as David deals with some new characters Nabal and Abigail.

I was just letting Mr. Suchet transport me without interruption, and for the first time I saw this really cool thing I thought I’d share.

David is prudently yet living in the “field” with his forces, as King Saul wavers between contrition and homicidal fury. In the past, David has done good things for Nabal, protecting his staff and his goods in the wilderness, preserving them from any loss. He sends messengers with blessings and courteous words, and asks for such provisions as Nabal might spare for David and his troops.

Nabal, both named and acting the fool by nature, not only refuses succor, but rebuffs the messengers with deep insults and contempt for David. David seems cut to the quick, and resolves to redeem his honor and pride by killing every male of Nabal’s holdings. Fortunately, Nabal’s servants have overheard the initial insulting encounter, report all this to Abigail the mistress of the household, Nabal’s wife, who has provisions prepared and travels to David with words of service and apology, along with praise for the God of Israel and David as His servant.

To hear the entirety of THIS part of the story, take 7 minutes 50 seconds and hear Mr. Suchet narrate RIGHT HERE.

Generally, this also is taught as a “distinct chapter”, a “unit”, and we focus on the wisdom of Abigail, the foolishness and haughtiness of Nabal, on God’s wrath and judgment of Nabal, and the “everyone lived happily ever after” of the outcomes. All well, true, and good as far as it goes.

But this time, I was arrested by David’s gratitude towards Abigail for preventing his sin against Nabal’s household. She calmed his wounded pride and thirst for revenge, and he very distinctly thanked her for that. (I wonder if it was this, that attracted him to ask her hand in marriage when she was widowed.) But his words here are…

‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me.  May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.’ [verses 32-33]

And later…

‘Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.’ [verse 39]

What struck me today was something I’d never seen before, and it only hit me because of the short time between the two narratives… but…

Isn’t it interesting how nobly David resists any temptation to avenge himself on King Saul, for his contempt, his insults, and his murderous pursuit, citing his refusal to have blood on his hands of the Lord’s anointed? And yet how soon thereafter David is roused to a murderous rage over the ill-chosen (all right, the “stupid”) words of a fool? He had cared for all those workmen in the wilderness, and they apparently loved and respected him (for it was they who went to Ms. Abigail)… and yet by this simple prick of his ego, this slight to his accomplishments, dignity, and graciousness, he prepares to slaughter who knows how many, to vent his wrath.

Rightly, he praises God and Abigail for preventing him from so great a sin, and life carries on.

But it struck me, and I wanted to share with you, Gentle Reader… how often we can sense a “large” spiritual challenge to our grace, and overcome it… only to fall to some niggling pettifogging prick to pride, ego, or dignity.

If David had killed the men of Nabel’s household, he’d have slain the very men who admired him and went to Abigail. Would such murder have been as great a sin as the regicide of King Saul? With “sin” and “God” is there such a question as “how big”?

This struck me, for myself, as a cautionary tale. It sometimes seems much easier to avoid the “big sins” in my life, only to fall so frequently to the “fleas” that seem able to niggle in past the plates of my armor. The Enemy doesn’t give up on temptation after one unsuccessful attempt, and I’ve long learned that “adrenalin is the Enemy’s favorite drug of choice”. If I can be made impatient or aggravated, if my pride or dignity can be pricked and offended, I can reach a murderous anger far more easily than I care to admit. (Cf. Matthew 5:21-22)

Anyway, just a cool thing I’ve never seen before, nor heard taught or preached… Thought you might find it interesting as well, Gentle Reader. Grace to you… Pray for me always!

 

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What’s Your Name?

How often do we pray… “Dear Lord… thank You for [fill in blessing]… and please [intention, intention, intention]. We ask this in the name of Jesus… Amen.”

We say or hear this as often as Christians gather, do we not? Nothing wrong with this at all.

But lately, over the past couple years, my “prayer circuit” has been modifying somewhat. I sense far less call to “direct God and His grace” through the micro-management of my prayer, and far greater call to “ride the wave” of His love and care from the voice of the Spirit within my heart, as He expresses Himself back to the Father. I guess you could say I “amen” Him, far more than generating my own words.

I have become vastly less concerned with “persuading God” to move in blessing with power and grace, and far more concerned with simply “loving” the object of my prayer, and experiencing that love in real live-time, with a view towards opening the windows of space/time to admit the power and grace God already has available.

It is very difficult to find the right words to express the difference here.

But I think it’s more a change of perspective, to where the task isn’t to “move God”, but rather to “authorize, permit, allow” the universe, this material world of “stuff”… to “accept the grace”, the blessing, the expression of God’s will.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Does “praying in Jesus’ name” mean that we tack this phrase (“we ask this in Jesus’ name”, or “we ask this in Your precious name”) on to the end of our own mentally generated list or intention addressed to God?

or

Does it mean that we ourselves step into the persona, the authority, the identity, the Spirit of Jesus the Christ, when and as we address Our Father?

Jesus told the Companion Disciples:

23 “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. 25 These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.” [John 16:23-28]

Now, up to that time Jesus had already taught the guys to pray, they knew the Lord’s Prayer, they’d been going out announcing Him, they’d been healing, they’d been casting out demons in His name.

Yet, He says that up to then they had asked for nothing in His name.’

jesuspraying

How is that possible?

I suspect that, just as so much of this discourse in John addresses the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost… so does this. What if, once one changes identity from “me in here, and Jesus out there” to “me in Him, and Him in me, and together we in the Father”… then the whole perspective, the nature, the authority of prayer itself changes?

What if one day we came to our prayer intentions with the attitude that when we put on our “prayer robes”, our “authority and identity of Jesus to pray”, that the Father has already said “Yes” to those intentions, and we apply our faith simply to move the material world to accept the blessings?

And… the world HAS to “move aside to accept”, simply because the universe must respond to the authority of Jesus, because He upholds it all within His will and His word?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

These struck me as strange thoughts one day, when I started wondering about all this. And yet, the Lord seemed to be leading this ponder step by step. He was challenging me to “pray in His name”… to “pray from WITHIN His name”. Pray as though I had taken on His name, as a wife typically takes on the name and authority of a husband. The two become one, different than either alone.

I had this image of the parting of seas, or mountains moving. I thought, “prayer can be that powerful”. But I wondered “why” and “how”. How does faith make prayer that powerful?

And for some reason I thought about police officers… A law enforcement officer pins on their badge, straps on a weapon, and begins work in a vehicle with siren and flashing lights. They are still the person they were when they woke that day, but… when they do their “function”, when they do what only they can do as sworn peace officers, they act “in the name of” the Law… the state, county, whatever. They are not just Joe, Jane, Bob, or Betty… they are authorized to stop, detain, arrest, or use adequate force to protect society.

Why is this so? Because they have entered into this relationship with the people, and the laws people create. What token marks this incredible responsibility, privilege, and authority? Their badge, their shield. And when they raise that shield above their heads in a crowd as they chase someone, shouting “Make WAY!”, or when those lights and siren go off behind traffic on the highway… we part, we pull over, we yield right of way… not so much to THEM, as to the BADGE they carry. To the function they are discharging. To the authority with which they are (in those moments) exercising.

Suddenly, oddly, I had this image of prayer working something like that.

When we function “in the name of Jesus”, we exercise an authority in prayer to which the material universe itself, the world, must yield.

Anyway, it makes for an interesting prayer experiment to approach prayer with some preparation of “taking up one’s token of authority”, and exercising our perquisites, our duty and privilege, to alter reality and usher forth grace and blessing… simply because it is what we are called to do, in those moments when we take on His name and act in His name.

Prayer Experiment…. Question: How would you pray today, if you knew… absolutely KNEW, that TODAY your prayers are uttered in the fullness of Jesus’ authority? As if He sat right alongside you, and petitioned Our Father for whatever you ask?

Would you pray any differently? Would you expect any different results than otherwise?

Grace and blessings to you, Gentle Reader!

 

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Once Upon a Time: There Was a Knight

http://www.fromoldbooks.org/OldEngland/pages/1373-Wood-cut-of-a-Knight/Once upon a time, the Lord King selected a willing warrior, and tasked him to protect a valley nestling a lovely village dear to the Lord King’s heart.

“I shall go,” exclaimed the Knight, pleased to be of service. “From what am I to protect them?”

“You will see,” answered the Lord King.

So the Knight donned his finest armor, selected his keenest weapons and stoutest shield , mounted his bravest steed, and set off towards the valley. As he approached from the south, he crested a ridge and found himself high above the valley that opened like a chasm before him. Across the way, at the opposite side, was the northern crest upon which sat mounted a dark figure, also surveying the valley and its inhabitants.

Instantly, the Knight knew that this was his adversary. He knew that his duty was to protect this valley and these people from being harmed by that dark knight opposing him. He watched as the shadow warrior dismounted his own horse and slowly strode pensively along his cliff, surveying the valley below.

The adversary drew out a bow and began to fire arrows of dark fire into the valley. Wherever his darts struck, there was a splash of shadow and destruction, and the sounds of misery or screaming echoed up to the cliffs.

The Knight’s first thought was to attack in return. Drawing his own bow, he fired arrows of light at the enemy. The arrows shot straight and true directly towards the heart of the aggressor. But yet, they would not find purchase. The enemy would duck, dodge, or twist with preternatural speed, always avoiding a mortal strike. The arrows did distract him a bit, though. So that the enemy’s arrows of dark fire were now directed largely at the Knight, making him dismount (not to be so easy a target), and raise his shield in his own defense. The dark arrows were extinguished harmlessly, when blocked by his shield.

Still, the enemy’s arrows rained regularly down on the people, even as some of them sped toward the Knight. As the Knight was forced to raise his shield often to protect his own heart, the enemy took advantage to attack the village. The enemy was quickening his pace by the moment, and his dark arrows were flying at a remarkable rate.

“This is not working,” thought the Knight. “My attacks on him find no purchase, and though it seems that I am safe, the people are suffering.”

The Lord King’s voice seemed to speak gently into his ear, “You are trying to attack him directly. What if you simply defend the people? Your shield will reach beyond yourself.”

So the Knight sheathed his sword, and focused a moment on his shield. He discovered that he could extend his arm towards the village, as he saw where a dart would strike, and sail a shield out through the air over the people. The dart would strike the sheltering shield harmlessly, sparing the people beneath.

So the battle progressed, ever faster, as the enemy rained down arrow after arrow, and the Knight flung one shield after another like a discus to intercept each blow. But as time passed, the Knight began to tire. The enemy was utterly tireless, and the weaker and slower the Knight became, it seemed the stronger and faster rained the arrows.

Eventually (it seemed like hours, though it may have been but moments), the Knight began to lose heart, realizing he could not keep up this pace.

“Lord King, I am failing in my task. I cannot protect these people. I am flagging, and the enemy is too strong. He grows stronger as I grow weaker. Behold, even now, the people are at his mercy…” choked the Knight. For indeed, it seemed that for every arrow blocked, blindingly quick though the battle progressed, still two others slipped through devastating the village like flaming mortars of pitch blackness.

The Lord King’s voice again came to the ear of the Knight…

“This is what you needed to understand, My son. No matter how sharp your weapons, how stout your armor, or how valiant your mount, you alone… with all your strength and training… simply CANNOT stand against such creature of darkness. All of those things can strengthen you, embolden you, give you affirmation of your mission and confidence. But none of that gives you the resources to prevail against such an adversary.”

“What then am I to do? Why did You send me here?” lamented the miserable Knight.

“To protect this village. To guard this valley,” responded the Lord King.

“But HOW, Majesty?” the Knight cried, in utter defeat.

“Ah,” the Lord King replied, as you could almost hear the smile in His voice. “NOW you are asking, and asking the right question. Now… Behold…”

And the Knight felt his body relax, as though a child in the arms of his trustworthy father. His sword, shield, bow, all weaponry fell away from him. His helmet drifted away. His armor fell away. He stood arms wide open, splay legged, in simple white robe, seemingly utterly helpless and vulnerable on his cliff above the valley.

Until Light, indescribable, warm, brilliant Light… began to infuse him from all around. The glow, the joy, the awareness was both unspeakably wondrous, and unbearably powerful all at the same time. He lost all sense of what was happening, lost all awareness of time, or questions, or answers, or even himself as himself. All the Knight still knew was that… he WAS… He IS. The will of the Lord King was his own will, His desires his desires, and His love his love.

His eyes… his eyes were changed and new. His heart was changed and new, and his heart now held mastery over his eyes. He looked outwards, his arms open wide, and all… ALL was light.

He looked downwards, into the valley, and saw with all the love in his heart, the people there. His ears heard their cries, their joys, their pains. And as he noticed their sufferings, as he realized the darts were striking the streets and homes from overhead, he focused on the opposite crest and for the first time noticed the enemy there.

Suddenly, his love for the people, his passion, his care for and heart of protection for them, caused a phenomenal explosion… a blinding flash and deafening report… as Light burst forth with the strength of a thousand suns, flooding all the land and sky for just a moment as his love for the people, his protection and care for them, utterly overwhelmed him.

In the next moments, as the echoes drifted away, the Knight (now quite recovered as himself) looked down at the valley and saw all filled with light, with hope, with love, and with joy. Looking opposite, there was no more presence of the enemy or of shadow.

And so, in great peace and satisfaction, he set up his camp there on the pinnacle… to protect and to serve the people evermore. He now understood, no force of arms that he could bring to bear would guard them. But the Lord King… within him, through him, around him… when he focused utterly on His Majesty and HIS love for the people… this would care for the people.

Was he, this mighty Knight, sent here to use his strength to protect the valley?

No. He could not succeed at that.

Rather, he, this mighty Knight, was sent here to acknowledge in his weakness that he could NOT protect the valley, but to provide a vessel and a voice, to make way for the Lord King Himself to do so through him.

He became one of the greatest and wisest Knights in the Kingdom, and lived very happily ever after.

 

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Compromising Purity – Toxic Waste

fruiteeth

“Purity”  This outdated, “uncool” word. Somehow, deep in our heart of hearts, we know purity is central to the intimacy and immediacy of our relationship with God. We sense its importance with our transparency and intimacy with those we love. We even suspect, with that creepy sense of a hint at the back of our minds, that purity may be important to our own comfort level, our transparency, with ourselves in our innermost hearts.

So here we are, at last, having arrived at the predictable destination for any discussion of “purity”… the “Sex-Drugs-RockandRoll” part… the “hot-n-sweaty-between-the-sheets” part… the “pornography” part… the “self-abuse” part! Mwah hah haaa! Finally! We’ve gotten to the “Dirty Dancin’ Sex” part! We’ve ARRIVED!

Except…

We haven’t.

Here is where we… humanly… theologically… parentally… morally… religiously… miss the point so readily and frequently. We think this is the “end of the line”, this sexual immorality thing, when it is but a waypoint, (granted a MAJOR waypoint, but still just) a waystation on the path to our final destination.

And what’s that? What’s the final destination? As ever, it is our own hearts. Our interior selves, the place from which love comes and goes, where relationships form and are embraced. The place where we encounter and respond to God and to one another.

Paul addresses sexual immorality with the Corinthians thus: All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” [1 Corinthians 6: 12-20]

This is not a condemnation of “sex”. God commanded Adam and Eve (and many others) to go forth, be fruitful, and fill the earth with new life. This is not a condemnation of “the body”. Paul speaks of immorality as a sin AGAINST one’s own body, and urges instead that we glorify God in our body.

So… as I am so often asked, “What’s wrong with pornography, Little Monk? There’s no victim. I’m not touching anyone but myself. How can there be a sin, when no one is hurt or touched, when I’m all alone?” And all that person has for their moral compass is this vague neurotic sense of guilt and shame, laid down when they were very young (incredibly young), when self-gratification was equated with the shame they knew if they pooped their pants or failed to make it to the toilet in time to pee. All they have in their conscience is the human equivalent of the downcast whimper of a puppy whose nose has been squashed into their mess.

They’ve been taught shame. The wrong kind of shame. They’ve been taught to be ashamed of their body. Ashamed of its reactions to visual (or other) sensory stimuli. Ashamed of their body’s connection to their minds and imagination. Often, ironically, this shame bleeds into their own marital relationships, toxifying the very place, the actual place where holiness dwells in all of this. They have been taught shame of passion itself, and thus become caught in a toxic trap that negates any sense of purity or light.

How did this happen?

Their understanding of purity stopped short of the destination. They got hung up at the “somatic”, at the “glandular”, at the “body” part… and they did not carry on with the issue all the way to the mind and the heart!

Jesus addressed this right at the outset in His Sermon on the Mount:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’;  but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [Matthew 6:27-28]

This word “lust” here, epithumeo (ἐπιθυμέω), simply means “passionate desire”. Humans like to translate it “lust”, but it really doesn’t have an innately sexual meaning. Jesus uses this same word of His own feelings from time to time, feelings of love for those He has come to save, passionate desire to gather, to protect, to embrace. I’ve always likened it to that feeling a parent has, from time to time, where you just want to hug your children (or grandchildren) so intently that you must constrain yourself or cause discomfort. The passion is where the “mind”, the “emotions”, and the “body” (the glands, the intensity, the muscles) meet and cross over into one another.

So what has all this got to do with the topic?

We are speaking here of compromising purity, specifically (at the moment) through sexual immorality. Jesus points out that where it all goes haywire is not in the bed (though that may well be a likely outcome)… but the adultery is in the “look upon her with lust [passionate desire] in his heart”. THAT… is intense focus… THAT is placing the self in the intimate sexual scene… THAT is to generate and revel in the “fantasy”.

And THERE is where the problem lies with pornography, self-abuse, and all the other little “secret dirties” that nannies, and parents, and religious shame-mongers program children with. Such programmers seldom understand the mechanics themselves, and are usually so uncomfortable with the topic (not to mention ignorant), that they never do as Jesus did… get down to the heart of the matter.

If all we focus on is the physical, the material… the video playing… the magazine purchasing, hiding, drawing out behind the locked door… the movie-going… then we miss the point. The heart of the matter is not in the material, it is in the mental, the emotional, the relational.

When we take a false relationship of intimacy into our minds and hearts through the senses… (whether pornography, infidelity, sexual fantasy in the community, church, or workplace)… or any other form of sexual immorality, we make a conscious decision to devote and dedicate our mind and imagination to a LIE. We focus, concentrate, passion and adrenalin involving a whole biological system designed for a joyful, wholesome, and holy purpose… and we poison that, devaluing that to the “merely vicarious”, of no greater significance to us than watching a scary movie for cheap thrills.

The mind… the heart… the inner person… made in the image of God… capable of imagination and co-creatiion… such dignity and power is scarcely imaginable. THIS is what sets us apart (as far as we know) from all other life on earth (perhaps beyond). Here is the essence of the soul, of the heart. Here is where Paul says we sin against our very SELVES, our own body, when we cheapen this.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Where’s the “Purity” issue?

To invest the self, the soul, the mind, the heart, the passion… the capacity we have for imagination and fantasy… into a the non-existent phantom of sexuality without relationship, call-to-oneness, or true trust and intimacy… this is utterly toxic and self-defeating. This leads, inevitably and unavoidably, to emotional desolation, emptiness, unrequited yearning.

The Serpent succeeded in seducing Eve with such a process… painting in her mind something impossible… “a good thing outside the will of God”. Once she conceived of that possibility, she yearned for it, judged it desirable, and acted upon that thought.

The irony is that the generation of “neurotic shame” and “shadowy mystique” usually strengthens the illusion of desirability. Sexual allure is largely cultural. What hairstyles, makeup, clothing (or lack thereof), is “attractive”… is largely dependent on where (and when) you are and who you grew up with. Even the “ultimate allure”, the naked form… varies in “attractiveness” from one culture to another, one era to another.

Why? Because Jesus had it right! It’s in the head, the heart, the desire, the fantasy, the “longing look”. Sin is in the “will”, the “choice”. Purity is a decision as well as a quality. Flee from sin. Refuse to pursue immorality of any kind (sexual or otherwise), and do not even remain “passive” and happy if it is upon you against your will.

How?

Ah… we can “drive out the toxic”, by “embracing the wholesome”. Darkness cannot exist where/when light is brought in to the room. We can “import purity”, and by this means counteract all of the compromises… adulteration, corruption, and toxification. Paul told us how! Watch this…

Sheri Phillips, NOAA/NESDIS/NODC/DBMD, amer0020, NOAA's Small World Collection

Sheri Phillips, NOAA/NESDIS/NODC/DBMD, amer0020, NOAA’s Small World Collection

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” [Philippians 4:4-9]

How amazing is this?

Paul teaches this TREMENDOUS truth here! And he’s not even talking about “behaving rightly”, or “being moral”, or “purity” or anything like that! He’s talking about PEACE! He’s talking about GRACE! He’s talking about how to invite the God of peace to be with us, and to guard our minds and our hearts!

Gentle Reader… God is NOT a DEAF MUTE! He is not passive! He doesn’t just sit there saying, “Well, let’s see how they handle THIS now, shall We?” or “AHA! He’s made his own bed and messed up, now let’s let him lie in it!” That’s NOT God. That’s not how God has EVER been! It’s not how God is through the Old Testament, New, or in our lives as we walk. If that were so, we’d all have been toast long, long ago.

No… if we will take what WE are and have and can… our attention, our focus… and direct that toward elements of light… “whatever is good, true, beautiful, etc.”. THEN He will bring us the rest of the way! He will purify! He will enlighten. He will guard and grant peace.

Why? Because we deserve it? Because we do such a great job cleaning house that He just can’t wait to get in here? Lol! No. Simply because it’s what He’s always wanting all along. He WANTS to dwell with us. He WANTS us to know peace, not turmoil, anxiety, fretfulness, loneliness.

I often teach that the single most persistent truth I see reflected in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments… is God’s desperate and determined desire to live intimately in, among, alongside His children in sheer love… and our equally determined efforts to resist that. (Fortunately, He’s God, we’re not. He wins!)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Purity is not hokey or out-of-date. Purity reflects the clarity of connection, intimacy, immediacy between God and us, and among ourselves in light and transparency. Compromises of purity lie all around us every day. But the restoration, the maintenance, the protection of purity… lies all around us, among us, and within us as well.

Never despair. Never reject. Never shrink away in fear or shame. “Let your mind dwell”… LEARN… learn to meditate, to contemplate, to use the tremendous gifts God gave us for entering into His consciousness, to dwell on whatever is of good, whatever is of Jesus and Truth. And such effort will bear fruit in the reduction of any and all fantasies in/of darkness.

 

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99 and 44/100ths Percent

by yin yang Source:http://everystockphoto.s3.amazonaws.com/clean_simplicity_refreshing_19096_o.jpg

by yang yang Source

“Purity”…

We like “purity”… in our water, in our food, in our medicines, toothpaste, or other hygiene products.

But as to ourselves… our character, our morality, our spirituality, our ethics and behaviors…. well…

“Purity” is just not a cool word anymore. It’s like one of those “itchy” words, “uncomfortable” words, that make us squirm in our seats or look down at our toes when it comes up in conversation.

One of those “skewering” words too often abused by some to look down on others, as some self-proclaimed guru of “righteousness” lambastes the culture and all who engage it as “ungodly”, “unrighteous”, and “heathen”.

This is a shame… this “disconnect” between a simple word that we’re all perfectly comfortable with when relating to our water or our food… and the very same word when relating to ourselves, our minds, spirits, souls. It’s a shame, only because this still is, and always has been, an “important” word.

Purity is important, not because God will “love us more” if we’re “pure”, and “love us less” if we’re not. Purity is important because it “maximizes” us and all that is good in and for us, and “protects” us from what is harmful and toxic.

Gonna look at “purity” for a couple posts… because right now we’re looking at “means and methods” for experiencing more closely the intimate connection we have with God. Purity is an important element of clarity and transparency between our own hearts and the heart of God. But the word, the concept, has been so misused and abused that the enemy has made such strides in muddling and befuddling it… we often throw out the baby with the bath water, turning from its abuse…. and miss the critical elements of light embedded within.

For the moment, I just want to point out three simple things about “Purity” by and large, on which we most likely can all agree. This is not particularly “religious” or “spiritual” in application. This is just an observation about Purity, and its mechanics.

There are 3 ways I know of, to compromise “Purity”:

  1. Adulteration – A material may be made less dense and reduced in concentration and potency by the addition of another inert material to it. The addition may of itself do nothing harmful whatever, it simply reduces the effect of the pure substance. (e.g. Adding water to cough syrup adulterates and reduces the health effects of the medicine.)
  2. Corruption – A material may be changed in its essential nature and reduced in its effect or even rendered harmful, by the development of a second material within its mass, that had been a part of itself in potential form, but not activated until the corruption began which depended on the development of the right conditions. (e.g. Food spoils without proper preservation, temperature, or storage because of otherwise harmless organisms already present in that food, such as milk curdling or meat decomposing.)
  3. Toxification – A material may be changed in its essential nature and reduced in its effect or even rendered harmful, by the introduction of some harmful material from the outside environment, foreign to itself. (e.g. Water supply or foodstuffs can be tainted by environmental microbes or chemicals, rendering them toxic.)

These, as far as I know, are the only mechanisms for undermining and compromising purity. They are fundamental and important, and bear as much on the purity of intangible essentials, as they do on food or water. Jesus addressed them, we usually innately know them, but they are not often discussed because the entire topic has become uncomfortable.

In the next few posts, we’ll see if we can get past any discomfort, lay these out on the table, and poke around in this a bit.

Joy, grace, peace, and love to all!

The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Spiritual Warfare

 

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Spiritual Warfare: Non-Linear Authority

jesusSpiritual warfare: Angels, demons, possession, oppression, cleansing, healing, casting out, darkness and light.

These sound like medieval issues, and yet we live surrounded by the reality that outcomes of such dramatic battles fill our lives and our media.

So, we look at the encounters Jesus had with unclean spirits, we look at history and texts and journals of our spiritual forefathers, we hear sermons, lectures, conferences and attend services dedicated to healing and wholeness, and we seek to grow. We see and hear words of “command” uttered by those who heal and restore, to banish and exile suffering and torment.

We are struck with a sense of awe and wonder, at the confidence with which words of healing, wholeness, or spiritual cleansing are uttered. “Faith!” we say, and recognize. “Power!” we see and recognize. “Authority!” we realize… and ponder the implications to ourselves, our lives, our prayer, our intercession.


Being so very human, so very normal in our social structures, culture and relationships, we tend to think of “Authority” in terms of “hierarchy”, like the military, or the law… in a line, descending from top to bottom from the Lord on High, downwards through Jesus, through Spirit, through “saints”, through “Christians”, and on downwards from there. Divine Authority seems, to us, a great “Trickle Down Theory” of godly economy, with each tier subject to the next.

Such a view seems affirmed in Jesus’ praise of the faith of the Roman Centurion in the Gospel of Matthew (the event is also reported in Luke 7):

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment. [Matthew 8]

I mean, that certainly SOUNDS like “military”, “straight-line”, authority, right? But look… Jesus didn’t have to speak TO the illness to heal the servant. The servant was healed in the moment of interaction between the faith of the Centurion, and the presence and willingness of Jesus. Would the servant have been healed without the interest, petition, and conversation of the Centurion? Who, then, “did” the healing? Who then, exercised “authority”?


Well, we know that all True Authority rightly vest in and from God. But… but… then what? What “path” does it follow in its “downward trickle”?

Slowly, looking at scripture, watching and listening to Jesus, I’ve realized a rather strange thing. It would seem that “God’s ways are not our ways”, and that He doesn’t wire things quite the way we do.

The Pharisees also struggled with the nature of Jesus’ authority, and one day they asked Him about it, point blank. The answer He gave, I had always thought of as “rhetorically clever”. But in recent years I’ve come to realize that He wasn’t being “mysterious, clever, and obfuscating”… He was, in fact, giving the only correct answer to the question that can be given.

23 When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.” 27 And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” [Matthew 21]

Now, was Jesus simply being coy and clever there? Or perchance did He actually answer them with not only a truthful, but an accurate answer? Were they asking a question that did not HAVE an answer of the type they were looking for?


I want to leave you here with some passages to look at, and a “thought”. This is not so much an “answer” to all this, as simply a “response” from my own spirit, heart, mind… to/for your spirit, heart, mind. If it leads to your own “answer”, great. If not, the mysteries play on.

Have a Look at:

  • John 10:16-18
  • Matthew 28:16-20
  • John 14:8-10
  • Philippians 2:5-11

Go ahead and “run the word ‘Authority'” through your tools or concordances, and ponder all that as I did when I “paused” in my posts on Spiritual Warfare…

Ask yourself the question Jesus asked of me after all that study, saying…

“OK, now that you’ve seen all that…. Who currently holds the ‘Authority of Kingdom’? God the Father? Me? The Holy Spirit? The Bride? You individually? You collectively? The Father had all authority, gave it all to Me, I submitted utterly to Him, the Spirit judges… So… like ‘Button, button, who’s got the button?’… or the other child’s game of ‘Hot Potato’… Who NOW holds the Authority? Where did it come to rest?”

Now, that was the question… I STILL do not have what I would call “An Answer”, but I think I may have gotten the Point.

I have come to rest in the belief that this is a Trick Question. This is a question with no answer. The Point rests in “Oneness”. God, utterly and entirely, IS His own Authority. Christ is in the Father, Father in the Son, Spirit in Both, Spirit in Us, Christ in me, I in Him, together we in the Father, All of the Body, All of the Bride, All in Him, Him in All…

The Authority resides in Him, and in all the Oneness with Him in which we engage. This is “Non-Linear” Authority. It vests in the Oneness into which He draws each of us, and when we (individually or corporately) rest in His grace, His will, His words, His works…. His authority is present and effective. When we do not, it isn’t.

This there is no one at whom we can point and say, “HE has/speaks with God’s authority”…. or “SHE does”… by virtue simply of who they are, what they do, what office they hold, or what claims they make.

That authority vests in moments, in persons and events, where God’s will in love, grace, wholeness, healing, truth… is clearly expressed. No more, no less.


That is how I have come to “see things”. I may be right. You may see things differently and you may be right. And perhaps we both are. Far more important than whether I (or anyone else) is “right”, is my prayer that laying this out this way, looking at scripture and pondering the love and nature of God, opening to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, brings all of us greater love, light, and truth in our own walks and lives.

Joy, blessings, and grace to all!

The Little Monk

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Spiritual Warfare

 

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Spiritual Warfare: Authority Q & A Two

[This was contained in a comment by Susan Irene Fox to Spiritual Warfare: Authority, Part Deux. I bring this post to expand this discussion. Please feel free to enter in. Here is the response.]


 

“Because we have become God’s children by having been born again of the Spirit, we can truly call God “Father”. Our assurance of this is that the Spirit who indwells us testifies with our spirits that we are His. Because we are now His children, we are also His heirs, co-heirs with Christ; that is borne out by our willingness to suffer with Christ in this life.”


 

You have touched on an absolute truth, and I can illustrate with a very simple parallel. We call “spirits of darkness” that for a very good reason. Let me sum up a very long discussion and presentation simply saying… “Imagine, if you will, that such entities are actually composed of ‘shadow’.” Stop just one moment and get a firm grip on those words in your mind’s eye.

Now… when one such entity steps into a “spotlight”, what HAS to happen?

Not just “what happens?”, but what logically, necessarily, HAS to happen?…… *POOF!*… Right?

Well, theologically, we talk about all these different descriptive systems for dealing with God and spiritual things… one of which is called the “Light Metaphysic”. John, the Apostle, really made use of this trying to describe various aspects of Jesus, of God, and of relationship with Him. (“God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” or “The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness knew it not.” etc.)

But it’s a terrific imagery, way of trying to describe reality, with regard to spiritual warfare. Demons and unclean spirits were distinctly “uncomfortable” in Jesus’ presence. He is/was Light Himself. His very presence and nature threatened their ability to cloak themselves in any form at all. When He encountered a person who needed healing or deliverance, dark spirits wanted to be separated from Him… either that He would go away, or that He would send them away (e.g. into swine). For Him to be present with them, too close, was for them to experience “torment” (are You here to torment us before our time?).

Well, one reason I posted “How much Holy Spirit do you have?” before getting into the current discussion, is that that reality has never changed. Dark spirits are “uncomfortable” (lol, what a wimpy word… but I’ll stay with it)… in the Immediate Presence of Christ. And EVERY Indwelt believer carries in him/her the Immediate Presence of Christ.

Well then, does that mean we cannot be approached, assailed, or even inhabited by any spirit of darkness? No, not exactly. Our free will gives us the option of allowing ingress into what I call “our shadowy corners”… our own wrong attitudes, our own areas for future growth, our own habitual weaknesses, biases, judgmentalisms, unkindnesses… all those areas where from time to time the Lord grows us through rebuke, conviction, repentance and transformation… sort of like “damp spots” in the foundation, walls, floors or crawlspaces of our house where mold can grow undisturbed. We can “host” shadow-infection, just as our bodies can host illnesses… without being consciously aware of it. And the impact of such infection can be more or less serious depending on extent, duration, and how central is the function to our lives.

A Christian need not be “shadow free” to be Christian, but the extent to which he/she consciously embraces and allows transformation of light affects both the “opportunities” for shadows lurking, along with quality of life… Peace, Joy, Humor, Love, Generosity, Satisfaction, etc. Just as a human being need not be “infection free” to be Alive, but the extent of robust health, immune system function, nutrition and wellness certainly affects both the extent of compromise to infection, and the overall quality of life.

Very solid parallel that.

So it’s hard for me to discuss such things without seeming to foster an attitude of “nonchalant indifference”… “Oh well, everybody deals with this all the time, so… no big deal… forget about it.” Or, alternatively, an attitude of hypervigilant terror… “Omigosh, you mean… they’re… they’re… EVERYWHERE? *I* deal with them? My church, my pastor, my spouse, my kids??? What do I do? What do I DO??” And prompt a rapid shopping trip for unguents, candles, incense, oil, tracts, and Christian Books… oh, and miles of bubble wrap with duct tape.

For years I’ve lived quietly, yielding to my caution not to prompt either response.

But a more balanced position is simply this…

Just as physically we live in a world populated with myriads of creatures we cannot see or detect, some of which we interact with, and can harm us… Just as we deal with that reality through simple hygiene, care of our constitutions and health of lifestyle (food, clothing, shelter, hydration, nutrition)… Just as we help one another keep healthy, and offer an aspirin to a friend with a headache… Just as we seek professional expert health care interventions when an illness interferes too profoundly with our activities of daily life, or when infection places others at risk… All that, without panic or arrogance…

So I hope we can look at Spiritual Warfare. We live in a world inhabited by others as well, some of whom mean us harm. There’s fundamental spiritual health, there’s hygiene, there’s mutual support, and there’s acute care. None of that should generate either panic or arrogance.

All I seek to do here is offer “wellness education” for Christendom at large, and issue invitation to those with a call to providing acute care for those in need, to seek out and pursue further education as caregivers.

 

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Spiritual Warfare: Authority Q & A One

“I drift back and forth between the stages, praying continually for wisdom and maturity, and to know Him and love more deeply each day.”

[This was contained in a comment by Susan Irene Fox to Spiritual Warfare: Authority, Part Deux. I bring this post to expand this discussion. Please feel free to enter in. Here is the response.]

That is absolutely so! As do I. As do the finest, most grace-filled and wise teachers I know and have ever known! Yes! To all of that. Nonetheless, like anything and everything about our love-based, faith-filled relationship with God… as we experience more and more, as we “realize” (make “real” to ourselves) more and more experiences, that they become “concrete history” and “memories” rather than abstract theoreticals, hypotheticals, aspirations, and hopes… We tend to “anchor ourselves” in “reality as we know it”. We can still experience temptation, entertain doubts, find our faith shaken… we can succumb to a mood of darkness, bitterness, discouragement…. I for one (and all my rowdy friends) experience all these same things.

BUT, sometimes it feels like I’m attached to an elastic band… like a horizontal bungee cord. I can “go off on a mood” with the best of them. (I’m particularly prone to pride, and an odd sort of arrogant anger… judgmentalism. When the enemy can get just the right dart into my heart from just the right angle, and push just the right button… BOOM! Off I’ll go, ranting like a sailor!) Now, do I KNOW better? Yup. Does the Holy Spirit not tap me on the shoulder, clear His throat, and speak perfectly clearly… “Little Monk? Before you launch, does ANY of this speak ‘Jesus’ style’ to you? Or are you just rocking on your hobby horse again?” Yup. But if I am enraptured enough by my little moment of adrenalin-intoxication, glassy eyed… then I’m likely to hold up one finger, say, “One second, Lord, I’m busy in the middle of a tantrum here… be right with You!” and move right along my merry way.

I sprint against the tension of my bungee cord, plunging headlong from the center of my “God’s Will Road”… and wind up off somewhere in the scrub. I’ll be all scratched up and scruffy looking, and when the chemical euphoria wears off, it’s like I shake my head and say, “How’d I get here?” Then I remember and it’s like.. “Oh yeah. That.”

But here’s the really cool part for me and “most of my rowdy friends”. Having figured out a while back that we were nothing more (or less) than “His kids”… that we are and were utterly incapable of “managing our own spiritual lives”, but that when we relax utterly and let Him do what He does, He manages them (us) perfectly… we quit trying. Rather than trying to focus on “what do we do next”, we focus(ed) just on HEARING HIM tell us what to do next. It changes from our eyes constantly scanning the horizon and choosing among a million options, to our eyes focused on Him, His feet, His hands, and where He points us. (Much narrower focus.. MUCH easier to handle).

So, finding ourselves out in the scrub, tore up… we don’t “trudge back to the center line”… or even “turn around and repent”… or even “run don’t walk”… or “walk”. None of that. We just “stop… and relax”. The Bungee Cord brings us home Himself. We (and by this I mean ALL… you, me, my rowdy friends, everyone) are ALREADY anchored at the center line. Jesus did that at the Cross, He fastened and sealed these cords with Indwelling. The Holy Spirit IS the Bungee Cord. When we just quit pulling AGAINST it, whether by intention or ignorance… then HE HIMSELF restores everything to “right”.

The Bungee Cord pulls us back home to safety and light. Jesus washes the grunge off us. He re-robes us in His own clothes… and we take one another’s hands and move on down the road, often discussing what we’d learned from our little foray into the wilderness scrub. Now, Jesus, walking alongside us, had remained alongside us the whole time, you understand. Even when we run off in an adrenalin-drunk He never leaves us or forsakes us… (He promised that in writing, so you can count on its being true….) so when we tear off into awful places we just drag Him along. We’re just so focused on the wrong things, the distractions, that we don’t see or pay attention to His presence. But He’s ALWAYS present!

We can always trust the Bungee Cord. We can always trust Jesus alongside us. And we can always trust to the Center Line. But lots of folks, even wondrous sincere believer folks… have grown up thinking they’re all on their own to traverse this terrain (life, life in the world, life through the darkness to a blessed redeemed heavenly condition after they die). It’s all hack and slash, sweaty machete work, or dangerous dozer work to pave the way, brave the elements and the dangers, all to “atone” for past follies, or “show themselves worthy”, or “pass the test of their faith”, or simply because…. “Well, a Just and Holy God couldn’t just make it EASY, could He? After all, He’s Righteous and all that! Ridiculous! We must prevail! We must suffer! We must endure! We must show ourselves worthy of His love and win the race!” And it breaks my heart as they work so HARD to “get it all right”! (As I used to.)

Nonsense! NOTHING we do, endure, suffer or prevail against “makes us worthy”! Let that go! That’s pride! It “looks” like humility, but it’s arrogance… the exact opposite. It’s the lie that says, “If I work hard enough, I won’t NEED Jesus alone to merit God and His presence… I won’t NEED grace, if I can accomplish by work!” Nonsense!

And once THIS one is put away, the rest falls into place as you look and listen to what Jesus truly said and taught. He’s THERE. The Spirit is here and seals. We have inheritance, position, power, authority, place. We actually have to affirmatively work AGAINST grace… which we do easily, once our pride or passions are pricked properly… to pull ourselves OUT of His management and its benefits. He is, ever, inside of us. (In fact, as a little aside of “Wow” to how the Father manages things… even when we rebelliously run out into the scrub (where we don’t belong)… we nonetheless bring Jesus WITH us… thus bringing Light into dark places. Now, we’re likely to get a bit battered and bruised in the process, which Daddy never wanted… but still, we’ll be “vessel for Light”, even in our wrongness. Isn’t that something?)

Now, when we “relax” and let the Bungee bring us home from wrong places… we’ll often see the intervening terrain flying by, review in our minds/hearts/memories the decisions and moods we were in as we plunged through here, and feel embarrassed and regretful of that. True. We learn from such moments, and that’s a good thing. But THAT… those moments of “Gosh, what was I thinking?! THAT was pretty dumb of me!” THOSE realizations, are “light entering the dark corners” of our soul and the discomfort of blinking in the unaccustomed brightness. THAT is the essence of true “repentance” or “metanoia” (to “see in a new/beyond way” truthfully), and those moments of epiphany and insight change us permanently. Those are moments in which we grow, we mature, because we learn to “trust” just a little more completely, to “yield” a little more readily.

But yes… we are ALL but children in, to, and of God. And I, for one, certainly have my “bratty” days, just as well as anyone.

 

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Spiritual Warfare: Authority, Part Deux

In an earlier post on Spiritual Authority, I leapt over a huge amount of narrative and explanation because I wanted to avoid a convoluted discussion into which I am easily sidetracked and swallowed up. But I knew, even as I posted that, that I would need to follow up with some more concrete discussion. A few of the comments reinforced that.

So I’d like to sit back a moment and, without letting this get too tangled up, just look at one way of considering the whole matter of “Authority” as a whole. I want to consider our general, human, normal, relational experiences of authority… and then, from that perspective, look at the divine. I’m not trying to limit God to a human template, but I feel confident that especially in matters such as this, our social nature made in His image, and frequent scriptural referents and instructions on the conduct of such fundamental relationships as parenthood and marriage, along with the profound use Jesus Himself made of these two relationships, validates this discussion. As ever, though, if these words do not ring true as the Spirit guides your heart or conscience, cast them aside.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First of all, what is “Authority” anyway? Well, we can look it up in the dictionary of course, but in general I teach that it is the “ability and right to impose one’s will onto and over the will of another.” The idea of “authority” has no meaning without the idea of “will”. Authority is only an issue where there is choice, or the possibility of a contrary action or thought.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

OK, so let’s consider our human experience on Jesus’ illustrations for a moment. How do we see “Authority” as relating to these two critical human relationships — parenthood, and to marriage?

I propose that we can see human development, relational development, the development of relationships in four distinct stages:


First: Childhood Stage. In the first seven or so years of life, children cannot provide for themselves, protect themselves from danger, or make considered judgments of prudent action based on experience, reasoning or wisdom. Even the legal system does not yet consider them responsible for their own actions or consequences. The parent(s) hold responsibility for all that.

Parent(s) exercise authority over their children, being responsible for them and their actions, and for their well-being and upbringing. When the will of a child differs from the will of their parent(s), the child is expected (scripturally, morally, and legally) to honor their parent(s) and obey. That is their will is to yield to the parent, and penalty or punishment is a reasonable expectation for defiance of that authority.

Children’s initial experience of “authority”, then… (and thus, the experience all of us share)… is based in “Fear”. Children (all of us), initially learn to yield to authority by being programmed with a fear of punishment.

Four scriptural verses address the “beginning of wisdom”, and all of those associate it with knowledge or understanding. Three of those four, associate “fear” or “fear of the Lord” as well. That is, “fear” may be seen as a legitimate BEGINNING point, but that’s all it is… the beginnings of an infant or child, whose knowledge and understanding is only beginning, not yet matured. (Cf Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 4:7; Proverbs 9:10.


Second: Transactional Stage. When a youngster is “too big” for physical pain or superior size to generate fear to enforce authority in a conflict of will, and (on a more positive note) when communication and reasoning skills have improved, resolution is more likely to come from “bargaining” or “transaction” rather than “threat”.

While this is easy to relate to when we think of dealing with adolescence (or remember being one), it is important to note that this same approach to authority persists well into early vocational and professional maturity as well.

A parent or a boss CAN enforce their will in a conflict by using authority to threaten or generate costly punishment, generating fear. But it is more likely, before reaching such a pass, that a system of incentives and “earned privileges” is in place  That is, there is reasoned dialogue and negotiation, setting up a mutually beneficial transaction.

“If you yield and submit to my will, then these benefits will ensue. If you do not, then those benefits will not result, or these detriments will ensue.”

Like… Parent to Teen: “If you do your chores and keep your grades up, you may access our computers, game systems, and drive the car on Friday night. But if you defy me(us) or you fail in school, you will lose your privilege of playing in sports, or your curfew will be lowered.”

Or… Boss to Subordinate: “If you perform your duties well, dress appropriately, report to work on time, and follow my instructions, you will get good job performance evaluation reviews, a steady progress of pay increase and promotion. But if you do not follow instructions, perform according to my expectations, or execute company policy and procedure, you will receive a verbal warning, a written warning, and then be terminated from our employment.”

Both of these expressions and exercise of authority are “Transactional”, a “trade” based on the child (or subordinate) wanting to acquire something of value (whether liberty and privileges, or professional earnings and prestige)… in exchange for their compliance with the will of the superior.

We see this type of authority expressed a number of times in scripture, but perhaps the clearest of such expressions as God trains His children is

If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. [2 Chronicles 7:13-15]

Here we see this very clear “carrot-and-stick” transaction of authority and obedience, very much as we (as parents) could imagine ourselves dealing with our developing teen, or an employer dealing with a new employee.


Three: Exploration and Honeymoon Stage. Let’s change gears, change generations here for a moment. Let’s move from the “Parental” paradigm to the “Sweetheart” stage of intimate relationships. (Bear in mind, this really has no gender significance, particularly. There are no erotic overtones here. Jesus used a marriage and wedding illustration often as He considered growing intimacy and commitment between Himself and us.)

Authority, as the imposition or subordination of will, becomes very interesting when “opposition” is no longer an issue. If you have ever been married (as I suspect most of Jesus’ listeners had been), it is not hard to remember or relate to a time when a committed relationship had been formed, but partners were yet coming to know and understand one another.

Here again, “fear” becomes a factor… but it is not a matter of “fear of punishment”. When one is committed to the happiness and well-being of the other, but does not yet KNOW them through and through completely, then there is effort made not to do something that causes the other (the beloved) discomfort or displeasure.

Early years of a marriage of partners in love, or early years of a professional who loves and is deeply committed to his/her company or employer, doesn’t see a lot of overt “exercise of authority” between the superior and the subordinate. Rather, one seeks to consciously align the will of the self with the will of the other in order not to displease him/her. When there is anxiety over a decision, it is based on “not doing the wrong thing”, “not making a mistake”… but not out of fear of consequence in punishment, rather out of “fear of displeasing the valued other” (whether the partner or work colleague).

This is a “functional” stage. Many long term marriages never progress beyond this stage. Many career employees stay in this perspective all the way to retirement. And it has been my observation that a vast number of Believers attain this degree of intimacy with the Lord, and never ever get past it. Such people are adult enough to get beyond a fear of childish punishment, loving enough to get beyond bargaining and negotiation for advantage, and are deeply committed to the happiness of the significant other. But what “constrains them”, what exerts “authority over them”, is the fear of causing the significant other displeasure… of “hurting their feelings”.

I remember, when I was young, being told that “every time I sin, I add to the scourging of Jesus”. The thought horrified me. I vehemently sought to reject sin in all forms… “not to hurt His feelings”, and despised myself and my own frailty when I failed in my efforts. Only VERY recently, did I finally come to understand the Truth… that He has always known, and embraced me WITH all my frailties. I finally could embrace an instruction, a correction, I must have been given 100 times when I was an intern under a very wise mentor/boss/pastor who repeated over and over… “Little Monk! God is not NEARLY so concerned with your getting it all RIGHT! As He is concerned that you learn to relax, and simply enjoy His love!” (That made no sense to me… I could not grasp that… couldn’t embrace it. Decades it took, before Jesus Himself finally helped me see the truth of it.)

I present Stage Three to you with NO disrespect whatever! I lingered there for more years than I will admit. It is often marked with a tremendous sense of “rules and regulations”, of “do’s and don’ts” lest we displease Him. It is not BAD. But it is not yet complete. It contains fear, it contains shame, it contains a degree of mistrust for our total safety in Him. It is adult, yes… but not yet fully matured.

We want to unify our wills with God’s, but we haven’t yet learned and practiced the relaxed surrender of conscience to the Holy Spirit, so we cling fearfully to our “religious report cards” and “Do/Don’t” Lists. Paul seems to address this…

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? [Colossians 2:20-22]


Four: Unitive Stage. Harmony. Here is a fascinating stage of “Authority” where the word itself seems to disappear. Why? Because the exercise of authority only emerges when there is a conflict of will between two parties, and when relationship is close enough, intimate enough that one party knows exactly what is pleasing to the other… and when the love and commitment is so strong that the desire of each is to create, to generate, pleasure on the part of the other… there is only harmony.

I described this to a friend the other day as, “remember the early stages of marriage, where we worked so hard to learn, to realize, what pleased and displeased our partner? We were more concerned not to inadvertently hurt their feelings, than anything else. And that was good. BUT, let a few decades of ongoing love, commitment and intimacy go by, and we learn them… we know their will… we know what pleases or displeases. And when you look at one of those incredible, grace-filled, beautiful marriages of half a century or so… when the partners are still as in love (or more so) than when they first met… there is no more fear. Each partner lives with the simple goal of pleasing the other, of making him/her smile. They look for little ways to surprise or delight the other. THAT’s the mature state of love… no more fear, simply the enterprise of walking pleasing to the other, because that is what is most pleasing to the self.”

I have seen this in this life. Haven’t you? Here is the living out of the intimacy of Jesus and the Father… all through John 13-17. Jesus only does His will, does His works, speaks His words. Why? Because the Father has “Authority”, and requires this of Jesus? NO! Because this is the JOY of Jesus, He is so intimately One with the Father that to see Him, He says, IS to SEE the Father!

“Well!” one might respond… “That’s all well and good for GOD! But what about US! This can’t possibly be something WE can aspire to, or live in! Where’s your humility!?” But see… Jesus disagrees.

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” [John 17:1-3]

That’s US He’s talking about, Gentle Reader. You, and me, and him, and her… right here, right now, just as we are… “that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” And that word “know” there… is “intimate know”… as in biblically knowing… all the way through.

So many shy away from this thought. “Too intimate”, “too close”, “not reverent enough”, “need more distance”, “He’s too holy”, “He’s too scary”… so strange. Some paint this incredible revelation of grace and available relationship as some sort of cheap grace or feel-good message. Well, grace it assuredly is, but not the least bit cheap… It cost Jesus’ life to provide. Is it “feel good”? Well, I certainly hope so! The JOY of the Lord is to be our strength, not some sort of “no pain, no gain” hubris. The Gospel is GOOD News, and the churchy-folk leaders of His time killed Him for preaching it.


Here is the challenge God issues to my own life, and I pass it along for whatever use you choose to make of it. Embrace it, or cast it aside as the Holy Spirit leads you in your life and conscience.

“Do you want to love God with all your heart, mind and strength? Do you want to love others as Jesus loves?

“Then you have to mature beyond fear. We cannot…. CAN NOT… fully love what we do not fully trust. We can never feel truly and utterly “safe” with what we cannot trust without condition or flinching. And we cannot utterly trust, anything or anyone, we fear.”

Simple truth that. Obvious and self-apparent. The Apostle John got this utterly. He wrote the Gospels that most clearly documented the Lord’s teachings on all this. Ultimately, he left these words in legacy to the generations of his churches as he sensed the end of his own earthly life drawing near….

Consider this, and see if it does not summarize all I am saying here of “authority”, “harmony of will”, and our loving relationship with God…

By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. [1 John 4:17-19]


Bottom Line: “Authority” only has meaning when there is a conflict of wills. As to Spiritual Warfare, there is always a conflict of wills between unclean spirits and the will of Our Loving Father, Our Lord, and His Spirit. God has invested the fullness of His authority in and to us, by virtue of our Love of Christ and belief that the Father sent Him forth. That authority can and does flow through us unimpeded when our will aligns in faith with His.

But BEYOND that is the richer truth of “authority” and OUR relationship with God. Union, the union of will, love, knowledge of Him… complete with His words, works, and will… is not only our EVENTUAL destiny “up there, out there, somewhere…. in heaven… after we’re dead”…. but rather it is the living, here and now, process we are going through and intended to fulfill in all its richness, as we learn simply to trust Him to do what only He can do in and through us. How?

Paulfg says it the most directly of anyone I know…

“The answer is love. Now, what is the question?”

I hope this is some help on the whole issue of “Authority” and God.

Grace to thee, Gentle Reader.

The Little Monk

 

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Spiritual Warfare: Authority

Two weeks, Gentle Readers. This is a post that has taken two solid weeks to write.

Why?

Because “Authority” is a critical key, not only in and to all of Christian life, but particularly regarding Spiritual Warfare. Read anything on the topic, and you will find a great deal of focus on this element. Why all this attention? Why this apparent myopic focus?

Because the task of “casting out” demons or unclean spirits pits the will of the Believer, into direct conflict with a Dark Other. It comes down to a confrontation between one party saying, “Get out of here!” while the opposing party responds, “No! Who’s gonna make me?” or “Why should I?”

Therein lies the critical element. Two quick scriptural portraits clearly highlight this contrast.

God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. [Acts 19:11-17]

There is the first incident I would consider, extremely briefly and superficially. There’s lots of material there for consideration, and bear in mind that the entire context of the passage has to do with extraordinary phenomena… both the signs and miracles of Christian witness, contrasted with magic and dark arts practices.We may consider this passage again later about those matters, but for now I only want to direct our notice to the apparent “authority” of the sons of Sceva. They “attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus”. They correctly “identify” Jesus, as “the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Nonetheless, the evil spirit was not only unaffected, but motivated the suffering man to overcome the SEVEN of them, that they fled wounded and naked. Being careful not to read into scripture, or take our reasoning beyond the text, I would posit that these exorcists lacked the authority to remove the evil spirit.

By contrast, consider Jesus’ appointment of even His novice disciples…

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you… The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” [Luke 10:1-6, 16-22]

This is a long-ish passage, yes. But right here scripture brings together three of the critical elements we are discussing:

  • This is a direct “commissioning” and “sending forth” of disciples who are NOT of the 12 Companion Disciples (so there is no issue of “only apostles” stuff here).
  • “Authority” is directly granted to these commissioned disciples, with specific instructions for a specific purpose.
  • The “qualifications” for such commission and authority are clearly specified, and has nothing to do with theological sophistication, religious fervor, or strength.

There are lots and lots of scriptural referents to “authority”, 102 in the New Testament in fact. The Greek word ἐξουσία (exousia) appears everywhere from the faith of the Roman Centurion (Matthew 8:9) to the final declaration of Babylon the Great’s fall (Revelation 18:1). The topic is so important and so vast that it can swallow one up. So many ways of looking at it… there’s authority based on rank, on age, on role… there’s authority based in power, or in truth… there’s authority based in relationship, respect, and love.

I could not get a grip on how to deal with authority as it related to spiritual warfare, since all of these perspectives are meaningful and seemed important. So the post would just grow beyond bounds.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I waited, listened, tried to see the right way through this seeming maze… and two things, two critical scriptural passages just seemed to rise to the surface of it all. They are simple and seem to overarch all other considerations. When I would try to explore nooks and crannies, rejecting this simplicity and sensing the more convoluted and complicated, these two passages would just seem to gather up all my objections and swallow them.

The first has to do with the authority of Jesus and His relationship with demons, unclean spirits, or spirits of darkness:

And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath; and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority. In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm. And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, “What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out.” And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district. [Luke 4:31-37]

The point I want to make here is that Jesus never had to state a thing about asserting His authority. Neither He, nor the suffering person, opened the conversation. The demon did. The demon recognized Jesus in the fullness of His authority all on his own, and he opened the encounter of the exorcism. (This sort of thing happened several times throughout the Gospels.)

The second passage, a direct teaching of Jesus addressing us through the teachings of His disciples-now-friends, is from the Garden of Gethsemane following the Last Supper:

“In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.” [John 16:23-28].

I don’t want to take the space here, but I strongly recommend you go on and read through Chapter 17 of the Gospel of John. This same theme, Jesus’ empowerment and continuity through the lives of the disciples and those who believe because of their words, continues with a divine strength that is simply breathtaking.

The critical phrase in the passage there, though, seems to be this… “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.”

This is the phrase that God returned me to, again and again, as explaining not only “authority”, but EVERYTHING. “In that day” may be thought of in terms of Indwelling, though it may be seen as including other epiphanies as well. But throughout this entire discourse (John 13-17), Jesus has described how the Father has invested ALL into Him, and that He as Son reflects and refracts all from the Father. Then Jesus goes on to impel all of that into His disciples and all those who believe because of their words.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bottom Line: I have long thought of “authority” in traditional, legalistic, military, parental, political terms… “power is delegated from ‘higher’ authority down into ‘lower’ authorities, by virtue of duty, fidelity, preparation… etc.” This pits the resistance of a demon against the degree of authority held by the believer, subject to their strength of faith or worthiness. This may not be a “bad” view, but it can make every encounter a bit of an adventure, if we approach the moment with questions of how strong our faith, faithfulness or preparation. (The sons of Sceva had a distinctly bad day.)

But what it seems God is teaching me here is that true authority has nothing to do with any of that. It’s not a matter of “white magic” or “saying the right words”… “in the Name of Jesus, I abjure you…” etc., etc. But rather, that Jesus has already imbued us with the fullness of His own authority… through His relationship with the Father and what He has asked of the Father… and through the “feelings” the Father has for us simply because we believe Jesus came from Him to earth and we love Jesus.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So…

Question: How much of Jesus’ authority do you have?

Well…      Do you love Jesus?               Do you believe He came forth from the Father?

Answer: If both of those are “yes”, then you have “all of it”. Jesus does not “repeat your requests” to the Father when you pray. The Father Himself hears and answers them exactly as He would hear and answer Jesus.

And, if this is so, then spirits of darkness recognize the Jesus in you, and the authority of Jesus in you, as clearly as they did when Jesus walked.

“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” [1 John 4:4]

Um… yeah. And there’s how Jesus brought that about.

 
 
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