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Please Forgive Him!

Five for Five by Brendan C. under Creative Commons License 2.0; Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brendan-c/5536285460/in/photolist-9rdUMA-39p7Hj-faCoWC-wRWkfM-cyrFgm-pB6G22-aY7PT2-5s3wDn-ahsRVf-cWzXNS-7AoKFK-wbqgZi-5xuTd5-dRqNuF-ayg4m6-pvAtG9-9EQLnf-rfymR8-9fT9tH-8y6YMi-rRugd-mgioUt-evu6n-cv8VGW-7qS37A-brPrfq-eqonTq-6XSNjo-bv9T52-6yW3GR-7G2es1-aFHjbB-hZFWpE-n99svN-oYi4J-n7j6nt-mPv8Un-btqsVy-9GBMYG-eqVuhP-irFqq4-bZHsQU-kue8JM-dBEZyK-tHx8SA-99tqDR-aaTzvB-nuNods-5kanqy-oHwcRN

Five for Five by Brendan C. under Creative Commons License 2.0; Source

“How could he DO that! It’s not fair! It’s not right! This just hurts too much! How can he say he loves me, when this has hurt so much?!”

Have you ever felt this way, Gentle Reader?

We look at these words and we see a hurting heart. Hearts break when we feel betrayed, when we expect to be treated one way, when we expect one thing to happen, and something entirely different… hurtful… painful… traumatic… happens instead.

Looking at this so far, we think of the times people, loved ones, friends, family, lovers, have disappointed us. Trauma… whether physical, mental, or emotional… can rupture relationships. Love is impaired in a ruptured relationship. When trust is undermined, there may still be love, but the flow… the expression… the freedom of that love is slowed. Sometimes, it can even feel like everything about the relationship has just… stopped.


A short while ago I posted In Love We Trust discussing some parallels of intimacy between our human relationships and the incredible Divine relationship. In that post we touched on forgiveness for just a moment, how we cannot completely trust those we do not completely forgive, and we cannot completely love those we do not completely trust.

So, for just one moment, let’s discuss the question of completely forgiving the Divine.

What???

“How could I?”             “How dare I?”             “How can you even think such a thing?”

Yet I can, I dare, I think… because I am REAL and these are real feelings in a real relationship. Our relationship with the Divine can be as real and immediate, as deep and as passionate, as any relationship we’ve ever known… perhaps even more so. King David, a man after God’s own heart, poured his passions out in song and poetry to the Divine that man has yet to equal. The Psalms sing of jubilation, lament, fear, worship, exultation, remorse, and every other emotion imaginable between a child and their Divine Parent.

God delights in transparency. God HONORS transparency. Anything less than transparent honesty is DIShonesty… and that NEVER belongs in this relationship. Dishonesty undermines trust. David did not always like the way God managed affairs, and expressed his feelings and concerns openly before Him. Yet, David always acknowledged God’s RIGHT to manage affairs in His own way, for God is/was God, and David is/was His servant and son. David chose to trust, even when he did not like or understand God’s will.

Jesus did the same. And so we, too, are challenged in the present day.

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Rather than go through a lot of Scriptural examples, I just point to the Psalms, or the Garden of Gethsemane for the biblical supporting texts, and pose a few simple ideas and questions for your consideration.

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Idea One: Countless wonderful Christians that I know, have gotten stuck in a rut, stopping their forward progress and growth in the intimate knowing of God, the drawing closer of relationship with Him. They get “so far, and no further”, because they suffer some terrible trauma in life, they come to realize the utter sovereignty of God, and they simply CANNOT bring themselves to forgive Him for their pain.

Idea Two: They cannot forgive Him, because they dare not admit (even to themselves), that they hold Him in offense. They are too programmed, too domesticated, too Christianly-trained to admit that they are angry with God (regardless of how reasonable it seems to be angry with Him)… and therefore they do not know that it is right to, or the manner in which, to approach Him and resolve the conflict in their spirit.

Idea Three: To deny one’s sincere feelings, reasonable or not, reverent or not, “acceptable” or not… with regard to one’s transparent sincere and intimate relationship with God, is to introduce a subtle “falseness”, a “lie”, between the self and God. This lie is progressive and toxic, ultimately makiing distance between the heart and God, and can stop our growth in Him.

Idea Four: True intimacy, love, and trust requires transparency. Honestly to share with the Divine that the heart feels wounded and wronged, is NOT the same thing as accusing the Divine of having wounded and wronged the heart. One can state “what is”, without assigning blame or passing judgment.

Idea Five: “Forgiveness” has nothing to do with assigning blame or passing judgment. It is a decision of the will to release offense and bitterness, restoring trust to the prior state, making way for the further growth of love.

Idea Six: The two areas where we are the most likely to “blame God” or “hold offense”, are the two areas we acknowledge as least in “our own control”, and most “totally in His”. Those are the areas of “birth”, and “death”. If there is ANYPLACE we acknowledge the pure sovereignty of God, it is in the matter of the family, culture, lifestyle into which we were born (well beyond our control)… and all matters of the death of those we love (also beyond our control).


“Well, all well and good, Little Monk, but what are you saying here? What do we DO about this, to get past this roadblock and grow in intimacy?”

Well, three things, Gentle Reader. Call them a “Prayer Experiment” if you like…

  • Think of all of your life as you grew up… all the suffering you knew… all the things you wish had been different… all that you endured before you reached adulthood and your decisions became your own responsibility… and forgive God for all of that. You are who you are right now, you have and use the gifts you have, you know what you know and you’ve come to THIS place with the Divine… as a result of every single thing you’ve lived through up to now. The painful moments of your childhood, the fears, the disappointments, the injuries, the betrayals, the wounds… all play a part in the redemptive and transformative work God has done in you, making you capable of ministering to and healing others.

Ask yourself: “If God could remove any of the hurts and wounds you knew as a child… but in so doing, you would lose some of your compassion and ability to heal and comfort others now… would you have Him remove them? Or would you prefer to stay as you are, and leave your past as it was?”

If you would stay as you are, then THANK HIM for your past, and embrace it. ALL of it. Because it is ALL part of His gift in making the you that you are now.

  • In trials of great grief, in grave illness or injury, or death of a loved one, know that the sadness and tears we experience are the very PRESENCE of the Comforter. That He is with us, He enfolds us, He feels all that we feel of our sadness and loss. But know also, that He sees what we cannot. He sees our beloved’s glorious resurrection in Him, He knows and feels their joy as well. We can trust Him in all of that. We can express our displeasure at the loss of relationship here and now, yes. But in trusting Him, in forgiving Him for “taking them”, we can come to know His peace and even (in time) the joy of knowing their ongoing life in Him. We need not understand it, comprehend it, or deny the real pain we feel. We can trust Him by choice, and over time, watch our hope in Him become concrete reality in our lives and hearts.

Ask yourself: “If God Alone knows the perfect time, the perfect moment, in the complex weave of all of Reality, for a soul, a beloved child of His, to leave the body and return to Him… If He Alone knows and controls the moment for the shell of this life to burst forth into the fullness of the life He has for us in Him… would we really want to change that timing, even from the mist of our own pain of loss? Can we trust Him who gives breath to our bodies, to know precisely the right moment to give wings to our spirit beyond this?”

If so, then even embracing our own pain of loss, we can forgive Him for the death of those we love. We can embrace the truth, the faith, the hope that here and now we dwell in the midst of death, being overtaken by Life. And even bereft and sad as we are, we can trust and forgive Him for granting those we love the freedom of the fullness of His Life. AND, we can know that He embraces US, fully, in our sadness… as we recover and move on from this temporary period of loss, until we are reunited with those we love.

  • In ALL the traumas and tragedies that we meet in our lives and our days, illness, financial reversals, tribulations, challenges of loved ones, divorce, whatever we encounter… when circumstances are beyond our control, it is natural to look towards the Divine with a heartfelt lament of… “Why, O Lord?” or “How long, O Lord?” There is nothing wrong with voicing such lament… that is being honest with Him, with ourselves, with life.

But the challenge becomes, “What if He declines to answer? What if He answers, but we cannot comprehend or hear His words or His heart? Can we accept the fact that GOD IS ALWAYS AND ONLY GOOD? That He weaves the tapestry of life ALWAYS to redemption and transformation from defeat to triumph?”

Can we… Will we… CHOOSE to TRUST Him, to embrace, to thank, to praise… simply for Who He is, not just what He does, or how we feel, or what we expect to get out of it?


Here is the challenge, Gentle Reader. The challenge is to “Forgive God”… openly, freely, rapidly. Here is where trust lies. Here is where intimacy and love lie.

It is not easy. It is, in fact, exceedingly hard. Perhaps the hardest thing we are ever called upon to do.

But it is simple. It is a choice, a decision, not to take offense into account. Not to DENY the sense of “offense”, but simply refuse to take it into account in the relationship.

Nothing I know, so consistently derails the spiritual growth of generous, loving, good-hearted Christian brethren. Try this… be transparent and honest, with self and with Him. Forgive Him for hurts (past, present, future), whether the sense of offense is “reasonable” or not. Do not be dissuaded by religiosity or pompous reverence. A child doesn’t have to be “reasonable” or “right” to express respectful displeasure at the decision of a loving parent. They just have to be truthful.

And then, embrace all of it… the was, the is, and the shall be… as though all of it were blessing.

(Because, Gentle Reader… all of it IS. One way or another, all of life is grace.)

 
5 Comments

Posted by on September 13, 2015 in Quiet Time, Reverse Polarity, Sermon Seeds

 

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Always Safe, Never Alone!

Life can feel scary, lonely, sad, and very very empty. “Beyond here, there be Monsters”! Grief from loss, fear from a bad medical appointment, pain from a broken heart and relationship ruptured, heartache from a loved one careening towards disaster, the stress and anxiety from professional or financial reversals…

Worst of all… the teeny tiny niggling nagging fear that sometimes assails… that we dare not even ADMIT because we are… in our own eyes and those of others… people of HOPE…

The worst one… the wee small voice that comes in our darkest nights and lowest moments saying… “It’s all empty you know. You’re really just alone and floating, drifting, randomly… on the surface of time. There’s nothing and no one else, it’s all just a great cosmic joke.”

If you’ve never heard this little temptation, this voice of internal despair, with its message of either “there is no God”… or “God really despises you, you know”… then I applaud you. There’s fancy names for this… “Existential Angst”, among others…

This is very powerful in our world. In fact, this, the “deadly despair” that can arise… the call to action prompted, and the depression and suicide associated with this channel of thought, are costing countless lives both young and old.

The most frightening words we can know?

“Abandoned!”   “Betrayed”   “Unclean”   “Cast Out!”   “Unworthy”   “Alone”

These are “Killing Words”… These are “Murdering Words”…

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” [Matthew 5]

Strong words, Our Lord uses here. But I think He knew (knows) and could see the sort of harm, the damage, that happens to people when they are isolated, separated, cut off, declared “good-for-nothing” and valueless… in relationships. To be cut off in a relationship is to be wounded, to be judged, to be condemned, and to wither and shrivel.

In our own world, our own time and space, we see people choose to end life, rather than continue in such a state of shadow being. For those who base their hope, their trust, their sense of being anchored and well, in the human relationships around them, there is a danger. People can fail. People are frail and faulty, and sometimes, for whatever reason, we can cut others off… leaving them alone with their fears and concerns. Wrong? Of course! But yet so much a part of being human! So much a part… of US.


I woke this morning with David Wesley’s song in my ears and spirit. It’s not that I am particularly depressed or anxious in these days (as far as I know). Stuff happens, of course, and I have my tense moments… but nothing profound.

Nonetheless, in these times, these days… where we ask meaningful questions like, “What is Church as God envisions it?” “What is a Christian, how do I live that?” “How do we walk in the intimate Oneness of Christ, here and now… moment by moment?”

This song just rang on and on in my mind, my soul, and I realized something incredibly simple, yet absorbingly profound…

When these lyrics wash through you… Here is God’s ministry TO YOU… Here is your hope, your faith, your life, your breath! Here is the embrace… the absolutely unrelenting love, embrace, support, presence, and affirmation of God FOR you! You are Safe! You are Never Alone!

And, at the very same moment, HERE is the Gospel!

Here is OUR grace towards OTHERS! That God’s love through us, never fails, never gives up, never runs out on others. That’s more of a challenge in practice, I know. But just like Sermon on the Mount, or I Corinthians 13, that is nonetheless the Truth of how God touches others through us when we allow.

When we allow…

The answer is love. What was the question?

Enjoy the song again. Now, go love somebody!

Joy, blessing, and grace to you!

The Little Monk

 
8 Comments

Posted by on August 11, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Antigravity and Joy

earth beautiful 2Ever felt joy-less, depressed, overwhelmed, stressed out? (I think “Compassion Fatigue” is the new phrase.) Me too. Here’s how God unexpectedly dealt with all that, one dark night.

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This is a “non-sequitur” post, not specifically dealing with Spiritual Warfare, or Authority, and yet… somehow connected with those topics as I have been considering them. I have other things going on a bit, in terms of teaching or counseling, and a little bit ago I went through a bit of a personal “rough patch”. In fact, it was quite rough indeed. I don’t often share of my own frailties or struggles, except in terms of anecdotes or illustrations more or less long after the fact.

But I do have a few… accountability partners, close friends, brethren… call them what you will… close “family members” in this Kingdom Family with whom I am willing to be utterly transparent… generally because they’ve known me for so long, and seen all my warts and blemishes so clearly, that my own failures and slippages cannot possibly cause them shock or offense. I can also be so boldly honest because even when God grants some ridiculously undeserved grace to this pitiful servant, they know me far too well to mistake this for “merit” on my part.

This post is an email I sent to one of these “transparency brethren”. I shared this content with another one, and his response was, “Why don’t you put this up as a post on your blog?” I had a lot of excuses, but in the intervening days I’ve realized they were just that. So, in case you will be scandalized to know that I too can hit deep depths of “shadow attitudes” when my heart and emotions aren’t squared away with the Lord… don’t read any further. If God extending an utter miracle of grace, love and mercy to such a servant as I, tempts you to think (even in your wildest flight of imagination) that I am any more “worthy” than any other sinner-saved-by-grace on Earth… don’t read any further. There is nothing about me that “merits” the kindnesses of God that I experience. And there are none available to me, that are not showered upon every child He has.

But having said all that, and from the safety of my anonymity here on this site… I will open this to you, in a spirit of utter encouragement, worship, wonder, and gratitude that we share such a Father, Savior, and Spirit… who abound with such love and constant care.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Antigravity and Joy

Hey there, [Pastor “X”[.

Happy Anniversary, Happy Birthday, Happy Summer, Happy VBS & Summer Camps and all the other cool stuff you’ve been into since last I darkened your doorway!

I have a profound “interior urging” to write you today about this… which I neither understand (apparently it’s not my business), nor for which will I apologize. If these words make sense to you, accept them with my blessings. If this makes no sense at all, well, just cast them aside… with my equal blessings.

I’m going to cut through all the “backstory”, (to which you are more than welcome, let me know if you want the context)... and start this in the middle.

10 days ago, I was in deep spiritual trouble… actually, I was rather drowning in “muck”… (you know the kind… we normally flush it). Too many days, too many people, too many surprises, too many disappointments… too many shadows and shadow creatures… and I had apparently picked up an “infection”. I was sick, heart sick, soul sick. Saying things like… “What’s the point? I’ve had enough of this. This isn’t worth it, Lord.” and THINKING, though not quite saying, “I’m done. Put a fork in me. I give up, I can’t do this anymore… Gonna do something different now.”

The amazing thing was that even in the worst of it, I could see “two me’s” in that “Pauline Schizophrenia” sense… (“the good that I would do… the evil that I would not do”)… Almost like an out-of-body (or out-of-soul) experience… I could see my “wrong self” (this one… this depressed… discouraged… give it all up… self)… at the very same time as I could see my “right self” standing in Jesus as He seemingly shrugged in confusion at my despondency, saying, “We don’t do what we do for ‘payoff’, what’s the problem? What’s any of that to Me and to you, Little Monk? We do what we do because it is what we do… because it is His will, His words, His works, not because we depend on people listening. We speak the words, and let His words work… some will hear, some will not, that’s not up to us.”

I KNEW that. I had conviction on that. I had scripture on that. My WILL was conformed to that. But my heart… my heart was sinking, I felt I was sinking in this sea of “muck” and I would soon drown. All I could do was resist, continue to tread water and hold on, and endure. But all that with the dwindling strength and resolve that heralds eventual inevitable defeat.

I prayed, studied, sang, pondered, read… all of that… seeking relief. None came. I knew I was in a bad place, a dark place, I rebuked… repented… sought Him… (though He never left, and I could feel/know that)… all of that. I expected Jesus (in His own good time) to “set me straight”. I had the sense of being “unclean”, of holding myself in a place and a mindset that was out of order, of entertaining and tolerating the company of shadow spirits with whom I had no business. Yet, try as I might, I could not rid myself of this.

Why am I telling you all of this? Just so that you embrace the absolute wonder, with which God dealt with the moment, and how utterly “counter-intuitive” it all seems to my “theological/religious” mind. I was, in those evenings… Jonah… with the singular exception of my “will”. My mood, psychology, sense of hope… all that… right there with Jonah… pitiful. The only difference, I sought that my will disappear into His will, regardless how ignoble my vessel at the moment.

At the very nadir of this “pathetic-ness” I was drained, exhausted, anxious… and yet unable to sleep well. Nonetheless, exhaustion took me in the early hours…

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And then God took me…

The modality of my subjective prayer experience is not important, so I’ll not waste the words trying to describe the ineffable symbologies with which He communes in my own consciousness. (I’m happy to share that, if you have interest… but I find everyone’s experiences of this kind are unique and different.)

But the Father took me. (Unusual, that).

He was utterly Light, Clean, Him… and He grasped me without hesitation. (Unexpected, that.)

He had lifted me onto His hand in my mucky, stinky, filthy, exhausted, depressed state without hesitation, and drew me into the Wonder of His Heart. (Inexpressible, that.)

I lay there, too weighed down and exhausted to move, almost panting for breath through the stench in which I was drowning, and as He drew us into His heart… ALL THAT was instantly and marvelously gone. I felt as if I had been being “Pressed”… an archaic form of capital punishment by adding one stone at a time on a board on one’s body, until the ribs are crushed by the weight and breathing is no longer possible… But then suddenly, in the blink of His eye, not only was all the weight gone, but He’d breathed helium into me instead. Instead of heaviness, there was affirmative lightness.

I was revived. I was hale, whole, strong. I stood up. It was wondrous.

A thought came to me… “Duty”, and I knew a twinge of sadness, knowing I needed to return. I had an important appointment coming.

He spoke, “No. Not yet. Tarry with Me a while.”

Delightedly I obeyed.

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The next now, I will only summarize, without any of the imagery or symbology of the experience… but…

I had a sense of wonder, as I knew I had entered here… “out of order”. I had been in a wrong place, wrong spirit, wrong attitude… and I am accustomed to “correction” in such times, “teaching” of where I was wrong, and reinforcement of what was right.

As this thought flashed across my mind… as I was simply experiencing waves of “Joy” pouring off from Him, out from Him, I felt a bit “guilty” about that. “Ashamed”, or “unworthy”… my faith, my resolution, my grace had been eroded to paper thin-ness when He grasped me.

His response? Just one word… “Irrelevant”

WHAT?

And He just continued to fill me with “Joy”.

Um… [Pastor “X”]? Stop just one moment and find the greatest joy in your heart. Maybe moments with [your spouse], or playing with your kids, or when you first held them… Maybe a moment with Jesus… or… All of that put together. Capture in your mind/memory that incredible rush of supernatural joy that just makes us laugh and cry at the same time, when we simply need to shout out, or maybe (if we’re not TOO Baptist… even… “dance” for a moment). Now just ramp all that up to the absolute red-line of the meter, and beyond…

And you have a sense of what those next seconds-minutes-hours (who knows) were like, as He held me in His heart. “Ecstasy” is a fancy theology word I’ve never been real happy with, but sometimes (like now), it actually fits.

Jesus came, and joined in. The Holy Spirit came, and joined in. And we all “rejoiced”… sang, danced, played, flew, um… nvm…

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Now here’s why I’m writing this… actually I’ll paste in this last section from my notes on this event…

But then, it wound down in “activity”, though not at all in “mood”. There we all were, the Four of us… as if sitting on a picnic blanket in sheer contentment on a warm Spring day. And yet… this was the midst of the Father’s heart, and the monk could look outwards and see with His eyes of sheer love.

Again… the word came… “Duty”… and the monk knew they had to return. But didn’t want  to… and yet did want to, if that was their duty. Yet even that thought didn’t bring sadness. It was as if the joy were a furnace of its own. There was the awareness that the monk didn’t want to go back, but there was no feeling of revulsion or resistance about it.

The Father spoke again… “It is time to return. You must go back.”

Little Monk said, “I know. And I shall, though You know I would rather stay.”

“I know, but it is not yet time. You can come, whenever you choose. But understand… THIS is REAL! THIS is what it is to be here, to be with ME, to let Me be Me in you. THIS is what I have ever intended for Life to be! No guilt. No grief. No darkness. No despair. None of that. All that is shadow-stuff… optical illusion generated by embracing the lies of those who want you separate from Me.

“I need you to go back, because I need you to keep telling them, keep showing them, keep loving them, that THIS is Me! They see it in you, at least some do. I need you to bring more Here… that I may play with them, sing to them, dance with them, and hug away their fears and shames. You will keep this Joy… it will protect you. And you need to share it there, with those who cannot see or feel it. When they are ready… bring them Here. Bring as many Here as you can, as soon as they are willing to trust that I desire only their Live, Wholeness, Good…

“You must go back, for so few know Me as “He who brings Life through Love”… so many fear Me instead… My Son will help. Our Spirit will reach through you… We need you to go back, Little Monk… though it will not be forever. And you can come here, rest, dance, renew, sing… whenever you need. I can protect you this way now. You have discovered this part of My Name… Joy.”

“Yes, Father.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And this has changed me a great deal.

What if the Father’s Name could be expressed, “Joy Who Gives Life Through Love”?

What if “in Jesus’ Name” wasn’t the “abracadabra” added on to the “white magic spells” of prayer according to the “white magic grimoire” of the Holy Bible… but rather what if Jesus’ Name were “God With Us” — the perfect reflection of God the Father, as Word Made Flesh and so able to enter in to our own spatio-temporal dimension?

What if the “Beatitudes” as expressed in Sermon on the Mount were better translated “Joyful are the poor… Joyful the meek…” etc.

What if Jesus intended the Church to be His Bride? And reasonably expected that that would fill us with Joy, not Dread?

If so, why are so many churches and churchmen filled with fear, and guilt, and shame, and dread? Why do so many spend so much time finger-pointing and accusing… when Accuser is the name of God’s enemy, not His Bride?

What if χαρά (chara) (as in “joy of your master” Matt 25:21) were inextricably linked with χάρις (charis) (as in “grace upon grace” Jn 1:16)? (oops… they ARE… we’re just not at all comfortable with that in English theology.)

What if “grace” and “gift” and “spiritual gifts” and all that… were ongoing expressions of the Father’s very PULSE as “Joy”… and humanity (and religion) simply shrink from the possibility?

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All these things have flowed through me for the past 10 days.

Don’t read me as denigrating or belittling speaking truth with grace, or conviction, or repentance, or regeneration. I think from “our side of the veil”, subject to the distortions and “glass darkly” of “original sin” and our subjectivity to temptation, error, and illusion… yes, those are all necessary tools.

BUT… I am now equally convicted and convinced, that those are tools and vehicles meant truly to get us “elsewhere”… that we come to KNOW Him in His preferred name… as Joy, and God of Hope.

There are few with whom I can share so “irreverent” a thought without causing offense. I trust I have not offended… I pray so. But I know you know this God, this God of Joy… for the very first time I ever heard you preach I was utterly stunned by a single line you intoned. You said,

“We don’t seek the Kingdom of God because it’s our duty. We seek the Kingdom because it is our JOY!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, receive this email as encouragement, as a prayer request, as a praise of Him, as a testimony of sheer wonder…

But above all, THANK YOU for persisting in “lifting Him up that He may draw all men to Him”… and pointing consistently at the Joy of this Family and Kingdom, rather than threatening with the fear, guilt, and accusation of threats for ticking Him off.

Here’s what’s becoming one of my favorite verses:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Blessings and grace to you and all yours!!

The Little Monk

 
19 Comments

Posted by on June 26, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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Pick Your Planet

earth deadSome days, it can seem as if the world is dead. Covered in a  coating of ash and choking dust. The evening news, calls from friends or family about tragedy, painful memories and regret of past decisions, misunderstanding by those we love… Some days, it seems difficult to look about us and see any light at all, see any purpose, see that we are making any difference with our little candle flames against what seems the overwhelming force of darkness and shadow.

Yes, life can seem like that at times.

And if we aren’t careful… if we stay in that posture… if we continue to see only the darkness and shadow… it can seem to leach the very life force from us, and we can find ourselves in a very dark place indeed. A dangerous place. An empty and painful place.

What then? What are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to put on “Rose Colored Glasses”, pretend to be Pollyanna, just ignore all the pain and hurting people around us? Are we supposed to lie? To ourselves, to others, to God? What do we do, to be honest and truthful… and yet not be overwhelmed by the sorrows we open our hearts to?

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We exercise our Super Power. We use our power of Choice and Free Will to see Truth beyond the appearances. We can grasp and embrace a deep spiritual truth, at the same time that we heed the advice of one of the greatest realists of all time… The Apostle Paul.

Paul gave this instruction to the Philippian Church: 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 4:8-9]

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Paul is hardly a “Pollyanna” guy. He’s been chased hither and yon by both Religious Authorities and Romans… he’s been stoned, flogged, shipwrecked, thrown in jail, threatened with execution… you name it, he’s been there, done that. He’s seen friends and co-workers tortured and killed. Nothing “warm and fuzzy” about Paul, or rose-colored to his view of the world.

We all “know” these verses. We could probably recite them. But do we ever really LOOK at them? Do we ever really see what he’s saying here? Let’s do that…

Let’s look at this from the bottom up. Let’s see that Paul is giving a very PRACTICAL instruction here, revealing a very profound spiritual secret, a “technique” here.

We, in general, people, seek “peace”. “Peace of mind”, “peace of heart”, the kind of peace that lets us sleep easily and sit quietly without a thousand worries wrinkling our brow when the noise dies down on a quiet day. Paul says, “the God of peace will be with you…” That’s an extraordinary promise. The number one pharmaceuticals, the biggest money makers in the drug world in the U.S. today, are anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications. Astonishing, no?

So… for the “God of peace” to be “with us”… Paul says, “dwell on” and “practice” this dwelling as he’s been observed to do… Dwell on whatever is “excellence and worthy of praise”.

WHAT?

What about all the Bad Stuff? What about the occupation army? What about the Temple Guards breaking into our homes and dragging us off to be flogged or executed? What about our families turning us in? Is Paul CRAZY?

Nonetheless… Paul says for the God of peace to come to us… dwell on the excellent and worthy of praise. He even gives specific examples, whatever is: true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute.

Any questions? Pretty straightforward, isn’t it? Let’s be even MORE clear. Here’s what NOT to dwell on… Whatever is Untrue, False, Dishonorable, Wrong, Impure and Corrupt, Ugly, and Shameful.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gentle Reader, I’m not finger-pointing. This is as much confession as exhortation… But if you want to know “Peace”… DON’T let your mind revolve on all that negative, toxic, “stuff”. Just DON’T. It is poisonous, it is stress-inducing, it will rob us of peace, joy, and love. I’m not saying to ignore it, or deny it. When bad stuff happens, when toxic stuff happens, acknowledge it, embrace it, then release it and let it go. DON:T DWELL ON IT! Don’t ruminate, contemplate, meditate, and cling to it.  Minister in difficult situations as you can, embrace, affirm, encourage, acknowledge, love… and then refocus and re-sensitize to the good, the true, the lovely.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here’s the deep spiritual truth underlying this “technique”…

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:5

Jesus taught:“You are the light of the world. A city set on a [hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Practical Application: Here’s the thing I’ve noticed in/for myself and my own life… When I focus on the “stuff out there”, the darkness and ash, I can lose my peace and joy, lose my center, and grow heartsick and weary. This leads me to a rather pathetic form of self-pity that takes away all my effectiveness. When the Lord gently leads me out of this spiral… when I again heed Paul’s advice… when I focus on Light instead of darkness, then two things happen.

earth beautifulOne, the God of peace joins me, feeds and nurtures me, and I focus again on the “I”… (what I can do, how I can help, how I can love), rather than on the “me” (the situation doesn’t heed me, appreciate me, acknowledge me). I get to bask in the radiance that is God, His love, His care, His glory… rather than the mud and the muck.

Two, (and this may sound a bit strange), but I “see” an entirely different world. I see a world of people doing unexpectedly kind and loving things. I see the flowers growing out of the sidewalk cracks, rather than just the concrete jungle. I see the grace, the joy, the laughter, the redemption and blessings, even in the midst of the most challenging environments and situations.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ve come to realize that my Super Power, this Power of Choice and Will that God has given us, being created in His Image, allows me to “pick my planet”.

I can choose to see, focus, and dwell on that first one at the beginning of this post. I can glue myself to the “all bad news, all the time” channels on my mega-cable boob toob. OR… I can choose to get out amongst people, encouraging love, understanding, grace and embracing one another… whether for better or worse, in good times or bad, sickness or health.

That’s MY Choice! I can pick my planet! So can you. What’ll it be?

Grace to thee!

The Little Monk

 
 

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Free Pass to a Good Day

good dayDo you ever have a “Bad Day”?

You know what I mean. One of those days that doesn’t sink totally to the level of “disaster”, but where everything just feels “off”?

Imagine a dark cloud drifting overhead, casting shadows on your mood and heart. Sounds seem muted, colors seem drab, people seem unfriendly or indifferent, music seems off-key… Even prayer, even prayer just seems to float randomly into the ozone, as if drifting off to some divine “Inbox”, to be dealt with when God gets around to it.

Do you ever have such a day? Oh, not that we would ever clearly THINK such a thought… that would be “irreverent”. We have “faith”, we know what we know, we love God… always have, always will… but in that precise moment, there is no sense of the “experience”. The “feelings” of reverence, faith, devotion, piety, love… all that, is simply not there.

So the day drudges on, second by second, as we find ourselves “clock watching”, just waiting for it to end and move on to tomorrow, trying to take care not to offend anyone else with this debilitating moment of “blue funk”?

Been there? (Happens to me from time to time. Not often, but sometimes.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

OK, here’s a gift from me to you…

If you’re willing, try this as an experiment next time that happens…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First off, I’m going to make an assumption… Since you are here reading The Postmodern Mystic in the first place (you’re patiently inflicting this on yourself), then it is your heart’s desire to draw as close as you possibly can to the heart of God. You passionately care about experiencing what I’m coming to call “skin to skin contact” with Holy God. That’s an amazing thought. That’s an incredible ambition. That would be a shocking (maybe horrifying) thing to articulate… I mean… “Me? Plain, little, sinful… ME??? And… and GOD?? Great… Big… Holy… GOD? Who do I think I AM?”

But wait a moment. Think about this… THIS, this intimate, immediate, right here right now relationship… is what GOD HIMSELF WANTS! This is the most clear and obvious biblical revelation of God’s heart from Genesis through Revelation!

Once I saw this simple fact… that God Himself has, from the beginning of time through its end, done EVERYTHING in His power to clear the way for us, as His beloved children, to have this immediate and unfiltered experience of Him, His presence, His love… once this idea struck me, then all of the Old Testament, Gospels, Epistles, Revelation… ALL of it, just screamed this same story, this same revelation, again and again.

God’s greatest heartbreak? That the immediate presence of “sin” (which we carry with us like a stain through the Fall and our frailty), brings forth “death” in from His Person (like lightning attracted to a dynamo). It’s not what He “wants” as much as it is just inherent in the “nature” of things.

God’s solution? Though Jesus, Son of God AND sinless Son of Man, to pave the way to place the Holy Spirit, God Himself, WITHIN us… “equalizing the holiness quotient”… or (in electrical terms) eliminating the “potential difference”. There is no more “spark of death” in the presence of Holy God, because God (through the Redemption, Resurrection, Pentecost) has accomplished a means to place the fullness of Holy God Himself INSIDE of us.

[I’m so sorry, Gentle Reader. That may not have made sense. It’s just such a crucial truth in my life (and to this post), and actually quite simple. But it’s unspeakably difficult for me to wrap words around, so if that didn’t make sense, just forgive my verbal inadequacies and go on.]

Anyway, the point is simply this…

We, as human beings, are people of “will”, of “want”, and of “feel”. That is really a rather amazing distinction. Most organisms, most life on the face of the earth, are driven by feelings (sensation), that drives desire (motivating towards “good” feelings, avoiding what feels “bad”), that drives the will (decisions to take action).

Now, our being made “in the image of God” gives us this astonishing ability. We are not bound by “natural” abilities, by the abilities and processes of every other life form on earth (as far as we know). Our decisions and actions, are NOT simply dictated by either our “sensations” (feelings), or even our “desires” (likes and wants). We are SUPER-natural creatures. We actually have both the freedom and the capacity by WILL to make decisions and take actions that neither make us feel good, nor do we like.

Um… so what? What’s all this about, Little Monk?

Well, when you put these two facts together… that we (joined here on this page right now) WANT, more than anything else, that intimate relationship with God… and that we have the freedom to separate our will from our appetites or feelings… then

We have all that is necessary for an extraordinary experiment!

Required Equipment:

  • One Yucky Day
  • The Actual (not necessarily apparent) Presence of God
  • Our Human Will

Procedure:

  1. Acknowledge that this day is decidedly “gray”. (Technical spiritual-speak for this is “desolation“, as opposed to “consolation“. Simply a “mood” ranging from mildly bleak to dismal)
  2. Try to pray, and realize that all one’s typical “warm, fuzzy, faith-y feelings” are absent. Find prayer dry, dull, seemingly meaningless. Try reading Scripture and watch the words just sit there mute on the page, rather than lighting up and dancing before you as normally they do! Find yourself wondering if this is all just a grand waste of time. Acknowledge and embrace this state of nearly irreverent spiritual dearth…
  3. Notice how much “easier” it is to “experience being Christian”, or do “spiritual exercises” (pray, read Scripture, speak of God, share with grace, love others, worship) when we are feeling good with “consolation”, than it is when we are feeling blah with desolation.
  4. Ask oneself… do we want to worship God, look towards Him, speak with Him, only when… (maybe because)… it makes us “feel good”? Or is the relationship deeper than that? Is the time we pay attention to Him about Him? About Our relationship? About our need for Him and His presence? Or is it about how that time makes us “feel”?

Hypotheses Being Tested:

  1. Whether our time attending to Him is about our relationship with Him, not about how the exercise itself makes us feel?
  2. Whether we can be dissuaded from experiencing our relationship with Him, if the enemy just “dulls our perceptions” of His presence and of sensible graces?
  3. Whether God is all the more “complimented”, and whether our “faith is all the more strengthened” when we persist despite the dryness?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, I’m not going to bias the outcome by predicting your probable results, but just try this the next time you are having a “Dry” day…

  1. Thank Him for the gift and challenge of the “dryness”, the “grayness”.
  2. Remind oneself that devotion is not an “addiction” and we are not here for the “feel-good” side effects. That’s just a “cherry on top” that God is welcome to add or not, at HIS pleasure, not our demand.
  3. Remind oneself that the enemy is deeply interested and invested in whether he can pry your focus away from God, simply by blunting the “warm fuzzies” of that.
  4. Watch what happens!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When you have the opportunity, and conduct this experiment, please feel free to drop me a comment, an email, an FB message… but let me know the results, if/when you feel so led.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

All of creation around us are “natural” beings. Sensations and needs drive their decisions and actions. We are “supernatural” beings, capable of making decisions and actions contrary to our appetites and sensibilities.

We all have a “Super Power”. Free will, that can detach us from the drives of our sensations and preferences, is a unique human ability. Let me know how things go, when you exercise your Super Power in Him!

Blessings and grace to you!

The Little Monk

 
5 Comments

Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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Beyond the Pain…

depression“Are you saying you want to kill yourself today?”

“Well, I wouldn’t have put it that way, but… yes.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have a friend, a brother deep in my heart who, in this year 2015 has endured devastating losses. Relationships… career… finances… physical health… professional esteem… sense of personal esteem… All that — devastating.

This is not to say that he has not participated in, made decisions that have led to, much of this loss. (Some would say “all” of it, but perhaps it is more fair to say “most”.) Some people, both in general and regarding him specifically, respond with, “Well… he’s made his bed…” or its more “Christian” counterpart, “Well… he’s sinned, so if/when he repents…”

News Flash: My friend, my brother, is a “sinner”.

Stop the Presses: So am I.

Random Conjecture: So is every reader here.

So… chalking suffering and pain up to the presence of “sin”, may be “theologically accurate”, but I’ve never found it particularly “helpful”. That is not what this discussion is about. The questions I find most meaningful in these days are no longer questions of “What?” or even of “Why?”… but rather, the question of “How?” In the midst of devastating, breathtaking pain, How do we go on? How do we “live”, when even breathing hurts? How?

This post is not being written to evoke darkness, despair, hopelessness or depression. (In fact, this isn’t even a technical consideration, or intended to have a primary focus on, depression. If pieces of this discussion address some of that, good. But that’s really not what this is about.) This post is being written to communicate the precise OPPOSITE… I seek to proclaim Hope, Purpose, Life, and Light. But here we are, right here, right now, in the trenches… in the nitty-gritty of darkness… WAY past the place of “preaching” or “platitudes”. These hurts, these fears, this despair can run so dark, so deep, so bloody… that “quoting verses” doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Seldom… thanks be to God it is ever so seldom… am I in a moment where reflecting this depth of darkness is appropriate in this place, this blog, before you, Gentle Reader. But this is one of those moments, and I am irresistibly moved to repeat to you what I’ve just shared with that brother on the phone in a second call this day.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Context:

First, I will not share the sequence of events, decisions, or circumstances that have brought my brother to despair of life and its meaning. That would not be appropriate professionally, spiritually, or relationally both with God and with him. You do not need that information to hear truth in these words. Just imagine that you have lost your connection with everything in your life on earth that you hold dear, and you can find common ground with the heart of my friend/brother.

Second (last): “There but for the Grace of God…” Believe me when I say, *I* am by no means “superior” to this friend/brother in any dimension of Christianity. He is as “called and gifted” as I, most would say more so. He is as “highly trained and educated” as I, in fact… demonstrably more so. (I have one doctorate, he has two.) He is as “experienced in ministry” as I, as many years of service. He has counseled as many in pastoral counseling as I, perhaps more. He has as much “denominational stature” as I, in fact… demonstrably more. Believe me when I say to you, set the two of us side by side in columns on paper… pick ANY criterion of “evaluation and job performance” you choose… in ANY regard (Christian, community, professional, pastoral, financial, you name it…) and you’ll grade him as “superior” to me EVERY time. That’s just the truth.

And those are the only critical information you need to hear the truth I seek to speak in this post. There is not an ounce of “superiority” or finger-pointing in me towards this friend/brother… he is “better than I” in every measure for what we have dedicated our lives to, and I accept that as true, so you can as well. I am painfully aware that “there but for the grace of God go I” as I walk with him, and I walk in the holy “fear and trembling” of deep humility as I speak with him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here’s What I Have Come to Say:

My friend/brother has experienced devastating, catastrophic, losses in every arena of his life this year. He spent considerable time, energy, and resources initially in denial of these losses, and then in trying to combat them and recover lost resource. Now, only now, is his grief reaching “acceptance”, and in that acceptance he is finding is pain so great and his life so empty… that he is considering relieving his pain by ending his life.

This is the call I got first thing this morning, that my friend/brother had come to this point in his walk, in his life. This was the call that contained the opening two lines of this post.

THIS, this “bottomless pit of unrelieved darkness”, THIS is the “reality” the “battlefield” of real “spiritual warfare”. (There are many others, of course… but this is certainly one of them.) And this one is life or death, right here right now.

I embraced my friend/brother on the phone. I “loved on” my friend/brother on the phone. But I love/loved him too much to “feed into his spiral”. I was not going to say all the “warm, soft, fuzzy words” that were going to roll off him like so much rainwater off a duck. You know what I mean… words like, “Just trust in God.”, “This too shall pass”, “People love you.”, “Time will heal this.” or quoting any of dozens of appropriate scriptures.

Why? Why would I not say those words? Because in that moment, he would not “hear” them. He was trapped in a “death spiral”, a place nearly dead to hearing and vision, trapped in thrall to an image of himself in a mirror… the image of his miserable self, against a backdrop of a life he did not have and could not re-acquire… a mirror image filled with the “sorrow that leads to death”. He was trapped in what Eric Berne would call the “Yes, but… Game” (Games People Play). He wanted me to float “warm fuzzy balloons” that he could dart and destroy in his misery, justifying his resolve to quit, to give up, to die.

I floated no such balloons. Instead, I said a couple very blunt things, couched and cushioned in many “gentling words”. I’m going to put the “bald statements and questions” out here before you now, but please understand they were not expressed this starkly… but rather nested in softening words that he could hear. OK?

Statement of Observation: “My brother, you have found that when stripped of your ‘stuff’, your money, prestige, resources, and your own plans… you have lost your will to live.”

Statement Two: “Good! You and I share the same background and know the same things. I don’t have to… I CANNOT… ‘preach’ to you and I refuse to try. You’re better than this! You know better than this! You know as well as I that OUR lives, at least… CANNOT be grounded in our ‘stuff’. If you had forgotten this, and are being reminded of this, I grieve for your pain, but I am grateful for the insight.”

“WE, at least, CANNOT ground our lives, our purpose, our meaning… in our STUFF. This is what we try to communicate with others, that’s a false foundation and it will not, it cannot, sustain us. I cannot tell you this, you know it as deeply as I.”

Challenging Question: “You consider ending your life because so much has been lost. Well, then I ask you this… ‘Why are you ALIVE in the first place? Why do we have life? Why are WE here?'”

And I shut up… for a long time to silence on the other end of the phone…

His Response: “I’m not comfortable with this conversation any more, so I don’t want to talk to you. I’m going to let you go now, so God Bless!” And he hung up.

For the next hour I pondered whether I had just killed my friend and brother. I prayed, I pondered, I studied, I listened, I realized…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

An hour after that realization, I phone back… and he answered (the first of my calls he’s answered directly for weeks). I said…

“Please hear me out and don’t hang up. I’m not going to yell at you, preach at you, and I’m not mad at you or disappointed. OK? I just want to ask you a question…”

“OK, so ask…”

“OK. How much money, how much would it be worth, how much of your resources would you spend, if I could put one human soul in front of you… just ONE… who was destined to go to hell for eternity, but you could write a check and buy him/her out and head them to heaven, instead? What would that be ‘worth’ to you, of your holdings and accounts, or your reputation, or whatever?”

…. long silence… then a weary sounding, “I don’t know… I can’t answer that…”

“Well, *I* know… because I know you, I know your heart and its generosity and what you give, and have given, all your adult life to rescue souls from hell. And here’s why that’s important…

“You, at this moment, are buried in pain so terrible that you despair of life and hope all together. I understand that. I’m not denying it, or minimizing it, or any of that. Life, right now, is walking across glass shards into blazing coals. I agree…

“But here’s the thing… we, you and I, are here for a very specific purpose. A purpose of rescue. ALL Christians are, actually, but most aren’t aware of that. We ARE aware of that. If you die today… your timeline, your road, comes to an end in this world. Your pain would end, true.

“BUT… so would your encounters. You and I are not here for the ‘pretty cobblestones’. We are here because we carry Him in us, and we love, and we encounter people in their darkness with hurts as deep as any we’ve ever known, and we can offer them Light, and Love, and Hope, and Life. Not only in the here and now, but in eternity.

“If your life were to end today, there are people God has stationed along your future road, encounters He has planned to happen, people He has intended for you to love and lift up Christ to and for… who will never encounter you. They will never hear you. They will never be loved by you, and perhaps they will never hear and see the Christ you would show them, to embrace Him.

“You are here, you live, dedicated to rescue of the lost. You’ve done it your whole life. You  know what I’m talking about. You can remember those you have personally loved into the embrace of Jesus. Well, my brother, they are not the ‘only’ ones you are destined to meet.

“There are more, there are others, but they are stationed on the other side of this pain you have now. How much pain would you endure, what would you suffer, what would you pass through… how much glass, how much flame would you walk across… if I stood at the end of that track with a group of broken, suffering, lost and damned souls that it was your destiny to love, heal, and let Jesus rescue… through you and your presence in their lives?

“How much pain would you bear? How much resource would you spend?”

… long pause… hoarse whisper of response… “Everything, anything… I’d give anything…”

“Good. THAT is all I called to say. Your pain is horrible and real. I don’t deny that. I just deny its relevance to our lives. We are here to carry what dwells within us to people who desperately need to see, feel, be touched by that… through us, and embrace… Him. And when everything, and I mean EVERYTHING else is stripped away… even our “gracious feelings” and our piety, and our devotion, and our sense of His presence…. When we are left naked and whimpering in a darkness so thick we can’t even BREATHE for its choking us… when religion fails… intelligence fails… sentiment fails…

“Sometimes all we have left is sheer ‘stubborn’. You NEVER quit. You never EVER quit. If not out of obedience, or devotion, or even ‘love’… You are a competitive man, I know that. You are as stubborn as I, I know that. You simply cannot quit, because underneath all of that, ‘faith’ will energize the ‘good form’ of your pride… if you quit, the enemy wins. Ministry stops. Grace and love through you and your present life here, stop. And he, the enemy, wins.

“I am going to let you go now. I don’t know if you’re comfortable or not, but I have faith that you are too competitive, too stubborn, too proud… to quit this contest and walk off the field, losing by forfeit. If you cannot continue to rescue people out of obedience, or duty… then do it out of love. But if even THAT cannot be felt in this moment… ask yourself if you really want to throw up your hands, forfeit this battle, and concede… letting the enemy win.

“I know you. You can’t let that happen. There’s just too much to be done yet, and too many out there to love that you haven’t met yet.”

…. and we blessed one another and hung up.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gentle Reader, I don’t know if you personally have ever been in that dark place. I have. I pray I never need to return, but I know that place. We can be stripped, just like Job, of every sense and sentiment of grace and blessing we’ve ever known. When all the trappings, all the ‘stuff’ of our Christianity, all the percs and comforts, are removed from us and all we feel is abandonment, despair or hopelessness…

Within us, there is yet a Flame. Within us, there is yet a Servant. Within us, there is yet Love that Gives Life. He can resuscitate life within ourselves, but only when we acknowledge and embrace that our Purpose is to share Life with Others through Love.

I hope this has not come off as a “depressing” post, or even a “depression” post, because that is far from my heart…

My heart proclaims a wondrous Truth…

The God of Hope dwells in every Christian, seeking and saving that which is lost, lonely, hurting. He does this, amazingly, through our frail and fragile selves as vessels of love. When we lose sight of this, when we become distracted by mirrors or the barns of our stuff, we can find ourselves dizzy, disoriented and confused. But when we embrace the Light within us, when we cherish Him and rejoice in His embrace, then our feet find our right road and we encounter wondrous adventures of rescue all the time.

This is not the “Minister’s Job”, or the “Pastor’s Job”, or the “Preacher’s Job”, or the “Counselor’s Job”, or the “Deacon’s Job”, or even the “Churchgoer’s Job”… This is not a “job” at all…

This is a “definition” of our very Selves. This is Who we are, What we are, called and anointed, commanded, simply… to love.

Every one of us, when we love another and connect heart to heart, provide the conduit of Light necessary for Him to reach across and spark Life in the other. For some, for those also dwelling with that Light inside their spirit, such touch offers comfort, encouragement, endorsement, affirmation of Life. For others, for those who have never trusted to or embraced that Light and Truth, this touch brings Life Himself. We offer love, that the other may receive, embrace, reflect and refract love, and thus live..

Why are we here? To love and carry Light, Life, Love in our steps. There is Purpose in that. There is Meaning in that. There is Life in that. There is Love in that. And there is Joy in that. This, to me, is the deepest meaning of “Grace”.

Why are we here? To bring Life through Love. Why? Because we can, and we are privileged to do what Our Father does… always. Little else is worth worrying about. And, oddly enough, when we remain focused on our purpose, other worries seem to fade into insignificance.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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Gone Fishin’

Sunrise CrossPowerful things are happening among the Disciples in the days immediately following the Crucifixion. Powerful lessons are laid down for us here.

This morning, my heart is a bit heavy, and it brought these texts to mind. I thought I would share with you.

Let me open with Paul. He had written a letter to the Church at Corinth because they were misbehaving. They’d formed factions, were squabbling about foolish things, had mistaken “liberty” in Christ for “license” (and those are not the same). All in all, they were acting a bit like kids act when their parents and elders are away from home. So Paul wrote this letter, a bit harsh, calling them to order. They responded, and drew themselves back up, taking the correction with grace and sorting themselves out. In this passage below from a later letter to them, Paul addresses his regret and mixed feelings about having to correct them, and expresses an absolutely critical teaching about “sorrow” that I’ve found invaluable across decades of counseling…

For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. [2 Corinthians 7:8-10]

There’s the critical teaching: For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I had a phone call last night asking for my prayers for an 8th grade child who has decided to do a research report term paper on “Suicide”. When their teacher asked why this topic, the answer was… This child’s 25 year old cousin, married, with a spouse and three children (a 5 year old, and twin 2 year olds), had committed suicide yesterday. The student didn’t understand… hence, the research topic.

Suicide? Bible? These days? Yes.

Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. [Matthew 27:1-8]

I know I’ve posted on this before, but I am irresistibly drawn to these passages as I pray for this child, her family, and the family of this sad young man. I have no idea what was happening in his life, his mind or heart, or his family. But one thing I know, as someone who works a great deal with suicide, is that in the moments that he made his fatal decision… that young man was filled with a sorrow that leads to death, and he could see no hope of recovery. HOW he came to that moment, I do not know. THAT he came to it, I am certain. As did Judas.

Judas betrayed Jesus. He felt conviction on that. He felt remorse. He tried to undo it, to make up for it, to put things back the way they were. He tried to renounce his act, give back the money, and restore his heart. But he failed. He focused on all that he did wrong, and ultimately executed himself for it.

Let us contrast that with another betrayal of Jesus at that same time. Let’s look instead at Peter.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, *said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed. [John 18:25-27]

And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. [Matthew 26:75]

Bitter tears, conviction, remorse. Look familiar? Denied his Lord and best friend… cursing even. How deep was his sorrow in such moments? Who can imagine it?

But Judas experienced “sorrow of the world”? How do we know that, why can we say that? By its fruit. His sorrow led not to salvation and rescue, but to death.

“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

Peter, on the other hand, returned to his brothers after the Crucifixion, he ran to the tomb at the report of the women, he was with the brethren that evening when Jesus appeared. He did not abandon his life and duties, focusing myopically on his own failings and flaws. Did he know sorrow and remorse? Scripture does not say specifically, but I have no reason not to think he did.

But he and Jesus do not directly speak to one another again until they have breakfast on the seashore. I started to try to “cut and paste” through the story to put it here, and just could not bring myself to do it. The tale is a united whole, and to try to edit it just seemed “wrong” somehow.

Please look at this beautiful report… and feel how remarkable the transitions, hopes, sorrows, sadness, exuberance, joy, all of that… that Peter’s heart goes through in just this very short time.

John 21

We start with: Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter *said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They *said to him, ‘We will also come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.

Does it make you smile a bit, too? There they are… confused… alone… frightened… grief-stricken… totally unsure of what to do or what’s coming next. Finally, Peter stands up, likely with an air of “I-have-had-enough-of-this”… and says, “I’m going fishing.” (Perhaps he intended to be alone, reflect and rest, relax a bit with some private time.) He didn’t tell anyone to come with him. Didn’t invite them. But there we go, they stand up and say, “we’re coming along”.

The passage continues with incredible tenderness between them and the Lord. Please look it over yourselves… too rich to comment on here.

But it’s the ending, with Peter, that I want to highlight.

Look at this amazing thing… After throwing himself into the water with impatience to get to Jesus, look at what Peter DOESN’T SAY!

Peter doesn’t say:

  • Lord, you were right, I was wrong
  • Thank You for praying for me
  • I was afraid, and didn’t know what I was doing
  • I’m so ashamed
  • He doesn’t even say “I’m sorry!”

Isn’t that AMAZING? And Jesus has NO PROBLEM with that! The Lord doesn’t berate him, accuse him, or rebuke him in any way. Instead, as Jesus so often does, He simply “cuts to the heart of the matter”. Peter denied their relationship three times. Jesus asks Peter to affirm their relationship three times. And it hurts… Peter is hurt by the third time Jesus asks if he loves Him. But Peter bears with the pain, answers each time, and receives the instructions that have now rippled outwards from that moment into the heart of every shepherd on earth.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So what is the point of this post?

I am praying for the loved ones of a 25 year old husband and father who lost all hope, could not see how to make things right, and ended his own life.

Judas came to that same moment in his life, by betraying Jesus.

Peter also betrayed Jesus, may have felt as bad about it as Judas (or maybe worse), but he did NOT come to that place of hopeless despair.

What was the difference between them? That’s a question worthy of much study and I encourage you to ponder it. There are lots and lots of answers, and I’ll not catalog them here.

But here’s the critical piece I want to light up here:

We all do regrettable things. But the sorrow of the world focuses our gaze on ourselves… our own failings… what we did wrong… how we can make it right… what WE have to do about it. This was Judas’ approach.

The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation… to rescue. Peter did not just focus on himself. He got with the Disciples, he shared their amazement at the tomb and in the closed room. When he decided to go fishing, and they invited themselves along, he did not deny them. When John told him Jesus was standing on the shore, he did not hide in the back of the boat. Peter embraced his own failings, got about his task of leading the Disciples, and embraced them. Peter regained his hope, trusted Jesus even having denied Him, and received full forgiveness, absolution, and restoration, without any confession or apology.

Could it be that God is not nearly so interested in our examens, confessions, penance, breast-beating, pleas and cries of remorse… as He is with simply restoring our love and trust in relationship? Could it be that He would dearly love our focusing vastly less on our sins, sinfulness, and failings, and vastly more on His love, kindness, mercy and embrace of us?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I wonder if that 25 year old husband and father knew this? I hope more learn it.

 

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

 

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