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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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Martian Chronicles: Ritual Revisited

Mars OneWe’ve looked at a few different aspects of what it is to be “church”, to make “church” on Mars for the first expedition headed that way sometime between 2025 and 2040.

We have discussed questions of ritual, and even considered the example of baptism for how we’d carry forward scriptural mandates without clinging to denominational detritus out of simply habit.

An earlier post asked “what is the benefit of ritual?” Are there any good aspects to rites and rituals, especially as that would affect this Mars Mission?

Gentle Breeze (Julia) made a magnificent response in a comment as she listed a variety of things she would want to bring along as a Martian Missionary… Here’s part of what she said…

First I would want the Bible. if I couldn’t bring the whole thing I would bring the four Gospels and the psalms.

Then I would want my daily Bible reading notes unless I could persuade each member of the team to take it in turns to write our own each day.

I would find it hard to leave behind my favourite book of Blessings-Benedictus by John O’Donohue. I discovered the importance of blessing each other through my sister.

Too, I want to bring my very first Prayer Time Book to remind me of my child hood faith and how sometimes a child is closer to the kingdom of God than the most learned.

Can I bring a candle?-sometimes I light a candle when doing daily tasks like washing up. It helps me when i can’t pray in words and makes even an ordinary task a prayerful activity.

I want to bring bread and wine (non-alcoholic for some) to share in the Lord’s supper.

I want to bring water-fresh soft water from the hills to drink to refresh and hydrate me and remind me of the Living Water.

I also want music-secular and religious. I would like my favourite songs or pieces of both as they can all be used prayerfully.

I would like a radio or TV as I would not like to live in my own cocoon. I need to know what is happening on earth.

This wonderful contribution richly highlights the question of “ritual”. Is there a positive benefit, a healthy aspect, to ritual? Yes, I believe there is. Ritual denotes routine and predictability. All of us have dealt with times of change in our lives. Change can be unsettling, even scary to some extent. Routines can add elements of stability, predictability, and comfort for us.

When it comes to religious practices, where we often look for comfort and stability in the first place, routines and ritual can be very dear to us.

Julia’s comments are wonderful because they point out a tremendous source of grace, love, joy, peace and comfort in our lives, as we invest time in practices we develop over a lifetime of prayer and closeness with God.

We’ve all taken part in creating rituals… whether for ourselves, for our children, for co-workers or friends. Patterns of behavior that make life stable and predictable. Mealtimes, bedtimes, beginning work, lunch, vacations, weekends… all these things.

Right, so if we grant that the presence of ritual may add to stability and a sense of “hominess” for colonists very far from home and the familiar… how do we make positive use of that comfort, without becoming slave to rules and routines beyond the mandates of grace and scripture?

Coffee, tea, and mocha poured. * Branching out these days *… Pie sliced. Whatcha think?

 

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Mobius Conversation: Increase Our Faith

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.

“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and [i]afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10 So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” [Luke 17]

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Remember a “Mobius Strip” when you were a kid? Take a narrow strip of paper, take sticky tape and fasten it into a ring, make a bracelet out of it… or… take a pencil and make a line all the way around the OUTSIDE of the ring. The pencil line touches its beginning… there’s a line OUTSIDE, no line INSIDE, all is well. Now, start again… take a narrow strip of paper, twist it just ONCE putting a single twist in it, take sticky tape and fasten it into a ring, making a “twisty bracelet” out of it… or… take a pencil and do just what you did for the first bracelet. BUT this time it’s different. Again, your pencil will meet up with its starting point, but this time, the line will be BOTH INSIDE and OUTSIDE the bracelet! Ooooooo…. *insert awestruck sound of wonder here*. (Hey now! I was, and still am, easily amused. And I found this pretty cool! How could “inside” become “outside”, and vice versa? Huh? Huh?)

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Anyway, it seems like Jesus sometimes engages in what I call “Mobius Conversations”. They start out simply enough. He’s telling a story or making an illustration, and you think you know where He’s headed, and you follow along just fine, step for step. But then you reach the end… and somehow you aren’t at all where you thought you’d wind up. He’s brought you somewhere quite different, sometimes to an uncomfortable place.

I think the most “classic example” of Jesus’ Mobius is the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-36). A lawyer, hoist on his own petard trying to get Jesus to blaspheme or commit heresy, finds himself (uncomfortably for him) in “one accord” with Jesus, and looking a bit the fool. So “seeking to justify himself”, he tries to trip Jesus up in a legal loophole of theological niceties and definitions! “Who is my neighbor?” (Lol, we never see anyone doing THAT these days, do we?) Anyway, Jesus starts His story off with everyone pointing their gaze and fingers at this unconscious guy in the road… (all’s well so far)… but then, at the end, it turns out that the critical question… who is the “neighbor”… has nothing to DO with the beat-up guy, but everything to do with how people TREATED him. BAM! (to borrow from Paulfg here a moment)... KAPOW! How did this happen? Lawyer loses again! And he doesn’t even see where the “twist” happened… it was all going so well! (Almost makes you feel sorry for theologians, doesn’t it?)

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So what’s the deal with the Luke passage cited in the start of this? The disciples ask a straight up question… or, rather, they actually make a demand of Jesus. OK, correction… I was fooled by the exclamation point. *sigh* Again, like in the Lord’s Prayer with all those apparent “demands, or petitions”, this word “increase” here… “Increase our faith”… is in that same Greek form that covers so many things. So, it is both affirmation and prayer at the same time. It’s been happening, is happening, and will happen… they’re just expressing the desire, the thought, to Jesus.

Also, the word chosen is itself interesting. It’s not just “increase”, in the sense of “please add more beans to my jar”, or “fill this cup more full”. It’s the word “prosthetai” (no big Greek lesson here, promise)… but like our word “prosthetic” for artificial limbs… it carries a flavor more of “promote”, “reinforce”, “amplify”, “move forward”. It sort of savors of “direction” forward and progress, not simply “quantitative gain”. (OK, thus endeth the Greek stuff for today).

Now, look over the Luke 17 passage a moment, and notice that my Bible, probably like yours, separates verse 6 from verse 7 as different paragraphs. Jesus didn’t do this, nor did the Biblical writers. That’s “post-production editing”. But I’ve always READ this teaching with that “space” in it. And today, tonight, thanks to Paulfg and his work on “Angels seem to join in. Wow!”, I have seen this passage in an entirely new way, WITHOUT the skipped line.

Right up until the last verse of this passage, the whole story makes perfect sense as if Jesus speaks of mountains and sycamores as mere “servants”. It’s like He’s addressing the amazement of the crowds at all the “signs and wonders”, telling the Disciples, “When I do these things, I simply exercise My authority over them. Faith, for you, is the exercise of your authority in Me. You don’t ‘thank’ those who follow their orders, that is simply what they do.” And this “construction” of the passage seems to hold up perfectly well, right until we get to “and you, when you do all you are commanded…” Then suddenly that whole interpretation goes out of our heads, and we’re left with the “Whiner’s Warning”, of my youth. That this “slavery” relationship is the one we hold towards Christ, and we should never expect His thanks simply for being disciples.

That last verse seems to put the “Mobius Twist” in this passage, and it has thrown me for years! And I was wrong!

O my… so many mistakes of mine all in one place. Tonight, it seems like they all sorted themselves out. First of all, when as a child (physical or spiritual) I whined to the Lord about being “underappreciated”, He would bring me to this passage with a rather curt, “Get over it!” If you have experienced something like that… fine. This passage, once pondered, did INDEED help me “get over it”, and as I embraced my role as “doulos”, “servant”, “bond-slave”, I did indeed stop feeling bad and resentful when people treated me with less “respect” than I felt I deserved. (It takes very little effort for the Enemy to prick my pride, and send me spinning off into an ego-driven pity party. The Lord is more than welcome to “pop this bubble of foolishness” in whatever way He chooses, and sometimes that is quite direct.)

But tonight, I remembered that Scripture is made up of beautiful perfect gems, and read in more than one direction. The fact that we, as disciples, may not need “thanks”, doesn’t invalidate the rest of the passage regarding mountains and sycamores. It brought to mind another passage…

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]

And somehow, suddenly, it all fell into place for me. I can’t really explain it well… (I think my brain’s “explain muscles” must be sprained or something), but I totally GET IT! And I thank Paulfg for this…

It’s just ALL ONE THING!

Sycamores, mountains, us, disciples, the Centurion’s troops, the master’s servant… ALL ONE THING! Even Jesus HIMSELF! (cf. Philippians 2), Jesus who “humbled Himself becoming a servant”, who “became obedient even to the point of death, death on a cross.” ALL ONE THING!

Love, life, alive-ness, trust, faith, authority, power, miracle, obedience, humility, servanthood… ALL ONE THING!

Grace to thee!

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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12 Essential Bonhoeffer Quotes

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has fascinated me for decades. I recall very little of my college theology, but this single line just seared itself into my brain, and has been a gift to me for a lifetime, from that author’s The Cost of Discipleship.

“When Jesus calls a man, He bids him come and die.”

I think you will enjoy this article, Gentle Reader. Blessings and grace to thee!

12 Essential Bonhoeffer Quotes| RELEVANT Magazine.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2014 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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Here and There… Now!

arcPray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
‘Give us this day [e]our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] [Matthew 6:9-13]

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This evening, (or afternoon, or morning, depending on what quarter of the globe you inhabit) we will continue exploration of Roses. Jesus left us the tremendous gift of “schooling” on “how to pray”. He shared what we call The Lord’s Prayer both with the Multitudes at Sermon on the Mount, and a leaner form of this prayer with the Disciples privately, when they asked Him to teach them to pray.

Unlike a number of Christian blog posts, however, this is not meant directly to “teach”, or engage in exposition of Scripture, as much as this is a reflective study, line by line. The post is meant to “set a stage”, place some background, set some lighting and positions… for YOU as “Director” to shout “action” and watch the scene unfold.

The line we consider here is unique in the Lord’s Prayer, because it is present in the Sermon on the Mount teaching, but totally missing from the instruction of the Disciples.

Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. [Matthew 6:10b]

It was mentioned in an earlier post, that it seems like the main difference between the longer and shorter forms of instruction, was not in “main ideas”, or major issues of content, but rather in “commentary” or “amplification” and description surrounding those main ideas. The Multitudes needed “specifics”… “What Father?”  “OUR Father, THE ONE IN HEAVEN”, and so on. Jesus, walking alongside His disciples 24/7 obviated the need for a lot of explanatory insulation of clear statements, His very presence defining His context clearly.

This line under consideration is unique in that it is totally omitted from the Disciples’ Version. That would lead one to conclude that this line is “amplification”, or “commentary”, rather than being a “key idea”. I’m really not comfortable to conclude that. This line reflects a DEEPLY key idea, but one that would indeed be so innate in the nature of relationship with Jesus on a day to day basis… that this could, indeed, be something He chose not to say to those He worked with daily.

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So, as I gently grasp this lovely Rose, this Incredible Gift of Jesus, Son of God Himself, instructing us… both Multitudes of those interested in hearing what He has to say, and committed Disciples… on how to pray… how to lift our hearts and minds and love to God the Father… some ideas arise. Thoughts unfold like petals uncoiling. And I encourage you to allow your own Rose to unfold in your sight, and see what the Holy Spirit shows you.

I should love to hear what petals, what patterns, what colours you find in your own Garden time.

One main idea wove throughout these words… and that word was “Sovereignty”.

If you’re like me, you hear this verse in your head as… “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I’ve not mentioned this before, but “THY” (the old fashioned pronoun) is actually DIFFERENT, subtly different, from “YOUR”. If you ever took Spanish, or French, or Italian, you may remember that whole “familiar” versus “formal” thing. There were words you used when you spoke to a close friend or family member (like those you’d address by their first name, or as Auntie or Uncle), and there were other words you would use in a more formal relationship (where you might use “sir, ma’am, Mr., Mrs., or Ms.). Well, English once recognized the same distinction, and in this ironic reversal of meanings… “thee, thou, thy” were reserved for the intimate and informal… and “you, your”, and such were for the formal and stilted. Prayer, was intense, personal, intimate… a matter between “He and thee”. Somehow, our language evolved around the reality, and the close family relationships retained in the “words” of prayer, got lost in the march of time in language. Nowadays, we often hear or use “thee, thou, thy” as indicating great pomp, circumstance, and formality… when in fact they used to mean the exact opposite.

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It has been difficult to write this post. This has extended across a couple days. My “difficulty” has been how to express this huge “taproot truth”, this great thematic fundamental statement, with its harmonics as it thrums across my spirit… without trying to sound “directive” for others. For one thing, this phase, “Your will be done,” uses that same interesting Greek form that encompasses many things at once.

Your will IS done, has been done, is being done, will continue to be done… etc. Along with, “Let it be done… It is done and covers me…” you can hold and turn this aspect of this Rose in dozens of ways, and watch the Light glint from it like sunlight through a prism crystal. I cannot offer advice or teaching on “what this means”, because my own mind cannot contain all the different meanings, all the depth of meaning, these words express.

“On earth as it is in heaven”… Wow. Just stop a moment, and LISTEN to that. No difference, no gulf, no veil, no separation… Just as Jesus said He comes to bring “eternal life”, the “life of eternity” into the here and now… here it is!

I can’t explain this, Gentle Reader. I won’t try. But Jesus demonstrated to the Disciples every day, the nature of His relationship with the Father, His authority, and His Perfect Expression of the Father’s will. As the Disciples’ training drew to a close, just before the Crucifixion, Jesus said straight out that He had manifested all of this to them… they had seen all of this.

To the Multitudes, at the opening of His ministry, Jesus simply makes this statement… that the Father’s will is, and will be, done in each moment here on earth just as it prevails in heaven.

Only word I know for this… Sovereignty… and, when you place these petals on the Rose among which they are nested, they embrace the listener, the pray-er, right in the big middle of God’s relationship as Father, His Kingdom and domain, and now His Sovereignty and authority.

See where these words, these petals, lead you, Gentle Reader.

 
 

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You Know I Love “Rules”…. Not!

This began as a comment in response to Following the “Rules”, posted this morning by Don Merritt on Life Reference. It grew into its own post, though it starts as a note to Don. I hope it edifies.

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“Rules”… one of MY favorite subjects, as you probably know. Fought them all my life, ultimately had to have rules grounded in the sovereignty and obedience to God. Only comparatively recently has He managed to show me their “positive” side… the “grace” involved in “Rules” and keeping them.

What’s “wrong” with Rules? Exactly what you have so beautifully observed… (1) lots of rules are touted as “scriptural”, despite the fact that scripture specifically decries them. (Romans 14, “not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man…”, “sabbath made for man, not man for sabbath”, etc. etc. (2) we mistake “righteousness”, scripturally defined as life in faith, as being behavior according to rule keeping. (3) We love to “keep score” because we can then proudly point to our “Report Cards” and say, “Look! Look how well I’m doing, how many rules I keep. I don’t… kill, steal, lie, cheat, injure people, I go to church, tithe… ” etc. etc. We love score keeping, and comparing our “A’s” to the “C’s” of other kids.

My heart rejected that long ago, when the Lord made abundantly clear to me that the only “Report Card” to which I was entitled to pay the LEAST attention was my own. From the time I was a kid, God set the simple and singular Rule in my life, to “obey my conscience”. That was reinforced again later in my training with the One Rule. I whined, countless times, both as a kid and later as an adult, about how “unfair” God was in this. “Why, Lord, do you require THIS standard of me… when… when… well, just LOOK! LOOK at THEM!!! What about THEM?? This isn’t FAIR!!” (ever been there?) And Jesus’ consistent response that, “Nope. I’m not fair! Aren’t you glad? ‘Grace’ isn’t anything LIKE ‘fair’. Now how you behave is between you and Me. How THEY behave is between THEM and Me. End of discussion.”

But FINALLY, really in just the past couple of years, God has been able to make some progress with me understanding the affirmative and positive value to rules. It is not that “God loves us more when we keep the rules, and loves us less when we don’t.” It has nothing to do with Him, with what I call “His side of the equation… He loves us, totally, infinitely, all the time.” But rather, when we honor “conscience” and “walk in the light, just as He is in the light”… we experience peace, joy, beauty, truth, love… all the elements and fruits of eternal life. When we defy conscience, the leadership of the Holy Spirit, we experience all the discomforts of walking in darkness.

You recently did a great series of posts dealing with the “intuitive” versus “counter-intuitive”. Some of us may use different terms, but I can admit in my own life that there are times when “I WANT something that I know is not right, or good for me”. I have a “natural” inclination, from time to time, to satisfy some desire, some appetite, that may not treat others as sacred… or treat myself as sacred. To yield in that desire may give me a short-term payoff, but later leaves me empty. Scripture speaks of things that melt like honey in the mouth, but then leave bitterness in the stomach.

What God FINALLY let me figure out about the “value” of “Rules”, was when I realized that I live a disciplined life, I “follow rules” without codifying them, and at times across my life I’ve been “subject to codes” to which I subscribed voluntarily and intentionally, not by passive cultural inheritance or because “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

God showed me two simple things about all this:

(1) In order to have the “freedom” to respond comfortably to urgings of the Holy Spirit in conscience, I need to be able to say “yes” to Him, and “no” to appetites contrary to His leadership. The more “free” I am, the more “indifferent” to “intuitive appetite”, the more “comfortable” I am in obedience. Like an ice skater, gliding smoothly from point to point, rather than trying to run zig-zag among orange cones touching flags.

(2) “Rules” give me an “external framework” for exercising my own free will to direct my attention and behaviors. Rules are like “training wheels”, that allow me to acquire skill and control over my vehicle, myself, without succumbing to gravity or other balance challenges I’m not yet skilled enough to overcome.

(3) Once I learn not to “kick against the traces” in a disciplined life framed in a voluntary covenant of rules, I can develop the self-control needed to respond to the much more subtle promptings of Spirit. In time, the need for “Rules” falls away. as desire moves into focus with God’s will in and of itself.

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Bottom Line: I figured out that “learning to follow the Rules” (like coloring inside the lines), has eventually allowed me to develop the interior self control to “say ‘no’ to myself, or ‘yes’ to conscience’ regardless of momentary passing desire or gratification. The point is not to learn to color inside the lines for its own sake, but to learn to control the crayon… eventually to master the skill to create true Art.

Gentle Reader, I hope this post makes sense. But “Rules” were never my favorite things in Kingdom, and it really took me a very long time to see their value. FINALLY, I did… but only when I came to understand them as a “means to an end”, NOT an “end to themselves”.

Blessings and grace to thee! The Little Monk!

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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No Comma… His Kingdom!

Night Castle“When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’” [Luke 11]

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“Your kingdom come.”

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Your mind’s ear may hear that the same way that mine does… as “THY Kingdom come.” If so, that’s fine. We are about a process that started with the Post, “Whose What???!!!” exploring what seems to me like a beautiful Rose. It is the gift of the Lord’s Prayer, first unveiled by Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount, later repeated in a leaner form as instruction to His Disciples on how to pray.

This little “mini-journey” into the past, into trying to “hear HIM as He spoke this” to both the Multitudes and the Disciples, is rather a “prayer laboratory experiment”. I am not trying to “teach” here. The task is not for me to take information, or even insight, garnered from my OWN prayer and experience of these scriptures, and communicate that information to you. The task is vastly more subtle, and more fun, to pick up and examine this extraordinary Gift in myself and my own spirit, make a few gentle and general observations, and encourage you to pick up and examine this Gift in your own spirit… and it will thus be different, look different than mine… and see where the Holy Spirit in YOU guides your consideration.

We are considering the Lord’s Prayer like the unfolding petals of a gorgeous Rose, planted by the Lord and nurtured in the prayer garden of spirit, where we have all the time in the world simply to admire it, watch it unfold, and marvel at its beauty. We are taking one line at a time, considering and savoring the experience, as we let the Spirit echo, reverberate, indicate, and whisper… like sensing the fragrance of this Rose’s perfume, letting the Spirit wash over and through us with whatever He would have us see and know.

This Post considers the line, “Your kingdom come.”

It has been a couple days since the line before was considered, because I have struggled… terribly… with “how to do this”. I needed to sit, ponder, listen, and take instruction of the Lord as to what to type here.

What’s the problem?

Well, for one thing… “God’s Kingdom” is a scripturally gargantuan concept. Old Testament, Gospels, Epistles, to Revelation… the Kingdom of God is a HUGE chunk of understanding, or even RELATING to God as Our King. I needed to sit still, get out of ALL THAT… theology… commentaries… word studies… (one day, you may want to go check out the distinctions between “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven”… both generally translated in English Bibles as “kingdom of God”… lol… you have no idea!) All that “stuff” just tends spontaneously to “spring up” around the phrase “Your kingdom come”, like weeds seem to burst forth in a rose garden. I KNEW getting lost and entranced in and by all that minutiae is/was simply NOT what the Lord would have of this post.

Second, there’s Greek. (There is a reason for the phrase, “It’s Greek to me!”) This line of the Lord’s Prayer, and the one that follows use an unusual form of language that is very difficult to express in English. This post is NOT meant to be a technical consideration of exegesis (the fancy term for figuring out what Greek really says). To let myself get lost in that, beautiful though it is, would quite defeat the mission here. This blog is NOT a consideration of technical theology or the skills thereof. This is, hopefully, a simple consideration of Jesus Christ and His grace in the lives and walk of those who love and choose to follow Him.

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So there I have sat, Gentle Reader. Perched like a frog on a toadstool, asking Jesus for help… trying not to let my “cat herding nature” distract me into chasing a number of very enticing directions. He just said, “Sit! Wait!” And so, I sat and waited.

Finally, today, He answered. I did not expect quite the answer I got… but here it is…

Jesus said I should, “Focus on the comma that isn’t there…”

What? I heard it repeated. It reminded me of a famous Sherlock Holmes exchange between him and Inspector Gregory in the story “Silver Blaze”…

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

And then I understood. Here’s what I can tell you about “the comma that isn’t there”.

When I was young, learned this prayer, memorized this prayer, said and repeated this prayer countless times… in my heart and mind there was always a “COMMA” between “Thy Kingdom” and “Come”. As though it were a command. “Yo! Kingdom! Come HERE!” See? Not that I would express it in so rude a form to Almighty God, but much gentler… yet and expression of command, or maybe of petition.

But later, when I got into higher education and was sentenced to study Greek, I discovered an odd thing here. This word “come” is written in an unusual Greek form, almost like a “magic verb”, that can encompass all sorts of situations in the single word. Past, present, future… completed action, ongoing action… already here, yet coming. As I said, sort of a Mr. Clean Magic Thingy of words. (* tries to avoid twitching at flashback memories of Greek class… wonders if one can get PTSD from surviving Ancient and Koine Greek in consecutive semesters… hopes other survivors of Greek Class out there reading this don’t explode looking at this kind of description *)

Any… wayyyyyy….. (* tries to slide past this extremely sticky wicket with a minimum of stickitude… *)

What I want to suggest, as you look at and handle your own Rose of this verse, is:

What happens when we release all boundaries around the word “Kingdom”? And when we release all boundaries around the word “come”? And when we make sure there is no comma in the phrase?

Like, “What is a Kingdom?” How big is that? Is that a ‘territory’, or a ‘place under authority’? Can one always see the borders and boundaries? Does everyone living there always know they do? All that… any of that…. And the scriptural issues… Where is it? When is it? Is it after we die, out there, up there, somewhere? Is it wherever Jesus IS? Is it within us? Is it among us?

And what if “come” is just vastly bigger than we ever thought. Is it invitation? Yes. But is it statement of something done? Yes. Something happening right now? Yes. Something to happen in the future?

So many echoes. So many ideas. So many meanings… AND HERE’S the COOLEST PART! As God unfolds these incredible petals, one after another, they HARMONIZE like notes in a chord! It is not discord and confusion, but harmony and music! At least, it is if we don’t push or pull… if we just let Jesus highlight and unfurl the Rose.

Great phrase I read a few weeks ago… “You can’t push the river”.

God really marked that for me, especially about prayer and grace. Sometimes, you just enter the water to float with the current, knowing that God alone sets the pace. You can get in or out if you choose, but you cannot stop it, you cannot slow it, and you cannot push it. Once you’re in, you’re in HIS domain, and you can trust that He will handle that perfectly.

Enjoy your Garden, Gentle Reader. Grace to thee! – Little Monk

 

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