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Joyfulnouncing! The Gospel!

A week or so ago, I posted “Joyfulnouncing Jesus!” and ended that with a question:

Schnauzer Who Rules

“Commander Samuel L. Vimes” (“Vimes” for short. My resident Joyfulnouncer.

How do you personally, define “the Gospel” (feel free either to include that in the comment section, responding, below… or just note it down for yourself for next time.)

Thank you, for considering the question and for the responses that came. They were wonderful, spirit-filled, responses, and I am grateful to have prompted the reflection that yielded them.

I mentioned last time that when the Lord prompted me to go to scripture to find the “Biblical definition” of “The Gospel”…

As I started to work, and dug into scripture a bit, I discovered some amazing things about these two words we use…. “the Gospel”…

What I discovered was that when we go to the New Testament in original language, there’s this “gap” anywhere the English translations say “the Gospel”. There’s just this big white space corresponding… that what the Gospels SAY is this really cool descriptive VERB of the action… “happy-good-true-heralding”.  (Hence the post “Joyfulnouncing”.)

But here’s the thing… the “joyfulnouncement” is always “arrival”, “come-to-us-ness”, and “celebration”. The “good news” part of euangelizo CANNOT be “separated” as an “object” from the “joyfulnounce” part. But often, in English, we do that.

So, the essence of “proclaim the Gospel” (which can never be separated as a concept… the Gospel must ALWAYS be ATTACHED to “announcing”) is something like…

“Hey! Listen! He’s HERE! Love has ARRIVED! Your Lover has arrived!”

So, you see my problem with the “Index Card”/”Elevator Gospel” situation. The “announcing” is of a “relationship”. Just as my old friend put it, when I asked “what someone needs to know for baptism?”…  the answer isn’t WHAT they need to know, but WHO they need to know.

This got me thinking two different things…

The first, doesn’t help me at all as “an evangelist”. In the terms my former Pastor/Boss was thinking, an “evangelist” needs to have a “message”, a “script”, a “set of doctrinal propositions” to communicate and persuade someone to adopt. I could never develop such a script.

Nonetheless, there definitely IS, an “essence” to “the Gospel”. I’ve always “felt” it… (messy, sloppy word that, I know… “feelings” not a good guide, etc., etc.) but deep in the soil of my heart, I’ve always “known” it. But when I chase this cat, when I became utterly determined to “find ‘the Gospel'”…

I discovered myself at the foot of the Cross.

And this is true of every other single person I’ve ever known who “gets it”… who has entered into the beams of “grace”… who has gotten past the elementary principles of the world and eats meat rather than drinking milk. There is an “experience”… in every single one’s life that I’ve ever known, even though this experience can happen in a vast array of symbols, environments, traditions, styles, idioms, cultures…. every person who brings this testimony seems utterly unique,  yet utterly parallel, that…

There is a one-to-one encounter with Jesus, and in this encounter (which is undeniably REAL, though seldom, if ever “material”), Jesus’ love in its Infinite magnitude, washes over and through the person.  We can never effectively speak of, describe, the experience of another in these moments… but for one friend it was at their kitchen table one evening… for another, it was at the edge of the Miami River after throwing themselves into it to drown three times, and failing… for me, it was in prayer, at the Cross, looking at His eyes, face, hands, and hearing those words “Father, forgive them…”

In each and every case, what came about was the absolute “realization” (as in… “a truth becoming REAL to the individual”) of Jesus’ specific, individual, personal committed Infinite love for that person. It’s the “supernatural spark of the living connected relationship” between person and Jesus! It is a “moment”, an “experience”, a “realization”… after which, life is utterly changed and can never go back as it was.

And, of course, that spark, that moment, is “ineffable”… no matter how hard we try. That MOMENT, that RELATIONSHIP, is… as I’ve come to embrace it… “the Gospel”. And THAT, is simply lightning I’ve never managed to put in a bottle. I can talk “about” it. I can describe the circumstances, even the “feelings” to some extent. But the experience? The reality itself? No way… no words I know can wrap around that living Divine Spark.

The closest I’ve come is to invite someone to consider the following notion… “Jesus’ love for you, personally, is so great, so committed, so passionate and intense, that if you were the only person in all of time ever to have fallen… He would BEG Our Father for permission to come, take your place, and suffer all that He did… leaving His throne, living a sinless life, being rejected, betrayed, tried, condemned, tortured, and murdered in disgrace… all of that, just because He loves you that much, and wants you seated with Him at His throne.” Just imagine!

And, even more challenging for many… “The Fathers’ love for you, personally, is so great, so committed, so passionate and intense, that if you were the only person in all of time ever to have fallen… He would grant that permission, and DESIRE that Jesus… His Beloved Firstborn Son… leave His throne, come to earth as mortal man, take your place, and suffer all that He did… just because He loves you that much, and wants you seated with Him at His throne.” Just imagine!

Now, I’ll be honest… I “got” the first part of that… the “Jesus loves me this much” part… when I was very young. But it wasn’t until I was older… much older… and my daughter was grown with children of her own, that the FATHER approached me with the extent of HIS love! He challenged me… I could imagine, fairly readily, giving up my OWN life for someone I loved, yes. But! Could I imagine, even for one moment, loving someone so much that I would turn over MY DAUGHTER… my most beloved, who has never deserved such treatment… to the sufferings of Jesus, not for her own life debts… but for the sins of others?

Gentle Reader, that was a hard afternoon for me. I had never thought in those terms. I had never imagined the true depths of the FATHER’s love for us! For YOU, alone. For ME, alone. For him, and him, and her, and her, and them… alone.

Why? Because this is Who He is, and WHAT He is… He is not merely “a loving god”. He IS LOVE! Love Himself! He has no other way to be. No love happens but from, by, through Him. No one and nothing can love or be loved but by the “wiring” and “energizing” of Grace, of God Himself!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anyway, sorry, Gentle Reader. I get carried away with the magnitude of it all… God’s love… just… wow.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But as to the Second Thought on Evangelism… on euvangelizo… on joyfulnouncing…

Suddenly today, I realized that my problem is that it’s like a “Fanfare!”, a “Trumpet Call” like Reveille, or Taps, or Ruffles and Flourishes, or Call to the Post. Here is a particular and peculiar sound, that has a specific meaning!

Well, for some reason this morning, this concept of “Fanfare” kept kicking me as I thought of drafting this post. I didn’t know why, but just let it roll on.

And then… the “trumpet will sound”… at the coming of Jesus ahead of us…

And then… the trumpets of Jericho…

And then… the Shofar… that the shofar or shofars travelled in front of the Ark of the Covenant, playing fanfare and calling the people to worship….

And something, suddenly, went “click” for me. (And I share it here, not to convince you… or persuade… or even “educate”… simply to share this thought, and see if it “fits” for you. If not, throw it away…)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Suddenly, John the Baptist lit up in my spirit as a human “Shofar”… like the trumpet call in Godspell that introduces… “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”  There he was… John, the Herald… a human ram’s horn… making way for He who would follow… for the joyful arrival of the King!

A “voice crying in the wilderness” announcing… not a new “religion”… but the person… The Person… The Relationship of Unimaginable Inexpressibly Infinite Love and Embrace of Love Himself!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And, what has all this got to do with us? Simply this…

Perhaps we are all called to be human Shofars… perhaps we joyfully announce the Arrival of the Beloved… and embrace one another, and total strangers, aliens, sinners… in the grace and acceptance of our expressing the Spirit’s Infinite Love for them. Perhaps we transparently reflect and refract that “lightning in our own bottles” to light up the dark places.

The Good News isn’t Bad News! Thieves, cheats, fraudulent tax collectors, adulterer’s, prostitutes… didn’t go traipsing miles up and down dusty rocky hills to John at the Jordan to be made to feel bad, guilty, miserable and worthless. Zaccheus (a wee little man), was bubbling over with joy upon being called down from his perch by Jesus, even though he was so snubbed by his townspeople they wouldn’t even let him get a view of the street!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anyway, that’s getting into the next post… This has just been about the “Lightning in the Bottle”.

Next time, a bit more on, “The Good News isn’t Bad News!”

Let me again, leave you with a question…

I’ve heard it said that “repentance” has to come before “forgiveness” and “reconciliation”.

Think a moment, and ask yourself…. is this true? Or not?

Until next time then… Grace to you — The Little Monk

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3 Comments

Posted by on February 4, 2016 in Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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In Love We Trust…

ring-for-wedding“I still LOVE him/her, but I just can’t TRUST her/him anymore…”

So often I have heard these words. So many tears, so many hearts broken when trust and love become sundered from one another.

Why is there such anguish? Why is there such pain?

Because this is impossible. Because people cannot do what cannot be done. We cannot love what we do not trust. We cannot trust what we do not love.

When we try, we cram the heart and soul into a contorted dimension, a false condition, a form of self-denial, that does not fit and never can. Like trying to wend our way through the stairways of an Escher Drawing, we pass through some mobius portal of feelings that leave us turned inside out, vulnerable, and exposed.

When we first begin to fall in love… that’s SO scary.

Why? Why is that so fearful?

Because we risk. We risk such anguish, such disappointment.

What if we finally acknowledge that we have “fallen in love”, that our hearts are now in the hands of another… and they do not feel the same way?

Who will be the first to say, “I love you?”

Who can’t recall the incredible gush of relief when we find the beloved DOES love us back?

That is a tremendous moment in life.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But then… what about the NEXT layer of trust? The NEXT risk taken? Not just to risk trust to the “unknown”… but to trust in the “committed unknown”?

It is one thing to trust to love when there is not yet a commitment, but there is another whole layer, a whole dimension, of trusting to love when there is commitment, a covenant to faithfulness, that involves what we cannot see.

Here is where many relationships stumble… “I just worry all the time, Dr. Monk. What is he/she doing when I’m not there? Sometimes I call and there is no answer.” or “He/she calls or texts me 20 times a day, wondering where I am, who I am with, what I am doing… It’s driving me crazy!”

There is no “trust” here. There is the ongoing need for “control” here. There is only the “safety of being in charge” or of “ownership” here… Not “love”.

How do we “trust” to what we cannot “see” or “control”? How do we grow to love that much?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And then… there’s the last layer… the final layer that sunders us from all that “makes sense”, all that is “rational”, all that is “clearly apparent”.

How do we “trust” in the face of apparent and obvious “betrayal”?

It is one thing to trust to the unknown without commitment. It is another thing to trust to the unknown WITH commitment. But it’s a clearly different thing indeed to CHOOSE to trust, in the face of an apparent KNOWN of untruth, infidelity, in a covenant relationship of commitment.

To be frank, most people consider this simply impossible. So many, particularly Christians, will say they “forgive”, but cannot “forget” and therefore cannot ever restore “trust”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So… “What’s going on here today, Little Monk?” you may ask. “Have we dropped through some warp from The Postmodern Mystic to an episode of Dr. Phil?”

Nope.

This post follows up from the Sizzling Bacon, and addresses the question… “How?” A few weeks ago I was intrigued by  “A Challenge”, written by Don Merritt,  wherein a listener came up to him after he had delivered a truth-filled sermon and asked, “Why don’t we believe you?” This addresses that question as well. Last, but not least, this post addresses a discussion I had with Susan Irene Fox one evening (about Don’s question), where I proposed that the answer was that “we refuse to surrender control… we are selfish”, and she disagreed, believing that, “people are simply fearful, they’re afraid.” (OK, so now you know, Susan is a kinder, more charitable, person than I…)

That conversation, those questions, kept mulling in my brain as I could sense truth in all of that, but could not put my finger on it…

Then, along with “Can You Hear the Bacon Sizzle?“, Jesus highlighted the piece I was missing… the issue is “Trust”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Few of us have trouble relating to love, trust, romance, in the terms that open this post. But now, for Christians, the transition to our relationship of intimacy with God can be a bit more tricky. But think about it, Jesus has “wedded” us, we are at a Marriage Feast, we are His Bride (NOT just “corporately” as part of some anonymous “herd” or “flock”… but individually as well). To attain eternal life is to KNOW the Father, and the Son, with the intimacy of a spouse…

What is the “limit”… the “constraining factor”… the “conditional boundary” of our “Intimacy” with God?

Our decision to limit our Trust of Him.

“But I DON’T ‘limit my trust’ of Him!” one would protest! “I trust Him UTTERLY!”

I can say that. I can truthfully say I have done so always. BUT, at the same time, I have NOT.

I can only “trust” to the extent that I see the challenge to trust, acknowledge that, and make a conscious choice to do so. (And most of the time, reacting to situations moment-by-moment as I do, no such thing happens).

So let’s take our romantic illustration above, and apply it to our intimacy with God for a moment…

Trust to the Unknown without Commitment: “Who will be first to say ‘I love you’?” The risk of that, the daring to the unknown of that. Consider…

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He *said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. [Matthew 4]

I propose that we see “trust to the unknown yet uncommitted” here. Bold trust. Daring trust. Yet, all unknown as yet. So much of relationship to be discovered, uncovered, committed to.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Time goes on, commitment grows (both directions in relationship), fealty is exchanged. There is now the “expectation” of fidelity. We see that in human romance. But how do we remain assured and at peace with what we CANNOT see, what we DO NOT understand? We see the Gospel of John highlight such a moment when Jesus speaks of eating His flesh, and so many disciples fall away. Their orthodoxy… their religion… all those rules about blood, and flesh, and what is holy and unclean… They can no longer trust Jesus. Jesus is speaking of unclean things, of abomination, of cannibalism. They can no longer walk with Him. He has ventured into the unknown, the untrustworthy. And yet… yet there are the few, there is Peter in their midst…

66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” [John 6]

They trust in the midst of the unknown. They CHOOSE to trust, they DECIDE to trust. They could have walked away, but they did not. They simply loved Jesus too much for that. They loved Him beyond their ability to understand or know… this is Trust.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But… But… What about the third case? What about “betrayal”? Jesus never “betrayed” them, did He? Well, no. He did not. He never did, He kept His word(s) always… BUT… it certainly did not SEEM that way to them, did it? The “facts” of the matter, the “evidence”, the “appearance”… certainly lined up a convincing case that He had abandoned them, leaving them to their fate at the hands of the Pharisees, did it not?

I mean, think this through. Palm Sunday, triumphal entry into Jerusalem… “Hail! Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!”

What a high!

Then, to the Temple… driving out the money changers and animal sellers!

O My!

Then this week of controversy in Jerusalem. What confusion did they know? Prophecies and rumors of assassination plots against Him. The acclaim of the people. People giving livestock, goods, meeting rooms “because the Master has need” of them. Then… that mysterious Last Supper Passover meal… then the Garden… all His promises… “I will never leave you for forsake you… I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be… I lay down My life, no one takes it from Me…”

Confusingly, He tells them outright that He is going to die, but that because of that they will live. That they are His, in His hand, and they need not fear. That they will be scattered, but… He challenges them… TRUST Him!

And then… He dies!

This.. this… Messiah. This Son of God. This Resurrector of the Dead. This Healer of the Sick… Caster out of demons… Feeder of the Thousands!!! Dead! And they… were… left… alone! And scared. (Now, lest we cover this over with a “gentle Sunday-School haze” of… “well, yeah… they were alone, but, after all, they KNEW better… they KNEW He’d be back… and there was nothing to be anxious about…”)

19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” [John 20]

These people were clustered together behind locked doors, locked in by fear. John speaks of fear of the Sanhedrin, but can we even imagine the other fears that flowed through their hearts in those days? A bit further in that passage, John tells us that they came to believe only when He showed them the wounds in His hands and feet!

They knew doubt. They doubted the reports of the women from the tomb. They doubted their own eyes until they saw His wounds. Thomas doubted even THEIR report, until he plunged his own digits into Christ’s side.

So… if even THEY doubted, what made them so special to Jesus? What sets them apart, has always set them apart, as disciples then Apostles? What are we, here and now, to see and realize from their ever-so-human frailty and relationship with Him?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Disciples did not know, they did not understand, they did not feel “confident” or “holy” of “faith-y”. None of that! They were scared, and lonely, and felt betrayed. But still, they did not CHOOSE to QUIT!

They remained. They remained in relationship with (as they thought at the time) a Dead Christ… buried and stolen. They CHOSE to TRUST, even in the face of evidence contrary to all they thought possible. They chose to remain, and to continue to love Him, continue to fellowship together, continue to encourage (literally) one another… even if He had lied to them, and had now abandoned them as orphans.

(Please understand… I know full well He HAD not…. that He ALWAYS keeps His word, and NEVER abandons us!) But realize, the Disciples had no EVIDENCE that attested to that as they huddled behind those locked doors, and frankly… you and I go through many days in our lives, where we can seem just as alone as they thought they were.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And look what happened…

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. [John 20]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Do I “trust” God? Do you? Yes, assuredly we do. And, to the extent that we trust Him, we love Him and experience His love for us.

But true though that is, I can testify to the fact that over time my “trust” has grown! Not because I ever intend to withhold trust from Him, but simply because until challenged by fear, I am not aware that there is greater trust to be had. Does that make sense?

I have discovered that my best “response” to fear… any fear… all fear… big, little, petty, grand… is “Trust”. He is there (here), He is perfect, He is powerful beyond any measure of adequacy, and He is dedicated wholly and totally to my good! I can trust to that, whether I understand it or not.

But it is only when that trust is tested…. only when circumstances seem to belie the safety of my trust… that my love and trust can grow.

It is only when I “seem” to be betrayed, wounded, lied to… when the “evidence around me” would indicate that I CANNOT trust someone… that I can freely CHOOSE to trust them, and the love of God (Father, Son, Spirit) fully flow through me. THAT is freedom! That is grace!

And, by the way, THAT is how God loves US in the first place… regardless of how much we betray Him, wound Him, or lie to Him… or even, to ourselves.

Amazing… grace…

Love = Trust = Love = Him

 
5 Comments

Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Quiet Time, Reverse Polarity, Sermon Seeds

 

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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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Ripples and Birthdays

WisdomIn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. [Genesis 1:1-2]

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,  in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. [Luke 2:4-7]

While I know that technically it is “Christmas Day” as I write, Gentle Reader, for me it is the ending of Christmas Eve for I’ve not yet slept. These several days, I’ve yet been struck with the awesome power of “silence’ and “waiting”. I know there are those who decry the customs and traditions of the Liturgical Year, and the cycle of holidays such as Christmas and Easter in the Christian Church. I realize, with all educated theologians, that the decisions to select the dates we have are more dependent on the incorporation of customs by pagan peoples into Christian practice, than any scriptural seasonal basis. But it has always seemed more to me an apt unification of God’s people, rather than any denial or wrongful compromise.

Paulfg (Just me being curious) speaks often of dropping pebbles and watching the myriad ripples that follow. So much of grace is like that. God, or one who follows Him, drops a pebble, and the Holy Spirit echoes and reverberates among many others like variations on a theme of music. I was recently struck by the rhythmic nature of reality, of the necessity of opposites. In order to know true freedom and choice of good over evil, we MUST of logical necessity, have the capacity to choose evil. In order to know light, we must have the ability to apprehend darkness. For me, limited as I am by my own culture and upbringing, I’m coming to consider this the nature of yin and yang. Even Paul’s ripples have peaks and troughs, a zenith and nadir to define them.

This “silence”, this “fasting”, this preparation for the annual commemoration of the Great Events of the Nativity and the Resurrection that comprise Advent and Lent… these are important, and can do much to enrich our experience of God. Why? Because they are, in and of themselves, some sort of “magic times”? No. Because God takes special note of those who are devout enough to honor these penitential periods, and rewards the faithful with special Brownie Point Blessings? No. Because we have to “purge ourselves of our worldliness and sin”, in order to benefit from these sacred feasts? Well, such exercise may well bear some fruit, yes… but not in such a transactional way, no.

Now, I know you’ve heard this before, but let me say it again. I write from my own experience and subjective perspective. My opinions and conclusions are my own, and if they do not agree with yours I am NOT implying that you are wrong. For you, in your life, your world, your walk with the Lord, these ideas may not fit at all… and if that is the case, please cast them aside without hesitation. But perhaps these reflections will spur a new thought or idea to explore with Him, and that may bring additional grace or blessing. I share to expand our sense of the Possible in the realm of the grace of God.

This night, I’ve been struck with the Ripples of the Nativity. With this transition from Advent into Christmas. From pregnancy to parenthood. I was struck with those TWO texts quoted at the beginning of this post. All of “Not-Yet-Created” waited silently and darkly for “Creation”. The verb there for God “formed” is a word that means “brought forth from nothing at all”. This is not like a conjurer’s trick, the magician who unveils and releases a dove from a handkerchief and his “empty” hand. No, this is vastly more profound. This is God the Father and God the Son and God the Breath of God speaking, extending, and hovering over the expanse of darkness to bring forth… EVERYTHING. Birth!

And then, much later on, we see this scenario play out into our world, our time and space, as the Father sends forth Gabriel and speaks, the Son extends, and the Holy Breath overshadows Mary in her home. Nine months later, according to the rules of biology established in our lives, we have… Birth!

In my own life, this is a night each year when the universe itself holds its collective breath and gazes upon THE miracle of birth. It is God’s glory, God’s act, God’s love, God’s grace. It is entirely and wholly His, and it could well be said that He alone has the right to rejoice in it. But… just as He invited the shepherds and the maji so long ago to take part, to come, to witness, to celebrate… so too, He invites us. Isn’t that wondrous?

But watch this, it gets better! It is not only the celebration of the Birth of Jesus that is going on here.  Jesus said, “you in Me and I in you and together we in the Father.”  John the Apostle calls you a “Child of God”. Paul the Apostle waxes eloquent about “joint-heir with Christ,” including the training and discipline involved. We never see any of these texts grovelling in any sort of “worthless worm theology”, as so often undermines Christians in the name of humility.

The Nativity is not only Jesus’ Birthday… but ours as well. We are here to commemorate a birth… your birth, my birth… as sons and daughters of God… joint heirs… princes and princesses of kingdom… called to do the works of Jesus and greater yet because He is risen to the Father.

God Alone creates something from nothing. God Alone chose to lay down His divinity and become a man like us in all things but sin. God Alone moves the Holy Breath Spirit to dwell within us and among us. Why? Because He chooses to. Because that’s what Love means to Him.

And God Alone could make royalty of you and me. “Holy and Royal Priesthood” is all well and good as long as we speak of it in some vague corporate collective of “The Church”. But people become vastly less comfortable when one points out that means that YOU, are a sacred prince/princess priest/priestess. *I’m* not saying that… Scripture says that.

So… for tonight… let us continue to be silent, waiting, and ready. For, tomorrow, there will be Birth. And there will be a Gift. And the Gift will be an entirely new life… not just a “getting by” life… but a holy and royal life. A life filled with life, love, joy, truth, beauty, goodness, power, authority, and duty. Life that gives itself away and pours itself out for others…

Why? Because that’s what God has chosen to do. Because that’s what Love means to Him.

Happy Birthday, Your Highness.

 

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2014 in Advent Devotions, Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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Spiritual Gifts — Contagious

gift-boxesWhen they came to the hill there, behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him mightily, so that he prophesied among them. It came about, when all who knew him previously saw that he prophesied now with the prophets, that the people said to one another, “What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”  [1 Samuel 10:10-11]

{Have a look at this chapter (1 Samuel 10), and see this story from verse 1 to verse 12.]

Don Merritt has just completed a terrific series of posts on “Spiritual Gifts”, and I recommend it to all of you Gentle Readers. [The series starts with the post of October 30, titled “Now What?“. Get the whole series in one bite by going to The Life Project and pulling the listing of keyword tag “spiritual gifts“. It is WELL worth the effort, trust me.].

I didn’t comment on his posts for a number of reasons, the foremost of which was that they were so well done there really wasn’t much I felt moved to add. His material was so comprehensive and well organized that I didn’t want to distract anyone (or him) by injecting my sort of “out of the box” commentary. But I did have a number of those thoughts go by, along with flashbacks of the ancient times when these emerged in my own walk.

Between that and some questions that have come up from time to time on the topics of Discernment and hearing the Holy Spirit, there are a few pebbles that I’ve wanted to toss into our pond of spiritual growth and exploration here as their own posts.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The question is often asked… “How can I enhance my spiritual growth?”

The answer is often given… “Find and attend a church or place of worship that grows you, where the Holy Spirit seems to be present among the people.”

Such advice is often looked upon as being “marketing”, or “toeing the party line”. But it is far more than that. The other day, I mentioned that to “gather as church” is an effect, a fruit, of an intimate encounter with God… it is not generally a cause. “Piety”… a deep and sincere love for the Divine, on His own terms, not ours, can be nearly palpable, tangible, with certain places or people.

Have you ever walked into a church, or a chapel or old mission, or maybe a cloister… and just wanted to sit there and enjoy the experience? I don’t want to sound “flamingly mystical” or anything, but… I have become convinced over time that people of love, investing themselves into the Word(s) of God, with faith repetitively in a place… seem to leave a residue behind.

Which comes to my point… that “faith”, “love”, “encouragement”, and “giftedness”… all seem to have a major element of “contagion” to them. Investing time, care, focus and love into Truth of God seems to draw that truth forward into our immediate experience. More simply put, Love is a force that has real world effects when applied.

Back in the days when I was a young omniscient minister, I was part of a band of brethren that ministered according to our gifts in the community. I noticed at the time, the strange phenomenon that when I was “functioning in and with the group”, the strength of my gift was much greater, much more precise, much clearer, than when I was alone or working alone. Upon further reflection later in life, I realized that my own development of those gifts… even their emergence to identifiability… had occurred when I was both under the tutelage of a master spiritual director AND was comfortably nestled among a group of brethren determined to grow in our relationship with God, and serving the community.

When I did see this in my middle age, I was struck with that passage from 1 Samuel. I have observed this before, many times. When a collective of faithful (whether a church, a ministry, whatever) are determined, dedicated, and mutually accountable to grow in Christ… and when led by a teacher of wisdom and experience… then spiritual giftedness, grace, and growth of relationship with God… seem to “effervesce” or bubble up like popcorn bursting forth.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bottom Line: Grace, love, and emergence of spiritual gifts are “contagious”, and best nurtured in an environment that includes the energetic encouragement of fellow family members, with the guidance and care of an experienced master mentor.

What do ya’ll think? What have you seen, heard, experienced around any of this?
Grace to thee — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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A Really Nifty Tool

LawbooksFor teachers/preachers and students of Scripture who enjoy finding new ways to access its richness…

“Back in the day” (slightly before the invention of fire, according to my grandkids)… my training taught me to analyze a New Testament passage thus:

  1. Identify the text passage in a cohesive way
  2. Identify the key verse, and (as far as possible) the key Word or Words that give meaning and significance to the passage as it speaks on this occasion.
  3. Go to the Greek and identify those key words.
  4. Use Young’s and/or Strong’s to find each and every use of those words in the New Testament.
  5. Categorize those verses into clusters according to their connotations or “flavors”, their shades of meaning.
  6. Prayerfully consider, and determine which category or flavor is right for the verse under study, and how the verse speaks into the meaning of the passage.

AFTER getting a sense of what God means by the text guided by the Holy Spirit and Scripture alone, first… THEN we may choose to consult commentaries or other expert systems on their opinions of interpretation.

There are many who go straight from English text (perhaps in several translations and versions), directly to commentaries… without involving any Greek. Dealing with a language so alien even in alphabet to our typical schooling, can be a bit 0ff-putting even for the most diligent student.

It takes considerable time, using paper, pen, and textbooks… to create the lists of every verse using a particular word in all its forms, and categorizing those meanings. I’ll not say it is “wasted” time, by any means, for different nuances of the word of God are flowing through the mind in the process. But there’s no denying that it is incredibly time-consuming.

I’ve been delighted to see the development of such wonderful tools for biblical scholars as have developed on the Internet. I have gravitated strongly towards Bible Gateway (at http://www.biblegateway.com) for its breadth of versions, flexibility of search, and tools and aids ready to hand. But earlier this year I was absolutely flabbergasted to find that with only a few clicks, I could do my word studies to my heart’s content… nearly a dream come true! When one can search out all the shades and nuances of a word in minutes rather than hours, it becomes vastly more joyful to spend that time in prayer and meditation over what the Lord is SAYING there, rather than slavishly scribing lists to sort and categorize. The secret lies in combining Bible Gateway with Teknia.com.

Finding that others are as delighted as I to find this process, I want to set it out here, in hope that it may bless you as well.

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1.  Look up your text in whatever versions you like (let’s say we are interested in John 10:14-18), and when you settle on your critical verse or passage…

John 10 NASB

 

2.  Pull up “Mounce Interlinear New Testament” in the “Full Chapter” mode on the page (don’t put it up as parallel, or this won’t work).

Mounce Chapter

 

3.  Go to the “critical word” in the Greek, and Left-Click on it (which should highlight that Greek word throughout the chapter). (In this example, the Greek word “entole” (“command”) in verse 18.)

Mounce v 18 entole

 

4.  Now, scroll your screen up and look carefully at the right hand side of the page, the sidebar there… You’ll see the click-able link that says, “See everywhere entolē appears in the New Testament via teknia.com.”

Every Instance Link

 

5. Teknia (clicking on the link) will give you statistics on the word, its forms, and  will list out all the uses of the word, in all its forms, with every verse (in full) and links to the passages.

Teknia 1

 

6. Below the statistics will be a list of every instance of the word (in this case, all 67 instances of the Greek word “entole”) in the New Testament. AND… it will be the full verse, not the fragment seen in Young’s or Strong’s!

Teknia 2

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So that’s all there is to it. I have no idea if this will be as terrific of news for you as it was for me, but I use this process all the time, and the more you do it, the easier it gets. Back in the day, I had to be “very motivated” to invest the time and detailed focus it takes to do this kind of painstaking comparison. Now, all my excuses are gone, and I can pursue even the fleeting wonder about flavor and context of the words chosen by Jesus in a given setting.

May this be helpful to you in your studies! Grace to thee! — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2014 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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Martian Chronicles: Who’s in Charge?

Mars OneWe are headed on a missions trip… to Mars. Ours is the unutterable privilege of planting the First Christian Church on Martian soil somewhere between 2025 and 2040.

We’re engaged in planning meetings, we’ve just met one another. We’ve each been sponsored and endorsed by our denominations with extraordinary freedom to begin a “First Century Church” as free as we can make it of aggregated traditions and parochial customs. We’re going to try as hard as we can to be constrained by scripture alone as to mandates, and allow for the Holy Spirit to move as He choses.

The ten of us represent varied Christian viewpoints, and perhaps the only thing that similar about us, beyond our love for Christ and determination to live in Him and He in us… is our deep realization that He works through those who acknowledge His Lordship and our service… no matter what form or shape, clothing, music, style, or language that service takes. Each of us, within our own denominational families, may have been looked upon from time to time as disturbingly “liberal”… but when this opportunity send a representative on this Mars mission came up… that drawback looked amazingly like an advantage.

We’ve been discussing what we will do and how. There’s been a little pondering on our “mission”. Folks are still mulling that over. Still looking for more input there.

A second item has come up… “Who will lead?”

That is, given that we are all indwelt and dedicated, who… if any one… should “lead”? What should that look like? Given that Jesus is active in and through each of us… how should “leadership” be structured?

Our first reflex is to structure along our denominational lines. But then, we think, wait… let’s look at the Bible for advice. How was leadership structured there? If we are going to establish a First Century Church, how did THAT church see “leadership”?

Coffee’s poured… pie is sliced and handed ’round… discussion is open…

 

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